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Anfield is the home of Liverpool FC. It is an all seater stadium with a capacity of 45,362.
If you are coming from the East, follow the M62 right until the end. When you come to the end of the motorway, you bear right onto the A5058 and then after around 3 miles you turn left (where there is a McDonalds on the corner) and then right again after a futher mile. As you can imagine, the ground is very well sign posted.
There is a car park at the ground, however, it is for permit holders only so no good for the occasional visitor. If you get to the ground early, street parking can be found, however, they have introduced a residents scheme on many of the streets surrounding the ground. On my most recent visit, I parked at a school not too far from the ground (around a 5 minute walk) - this cost £10 per car. They also offer parking at Goodison Park (Home of Everton FC) which also costs £10 and is a short walk away from Anfield across Stanley Park.
Liverpool operate a category system, the prices for each category and stand are as follows:
Adults (A) £36, (B) £34
Over 65's (A) £27, (B) £25.50
All other areas of the stadium:
Adults (A) £38, (B) £36
Over 65's (A) £28.50, (B) £27
Anfield Road Family Section:
1 Adult (A) £38, (B) £36 + 1 Child charged at half adult price ticket.
Obviously quite expensive, especially for Children who can only obtain reduced price tickets in the Anfield Rod end of the ground.
The ground itself
From the outside, the ground is nothing spectacular, it certainly isn't as impressive and awe inspiring as the likes of Old Trafford, City of Manchester Stadium etc.
However, what it lacks in exterior appearance, it makes up in so many other ways including history and tradition, the place is steeped in the stuff!
The ground has 4 separate stands, however, they do join at the corners. The most well known stand is The Kop, which is a single tiered stand at one end of the ground. I have only been in The Kop once and it is an awesome experience, however, I must say I prefer to sit in another stand so I can see The Kop, especially on European nights with all the flags and scarfs out, it really is an impressive site. Most of the singing etc starts from The Kop and seeing You'll Never Walk Alone sung from it is one of the best sights in football.
Opposite The Kop is the Anfield Road end. This is a 2 tiered stand where both home and away fans are housed. This is the stand I have sat in the most and it provides fantastic views, especially from the second tier - the front row of the second tier probably gives you the best view in the entire stadium.
The Centenery Stand runs the length of the pitch and is also a 2 tiered stand however it is larger than the Anfield Road end. This stand also contains all the executive boxes and TV Studios (the studios are situated in the corner between the Centenery Stand and Anfield Road end).
The remaining stand is the Main Stand, which is the oldest stand in the ground and the only one that still has supporting pilars, which means that unless you are sat right at the front of this stand, your view is obstructed. The main stand houses the tunnel and the dug outs along with the TV gantry. Quite a lot of the seats in the upper part of the stand are wooden and quite uncomfortable!
The downside to both the Centenery and Main Stands is that due to how the ground is laid out, some of the seats are behind the goal line, so you find yourself constantly sitting to one side - the view from the extremities of the Stands is not particularly fantastic and there is no reduction in price for what are inferior seats.
Outside the ground you will find plenty to do, there is the museum and visitor centre outside The Kop which you can visit on a match day - they also do tours of the stadium when games are not being played. Next to the visitor centre is the club shop which is vast and sells just about anything you could possibly want with a club crest on it, the prices are quite reasonable too, however, it does get VERY busy on a match day so if you want a good luck, its recommended you give yourself plenty of time. Outside the shop/visitor centre is the Bill Shankly statue, as you can imagine, all this means that the area gets very busy during a match day, especially when the ticket office is just 'next door' too!
At the opposite end of the stadium, you can find the Shankly Gates and the Hillsborough memorial which pays tribute to the 96 Liverpool fans who very tragically lost their lives at Hillsborough. The memorial almost always has flowers by it, and many fans tie their scarfs to the Gates, especially around the time of the anniversary of the tragedy.
The ground is situated just over the road from Stanley Park, but is in the midst of lots of terraced housing, which means it is almost impossible for them to extend the current ground. Plans have been submitted to move to a new stadium on Stanley Park, but to date, the project has not gone ahead. It will be a sad sad day for football when Liverpool eventually move away from what is one of the most well known grounds worldwide.
The food at Anfield is amazing, mainly due to Scouse Pie! A must have for anyone who is visiting, probably the best pie I have ever tasted. However, you have to be careful - at the ground they call them 'Premium Pies' and if you ask for Scouse, you could end up with a Steak one like they tried to give me the other week! They also sell hot dogs, chocolate, crisps and they are all the usual prices. The soft drinks come in cups and not bottles and are therefore quite watered down so wouldn't really recommend them - not at £2 a cup anyway!
The last time we visited we sat in the Main Stand and the facilities/comfort of the upper concourse leaves a lot to be desired. The room on the concourse is very very limited - we got in quite early (with around 45 minutes or so to kick off) and it was already starting to get uncomfortable, meaning that we didn't even bother going down at half time as it was unpleasant.
The toilets were clean and plentiful.
Getting away from the ground
This is where the fun starts! As you can imagine, moving 45,000 people away from one area is never going to be easy! Getting out of the stand takes forever as everyone tries to filter out of the ground via small staircases, this in itself can take a good 5 minutes after the final whistle has gone. If you are leaving via the Main Stand and need to move to the other end of the ground it can also be a bit 'interesting' as the area in which you need to walk is not massive, and they have all the TV trucks too. It is very slow moving and cramped - especially when fans are also protesting outside the directors entrance due to the current ownership of the club.
As I said earlier, we parked around a 5 minute walk from the stadium on our latest visit, the game finished just before 10 and we didn't move out of the car park until after 11pm as the traffic was just at a standstill. We finally got moving away from the immediate area but then got caught in traffic when getting onto the M62. It was nearly 3.5 hours before we got home, for what is normally around a 90 minute journey. I guess these things are to be expected, but I would certainly recommend doing your homework on parking etc if you need to be somewhere not too log after the final whistle.
I love Anfield, there is not a better sight in football than when The Kop gets going. The whole ground is seeped in history and tradition, it is what a football ground should be like. Obviously it has its flaws, and it is not as modern as many Premiership grounds are, but you forget all of that as soon as you take your seat and become immersed in the atmosphere that such a special stadium can create. I will be gutted when Liverpool move to a new stadium, and I am not even a Liverpool 'fan', just an occasional visitor!
London Road is the home of Championship club (well at least for the next month) Peterborough United. It has a capacity of 15,314 and has a mixture of seating and terraces. I have visited the ground on 2 occasions and my review is based on my latest visit earlier this month (March 2010).
The ground is on the A15, around 10 mile from the A1. It is well sign posted from both the city center and the outskirts.
The nearest train station is Peterborough which is around a mile away from the ground, and is served by most major routes, including the east coast mainline between London and Edinburgh.
There is a car park at the ground, and then several unofficial car parks in the surrounding area. We parked at a pub which was just opposite the ground (next to KFC). It cost £3 and we saw several car parks in the area for around the same price.
Away fans can chose between sitting in the seats or standing on the terrace behind the goal. It costs £17 to stand on the terrace and £22 to sit down for adults. Under 16s are £10 and concessions are £14 regardless of the stand you chose.
The ground itself
The ground is a traditional style football stadium with 4 separate stands. Behind the goals are 2 large terraces, both of which hold around 4,000 fans each. Terraces are quite rare in the Championship so it is always nice to relive the 'old' days by standing on them, however, the one at Peterborough isn't the best. It is quite shallow meaning that you can struggle to see above the person infront of you if you aren't very tall. I had to move right to the back to ensure that I could see the whole of the goal nearest to me. There are also several supporting pillars at the front of the stand, which impede your view pretty much wherever you stand.
