After my trip to Barnsley, I feel as though I have vastly improved links between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Not only did I refrain from making offensive comments towards the Yorkshire Puddings, but I even gave money towards The Yorkshire Regiment in Afghanistan. This could be the start of a glowing, and beneficial friendship with those from over the Pennines.
Zack told me that this was his first journey to a ground in Yorkshire, which shocked me a bit as he has been all over Europe following Man United over the years! So he was going from Barcelona to Barnsley, good stuff!
The journey to Barnsley involved catching 4 trains. We set off from sunny Atherton at 10:45 and got off at Salford Crescent. From Salford we embarked on the short journey to Manchester Oxford Road. Oxford Road is always an exciting railway station, and this is epitomised with its infamous Pumpkin Coffee Shop. We ventured in there to find something to eat, and it turned out they had nothing. Instead I tried purchasing a Hot Chocolate, but after finding out they had no whipped cream I told the woman to leave it.
We had to wait a further 15 minutes for our train to Sheffield, which was making the long trip to Norwich. Whilst on the platform we got speaking to a bloke who works for Chorley FC, he was off to Worksop on the train after being kicked off the team coach for the trip! Soon enough the train turned up, and it was a 2 carriage special by East Midlands Trains – One positive? It was on time!
Arriving in Sheffield at 12:40 we had to hot foot it to the other side of the station to catch the 12:50 train to Leeds via Barnsley. En route to Barnsley we spotted the floodlights of The Don Valley Stadium, and a shopping centre which looks like a miniature Trafford Centre.
We got off the train in Barnsley, and it was extremely quiet. Yes we were early, but we expected a bit more excitement that what we found. Originally we were going to walk up the ground, purchase the tickets, and then walk back into the town centre for something to eat. As so often is the case, plans change.
Walking down the hill at Oakwell, you can see the modern East Stand towering over the West Stand which was built in 1888. I really like this feature of the ground, as it is not often you still find an original stand.
I purchased a matchday programme for £3 before proceeding to the front of the ground to have our usual photos outside. It was whilst having our photos taken we got talking to a very pleasant Programme Seller who was wearing a suspicious looking fluorescent pink vest.
The conversation flowed for around 10 minutes, and I immediately gained the impression that being a Barnsley fan can be pretty tedious. I would hate supporting a club with a lack of finance whos prime aim is to avoid relegation year in, year out. Barnsley also seems to be a club which struggles to keep hold of its better players. Over the past year or so they have sold players such as Adam Hammill and Ricardo Vaz Te.
We approached the ‘Box Office’ – and I soon looked like a numpty when I tried walking through a door that doesn’t open. There wasn’t a queue, so purchasing the tickets was a very easy experience. Tickets cost £13 each, which was a bit steep for Championship football – but oh well! It’s a new ground to tick off the list.
Tickets bought, and we were starving… TIME TO SEARCH FOR A CHIPPY! However, there was one slight problem, nobody could direct us to one. I resorted to asking Twitter for help, and I had around 20 replies informing me of chippies in the vicinity of Oakwell. Eventually we stumbled upon an aptly named outlet called “FISH & CHIPS”.
Zack ordered a Sausage and Chips, with scraps. I ordered a Steak Pie and Chips, with scraps. I am never eating scraps again! They were horrible! I only asked for scraps because everybody else in the queue seemed to have a fetish for the apparent delicacy.
In true Northern fashion, we sat on a red brick wall, rating and discussing the quality of our food. I’ll go for a 7/10.
We arrived back at Oakwell at 14:10, and entered through the turnstiles; which I noticed were made in Manchester! Sitting in the East Stand Upper we had to walk up a flight of stairs, and to be honest, I was shattered by the time I got to the top of them.
The concourse offered very little room for maneuver, and as a result it got a bit packed towards kick off, and at half time. Luckily for us, our ‘Gangway’ was right near the exit, meaning we got away pretty quickly at the end of the match.
Our tickets were for Gangway 19, and it offered a very good view of the pitch. The great view was created by having a very steep gradient for the stand. However, an inevitable disadvantage of a steep gradient is of course the lack of leg room! Not to worry though… We had spare seats in front of us which we could sprawl our legs over. The East Stand has two tiers, and holds 7,492 home supporters.
To our left was The CK Beckett Stand. The original name for the stand is The Pontefract Road End, but is renamed due to sponsorship. With a capacity of 4,508, it was built in 1995 and houses the more vocal home fans.
Directly opposite stood the West Stand. Astonishingly it was built in 1888! The stand has two tiers. The upper tier still has seating from the early 1900’s, where as the bottom has plastic seating; fitted in 1995. IMPORTANT! Do not sit on the bottom tier when it is raining! It isn’t covered, and you will get wet.
The away fans can be found in the extensive North Stand which has a capacity of 6,000.
Prior to kick off Zack and I walked around the East Stand trying to find our Geography teacher; Mr. Allatt. He is a walking depiction of Barnsley (Despite the photo stating otherwise!). He turns up to class with his flat cap on, confusing us all with his accent. He has various posters scattered around his room of icons such as Dickie Bird, Darren Gough and Michael Parkinson. Unfortunately we couldn’t find him! We came to the conclusion that he had seen us and subsequently hid in the toilets for the entire match.
Going into the match the two teams had been in contrasting form. Barnsley had won only once in their last seven matches, where as Reading had won six of the last seven, and were unbeaten in the last nine. This resulted in Barnsley looking over their shoulder at the drop, and the visitors now had their sights set on the Premier League.
The first opportunity of the match came in the first minute when Reading midfielder Noel Hunt fed Jason Roberts through one-on-one with the keeper. A poor effort resulted in Barnsley keeper Luke Steele parrying the ball away.
The stand out performer for Barnsley was 18 year old Danny Rose. He showed flare and pace throughout the match, and he wasn’t scared to have a shot at goal. His first effort went just wide of the post, but we’ll let him off seeing as though it was a volley from near the halfway line!
Barnsley had Rose, Reading had McAnuff. He ran the Tykes defence ragged all afternoon, and even made half of the spectators dizzy! McAnuffs’ first effort at goal came on 20 minutes when he turned inside Scott Wiseman before curling the ball towards the top right hand corner. After narrowly missing on that occasion he tried again just moments later when he attempted to lob Steele in the Barnsley net.
The visitors should have taken the lead just before half time when Mikele Leigertwood found the ball dropping to him from a corner. Somehow he managed to smash the ball wide from 8-yards out, much to the despair of the Royals faithful.
Halftime came, and Zack and I decided to go for a walk. We still couldn’t find Mr. Allatt! We abandoned our efforts and returned back to our seats on Gangway 19.
Reading took the lead on 47 minutes when Jason Roberts teed up Jobi McAnuff for a tap in. The travelling Royals then began to sing ♫ We’re top of the league! We’re top of the league! ♫
2 minutes later and Reading doubled their lead. Great play down the wing saw the ball fired across to midfielder Jem Karacan. The Turkish U-21 International then slammed the ball into the roof of the net, leaving the goalkeeper no chance at all.
With 20 minutes remaining Karacan claimed his second, with what has got to be one of the goals of the weekend. He picked the ball up; 25 yards away from goal. His flying effort went straight into the top corner, and even Barnsley fans were applauding his finish.
Despite the fact there was still 20 minutes of play left, and a very slim chance that Barnsley could still win 4-3, the ground began to empty. The clatter of seats was an unwelcome sound for all connected to the club, and something I’m glad I don’t hear too often at The Reebok!
Another thing which disappointed me about the Barnsley fans was the fact everytime a decision went against them, they had a paddy. Even if the referee got the decision spot on! On a few occasions, one bloke began complaining, so the rest joined in. All seemed a bit odd to me! Perhaps it was just the stand I was sat in?
On 90 minutes the misery was mounted on the Tykes when Jason Roberts scored a well deserved goal. We dribbled in from the wide right, beating defender Stephen Foster before then chipping the ball over Steele’s arm.
Barnsley didn’t play that badly during the match. The team did try, it was just the tactics that let them down! Keith Hill (A fellow Boltonian) set his side out to exploit the right hand wing through Craig Davies. However, too many misplaced balls, and lack of support proved to be Barnsleys downfall.
The journey home was one that I think Zack and I would much rather forget, but never will.
We walked down to Barnsley train station, and there was a train already on the platform which was going to Sheffield. Whilst on the train I asked two Reading fans “What time will you get home then? Bet it will be late!” – The lad then glanced at his watch in a playful manner, and said “About 15 minutes mate! It’s our closest fixture this season!” – Oops!
Arriving in Sheffield, we ran across the platform to catch the next train to Manchester. The trains destination was Liverpool Lime Street, this meant a group of rough looking Tranmere fans were travelling back from Bramall Lane.
Bolton were playing away at Tottenham in the FA Cup, and my Mum and Dad were sending me updates via text. Bolton went ahead, so I was in a pretty happy mood! I could see Wembley Way! Tottenham then equalised, and I then received another text telling me that Fabrice Muamba had gone down injured.
It later transpired that Fabrice had suffered a heart attack. I began to cry. The Tranmere fans were giving me abuse for supporting Bolton, before making some vile, and racist comments about Fabrice. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard!
Zack and I didn’t talk much on the way home, which was a shame. It had been a really good day out, and we had met some very friendly people. It is for this reason I recommend going to a match at Barnsley if you are a neutral. Yes, they may not be playing the most entertaining of football at the moment. Yes, they may struggle getting crowds in, but they do have a set of very friendly fans – AND THIS IS COMING FROM A LANCASTRIAN!
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 65 miles
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £3