Of the 23 other grounds in the Championship in the 2013/14 season, I have visited 18 of them; with only Bournemouth, Charlton, Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday and Yeovil to tick off of my list. Hillsborough is always a ground I have wanted to go to, especially after all the research I did for my dissertation, and the Valley is a two mile walk from my Dad’s, so both will definitely be getting a visit!
There are a few grounds I am looking forward to visiting again. The Championship never fails to disappoint for great away days. I recommend getting up to as many of the Northern games as you can. I have nothing but good memories from Barnsley, with really friendly stewards, reasonable food prices, free car parking if you park in the town centre, and usually a good result too! Burnley’s Turf Moor is pretty similar, although the overriding memory I have from there is the game from the 2011/12 season, when Jem Karacan scored the 99th minute winner after coming on for Jay Tabb as he was knocked out from a close range clearance from the Burnley ‘keeper. Needless to say Blackpool is also a lot of fun, mainly because of the movement the temporary stand provides almost makes it feel like you’re on the Big Dipper. Doncaster will make a great setting for our final away game of the season. Even though it’s a new stadium, there is a good atmosphere, and again the stewarding was great the last time I went. However, I have never visited a ground with as much sponsoring as Doncaster. Everything that could be sponsored was, so listen out for the substitution and goal sponsors being read out too!
There are two away games this season that are bottom of my to-do list; Blackburn and Leeds. I found the first time I went to Ewood Park that everything was damp, and the atmosphere is just a tad unnerving. Although if I change my mind and fancy some poultry based amusement I’ll definitely be taking a trip to Blackburn. Leeds, however, is a different story. I’ve never felt so intimidated at a football game than our Good Friday game against them in the 2010/11 season, and considering the reputation of the club, I thought the organisation of separating fans was generally quite bad. They were also incredibly rude to me when I approached for basic information for my dissertation, so that gives me another excuse not to like them.
I can’t deny that I’m slightly disappointed in the lack of Midlands games this season, with three representatives in the East and only one in the West. Wolves was the place I really wanted to visit this season, but I guess Birmingham will just have to do as a replacement. I am also gutted that my shift pattern means that I cannot visit my home town of Nottingham. City Ground is arguably located in one of the better settings of all the grounds this season, with the stadium being situated right on the River Trent. It’s a great day out if it’s sunny, and the chips from the food vans around the ground are really good, which is always a bonus. The only ground that I can think which tops the setting of City Ground is the Reebok Stadium. Bolton isn’t the most eye catching of places, but the view you get as you come off the M61 is lovely, and I also think the design of the stadium helps out with this.
To cut a long story short, I’ve missed the Championship more than I ever thought I would, and I’m genuinely glad we’re back for this season. Hopefully the trips on the road with the Royals this season will be fun and enjoyable, and also produce some better results than in the Premier League season that we would like to forget most of. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t sure what to make of Adkins when he took over, but I can’t deny the summer transfer window has been promising so far, and I’m starting to feel a lot more optimistic. Hopefully I can still be this positive in 10 months time!