To the left of the away end is the Norwich & Peterborough South Stand which is the newest stand at London Road, which holds around 5,000 fans. This was built in 1996 and looks quite smart, far better than the rest of the ground. The stand is double tiered and also holds the executive boxes.
To the right of the away end is the Main Stand, which is a very old, tired looking stand. This houses the away fans who chose to sit - I haven't been in this stand, but it doesn't exactly look the most comfortable of places to sit!
The usual array of food is sold (pies/burgers) from just one snack bar in the away end meaning that there can be quite a queue at half time. The prices are very reasonable, one of the lowest in the league. Like most grounds, they take the top off the bottles before they serve them which is a minor irritation, especially on a terrace where things can get kicked around.
The toilets are at the back of the stand, there was a grand total of 2 ladies toilets which isn't ideal. They were clean and tidy, but I had to wait throughout half time to use the toilet, and then was faced with either washing my hands in freezing cold, or scalding water, with no inbetween. There was no liquid soap and no hand dryer.
There isn't a concourse behind the terrace, the toilets and snackbars are behind the stand where there is no cover - so if you want to stand and queue for some food at half time, you run the risk of getting wet! Also, as it is an open area, people are allowed to smoke in the area.
Getting away from the ground
We got away from the ground very quickly, we thought that due to the location of the car park we may struggle, however, we were pretty much straight out, and back to the A1 within about 20 minutes of the match ending. I guess this is helped by the relatively low crowds they get and the excellent train links meaning that many people take that option instead of driving.
Despite its short comings, I like London Road. You don't get the chance to visit too many traditional grounds anymore, and certainly don't get to stand on the terraces very often, so that will always make me think more highly of it. It is probably in need of a bit of a face lift, however, they are certainly punching above their weight this season, and when they get relegated, the ground will very much suit their level.
Getting married wasn't something I ever intended to do, right from the start of my relationship with my husband, I had made it clear that marriage wasn't on the cards for me, which is something that he always seemed quite happy about - you know what men are like!
I don't know at what point my opinions on marriage changed, but 12 months after I met my husband, I was wearing a shiny engagement ring on my finger, and we were planning a wedding!
A lot of people talk about how weddings are such stressful affairs and that planning them is a complete nightmare, but I was the complete opposite, I absolutely loved planning the wedding, so much so that I was very sad once it was all over and done with and I realised that my nights would no longer be spent making invitations and stressing over table plans.
I'll start my 'review' at the weekend before the wedding - everything was in hand, everything had been paid for, all we had to do was tie up a few loose ends, get everything together, and turn up and say 'I do', however, I couldn't have been more wrong, it turns out that the last week did turn into a bit of a stress fest!
At T minus 8 days, I tripped over on the way to work and went flying, landing on the floor with a massive bump, and a bruised ego. Unfortunately, my ego wasn't the only thing that was bruised, and a trip to A&E followed for an x-ray on my hand/wrist. Luckily, no breakages, which was a god send as I don't think a plaster cast would have matched my dress! I did however have nice bruising, and bruises/grazes all the way down one of my legs which didn't cause an issue for the wedding, but were very prominent on honeymoon!
I guess that is when things started to go down hill, after that, we discovered that one of our flower girls had taken ill and was in hospital with a very severe bout of food poisoning. What made this worse is that it was my husbands cousin, and he only has a tiny family, if they had to miss the wedding, it meant that we had 4 empty seats, and he would have just 6 family members there. Unfortunately, it did come to that, and our little flower girl and her sister spent the day of the wedding in hospital with E-Coli - not the most ideal situation and it did put a slight dampner on things.
The next thing to go wrong was the mens suits - we had ordered from Moss Brothers (review on them to follow), and were told that they would turn up 2 weeks before the wedding. Turns out this wasn't true, and they arrived on the Monday. When we turned up to try them on, they had ordered wrong sizes, things hadn't turned up, things didn't fit right, and it was basically a mess. Only one complete outfit was suitable, and we had to wait until the Thursday before the wedding to get everything completely sorted which was a complete let down and certainly wasn't what we were promised when we were handing over the best part of £500 3 months before the big day.
