When there is more than one team from the same city in the same division, you get to know the routes to and from where you are to where they are. I’ve no doubt that, given there are six London clubs in this season’s Premier League, and that many fans will have been to all six by train, that people have come to know the various London termini quite well by now. However, this is as nothing when it comes to people travelling to see the two teams in the city at the end of the M62, because it isn’t just a case of travelling to the same city terminus…the proximity of the two of them means that they even share the same local station. Which is a bugger then that, because of a certain horserace putting the kibosh on my trip to the red half, I can’t simply copy the same post twice, and can only report back on my trip to Everton.
Date: 12th May 2013
Stadium: Goodison Park
Away Section: Bullens Road Stand
Score: Everton 2-0 West Ham United
Nearest station: Kirkdale
Local rozzers: Merseyside Police
Total Travel Cost: £78.00 (2 x Advance Singles, 1 x Weekend First, 1 x Soccerbus Train Return)
09:11 – New Cross to London Charing Cross (Southeastern Class 465/466 Networker)
Northern Line – Charing Cross to Euston (1995 Stock)
10:15 – London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street (Virgin Trains Class 390 Pendolino)
13:55 – Liverpool Central to Sandhills (Merseyrail Class 507)
17:14 – Sandhills to Moorfields (Merseyrail Class 508)
18:48 – Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston (Virgin Trains Class 390 Pendolino)
Northern Line – Euston to London Bridge (1995 Stock)
21:43 – London Bridge to New Cross (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)
Station to Stadium: Goodison Park, much like its near neighbour on the other side of Stanley Park, is something of a trek for those favouring “shank’s pony”; the nearest railway station is Kirkdale, which is around a mile away through myriad side streets. This is why it’s a lot easier to take advantage of the shuttle bus service that operates from outside Sandhills station and drops you on Walton Lane at the Park End of the ground. Then it’s merely a case of a short wander (which is nice if it’s sunny, and rubbish if it’s raining) along the road to Bullens Street, and hey presto, the away turnstiles.
Anything else?: The “Soccerbus” scheme operated by Merseytravel is in place for both Everton’s and Liverpool’s home games, and run from the same railway station, Sandhills. Similarly, Kirkdale is the closest railway station for both Goodison Park and Anfield.
Eventually, we all have to make that journey; the journey that all teams that win promotion to the top flight have to make at least once a season, and that is the one to the home of the reigning league champions. And, most years, that will involve a trip to what is arguably England’s second city…although the people that live there can fight out that claim with the other one that is arguably England’s second city. However, just for once, it isn’t to the home of the ones that bear the name of one city but reside in another that this accolade belongs, but instead to their “noisy neighbours”, Manchester City
Date: 27th April 2013
Stadium: City of Manchester Stadium
Away Section: South Stand
Score: Manchester City 2-1 West Ham United
Nearest station: Etihad Campus
Local rozzers: Greater Manchester Police
Total Travel Cost: £32.20p (1 x Off-Peak Day Return; 1 x Tram Only Dayrider; 1 x Matchday Return)
Line 1 – Nottingham Trent University to Nottingham Station Street (AT6/5 Incentro)
09:45 – Nottingham to Manchester Piccadilly (East Midlands Trains Class 158 Express Sprinter)
East Manchester Line – Piccadilly to Etihad Campus (M5000 Flexity Swift)
East Manchester Line – Etihad Campus to Piccadilly (M5000 Flexity Swift)
15:43 – Manchester Piccadilly to Nottingham (East Midlands Trains Class 158 Express Sprinter)
Line 1 – Nottingham Station Street to Nottingham Trent University (AT6/5 Incentro)
Station to Stadium: Initially, on construction of the City of Manchester Stadium, Ashburys was the closest railway station. The construction of the new Metrolink line to Droylsden has since seen a new transport link adjacent to the stadium, with a station serving it directly. The station is located at the north end of the ground, which is also where the club have built a “plaza” for pre-match entertainments; to reach the away end entails simply walking around the exterior of the ground. However, this can prove inconvenient as the police helpfully cordon off the away section at the end of the game – as a consequence, it may be more convenient for away fans to use Velopark, one stop further on, which is also closer to the away end, just five minutes down the Ashton New Road.
