R's on The Road.......... To Sheffield United and Reading.
This Saturday Neil Warnock takes charge of Rangers against another of his former clubs and boyhood idols, Sheffield United. After winning the first two games of his reign can he make it three out of three against a Blades side that have lost their last two games against relegation threatened Crystal Palace and Peterborough.
Here’s all the detail of all you need to know upon your trip to South Yorkshire.
Current Capacity – 32,702.
Sheffield United were formed in 1889 as a Football and Bandy club at the Adelphi Hotel, which is now the site of snooker’s famous Crucible Theatre, by the President of the Cricket Club Sir Charles Clegg, as a way of keeping the Sheffield United Cricket Club together during the winter close season, following the departure of Sheffield Wednesday to their new ground at Olive Grove and generating income revenues from Bramall Lane over the winter. Clegg was also the President of Sheffield Wednesday FC. As football became more popular the football team supplanted the cricket team, such that in 1975 cricket was no longer played at Bramall Lane.
Bramall Lane is the oldest major ground in the world having hosted it’s first game in 1862 between Hallam and Sheffield. Bramall Lane also hosted the world’s first ever floodlit game on 14th October 1878. The lights were powered by two separate generators.
In recent times Bramall Lane has seen improvements to the ground and after completion in 2006 the capacity had risen to 32,702.
Further improvements have been earmarked for the future with 3,000 seated being added to the back of The Kop Stand and the pillars being removed and a new roof having a giant screen as part of the roof (similar to the one at White Hart Lane). The second phase would see the Valad Stand (formerly the Arnold Laver Stand) also being extended and upon completion of both stands the capacity would increase to 40,000. These plans were part of the clubs bid to become one of the stadiums for England’s 2018/2022 World Cup bid, but having lost out to bitter rivals Sheffield Wedsnesday these plans have been put on hold until the club is able to regain and maintain Premier League status.
The R’s faithful will be housed in the lower tier of the Halliwells Stand, with up to 3,000 away fans being able to take their place here. The facilities are fairly decent, the concourses provide a narrow but long stretch of space for you to enjoy a pre match beverage with your friends.
The History between the teams.
At Sheffield United (23)
Sheffield United 7
The last time the R’s were victorious in this fixture, home and away, was at Bramall Lane in February 2006 in what was a thrilling encounter.
Marc Nygaard gave Rangers a 6 minute lead before Ade Akinbiyi levelled on 22 and Marc Bircham’s own goal seven minutes later gave United a 2-1 lead at half time. Shortly after the restart The Blades were awarded a penalty after Ian Evatt upended Chris Morgan. Paul Ifill’s poor penalty was saved by Paul Jones in the R’s goal and soon the impetus shifted in Rangers favour. The own goal tallies were even when Chris Morgan headed into his own net on 56 minutes and levelled the game, making the final half hour an interesting contest. The winner came on 74 minutes when Lee Cook delivered a diagonal ball into the path of Paul Furlong and the Rangers striker hit the back of the net. Rangers could’ve increased their lead minutes later when Lee Cook’s shot was too hot for Paddy Kenny to handle and the ball dropped to Furlong, with all the goal to aim at Furlong crashed his effort off the bar. After a tense finale Rangers managed to hang on to their first League success at Bramall Lane since 1993.
How to get there.
By Car:- The postcode for Bramall Lane is S2 4SU
I have found that the easiest way to get to Bramall Lane is to leave the M1 at junction 29 and follow the A617 into Chesterfield. As you enter Chesterfield you’ll come to a big roundabout, take the 4th exit onto the A61, by doing this you will also drive by Chesterfield’s new ground which is currently under construction. After ten miles on the A61 you’ll reach the bottom of the London Road, look for the A621 which is a left turn and this will bring you onto Bramall Lane.
It’s all street parking around this area so I would advise an early arrival if possible, if not then it’s just pot luck.
By Train:- The ground is a 10-15 minute walk from Sheffield’s mainline train station. As you come out of the station, walk left along the main road. Where the road splits take the right fork which is Shoreham Street and continue down this road to the ground.
Pubs 'n' Grub.
Pubs which have been recommended for the visit to Sheffield include The Earl (Queens Road, 10 minute walk), Norfolk Arms (City Centre), The Globe (by the train station, 15 minute walk). The pubs near the ground like Sheaf House, Railway Hotel, The Golden Lion, The Railway and Cricketers are for home fans only.
Alternatively there is alcohol served inside the ground.
The City Centre offers all the usual eating outlets that you would expect of. I am unaware of any eatery’s close to the ground (any help is grateful here).
Hot on the heels of Rangers’ game at Bramall Lane on Saturday comes another away trip, this time s short trip down the M4 to a Reading side that have been rejuvenated since the turn of the year and had an impressive run in the FA Cup before being dumped out by Aston Villa, having held a 2-0 lead at half time. The Royals enjoyed 4-1 win over Derby in midweek and have a home fixture against Bristol City this weekend before what looks to be a tasty fixture against the R’s on Tuesday night.