The Wednesday before the wedding I went to see Take That in a bid to relax before the big day, however, all that happened was that I spent 2 days stressing about getting a t-shirt tan as the weather was soo hot - walking around London in a jumper in high temperatures is not much fun let me tell you!
Thursday was the day of the wedding rehearsal, and the day two more of my flower girls took ill, and spent the rehearsal at the emergency doctors - thankfully, they made it on the day! The rehearsal was when it really hit home that I was getting married - and I don't think I have ever felt so nervous! More than a few stiff drinks were needed that night.
The Friday was such a massive rush that I didn't really have time to get nervous. I went and collected my dress, which was stunning, and then tied up all the lose ends before spending the night with the female members of my family, which was an unexpected surprise as I was just expecting a quiet night in.
Then Saturday came, all the nerves disappeared and I was stupidly excited! I had a 3pm wedding, so I had all morning to get ready. I headed into the town centre quite early on to finish off some bits and pieces. I went and bought a whole host of thank you cards, and then had my hair done, which went perfectly. Then it was time for make up, and after I was all dolled up, I felt a million dollars.
The weather was perfect, bright blue skies and nice and warm, this did pose some problems though, as I left it until the last minute to put my dress on so I didn't get too hot and things turned into a last minute rush, but no one could wipe the smile off my face.
The journey to the church in my wonderful Rolls Royce took about 5 minutes, and there were plenty of well wishes who came to the house to see me off which was a lovely touch, I was beaming from ear to ear the whole time, no one could wipe the smile off my face!
Once I arrived at the church, most people were already inside. We spent around 5 minutes or so having photos taken before I headed in. Walking down the aisle was pretty much a blur, I was just so happy, I couldn't really take in what was happening, and couldn't pick people out inthe congregation, I just felt so lucky that around 150 people had turned out to see me tie the knot.
My uncle, who is a vicar, did the ceremony and it was absolutely beautiful. It seemed to pass far too quickly, and then it was outside for all the photographs. My poor photographers did a wonderful job in trying to organise 150 people in the searing heat when all they wanted was a pint - and after around 90 minutes, we had all had enough and wrapped up the photos and headed off to the reception venue which was around a 20 minute drive away.
One of my biggest fears was that the reception venue wouldn't look the way I planned - they had a wedding the night before, and the clean up operation meant that I simply had to leave them with a list of instructions and the first time I saw it all set up for me was when I walked in for the actual reception. I need not have worried, it was amazing, and I couldn't have picked a better setting.
Once we were all there, grub was served, we had the speeches (which were fantastic) and partied the night away. We practically drank the bar dry, wore down all our heals, and just had a fantastic night. I have a large family who are spread across the country, but they all came, and it was just so nice to share the experience with them.
We rocked up to our hotel around 12:30pm and reflected back on the day, which had been a massive success - we were both jubilant and found it hard to 'come down' and sleep!
The day afterwards we headed back to my parents, opened our cards and presents, which was an overwhelming experience, and then headed off on honeymoon. Whilst on honeymoon, we spent 2 weeks lazing around a pool, or in the jacuzzi in our honeymoon suite which was heaven. The last week in the run up to the wedding had taken it out of me somewhat and a relaxing break was needed.
Then it was back to reality, back home, to spend the rest of our lives together. The post wedding blues were postponed by a few shopping trips to spend some of the vouchers we had received, and even more so by getting the pictures, which I loved, given I missed out on everyone arriving at the church - it was like reliving the day all over again.
I really do think it is true what they say about your wedding day being the best day of your life - it clearly was for me, there isn't a picture where I don't have a massive grin on my face - I smiled so much that I had face ache by the end of the night, but it was all worth it!
I was due to attend an event in London that required me to be there at 10am on a weekday morning, living in the North, traveling down on the morning through rush hour just wasn't feasible, so a hotel was required for the night before.
