Ground – Pirelli Stadium
Monday 10th September 2007
BlueSquare Premier Burton Albion 3 Torquay Utd 1 HT: 2-0 ATT: 2,086
Entrance: £12 (standing), Programme: £2.50 (ouch!), Hot drinks: £1, Speciality: Faggots & Peas (run out)
Pirelli Stadium in pictures
This was a bit of an impulsive hop, so I was lucky to have the acquaintance of my fellow ST6 groundhopper, Tom, who had had to do some serious charming of the missus to get out at short notice. Well, he managed it, and was all the happier for the spontaneity of a Monday night fixture. The reason being that the Pirelli Stadium was playing host to Setanta Sports cameras for their ‘live match’. If you’d told somebody that 20 years ago they’d still be laughing now.
It is quite a fast hop from upon to on Trent, a 35 mile drive which is mostly the quick A50, a road which lays claim to most Derbyshire and Staffordshire folk’s personal land speed records. The town of Burton is famous for its brewing, being home to the Marston’s brewery, producer of some very fine real ales. One of the best pints I ever had was a pint of Marston’s Winter Warmer. They do an incredible selection, the most popular and well known being Pedigree, but you can also get bottles of Single Malt, Empire and Double Drop round my way – all delicious.
Burton Albion were formed in 1950, and have gradually worked their way up the pyramid from Birmingham District Leagues to the fringe of the League play-off last season, but the town of Burton has a surprisingly rich history of league football and had no less than three teams play league football, in the days of black and white and be-capped fans dangling from floodlight pylons.
Burton Swifts were founder members of Division two in 1892. Burton Wanderers provided the town with some competition just two years later and joined them in the second division. They only lasted three seasons before losing the re-election to Luton Town. Not long after, the Swifts came bottom, too; so the two teams merged to become a Burton team with yet another suffix – this time United.
The amalgamated new side of United didn’t fare much better, lasting six seasons until failing re-election in 1907. They then went bust in 1910. I’m not quite sure about football in the town between 1910 and 1950. All these Burtons (or is it Burti?) played at Lloyds Foundry Ground, off Wellington Street, including the new Albion until a new bigger stadium was built called Eton Park in 1958. This was situated opposite where the Pirelli is now. Albion played here until the opening of their smart new stadium across the road in 2005, which lies near the Pirelli factory, hence the name.
The Pirelli Stadium has a very nice frontage which my photos, top and just below, probably don’t do justice to!
There is ample parking near the ground with the official car parks not taking advantage and charging a modest £2. This meant we could park about two minutes walk away with ease, and that is with a relatively big attendance of 2,086. Inside was smart, too, the whole place having the air of being a slightly higher spec model of the Deva Stadium. The capacity is 6,500, but unlike the Deva the seating is just confined to one side, with executive boxes along the top.
This shot was taken in the away end, where we stood with the Torquay fans. With matches that are high standard enough to involve segregation of fans, I always go with the away fans for the atmosphere, for the ‘comrades in adversity’ thing about having travelled all that way (usually for nothing in my case). Tom and I postulated and stroked our chins beforehand about the number of Torquay fans there’d be – Monday night, about a 3,000 mile round trip, on television anyway… ooh about 50, 100 at the very most. I couldn’t believe my eyes as we popped out onto the terrace among about 300 odd Gulls fans. What an amazing away following!
This was a fifth versus top match, so a lot was riding on it and we could potentially be watching two teams who’ll be playing Brighton next season. The quality was good. It still seemed to me somewhat surreal to see Burton Albion playing in a luxury ground and with such good football – I still see them as an occasional FA Cup outfit who appear on football focus once every twenty years before disappearing into some obscure regional league.
Burton were brilliant in the first half and deserved their two goal league. Torquay were certainly keeping in reserve whatever form had got them to top of the league. Their defending was a bit casual and the first goal was an embarrasing blunder for their keeper who dropped the free kick in the net.
After the break Torquay looked much better and the away end atmosphere was electric as the Gulls fans noisily cheered them on for a goal, which eventually came courtesy of their sub, Benyon, who turned a nice cross into the roof. However, the Brewers made it safe on 83 when the Torquay defence was stretched too far. It was no less than Burton deserved. Their energy, determination, and incredibly well organised defence looked like it’d take some beating, even from a top side.