Burton Albion v Morecambe
Pirelli Stadium / League Two / 2nd November 2013
I’m not a big believer in people having a ‘second team’. However, anyone that follows my travels or follows me on the various social media platforms will know that in the past 12 months I’ve unwittingly developed a slight affinity for a club alongside my beloved Swansea. I would never say I ‘support them’ or that ‘they are my second team’, but undoubtedly I’ve taken Morecambe FC into my affections. It all began last November when I randomly decided to visit the Globe Arena on my football travels – the welcome and hospitality I received that day from the Morecambe faithful has probably not been surpassed on my footballing travels thus far.
Conveniently, Morecambe currently play in League Two, a league where there are several grounds that I have yet to visit, so my affiliation to Morecambe is also a marriage of convenience, in regards of groundhopping terms. Which brings me onto the first weekend in November 2013. The weekend had been in the diaries of Swansea and Cardiff since the fixtures were unveiled in June, as it was to be the weekend of the first ever South Wales derby in the Premier League. Sadly, kick-off and train times coupled together meant I would not be able to make it to Cardiff for the derby, so instead I looked for a fixture on the Saturday afternoon, which would calm me before the nerves set in on the Sunday. And that is how I ended up with the Shrimp Army at Burton Albion.
I arrived into Burton-on-Trent shortly before 11:30am and with the place seeming to be a bit of a ghost town (well no pubs opened until midday) I wandered into the town centre for a nose around. En route to the town centre it became obvious why the football club are nicknamed the Brewers, as the road up to the town centre was dominated by the Molston Coors Brewery and the whiff of beer emanating from it.
The town centre seemed pleasant enough with the usual array of shopping centres, but not too much to write home about here. Then I received a text off Paul, the man who properly introduced me to the world of Morecambe FC on my visit to the Globe Arena last season, confirming that he and the ‘party bus’ had arrived into Burton and to meet them at the Roebuck pub. I’d noted the Roebuck Inn on arriving into Burton, as it is located right next to the station, so I was well aware of where I was heading.
On entering I was greeted by shouts of ‘Jack Shrimp’ from the Shrimp fans – the nickname that has been placed on me by Morecambe fans in ode to my Swansea/Morecambe support. However, I had let down my Morecambe pals down by not wearing my Morecambe home shirt, which was sent to me as a freebie by the club’s kitman in the summer via Paul (see why this club is awesome), although I did argue that I made up for it by wearing my red ‘#lostboyos’ t-shirt and my red Adidas Sambas meaning I was very much brandishing the club colours.
I bought myself a pint in the Roebuck, but it turned out to be a very quick pint; apparently we had four pubs to get through this afternoon, so time was of the essence. I could see why Paul had dubbed the contingent he had brought along in his minibus ‘the party bus’ – they all certainly seemed to enjoy a drink anyway and reminiscing of their adventures around the country with the Shrimps over the years. It also sounded like that there had been a lot of male bonding going on on the ‘party bus’ down from Morecambe, particularly from Ash who had apparently found it necessary to grope Paul’s chest whilst he was driving the bus. As I said at the time, ‘what happens on the bus, stays on the bus’ – I did not want any further detail.
Next stop on the Shrimps’ pub crawl through Burton was the Devonshire Arms, located just two minutes up the road from the Roebuck. Similar to the Roebuck, the Devonshire was a nice, cosy little pub with the walls covered in beer mats from all different breweries from around the UK, including Rhymney Brewery beer mats (my local brewery back home in Wales), as well as Derby County memorabilia – a hint at how close we were to Derbyshire considering we were actually in Staffordshire.
The Shrimp contingent had begun eyeing up a Tring Brewery bar mat with the words (and I was assuming the name of a beer) ‘Bring me Sunshine’ emblazoned across it along with the silhouette of a skipping Eric Morecambe – Morecambe’s most famous son. Sadly, the bar staff denied the Shrimps when they asked could they take it.
After a couple in the Devonshire, it was onwards to the next port of call and I even had the honour of boarding the party bus to the next stop on the Burton pub crawl – I made sure I sat right at the back of the bus away from Ash’s wandering hands in the front seats.
Of course, when being in a town built on brewing beer, it is only fitting to visit a pub attached to a brewery and so our next port of call was the Burton Bridge Brewery pub. After a 5 lively minutes on the party bus, soundtracked by Madness and the Specials, we pulled up in the car park and went into the pub. We obviously came across as a rowdy bunch, as the barman ensured we didn’t enter the lounge area and instead isolated our gang in the ‘smoking room’ on the other side of the bar. Like many of the others, I opted to try the real ale that was on sale at the pub and despite not being the biggest real ale-lover, the pint of Golden Delicious I had was truly delightful. As we all got through our pints and the conversation turned slightly louder and more blue’, it became quite clear that the ‘banter’ was emptying the pub of its punters with one couple storming out of the ‘smoking room’ looking quite horrified.