Here’s all you need to know before your trip to Berkshire.
Current Capacity – 24,200
Reading were formed in 1871 and were nicknamed The Biscuitmen after the town’s main trades Huntley and Palmers biscuits. Following the factory being shut down in the 1970’s the club changed its nickname to The Royals, due to their location in the Royal County of Berkshire.
Reading started off playing at Reading Recreation Ground until 1878, before moving on to Reading Cricket Ground (1878–1882), Coley Park (1882–1889) and Caversham Cricket Ground (1889–1896).
In September 1896 the club moved to the purpose built Elm Park and were at home there for 102 years. During this time the club finally gained Football League status after being elected to join in 1920.
Reading won their first trophy in 1988 when they defeated Luton Town in the Simod Cup, also known as the Full Members Cup and the Zenith Data Systems Cup. The Cup was formed after the Heysel Stadium disaster because English clubs were banned from European Competition and gave clubs in the top two tiers of English Football another trophy to compete for, however after the formulation of the Premier League the Cup became defunct after just seven years.
The Royals moved from Elm Park to the Madejeski Stadium, named after Chairman John Madejeski. The Madejeski Stadium is on the very outskirts of the town and is right next to the M4 motorway allowing an easy get away for some of the travelling fans.
Following promotion from League One in the 2002/03 season it then took the Royals another three seasons to secure their first ever promotion to the top tier of English Football. After a successful first season the club failed to retain their status and were relegated during their second season in the Premier League.
Further plans to increase the capacity were approved during the clubs time in the Premiership. These plans included extending three sides of the stadium (North, South and East) and replacing the roof, this would take three years to complete. However due to the clubs relegation to the Championship the planned start and completion dates have yet to be confirmed and remain a mystery.
Away fans will take their place in the South Stand (Fosters Lager Stand) and an initial 2,100 ticket allocation has been given to the club. Allocations can be increased to 4,300 when it’s needed or requested. The facilities inside are decent, the legroom is more than adequate and better than you would get at other grounds. Unfortunately the stadium is one of those modern bowl shaped models and the atmosphere can suffer because of this. There is no wow factor when you get to the ground and when you get to the away gates you are often greeted to security staff who are often over the top and really set the tone for your visit. I have read reviews from other fans of clubs and they have also complained about their behaviour and have also reported that some fans have been refused entry because in the security’s opinion some people have been deemed ‘too drunk’. It’s not one of the best days/nights out to football but once you get past the front doors just enjoy yourself and make some noise!
The History between the teams.
At Reading (38)
Rangers’ last victory on the road against Reading came in September 1997, it was also the last R’s victory in the fixture before the 4-1 victory earlier this season, in a 2-1 victory.
Lee Hodges got the Royals off to the perfect start with a goal in the opening 10 minutes after Carl Asaba’s shot had rebounded off the crossbar to give Hodges an easy chance to net his first goal in Royals colours. The 1-0 score line remained the same going into half time. With the Royals seemingly in control on 74 minutes the R’s grabbed an equalizer. A cross from the right hand side found the smallest player on the pitch, John Spencer and the micro striker grabbed the leveller. Just 60 seconds later it was 2-1!! A cross from the left hand side was diverted towards goal, by Spencer again I think (correct me if I’m wrong) with the shot seemingly going wide it suddenly hits Steve Swailes and flies into the bottom corner, sending the travelling support into raptures. Right at the end Rangers’ would’ve made it 3-1 if it wasn’t for a great save by Royals ‘keeper Mautone.
How to get there.
By Car:- The postcode for the Madejeski Stadium is RG2 0FL
Leave the M4 at junction 11 and follow the A33 in the direction of Reading, the ground is just a short distance from here.
As for parking it can prove pretty tricky and/or expensive. There are a few places to park down Imperial Way (just off the roundabout before the stadium) you can also try Acre Road industrial park as well, but do be careful because if you are not paying to park there you could easily find yourself parking on private property and getting back to your car with a parking ticket for your troubles.
By Train:- The stadium is nowhere near being within walking distance so the best bet is to jump on the special football bus to the ground. The bus is the number 79 and runs every 7-10 minutes, or so I’m lead to believe.
Pubs 'n' Grub.
There are no pubs near the stadium. If travelling by train I would recommend The Three Guineas pub, this is traditionally an away fans pub and is right outside the train station as you walk out of it on your right hand side, it is also outside the bus station so it’s ideal. Closer to the ground is the Holiday Inn hotel just off Imperial Way and is a 10-15 minute walk from the ground.
The town centre offers the usual retail outlets for you to eat at, alternatively there is a retail park right outside the stadium with McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut on offer to you there.
Alcohol is on offer in the ground at £3 for a pint of Fosters or Courage Bitter.
All pies and pasties cost £2.60 and rollover hotdogs are £3 each.