Anything else?: Etihad Campus was the third name assigned to the station before it opened, having initially been known as Sportcity-Stadium and then Eastlands City Stadium, before gaining its present name with the advent of the Etihad Campus development.
I’d imagine that it’s a truism accepted by all that the less notable a celebrity is, the more important they think they are. Thus we have the story of Sarah Harding and her speeding ban. Having engaged the services of the noted solicitor Nick Freeman (aka “Mr Loophole”) when she came up before a magistrate charged with using her mobile phone while driving, the argument put forward by her solicitor was that:
Becase she is high profile she would find it impossible to use public transport because of the attention she would attract
Fortunately, the judge recognised this for the total bollocks that it is, and gave her three points on her driving licence, which, given that she already had nine (as a result of various speeding convictions), means she is now banned from driving for six months:
Mr Freeman is asking the court to deal with you as opposed to a normal person. Well you are a normal person. I can see no reason why you shouldn’t be disqualified.
District Judge Nina Tempia
The judge went on to say that she was not suggesting that Harding use “public transport”, as she could quite easily engage a driver, as another part of the argument was the need of a car for her work, and the fact that her mother lives in Stockport. The fact that she doesn’t do an ordinary job that makes public transport convenient I can understand, and therefore engaging a driver is of use. I go back to the fact that Daryl Morgan stopped using the train to get to work because of the nature of her hours. However, there will be instances where using the train is perfectly acceptable, and the only reason that a person will not countenance that is because they are “too famous”. Of course, the vast majority of us that have to travel by train, tube or whatever recognise that sort of attitude for what it is, hence the ridicule Geri Halliwell opened herself to when, having made her first journey on the Tube in nearly two decades, she decided it was the dog’s bollocks and would share her newfound wisdom on commuting with the world. Intercity trains have first class carriages, which are rarely full, and allow the “celebrity” to be a little more anonymous. After all, if it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for someone who, frankly, isn’t even the most famous person in her (now defunct) band.
Finally, at long last, an away game to get excited about. You might wonder, dear reader, why this particular one is such a one to get my juices mixing and gushing with excitement. Well, I’ll tell you – I’ve been travelling around the country under my own steam (well, my own money, and National Rail’s steam actually) for some time now, and for most of that time I’ve been watching a Premier League team. And therefore I’ve been going to the same old away games year after year. That’s why last season was so exciting, as it meant trips to a load of places I’d not been before. This season, I’ve had just two opportunities, and one of them went for a burton right at the start of the season. That, and the lack of a run in either cup competition, has meant that this one is my only opportunity to add a new ground to my list. Hence I’m morbidly excited about the trip to Southampton.
Date: 13th April 2013
Stadium: St Mary’s Stadium
Away Section: Northam Stand
Score: Southampton 1-1 West Ham United
Nearest station: Southampton Central
Local rozzers: Hampshire Constabulary
Total Travel Cost: £37.50p (1 x Off-Peak Day Return)
10:58 – New Cross to Cannon Street (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)
Waterloo & City Line – Bank to Waterloo (1992 Stock)
11:39 – London Waterloo to Southampton Central (South West Trains Class 444 Desiro)
17:47 – Southampton Central to Reading (CrossCountry Class 221 Super Voyager)
18:39 – Reading to London Paddington (First Great Western InterCity 125 High Speed Train)
Bakerloo Line – Paddington to Charing Cross (1972 Stock)
20:02 – London Charing Cross to New Cross (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)
Station to Stadium: St Mary’s is yet another one of the brand new stadia that have sprung up around the country over the last few years, and is also one of those that is a fair heft from the railway station. Fortunately, although a fair old walk, unlike some others, it is still in the city centre, and therefore does not require walking along a dual carriageway. Southampton Central has two entrances – by leaving the station via the southern entrance, you find yourself on the Western Esplanade. Walk straight on up here, past the Civic Centre and onwards down to the major intersection, where there is a comprehensive pedestrian subway system. Ensure that the route you take through the subway brings you to opposite where you’ve just come from, and carry on walking down, past the gas holders, and you end up at Britannia Road, which will then take you to the away end.