Shortly after 2 o’clock we were back on board the party bus and on our way to the Beech Inn, which was just up the road from Burton’s ground, to meet the rest of the Morecambe gang who had arrived into Burton earlier in the afternoon on another minibus. I did try to get some Swansea City/anti-Cardiff City songs going on the bus to get everyone in the mood for the derby the next day, but to little avail, as for some reason the Morecambe fans were more interested in singing their own songs. Soon enough we were going past the Pirelli Stadium and down the road until we arrived in the Beech’s car park.
The pub was definitely an away team pub with the red and white of Morecambe dominating the whole bar area, although there was a small handful of elderly Burton fans sitting by themselves in the lounge area next door. The room was abuzz with familiar faces from the 4 other Morecambe games I had attended and all greeted me by my adopted ‘Jack Shrimp’ alias, before wishing me all the best for the South Wales derby the next day. We had arrived at the pub fairly late and so the pint in the Beech was a hasty one, as we obviously wanted to make the kick-off.
I made the short 10 minute walk down the road from the Beech to the Pirelli Stadium with the Lancasters, father and son John and Dom, who, judging from the noises they were making, were very much enjoying the burgers they had bought from ‘Rice’s Grill’ in the Beech car park. After walking past the large Pirelli factory (that makes sense) we arrived outside the ground and more specifically the away end. Now, I’m not sure if Burton folk are just suspicious of the Morecambe lot, but the checks from the stewards before going through the turnstiles were the most thorough and intense I’ve seen in the Football League – literally, everyone passing through the gates were scrupulously frisked. Of course, I had no such suspicious items on my person (nor did I imagine anybody else did) and moments later I was through the turnstile and into the small area at the back of the Pirelli Stadium’s away end.
Beer was the usual new ground prices of just over £3 a pint and food was also at the usual average prices. I was told by Paul that his favourite part about visiting Burton is the opportunity for to have the semi-iconic faggots and peas available in the ground, but despite insisting that I invest in the local delicacy, I politely declined – mushy peas are pretty much the worst thing in the world to me and I’m not too wild on faggots either.
After dodging Burton’s footballing cuisine, I decided to head up to the stand to get a look at this Pirelli Stadium. As mentioned earlier, the Pirelli Stadium is a relatively new abode for the Brewers with the club only moving to their new ground in 2005 when the club still played in the Conference. The town of Burton had had numerous football clubs throughout the 20th century until the current club Burton Albion were formed in 1950 and played at the Lloyd’s Foundry ground, before moving to the newly built Eton Park in 1958. Eton Park would remain the club’s home until they moved into their £7.2 million Pirelli Stadium.
As you would expect with any new stadium, the facilities are very good at the Pirelli, yet as always seems to be the case with new builds, there’s not too much in way of character there. The Main Stand looks suitably plush and houses all the usual stadium amenities (corporate boxers, offices, the changing rooms etc.) as well as being a fully covered, all-seater stand – as you would probably expect from any Main Stand these days. Directly opposite the Main Stand, running down the other side of the pitch, is the Popular Side, a stand that is mainly all-seater, apart from a small standing terrace in the corner of it. Behind both goals are two almost identical covered standing terraces – something I will not criticise as I always love a Football League ground that still embraces standing terraces. Although, from my view on the away terrace I actually thought that the ground looked kind of ugly with the black and yellow seating backdropped by large visible grey walls at the back of each stand. In fact, I thought the ground did slightly resemble an uglier version of Morecambe’s Globe Arena (and I’ve since learned that the Globe Arena, along with several other new grounds, is apparently based on Burton’s ground).
As the teams came out onto the pitch we found ourselves just to the left of Morecambe keeper’s Barry Roche’s goal. “I’m not used to this!” remarked Paul and then subsequently moved us to the other side of Roche’s goal, as that is where he usually stands at the Globe Arena. With us now apparently positioned correctly on the standing terrace, we were underway.
It’s safe to say that the game struggled to come to life, but I felt Burton started the far better team with their identi-haircut attacking trio looking quite dangerous. However, Morecambe found their footing in the game and the game became boringly balanced with very little action – not helped by a referee who would prove fussy all game.
A goal would eventually come before the interval, but I honestly wasn’t sure how the ball ended up in the back of the net until I saw the goal on TV the next day. A 20 yard shot from Morecambe’s 34 year old winger Kevin Ellison seemed to be heading harmlessly towards goal until it struck a player on the back and went past the flat-footed Jordan Pickford in the Burton goal. As the Morecambe end celebrated many were still unclear who scored until the public address system (tannoy is a brand name) announced “Goalscorer for Morecambe…Ryan Williams” – cue loud cheers and chants of the Morecambe playmaker’s name.
The rest of the half ebbed out uneventfully and shortly after the half time whistle I was back in the bar area behind the away stand.
Half-time: Burton 0 – 1 Morecambe.
During half-time I found myself talking with the Morecambe legend that is Peter ‘Two Scarves’ – a lifelong fan of the club, who, despite being named ‘Two Scarves’, seems to wear a sort of kilt solely made of many Morecambe scarves. Usefully, the bar area had live footage of the half-time warm up on the pitch, so there was no need to rush my pint until I saw the red and yellow of Burton and Morecambe jogging back out onto the pitch for the second half on the TV screens provided – a useful touch.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first half with very little to report. Through the boredom, a collection of Morecambe fans began to mock Burton’s goalie Pickford for the pink towel he had in the goal. However, some turned the mocking into chanting that referenced anal penetration. The ‘supervisor’, in his special all white steward jacket, did not appreciate such chanting and came up into the away end to have a few stern words to scupper such chanting. Dom, who seems to be one of Morecambe’s main music curators at games with his attempts to start new chants and with his usual trusty drum (which was not allowed for today’s game), said that everyone should refrain from any abusive chanting and focus on only pro-Morecambe chanting. Along with Paul’s son Scott (who once beat me on FIFA and has decided to challenge me again with the winner getting/keeping one of my flat caps), Dom composed a new hit for the Morecambe terraces. Of course they chose to create a chant to the tune of a song by a true football terrace favourite….no not Oasis! Justin Bieber obviously! Yes, halfway through the second half Dom and Scott and the gang of young Shrimps fans had a chorus of Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ going with the word ‘ Baby’ cleverly replaced with the word ‘Morecambe’. It was rather funny, but I just can’t see it catching on with the everyday football fan sorry lads; although I did find myself humming the tune for the remainder of the day much to my despair.
There was also a bizarre chant created by Dom about KFC, which I can’t really recall, but it’s quite clear that very little happened in the second half if all I can recall are the random chants that were being created next to me on the terrace. I will say that the referee continued to annoy me during the second half, but that was about it bar a couple of half chances.
With the clock ticking down to the final few seconds the Morecambe fans decided to serenade their inevitable victory with a rousing rendition of the club’s unofficial anthem ‘Bring me Sunshine’ – a song that has to be one of my favourites sung by any football fanbase in the whole country. I could not resist joining in. A true classic and a wonderful song to hear bellowed out by passionate football fans.
Full time: Burton 0 – 1 Morecambe. The result was obviously followed by the ritual of Morecambe’s manager, Jim Bentley, coming over to the away fans to applaud them before doing his trademark clenched fist in the air celebration. Bentley, or Jimbo as he is affectionately known, as fast become one of my favourite managers in the Football League. The job he has done with Morecambe has been quite brilliant, plus, having met him a couple of times now, I can also add that he is an absolutely top lad!
Following the full time whistle I wandered back to the Beech with the Morecambe faithful, as their minibuses were parked in the pub’s car park. However, unsurprisingly, they could not resist having one last drink before hitting the road again. Despite the poor game, it had been another great day out with the Shrimp Army and having let the fans know that I had now seen Morecambe play away from home 3 times and they had won all 3 times, I was duly invited to join the Shrimps on the road again.
Once the minibuses had departed I made the 15 minute walk back into the town centre and arrived back at where the day had started: back in the Roebuck for a couple of pints whilst I watched the big late evening kick-off between Arsenal and Liverpool.
If only Swansea could have brought me some sunshine, like Morecambe had, the next day, instead of massively letting me and all my fellow Swansea fans down by falling to our biggest rivals. Nevermind. We’ll just talk about how much I enjoyed the Saturday with the Shrimps and pretend Sunday never happened!
Highlights: plenty of great pubs in Burton, great company with the Shrimp fans and briefly experiencing the ‘party bus’ for myself, standing terraces at the ground, good facilities, a Morecambe win.
Low Points: dull ground, dull game, chants to tune of Justin Bieber songs (although this was originally in the highlight section).