Where to Position Away Fans?
If you invited visitors to your house, would you plunk them down on a spare, fold-up and mildew ridden garden chair from last Summer while you stretched out luxuriously on your new La Maison Coloniale divan? Would you treat them to a value pack of Iced Gems as you dined on mini Yorkshire puddings with steak tips and horseradish? I am sure most of you wouldn’t – so why do some football clubs persist in making conditions as difficult as possible for their guests?
My bugbear today is the positioning of away fans. Up a level, there are notable touchline, Everton style – flying in the face of most supporter’s preferences; at Old Trafford, you’ll be stuck in a wedge in the corner, an insignificant slither in the vast red Old Trafford cabbage patch; at Fulham, you’ll often be closer to the Thames than the pitch and don’t get me started on Molineux: a ground where authorities and police almost appear to collude with the missile throwers in the upper section of the renamed Steve Bull Stand. This is only rivalled in my experience by the former situation at Layer Road, Colchester, where away fans were once split into two sections at either end.
So in our division, which clubs are acting against the spirit of the game in this way? A good number can be largely absolved, providing as they do behind-goal accommodation close to the touchline – an admirable 18 clubs achieve this and I would also allow leeway to Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool. Hillsborough’s cavernousness renders the opening of the lower sections of the Leppings Lane Stand pointless and Blackpool’s ground development forces visitors into a position along the flank for now (mind you, who remembers Norwich racing to promotion in a season of restricted away support a few years ago?). No…the guilty parties as far as I am concerned are Leicester City, Newcastle United, Ipswich Town and Crystal Palace.
The club who, had they possessed any class, really should have changed their name back to Leicester Fosse and labelled their ground the Walkers Bowl as mooted a few years back, place visitors in that most unwanted of locations: the corner. In this, they mimic Man Yoo, Arsenal and others who operate at the more rarefied level. The corner is an awful place to watch football – In 2006, I was forced to celebrate one of the greatest days in my club’s history staring out from below ground level and behind a flag, with a prime view of Bobby Convey’s backside. However, Newcastle United go one better.
I moaned about this yesterday, so won’t rattle on – but those lofty quarters at St. James’s – not only up in the corner, but ducking bats and pigeons under the roof and with players like Subbuteo stars unrecognisable from a hundred paces is really not on at all. OK – a few years ago, they had a full house of Keegan worshipping season ticket holders to accommodate – but the stadium hasn’t always been full this season – it’s time to treat us less high and mightily please (although Ben’s spirited response to my previous post does contain words of wisdom and Newcastle is still a great day out – unless it’s a 5.35 kick off, that is).
As for the other two miscreants, I’ll accept that some fans prefer to watch their football from the wing, especially those inured to onlooking from a main stand at home, so Palace are not the worst abusers here, but why position us right next to that godawful under age singing section in the Holmesdale? It’s bad enough peering out from behind a pillar without listening to a gaggle of spring chickens exercising their throats and waving flags as if they were Juve – and as for Ipswich, well, maybe they are getting their comeuppance now – I like Portman Road because it harks back to that golden era of the Seventies and Eighties and is relatively little changed but the presence of home fans between ourselves and the pitch prohibits full support for the team. It would be nice if these four clubs could develop more welcoming policies.