There is also a shuttle bus that runs from the northern side of the railway station, which, today certainly, would have been a better option to avoid getting wet.
Anything else?: The South Western Main Line branches just north of St Mary’s; the main line continues on to into Southampton Central, while the branch continues past the ground and onwards towards Southampton Waterfront. The route has been safeguarded, and there have been calls for the route to be reopened for passenger trains, including a station to serve St Mary’s.
There was a bit in this morning’s “William Hickey” column that made me chuckle. Apparently, George Osborne is under new criticism for his transport arrangements after it emerged that his driver parked the offical car in a disabled space at the services on the way from Cardiff back to London after a visit to Wales’s capital. It seems that Gorgeous Georgie made the trip by road because he is wary of using the train following the debacle over his sitting in a first class seat on a standard class ticket. According to a Conservative Party official;
George can’t really win. If he goes back to using the trains, he’ll be heavily criticised if he travels first-class, but risks ridicule and abuse if he attempts to go in standard.
One might think that the Chancellor had something of a thin skin when it comes to criticism. Someone with a little more gumption might simply have laughed off the furore, said that in future he’d make sure he either bought a 1st class ticket or else paid the upgrade supplement willingly, and carried on using the iron road. The Hickey piece concludes by asking whether there is a mode of transport that he can use without getting in trouble. My idea immediately on reading that was a rocket powered pogo stick.
Ah, the derby. It is completely alien to me what it’s like supporting a team from a one club city, given that it’s a rarity that the Premier League has less than five clubs from London in it. As a consequence, when you support a London club it ends up as derby after derby, with the occasional visit from a team from the north-west. Well, this is the last of my away trips in the nation’s capital for this year, and the one that, were it a midweek game, would not even entail a rail journey to get to the ground, given that in my day job I work not ten minutes walk from Chelsea.
Date: 17th March 2013
Stadium: Stamford Bridge
Away Section: Shed End
Score: Chelsea 2-0 West Ham United
Nearest station: Fulham Broadway
Local rozzers: Metropolitan Police
Total Travel Cost: £4.80p (2 x Oystercard extension, 1 x Oyster Tram single)
13:39 – Lewisham to London Victoria (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)
14:36 – London Victoria to Clapham Junction (Southern Class 377 Electrostar)
14:46 – Clapham Junction to West Brompton (London Overground Class 378 Capitalstar)
District Line – West Brompton to Fulham Broadway (D78 Stock)
District Line – Fulham Broadway to Wimbledon (D78 Stock)
Route 3 – Wimbledon to East Croydon (CR4000 Flexity Swift)
18:47 – East Croydon to London Bridge (Southern Class 377 Electrostar)
19:27 – London Bridge to New Cross (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)
Station to Stadium: The area around Stamford Bridge could be described in part as one of the more affluent locations to host a football club, which is why Fulham Broadway station has an upmarket shopping centre with a cinema, several eateries and a gym/fitness centre over it. Of course, in order to avoid the centre being swamped with a load of plebby football fans on matchdays, there are now separate entrance/exit routes off the platforms, which bring you out behind the centre with a direct walk onto the Fulham Road. Then it’s simply a case of turning left and finding the right entrance, as, like other grounds I’ve been to, this one opens out in one direction. For the away fan, the entrance is the one on the east side of the ground, next to the two hotels that Chelsea decided were a better idea than a larger ground to build.
Anything else?: Heading south from West Brompton, the Wimbledon branch of the District Line runs along the north side of Stamford Bridge to call at Fulham Broadway, while the West London Line runs along the east side to Imperial Wharf, effectively hemming the stadium in and making any expansion difficult, hence the reason for Chelsea’s bid for Battersea Power Station.
