Rotherham United have just 97 days left at The Don Valley until they move 3365 miles East to their new stadium in New York. So with only a handfull of matches left at their temporary home in Sheffield, I thought I should tick it off whilst I could.
Zack and I had planned to go to Rotherham v Torquay on February 4th, but it decided to snow the night before, which meant the match was postponed. It is quite evident from the photo that the match could have gone ahead, so we weren’t happy!
Rotherham United played at their original home – Millmoor – for 101 years. The Millers moved to Sheffield in May 2008 due to an ongoing dispute with Millmoor owner Ken Booth. Despite being out of use for a few years, Millmoor is still standing and the grass it still cut on a daily basis!
After the bad weather before the Torquay match, rescheduling my visit to Sheffield was somewhat difficult. However, I found a date when Bolton were away from home at Wolves and I decided to visit The Don. It wasn’t ideal though, as I would be travelling by myself… and I would be missing a relegation ‘6 pointer’ at Molineux.
I set off from an overcast Atherton at 10:45. The ticket inspector at Atherton Train Station asked me “which strange part of the country” I was off to this weekend. After having my usual chat with him, I caught the train to Salford, before catching another to Manchester Oxford Road.
Disembarking the train at Oxford Road, my eyes were drawn to a number of safety signs. I am so glad that I am not a black silhouette! They seem to get in so much trouble on train station platforms. Northern Rail even managed to persuade them to pose for photos which seemed like exploitation to me. Yeah, so top tip! If you are a black silhouette, don’t travel with Northern Rail – You will die.
With half an hour to kill before my next train I decided to watch an episode of The Inbetweeners. Time flew by with Will and the boys, and it was soon time to fight my way on to the two carriage special that East Midlands Trains were running from Liverpool to Norwich.
Arriving in Sheffield at 12:35 I took the short walk into the city centre and caught the SuperTram from Castle Square. I did not have a clue what to do! Where did I get my ticket from? Which coloured train did I want? Which side of the track did I want? etc etc… I asked a few locals some questions, and they looked at me as if to say “You’re not from around here are you. You’re obviously a Lancashire type!”.
My ‘Yellow Coloured Block Tram’ eventually arrived, and it took only 12 minutes to reach The Don Valley Stadium. The Tram ticket cost me £3.75 for a day ticket… which wound me up a bit as the girls next to me on the tram only had to pay 50p!
When I got to The Don, there was nobody else around. As usual… I get there far too early! I purchased my programme, which claims it is award winning – but I struggle to see why. However, at only £2.50 you can’t complain!
I pulled out my e-mail I had received from the club informing me where to pick up my ticket:
“Your ticket has been processed for Block 6 as requested and will be available to collect from the white portacabin located near the Home turnstiles after 1.30pm on match day.”
White portacabin! Sounds easy enough!
Well, you are much mistaken. After walking around for 15 minutes, I eventually asked somebody where this “white portacabin” was. He then pointed towards this horrific looking wooden structure near the main road. That isn’t white… is it?
Eventually I picked my ticket up, and entered through the turnstiles. It was a strange setup at Rotherham. First of all you go through your normal turnstiles, then you walk through a car park, then you walk over a bridge, through some glass doors and finally on to your concourse. It seemed like the architects who designed The Don Valley Stadium wanted to give it the Disneyland feel. I was half expecting Donald Duck to pop up from behind the refreshments area!
Pukka Pies have a long running history with Rotherham United, and are this season celebrating their 40th season together. I couldn’t really turn down the opportunity of having a Pukka Pie if this was the case. I opted for the Chicken Balti option at £2.60. I know it was only a Pukka, but they must put more care into the ones they supply to Rotherham… The pie was sublime! I was even tempted to go back for another one.
Rotherham fan Chloe Staniforth soon informed me that I had made a big mistake when purchasing my pie! I bought it from the concourses, and not the red hut outside on the car park! You may be wondering what the problem with that is? Well, the money spent on the concourses goes to the stadium, whereas the money spent in the car park goes to the club. Oops.
During football matches, only the Main Stand is open. The Main Stand holds 10,000 spectators with the majority of them being home supporters. The away supporters are given a small paddock away to the right hand side of the stand.
I had chosen to sit in Block 6 – Upper. It offered a better view than that available on the Lower Tier, and I had a great view of the finish line!… And the Long Jump sand pit! Behind me were the media facilities, which was quite entertaining in itself. The bloke who was commentating on the match from a Hereford point of view had to do his introduction several times and he kept forgetting his words.
The rest of the stadium comprises of uncovered seating. The uncovered seating brings the total capacity of The Don Valley Stadium to 25,000. Despite it being able to hold 25,000 – Rotherham United only manage to bring in around 3,000/4,000 per match which leaves the place feeling pretty empty.
The Don Valley Stadium certainly has its critics, with people constantly complaining about the running track which dominates the stadium. Yes, it does look like you are a long way from the action, but if you were to go to Old Trafford, you’d face the same problem, it’s just that the space filled by the track is otherwise filled with spectators.
The roof at The Don Valley is rather iconic, I can’t remember seeing anything like it before. The canopies which resemble sheets are in fact made out of carbon fibre, and they stretch from one side of the stand to the other. I had been told that during wet weather spectators can get soaked due to large holes within the roof, but the problem seems to have been rectified by placing glass in the yellow structure.
