There are a few things in life I think I would struggle to live without now. The love of a good woman is one, and for that I can thank CMF (and a few others if she is reading just to keep her on her toes!), a good book to stimulate my grey matter and of course my life support machine when I am away, my Ipod. However, two additional things I would take with me on any Desert Island would be some decent beer and the biggest jar of marmite in the world. Marmite – you either love it or you hate it. I reckon more love it than hate it, and in a Fuller family poll the love poll won 3 to 1. Why is this relevant to my football ramblings? Well my chosen Boxing Day game this year was to be Burton Albion versus York City, and of course every culinary expert knows, Burton-Upon-Trent is the home to the fabulous Bass brewery and the Marmite factory. The smell of hops and yeast fills the air of this small town on the border of Derbyshire and Staffordshire that most people bypass on the A50 as they head to Alton Towers.
So after a feast and a half in Lincoln on Christmas Day I dropped CMF off at her folks in Newark, and headed west to visit the Pirelli Stadium for top of the table Burton Albion against York City. Burton came into this game with a huge lead at the top of the Blue Square Conference under the management of Nottingham Forest legend Nigel Clough, and with a couple of tough games for all of the promotion rivals over Christmas knew a win was vital.
Burton Albion are the perfect model of how a club with ambition should be run. Clough joined the club in 1998 as Player-Manager, at the tender age of 32. In the past decade he has made 300 appearances for the club, and is in theory still registered as a player today. In his first full season at the club he helped them to runners up spot in the Southern Premier League twice but at the time due to the structure of the non-league pyramid only the top team was promoted. So the club decided to try their luck in the Northern Premier League in 2001 and they were rewarded with promotion to the Conference in 2002.
In 2004 the club developed a five year plan that would hopefully deliver league football, a new stadium and financial security. They have so far achieved two of the three objectives with the first one hopefully being achieved by the start of May 2009. In 2005 the club moved across the road from their Eton Park ground to a new 6,500 £7.5m stadium called the Pirelli, named after the tyre manufacturer who are based close to the stadium. In that first season at the stadium they drew Manchester United in the FA Cup third round and played out a very impressive 0-0 draw in front of the TV cameras at the sold out Pirelli. Despite a 5-0 defeat in the replay the club had made enough money to invest sensibly in the playing staff as well as securing their future for seasons to come.
Last season they finished in their best ever position, 5th place which saw them qualify for the end of season playoffs, where they lost 4-3 on aggregate to Cambridge United. This season has seen the club find the consistency in front of goal that was lacking last season and as they entered the Christmas period they were not only on top of the league but had also scored more goals than any other side.
Their opponents were York, who I had seen play away at Salisbury and Histon in the past few weeks, getting impressive draws at both. In fact this is the story of their season as they had managed 11 draws in their games so far, which meant they were too close to the relegation places for a team who defended so well. Only three other teams in the Conference had won less games than York and new manager Martin Foyle certainly had his work cut out trying to change the way the team played.
I only had an hour after leaving Newark before kick off and thanks to my advanced driving training I managed to get to the outskirts by 2.55pm. I came to the first junction for Burton and not seeing any signs for the football I carried on on the A38. Of course this was the wrong decison as the stadium soon loomed up on my left. No problem I thought, I’d just turn off at the next junction and head through the town. Great idea, except the next junction was over five miles away! So I headed up onto the slip road, round the roundabout and back onto the A38 going east! So eventually I arrived at the stadium at five past, and saw the “Car Park Full” signs. But we all know there are always spaces so I drove in regardless, and of course I found a space right in front of the away turnstiles – not quite in the Histon league but still an impressive 26 steps away from the entrance.
Before I headed into the stands I decided to get some food. Most clubs at this level use local suppliers which means that you will get unusual items on the menu. I had hoped that the menu would be full of Marmite themed items but was disappointed. But they did have Faggots on the menu! Fantastic – 4 for £3 including peas was a bargain and well worth it! Traditional football fayre at last.
Burton Albion 2 York City 1 – The Pirelli Stadium – Friday 26th December 2008 3pm
I had missed the first few minutes of the game but as I walked from entrance to entrance of the stand along the pitch I saw how busy it was. Nearly 4,000 fans had turned out for this festive treat, over double the average attendance at the ground. The weight of expectation on the home team was obviously too much in the first half as they struggled to find any fluency in their play. York again had set out their stall, with their physical approach in midfield upsetting the Burton rhythm. The first half saw few chances for either team, and the busiest people were the referee and the two physios who had to treat players on either side.