It’s a truism to say that there are certain places one goes as a follower of a football club whereby one should exercise what would perhaps be described asa certain degree of caution, owing to the fact that the supporters of the team you happen to be opposing on that particular day have a reputation for being…let’s say “vocal”. And by vocal you can of course use that as a euphamism for whatever you like. I have been to several such places in my time with, of course, no trouble at all. And yet at only one of them have I felt the slightest twinge of unease. Which of course would lead to any sane person asking the question “why on earth do you keep going back?”. To which my answer is “because I’m a fan”. And that’s why I’m yet again making a return to Stoke City
Date: 2nd March 2013
Stadium: Britannia Stadium
Away Section: South Stand
Score: Stoke City 0-1 West Ham United
Nearest station: Stoke-on-Trent
Local rozzers: Staffordshire Police
Total Travel Cost: £17.50p (1 x Off-Peak Day Return, 1 x Off-Peak Tram Only Single + 1 Shuttlebus return)
Line 1 – Royal Centre to Nottingham Station Street (AT6/5 Incentro)
12:08 – Nottingham to Derby (CrossCountry Class 170 Turbostar)
12:42 – Derby to Stoke-on-Trent (East Midlands Trains Class 153 Super Sprinter)
17:33 (Dep 17:38) – Stoke-on-Trent to Derby (East Midlands Trains Class 153 Super Sprinter)
18:39 – Derby to Nottingham (CrossCountry Class 170 Turbostar)
Station to Stadium: The Britannia Stadium is yet another of those new grounds, though certainly less of an “identikit” one than other new stadia around and about. That being said though, it is one of those new ones where transport to and from the city centre was seemingly less of a priority, being more than two miles from the railway station off a junction of the A52. Of course, this is a distance that is walkable, and, if you’re like me, in not a huge amount of time. But then why walk when there are shuttle buses on offer from a stand next to Stoke Minster, which is less than 10 minutes walk from the station. Simply turn right out of the station and down to the main road, then turn right again, under the railway bridge, over the bridge across the A52 and down the hill, and hey presto, you find yourself on Glebe Street with a line of buses ahead of you.
Anything else?: The Crewe to Derby line, which serves Stoke-on-Trent, is a fairly quiet, rural line with one train an hour in each direction, and yet serves four Premier and Football League clubs (Derby County, Stoke City, Port Vale and Crewe Alexandra), as well as Uttoxeter racecourse.
Another FA Cup weekend, another day of no football, another chance to take a trip on a branch line, and one that I’ve found (fortunately) that I can use my Oystercard on (hurrah). I said the last time I did a branch line journey that the Mill Hill East branch was the only remaining short shuttle service left on the Underground, which is both true and misleading. While the Mill Hill service is the only remaining every day shuttle service, on the District Line the service between Kensington Olympia and High Street Kensington was reduced to a primarily weekend service only in 2011. Again, unlike Mill Hill, the three trains per hour service is understandable given the route that the service takes. Although it is only three stops, the intermediate one is Earls Court, which just happens to be the crux of the entire District Line, with every single service passing through, meaning that, although it is a metro service, any more than the three would impact on services onto the core of the District.
The Olympia service utilises the District’s main rolling stock, the D78 Stock, which is one reason why the service is a shuttle running three stops, instead of carrying on past High Street Kensington, as somewhat famously the stations on the branch to Edgware Road have platforms that aren’t long enough for the D78, which is why Wimbledon-Edgware Road trains use the C69/77, and why there are two terminal platforms at High Street Kensington. This raises the question of what would happen once the S7 Stock fully enters service – the Olympia shuttle was reduced from all day to weekend only because it took up slots that London Underground felt could be better used on services to Wimbledon, which is the most used part of the District Line. The decision caused controversy, particularly from disabled groups in West London who regularly used the service (which is step free from the entrance at Olympia) to get onto the Underground network. Once the new trains, which will be standard on all the sub-surface lines, are introduced, is there anything to stop some of the Edgware Road-Wimbledon trains (currently 6tph) being transferred to Olympia to create a new Olympia-Edgware Road service? Which may well be more useful.