After being in the stadium by myself for twenty minutes, it began to fill up. Well, I say fill up in the loosest of terms. An old bloke who obviously fancied himself as a steward turned up, and from that moment on it was complaint, after complaint, after complaint.
“They’ve got no bloody hot water! I can’t wait until we move to New York! They might have bloody water there! All I want is a bloody brew!”
Chloe then turned up, and spoke to me for a while – before we were rudely interrupted by the old bloke.
“Eh! You can’t sit there! Two big blokes sit there!”
This was still with around 40 minutes to go until kick off! Not only was there nobody else around, but I was only sat one seat away from where I was supposed to be. I could see myself strangling this bloke before the day was out.
Pre match entertainment was provided by a rather annoying man in a shirt and tie, and a group of cheerleaders called the ‘Millettes’ who looked like they should be in a production of High School Musical. Although to give praise where it’s needed, the pre match playlist was very good, and witty. Top of the playlist was “The Wombats – Moving To New York” – Do you get it? Haha…
This match was more important for Hereford than it was for the home side. The visitors had been in horrible form, and found themselves bottom of the football league – in great danger of finding themselves in the Blue Square Premier next season.
It was soon time for the teams to come out, and low and behold, the “two big blokes” who sit in those seats never turned up.
The match was a rather one sided affair with Hereford offering little in the way of creativity or confidence.
Former Bolton striker Delroy Facey started up front for Hereford, and my word! He has to be one of the biggest blokes I have ever seen play football. He would eat Shaun Wright-Phillips for breakfast. Unfortunately for Facey he was ineffective and was dragged off at half time.
The Millers looked far more likely to score in the opening few minutes after they won a procession of corners. On each occasion a great ball was floated in before being fired towards goal. Hereford were lucky to find themselves level.
Ben Pringle nearly scored an opener with a crisp finish, but he was unable to connect properly with the cross supplied by Mark Bradley. Pringle had another effort on 20 minutes which sailed well over David Cornell’s crossbar.
Hereford had their first chance of the match when Rotherham defender Johnny Mullins slipped to allow Richard Peniket to run at speed towards the Millers goal. He was forced wide, and his subsequent cross was kicked out to safety by Ryan Cresswell.
Rotherham then broke on the attack and the instrumental Lewis Grabban worked well down the wing before picking out Alex Revell in the 6 yard box. He connected well with the ball, but headed just inches over – when it looked easier to score!
The home side finally got their reward on 45 minutes when Sam Wood sent a teasing ball into the Hereford area. The keeper came to claim the ball, but Lewis Grabban nipped just in front of him and headed into the back of the net.
Half time arrived and I decided I’d go for a walk around the stand. It amazed me how clean and well kept the place is, and the concourses really did defy belief. More Premier League clubs should have concourses like those found at The Don Valley. Lots of space, lots of natural lighting…. and you could even walk outside, back on to the car park for some fresh air… and to purchase food from the red cabin of course!
The person who designed The Don Valley obviously had a fetish for pointless doors. Why do you have doors going into the toilets? The space around the facilities resembled one of those countryside gates which prevents sheep from escaping! – Ridiculous.
Right, I’ve stopped complaining about doors – time for the second half.
Hereford forward Thomas Barkhuizen was their only source of creativity throughout the match and he tried to force an equaliser a couple of minutes into the second half. His first effort was blocked, and deflected straight back into his path. Barkhuizen – on loan from Blackpool – then had another go but this time it went sailing over the bar.
The game then tailed off slightly, and it was 15 minutes of keep ball from Rotherham. It looked like a Premier League match rather than a League 2 fixture. Usually the team in possession would be allowed little time on the ball, however the disjointed Hereford outfit seemed quite happy in allowing Rotherham to knock the ball around in a boring, and tedious Manchester City style.
I could carry on with this match report, but it seems a bit pointless. Barkhuizen had several other opportunities for the away side, but failed to capitalise on any of them.
I left with around 6 minutes to go in order to get the earlier train home. I ran out of the stadium, around the corner to the SuperTram stop and there was a tram waiting to depart – the driver waited for me, and I was in the city centre again for around 17:00! I had originally planned to catch the 17:45 to Liverpool Lime Street, but I then discovered there was a train at 17:11! Queue a mad sprint from Castle Square to the Train Station.
Whilst running through the Bus Station I encountered a bit of a problem… the automatic doors at the end of the terminus failed to pick me up. As a result I collided with the doors much to the amusement of many bystanders. I’ll use the excuse that I was running too fast to be picked up, rather than the fact I am the size of one of The Borrowers.
Breathless by this stage I ran through Sheffield station and made the train with a matter of seconds to spare. Unfortunately, I had to share a table with a group of inebriated Preston fans coming back from Hillsborough, and a poor girl from Lincoln.
I arrived home at around 19:15, and then went out to Liams 18th at Formby Hall in Atherton.
It had been an entertaining and rather stressful day. Despite the fact I travelled by myself I rather enjoyed it! I think I may be the only person who has a positive word to say about The Don Valley, but that doesn’t matter anymore… as we will all soon be off to NYC!
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 76 miles
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £3