Rotherham United v AFC Bournemouth
New York Stadium / Championship / 17th January 2015
These vagabond shoes / Are longing to stray / Right through the very heart of it / New York, New York!
I had wanted to walk my ‘vagabond shoes’ (Adidas Sambas in my case) through New York for quite a while now. I’d come very close to booking a trip across for the past few years, but never quite got around to it. The glitz, the glamour, the bright lights – I wanted to be a part of it…New York, New York. Eh? You what? Frank Sinatra didn’t pen his iconic song about the New York area of Rotherham in South Yorkshire? Oh, right. Well, anyway, that’s the New York I was heading to.
Rotherham United moved into their fancy new New York Stadium in 2012, and with the weather in the north threatening many non-league fixtures in the north, I decided to play it safe and pay the Millers’ sparkling new stadium a visit.
“Cross! You played for West Ham,” declared the train conductor, as he checked the ticket of the gentleman sitting opposite me on the 9.20am train out of Manchester. Modestly the gentleman replied that he was indeed former West Ham striker David Cross and obviously this caught my attention. Admittedly, he had played a bit before my time and I would never had recognised him, but I soon got chatting to a man referred to by West Ham fans as ‘Psycho’ and it is fair to say that he was far from a psychopath and a top guy. He departed the train in Sheffield (he was en route to Derby v Nottingham Forest), whilst I continued to Sheffield Meadowhall, where I had to change trains quickly and make the final 5 minute journey from Meadowhall to Rotherham. I was greeted at my destination’s train station by a grouchy, scruffy man wearing just one shoe (the other in hand), laughing hysterically to himself, displaying his several missing teeth in the process.
Welcome to Rotherham.
I had bought my ticket for the game the night before, so my first port of call was the New York Stadium, located just 5 minutes away from the train station and town centre. On walking through a small industrial estate, you find the New York Stadium dead ahead of you and with the sun shining on this crisp January morning, it looked an impressive sight. My first thoughts were that it looks a bit like a smaller KC Stadium and dare I even suggest, that the glass front of it reminded me a bit of the Emirates. Also, just across the A360, you can see the floodlights and stands of the club’s former home Millmoor, now standing there unused and uncared for.
The issue I was having was actually accessing the stadium, as a wrong turning meant I found myself on the wrong side of the railway track and seemingly unable to cross to the stadium itself. It took me ten minutes to work out where I had gone wrong and then within minutes I was in the club shop of the stadium with my ticket in hand. To the pub!
The town itself is quite hilly (not a problem for a South Wales valleys like myself) and despite the host of boarded up night clubs I encountered, I found the rather tumbledown appearance of the place quite endearing. My first port of call for the day was the Wetherspoons pub the Corn Law Rhymer. Standard Spoons, not much to report here, although I did notice that they were advertising breakfast until 2pm for matchdays – quite a nice touch.
Back into the streets of Rotherham I headed and I decided to have a nose around before heading to another pub. Easily Rotherham’s most eye-catching landmark is Rotherham Minster, which dominates the centre of the town. I walked through its churchyards and then down the high street until I came across the County pub. Whilst I had been walking through the town, I had noticed that pretty much every pub in the town had a sign on the window declaring ‘HOME FANS ONLY’ – I’d never been to a town so unwelcoming towards away fans.
With a home ticket in my wallet, I was safe to enter any of the establishments – unless they took exception to my Welsh accent and considered me some sort of undercover fan – and so I uneasily headed into the County. This was my sort of pub. A pint of Fosters cost £1.90, the Derby v Forest game was on two of the big screens and Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits were playing through the speakers alongside Sky Sports’ commentary of the Brian Clough derby. Perfect. With beer priced so cheap, I had two drinks here, before heading next door to the Angel.
The County did have a growing number of Rotherham fans within, but the larger Angel pub was filled with fans of the Millers. It was a bit tackier in here than my previous pub stop and I still felt a bit uneasy about the whole ‘HOME FANS ONLY’ policy brandished all over the windows, so I had the one drink and rolled out.
One place that had been recommended to me before my trip to Rotherham was the Bridge Inn, found just across the road from Rotherham Central train station. I had noticed the pub on my arrival in the town, but I had decided to save my visit until later in the day and a bit nearer kick-off. When I walked in there was a definitely a change of vibe compared to the other places I had visited, purely because the place was rammed full of Bournemouth fans; it seemed that the HOME FANS ONLY stance of the Rotherham’s drinking holes had left the away fans with just this one pub option – but what a pub option it is. Many football scarves grace the roof (sadly, I didn’t spot a Swansea one) and for those who are a fan of real ale, this place would be right up your street. Also, in another neat touch, there was hot food being served towards the back of the pub and so I enjoyed a £2 bratwurst to accompany my pint.
I headed towards the less busy back part of the pub to watch the final 30 minutes of the Derby v Forest game – with Bournemouth joint top of the Championship with Derby County, there was particular interest in the game for the away fans filling the pub, hence why there was a huge cheer when Forest equalised and an even bigger cheer when they scored a 92nd winner. A point or 3 at Rotherham’s home today, would see Bournemouth propel themselves 3 points clear at the top of the league. It was also great to meet and chat to Cherries fan Peter Charles. Although we had not properly met before, he had once spotted me in my red #lostboyos t-shirt on the train when I visited Bournemouth’s ground back in January 2013; apparently he assumed I was part of some sort of stag do weekend with my Twitter name also emblazoned on the back of the aforementioned shirt.
After a few beers with Pete and his Bournemouth pals, I decided to make the short walk to the ground with just over 30 minutes to go until kick-off. The streets leading up to the ground reverberated with the sound of bagpipes and on crossing the bridge to New York Way, the culprit of the sound was spotted: a kilt-clad man playing away just ahead of a burger van. I was unperturbed into buying an album of the bagpipe music from him or purchase any food from the burger van and instead I just was keen to get a double thumbs up photo with the Rotherham club mascot, Miller Bear, who I’d spotted parading about outside the ground. The bear was more than willing to pose with me and he now joins a whole host of costumed men and women who have graced Lost Boyos.
Onwards into the New York Stadium itself.
As mentioned earlier, Rotherham United only moved into the New York Stadium in 2012. Rotherham Town and Thornhill United formed in 1925 to create the current Rotherham United, who played most of their lifespan at the famous Millmoor. Their former ground, which was built on a flour mill in 1907, was taken away from the club in 2008 after they failed to negotiate a lease agreement with the ground’s owners. The club played for four years in the unconventional (at least for football) Don Valley Stadium, before moving into the New York Stadium in 2012.
The 12,000 seater stadium is very modern-looking with its glass front and sloping ‘steps’ roof; for me, it is one of the more interesting looking new builds I have come across. Also, there are two large futuristic pylons jutting out from the East Stand giving another element of character. Plus, I do love a ground positioned so closely to the town centre, as regular readers may be aware.
The concourse was fairly busy by the time I was through the turnstiles, but I did not have to queue to buy one last beer before kick-off.
My seat for today’s game was located in the front row of the magically named KCM Recyclying Stand (perhaps we’ll just stick to calling it the North Stand) behind the goals. On the left of where I was sitting you could find the Ben Bennett (East Stand); behind the far goals is the Morrison (South) Stand, where the away fans are housed; and on the other side of the ground is the brilliantly named Eric Twigg Pukka Pies Stand, the main and most interesting looking stand in the ground.
As the teams came out onto the pitch, it was hard for me to see what was going on with the sun shining into my eyes from behind the South Stand. However, I was delighted to hear the uproarious closing chords and final jubilant cries of Sinatra’s New York, as the teams were about to kick-off. A brilliant touch I felt. The fans have missed a trick by not making Sinatra’s hit some sort of home team anthem.
The home fans were in fairly good voice for the first few minutes, but soon died down with not too much going on on the pitch. I did have high hopes for the game, as only 2 weeks before Bournemouth had travelled here for a FA Cup Third Round game and beat the Millers 5-1. Sadly, the game would not provide such a goal glut today.
Rotherham had a host of new faces in their starting line-up today, but they started the game fairly well. One of those new faces, Jack Barmby, son of Nick, blazed over the bar from a decent position, before moments later Bournemouth’s freescoring striker Callum Wilson had the ball in the net; luckily, for the home team, he was adjudged to have clipped and tripped up on loan Rotherham defender Zeki Freyers en route to goal.
The weather had been a little chilly, but fine all day, with clear blue skies over Rotherham. Yet, suddenly, ominous-looking clouds seemed to flock over the stadium and the sky turned a frightening looking purplish grey. I had been quite comfortable in my front row seat, but the final 20 minutes of the half were tough going, as sleety rain/snow began to hammer me. I was absolutely freezing within minutes, but I decided to just focus on the game and blank out the cold. Sadly, there wasn’t too much happening on the pitch to take my mind off the cold and the numbness of my hands and feet were becoming harder to ignore. I looked over at Miller Bear parading down the touchline in front of me and envied his ability to run and bounce about in his warm looking costume. Rarely, have I been so jealous of a club mascot.
The Cherries had a couple of chances to take the lead with Matt Ritchie firing just wide of the post and an unmarked Marc Pugh heading just past the upright at the back post. Then Barmby similarly fired just wide of the post and it looked like neither team would score before half-time.
Despite the gloves I was wearing, my hands were totally numbed by now and with what must have been seconds of the half left, I gave in and headed to the concourse. Typically, as soon as I stepped onto the concourse, I looked up at one of the screens showing the match to see a Bournemouth player (which I would learn was Tommy Elphick) win a header in the Rotherham box and flight it into the post and into the bottom corner. 1-0 to Bournemouth with virtually the last action of the half.
Half-time: Rotherham United 0 – 1 AFC Bournemouth.
Just missing the Bournemouth goal had annoyed me slightly, but I was to become far more crestfallen when I looked up at one of the concourse’s TV screens to see the Swans losing 4-0 at half-time at home to Chelsea. I told myself not to even look at that score again until the final whistle had gone here in Rotherham.
I headed back out for the second half and was delighted to see that the rain/snow had subsided and I could try warm myself back up (I promise I don’t always complain about the cold this much!)
The Cherries had a good opportunity to double their lead when Wilson went through on goal again, but he was brought down by Millers keeper Adam Collin and the challenge was adjudged not to be a penalty.
However, on the hour mark, the away team would grab another goal when Charlie Daniels kept the ball in play with a well hit low cross into the box; a scramble ensued at the near post between Collin, some other home defenders and Bournemouth striker Brett Pitman, before the ball popped out to Wilson who volleyed home from close range. 2-0 and it looked almost certain that Bournemouth would go 3 points clear at the top of Championship.
There was very little action to report in the latter stages really. Arguably, Rotherham had a bit more of the ball in the closing half hour, but Bournemouth still looked in control and never looked like surrendering their 2 goal advantage.
I eventually caved in and checked the Swansea score to see to my relief that we were still only losing 4-0; just as I celebrated the Swans not conceding anymore, my phone updated and the score turned to 5-0 to Chelsea. Bugger.
There was still time for substitute Yann Kermorgant to miss a good chance to put the Cherries 3-0 up with his first touch, but it was to remain 2-0.
Full-time: Rotherham United 0 – 2 AFC Bournemouth. Every time I’ve seen Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth play on my travels over the past few years, they’ve been brilliant to watch. Today, they grinded out a result in a tough game in rather tough conditions. Not a great game to be honest. I hung around for a bit to take some more pics of the emptying stadium, before saying farewell to stadium and heading out into the cold Rotherham night.
I made a quick visit to another one of Rotherham’s Wetherspoons, this time to the intimidatingly titled Rhinoceros, before deciding to head back to the Bridge Inn. Back here, it was quieter than earlier in the day, but I did find myself chatting to two fellow teachers…well, former teachers. Former Head of English Les even informed me that following our conversation about Rotherham United, football in general and teaching English, that he’d offer me a job if he was still working as a Head of Department because of ‘the passion in my eyes’; I think he mistook the glaze in my eyes from the day’s drinking for passion. I enjoyed my drinks back in the brilliant Bridge Inn with the two men of pedagogy, before it was time to call it a day in Rotherham.
If there is one fanbase who have got a lot of love from me on this blog over the past 12 months it is the fans of Stockport County. Once again, I crossed paths with County fans and once again they kept me superbly entertained with their downbeat humour on the train home. It seemed that again they had enjoyed their day questioning and laughing about the fact that they had been to watch their club play at another non-league venue (Gainsborough Trinity today) just a few years after County were Football League stalwart. Drunken merriment was had, before Dave and his pals got off at Stockport station and leaving me to reflect on an interesting day.
I found Rotherham a bit odd, but I do like ‘odd’. I’m not sure it would be the most enlightening of places for an away football fan to visit, however, away fans at least get to revel in the joys of the Bridge Inn. As for the ground, well it is certainly one of my favourite of the usually dull bowl-like new build stadiums. I felt it had a shiny and more interesting finish that some others lack. Plus, it felt like Rotherham United’ ground rather than a general sports arena built by the local council.
The New York I visited today was perhaps the not ‘concrete jungle where dreams are made of’ like the one celebrated by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. Perhaps for song lyrics that support my opinion of the place we should turn to Yorkshire’s very own Arctic Monkeys with their mega tune Fake Tales of San Francisco, who contrast the ‘Big Apple’ to the South Yorkshire Town:
“You’re not from New York City you’re from Rotherham,” croons Alex Turner, in sort of ode to the sheer lack of pretentiousness that you’ll find within Rotherham. And long may its no nonsense existence continue. I had fun at least.
Highlights: meeting David Cross, nice new stadium, located near town centre, cheap beer, the Bridge Inn.
Low Points: not exactly most inviting place I’ve ever been with ‘HOME FANS ONLY’ signs everywhere, poor game, getting snowed on.
See all my photos from my trip to Rotherham and the New York Stadium here.