Ground: Don Valley Stadium
Date: Saturday 20th September 2008, 3.00 pm
Competition: League Two
Match: Rotherham 1 Luton 0 HT: 0-0 Att: 4,095
Additional: Entrance: £20.00 Upper Tier £18.00 Lower Programme: £2.50 Hot drinks: Coffee £1.20
PHOTOS of Don Valley Stadium
This match was a meet up of members of Shaun Smith’s 100 Football Grounds club members. Shaun started his blogsite a few years ago now, accumulating fellow groundhoppers from all around the globe who had been to more than 100 football grounds. His membership is now up to 113! Due to the massive logistical nightmare in trying to gather together people from around the world into one place at the same time, and a lot of them cancelling late on, only four of us turned up in the end, but it was a great day, nonetheless.
One of the members, Dan, turned up late, having been unable to ascertain a meeting place due to computer difficulties in the morning. It was only by luck that he bumped into us after the game, and amusingly introduced himself as number 93. It reminded me of the line in the Elvis song Jailhouse Rock ‘Number 47 said to number three, you’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see…let’s rock’ I thought of our own version Number 34 said to number 93, you’re the cutest groundhopper I ever did see, let’s hop!
The group was swelled 50 % by my Uncle Don and his brother in law Cyril, both of Sheffield, who I picked up on the way. Though not members of the 100 grounds club, they were both interested in local football, and accompanied me to Sheffield FC last year.
This season Rotherham are playing at the Don Valley Stadium in next door Sheffield, leaving their traditional Millmoor home because of excessive rent demands by the landlords and general disagreements. They are hoping to use the excellent facilities here until they can either sort out the disagreements or have a community stadium built. This move is on top of starting the season with a 17 point deduction for going into administration. It wasn’t quite as bad as their opponents today, Luton, who started the season on a soul-destroying -30 points, for administration and failing to agree terms with creditors, and and some other reasons…possibly because they are not called West Ham.
Despite the adverse conditions faced by both clubs Rotherham had made a great start to the campaign with three wins in six and Luton hadn’t done too bad with a couple of away wins already. It was a battle of the minus pointers. Rotherham were two wins away from nothingness. Luton were still a long way off and needed nothing less than promotion form to have any chance of avoiding the conference next year.
Uncle Don, Cyril and myself met up with Shaun in the Banker’s Draft in the centre of Sheffield, next to a tram stop, which would give us a tram ride to outside the ground. As well as Shaun, the founder, and me (number 34), Jonathan turned up as well (number 68). It was thus slightly disappointing that Dan was number 93 rather than 102, spoiling what would have been a nice arithmetic progression! It was a good atmosphere in the pub, talking football with a Charlton, Newcastle Sheffield Wednesday and United fan. Although with two contrasting broad accents, Shaun’s geordie and Cyril’s Yorkshire, at times understanding 20% of what was said was good going!
The Don Valley was much bigger, brightly coloured and altogether more European looking than I was expecting. I hadn’t read up on it beforehand, so had it in my head it was going to be a deluxe Withdean Stadium. However, to call it that would be an injustice. Built in 1991 to host the World Student Games, it is a proper Olympic-style stadium with a capacity of 25,000. It is also home to the Sheffield Eagles rugby league club.
The bright yellow poles that are a large feature of the ground and the canvass-looking white sails effects that form the roof reminds one of the Millenium Dome, which is a little unfortunate, as it is a nice design. For Rotherham’s home games only the big main stand is open, which is a two tiered covered structure, as compared to the rest of the ground which is open seating on one low level. The seats utilise space well and the ground space could easily swallow up a further 25,000 if it wished to expand to another tier on all sides.
Inside, the stadium was very spacious and airy, the views superb. As an athletics ground it was magnificent. Apparently the track is situated five metres below ground level with low seating creating a bowl effect, leading to better viewing and athletic perfomances. A nice touch were two extra tiers of seating at the start and finish of the ‘final straight’ where the 100m would have taken part. Another fine aspect were the floodlights, which looked East European. They were imposing auspicious structures, that are apparently the strongest in the country. They stand 45M above the track and really give the stadium an imposing air.
As a football ground it wasn’t great, as an atmosphere was difficult to create, being so far from the action and in such a large open space. It felt like how I imagine watching football at an Olympics would be like. Two thirds of a stadium unopen and the rest partially filled and quiet on a sunny breezy day with a backdrop of the Olympic City we were in. (In this case Grimethorpe, Wincobank and Tinsley Industrial Estate!
The first half was pretty rubbish, but the second made up for it with some good action. Rotherham were deserving winners all in all, but had to win it with an either sublime or freaky 30 yard chip that sailed in to the top corner just above the keeper’s head. It was the type of goal you see on highlights of lower Scottish division games. I’m sure Rhodes said he meant it, though!
It was a good day out and a great stadium to visit with excellent transport links to the ground. Hopefully, it won’t be the last of 100 Football Ground Club meetings. Thanks to Shaun for organising it. Read his account here.