I moved round to behind the goal just before half time as the setting sun was causing an issue in the east stand. As the temperature fell in the closing stages of the first half Burton had the best chance of the half, with Shaun Harrard forcing a good save from York City’s keeper Ingham.
The second half started much the same as the first one ended with Harrard causing issues for the York City defence. However, it was the away team that took the lead on fifty five minutes as Adam Smith fired in smartly after a well worked move. The lead lasted less than ten minutes though as Burton stepped up a gear. From a free kick from twenty yards Ryan Austin beat the wall only for Ingham to make a smart save but Harrard was following up to put away the rebound. Queue some relieved celebrations, especially from one Burton fan who ran onto the pitch, collided with the prone goalkeeper and joined in the goal celebrations taking place in the goal. The deluded fellow was lead away cheering his head off, although nobody seemed to realise he’d lost his bobble hat in the process which was now laying in the six yard box.
There was only going to be one winner after that goal and it came seven minutes later as the two Burton forwards combined well before Pearson drilled in a cross that was turned into his own goal by York defender Mark Greaves. York valliantly pushed forward but could not create anything as the clock ran down. I took my leave as the fourth official held up the board, and within 30 seconds I was back on the A38 heading for my Boxing Day tea, and some long overdue Marmite!
About the Pirelli Stadium
The Pirelli Stadium is a multi-use stadium in Burton upon Trent, England. It is currently used mostly for football matches and is the home ground of Burton Albion F.C.. The stadium holds 6,500 and opened in 2005. The record crowd for the stadium stands at 6,191 when Manchester United visited the ground in an FA Cup tie in 2006. But after discussions the official capacity was raised to 6,500, with 2,000 seated and the rest terracing.
The Pirelli Stadium was built because the previous stadium Eton Park had become run down and was limited in the ways it could generate income for the club outside of matchdays. It was built on the site of the Pirelli UK Tyres Ltd Sports & Social Club. The new Pirelli Stadium offers potential for generating income seven days of the week, including conference rooms throughout the main stand with the largest holding 300 people. On match days there are nine directors boxes available for supporters wanting a more relaxed view of the game. There are four bars, one on each side of the ground, which are all open before and during games.
One side of the ground “The Main Stand”, is the only seated stand at the club and can hold just over 2000 supporters. The other three stands are terraced with half a dozen or so rows. The views are good from each area.
Thanks to Burton Albion for providing the above information.
How to get to the Pirelli Stadium
Car parking is available at the Pirelli Stadium for 400 vehicles. Overflow car parking is located at the nearby Rykneld Trading Estate(first exit at the roundabout before turning right into Princess Way). The Pirelli Stadium is located opposite the old Eton Park Ground.
If you are driving from the M1 (Junction 24) via the A50. Head south on the A38 (Burton and Birmingham) until you reach the first Burton turn off. Take this exit (A5121) and proceed along Derby Road, passing McDonald’s and the Pirelli factory on your right and a BP Garage and Cash & Carry on your left until you reach a roundabout. Turn right at this roundabout into Princess Way and the entrance to the ground is 300 yards on your right.
Burton Railway Station is situated half a mile West of the Town Centre, past the Breweries on Station Street, on Borough Road. Trains run regularly to and from Derby and Nottingham to the North, and Birmingham to the South. It’s a good twenty-five minute walk to Eton Park from the Station. Out of the station turn left, then next right into Derby Street. Keep going on this road about 1½ miles, straight across the first roundabout by the Derby Turn Pub (left), then immediately left at the next roundabout into Princess Way and the entrance to the ground is 300 yards on your right.
How to get a ticket for the Pirelli Stadium
The 6,500 capacity stadium has only ever been sold out once and that was for the FA Cup tie with Manchester United. The club, even when they are sitting top of the Blue Square Premier League only average 1,900 so paying on the gate is never an issue. The club have a very sensible and simple pricing structure – £12 for an Adult on any of the three terraces (and you can move around as you want) and £14 for a seat in the main stand. A Childs ticket is £5. Bear in mind that the East stand suffers with the setting sun.