When one goes to watch football in England, there are certain places that perhaps resonate more than others. Wembley, the “Venue of Legends” is of course the ultimate one, one that I’m forever pleased to say I’ve now been to. As a Londoner, supporting a London club, trips to our local rivals are also up there. But then there are others, those major, major grounds that have history for practically everyone, which is what this one does – this one, the scene of yet another of those magical moments in my personal story, the home of Aston Villa.
Date: 10th February 2013
Stadium: Villa Park
Away Section: Doug Ellis Stand
Score: Aston Villa 2-1 West Ham United
Nearest station: Witton
Local rozzers: West Midlands Police
Total Travel Cost: £20.50 (1 x Off-Peak Day Return, 1 x Tram Only Dayrider)
NET Line 1 – Lace Market to Nottingham Station Street (AT6/5 Incentro)
10:27 – Nottingham to Leicester (East Midlands Trains InterCity 125 High Speed Train)
11:19 (Dep 11:21) – Leicester to Birmingham New Street (CrossCountry Class 170 Turbostar)
12:43 – Birmingham New Street to Witton (London Midland Class 323)
15:17 – Witton to Birmingham New Street (London Midland Class 170 Turbostar)
16:12 – Birmingham New Street to Derby (CrossCountry Class 220 Voyager)
17:40 – Derby to Nottingham (CrossCountry Class 170 Turbostar)
NET Line 1 – Nottingham Station Street to Royal Centre (AT6/5 Incentro)
Station to Stadium: Villa Park is unquestionably seen as one of the great stadia in England; one that all those that follow a club feel they want to go to at least once. So, it is perhaps fortunate that, while its position is not totally equidistant, it does sit between a pair of railway stations, making it somewhat easier to arrive at the ground from different directions. Of the two (Aston and Witton), Witton is the closer by some margin, being only around 500m from the entrance to the away section as the crow flies. Of course, fans will have to walk, which makes it a little bit longer. Coming out of the platform onto Witton Road means you need to turn left under the railway bridge, and then take the next left onto Manor Road, at which point you can see the stadium over the roofs of the surrounding buildings.
Anything else?: In my personal experience, Aston Villa is the only away trip I have made where “football specials” still run. These run on the former freight section of the Chase Line before turning back towards Birmingham New Street. As a consequence, it is possible on these trains to arrive and leave Witton on the same platform.
Now never let it be said that I don’t love my Mum. In fact I love her more than I love chops and sauce. But there are times, usually involving a train journey, that tend to leave me rolling my eyes silently skyward. Today, West Ham were at home to Swansea City, and circumstances dictated the journey to Upton Park be taken by train. Unfortunately, the District Line and Hammersmith & City Line were both suspended through central London, with all trains terminating at Bromley-by-Bow. Of course this is irritating – even I feel annoyance, and I am aware of the need to continue the engineering work that is being done. But there is a limit to the level of…let’s not make too many bones about it…wingeing that I had to listen to. Admittedly the fact that half of the westbound District Line trains were being terminated at West Ham, but the staff on the platform there were singularly lacking in passing this information on, would cause anyone irritation. But standing in the cold (and believe me it was cold) waiting for the gates to be opened at the entrance to Upton Park ”on principle”, rather than walking to the end of the queue, and then complaining about the length of time taken to open the gates, is enough to try the patience of a saint. To explain, there is a road running along side the railway route, separated by a wall, which supporters queue along to enter the station. Periodically, the gates along the fence are closed, forcing people to go down to the next one. While I have thought for many years that it would be better to put an additional entrance along this route to ease the congestion, the fact is that ain’t happening now. But I’d rather have taken a walk down to the end than stand in the cold waiting for something that could take another hour to occur. Similarly, once getting on a train heading westbound that was then held at Plaistow, with the explanation being overcrowding at West Ham, again is cause to be irritated, but not go on and on about it. I do on occasion feel that my Mother sometimes forgets that I am not of the same generation as she is (so alike are we), which is why, on journeys such as these, often the best way for me to retain my own sanity is to start tuning it out and let her just go on without comment. Because any attempt on my part to offer explanation will invariably lead to her choosing to not listen to what I am saying, and thus cause argument and strife. Sigh.