I often stay in Travelodges, and whilst they are not 4 star hotels, they are reasonably priced and generally clean and pleasant, therefore I set about trying to find a cheap London Travelodge for my stay. As I was driving down, one which wasn't in the centre, and had plenty of parking facilities was a must, and Wembley fit my needs perfectly. At just £38.50 for the night, for Zone 3 London, it seemed ideal.
The hotel is very easy to get to, it is set back just off the North Circular, just a few miles from the M1 and A1 - to get to the hotel, we left the North Circular at Hanger Lane and then doubled back on ourselves down the small road that runs parallel to it. The parking is accessed around the back of the hotel, and whilst it is a gated car park, the gate to enter opens automatically as you pull up, so may not be quite as secure as they suggest. The car park holds upto 109 cars and parking is allocated on a first come first served basis. As we were arriving late, we did worry that there would be no parking left, but even at 10:30 at night, there were still a dozen or so spaces to chose from. The parking costs £5 and is only valid until check out the next day - we weren't collecting the car until around 6pm in the evening so we had to pay an additional £5 when we checked out, but this was still cheaper than parking in central London.
The hotel is also accessible by rail - the nearest tube station is Stonebridge Park which is a good 10 minutes walk away, the station is on the Bakerloo line in Zone 3. Other stations nearby are Hanger Lane (Central Line Zone 3) and Rak Royal (Picadilly Line Zone 3). Single Fares on the London underground are £4 for adults - however, a Zone 1-3 railcard costs £8.60 during peak hours (before 9:30am). There isn't much around the hotel, aside from industrial units, some of which are derelict, and therefore the walk to Stonebridge Park can feel quite intimidating.
In terms of the location, it is probably worth noting that whilst this is advertised as 'Wembley', it is a good 2-3 miles away from the arena, stadium, and the centre of Wembley itself, and therefore, if you are going for an event, you may wish to stay closer to the stadium/arena.
Once at the hotel, the foyer contains the reception desk, a bar/restaurant area and vending machines which serve drinks and confectionery. When we arrived, there was one person on reception, who was dealing with other guests which meant that we had to wait a short while before checking in. The guests were having issues, one couldn't get into his room as the key card wasn't working, and the other had no pillows, this didn't seem to bode too well for our stay. Once we were given some attention, check in was quick, and we were given a parking voucher to display in our car, this was a bit of a pain as it meant that we had to leave the hotel to go and put the voucher in the car, it would have been much better if they had a system where you paid via a machine in the car park or paid on exit.
Our room was on the 3rd floor, the lifts were out of service which meant that we had to take the stairs, it is a good job we didn't have much heavily luggage and we could manage. The staircase was very cold, and was like something you would see in an industrial unit rather than a hotel, and I was kind of regretting booking the hotel at that point and was worried what the room itself would be like. Once we got onto the floor, it seemed quite alright, not as well kept as other Travelodges, but it would do, as we were going to be in there for less than 12 hours. Unlike the guest at reception, we had no problems accessing our room with the key card.
Once inside the room, I was quite shocked - every single Travelodge I have stayed in has had the same set up (due to the modular build) therefore you know exactly what to expect, however, this hotel was an exception. For starters, it was a twin beds, despite asking for a double room. We pushed the beds together, but we were still left with a small gap which was uncomfortable to sleep across. The carpets were dirty, the furniture showed great signs of wear and tear, and the curtains were grubby. The bedding was clean, however, we had the smallest pillows known to man and only one each - we ended up sleeping with jumpers underneath the pillows as they were that flat they offered nothing - a sore neck the following day was the outcome. The worst thing was the noise, obviously we knew the hotel was near to the North Circular, but the hotel makes no effort to advise you just how bad the noise levels are. It was like we had pitched a tent on the hard shoulder of the motorway. The double glazed window offered no reduction to the noise, as our room was facing out onto the road, and it barely fit into the frame which meant that it was also drafty. The one saving grace was the bathroom, which was the only part of the room which was clean. It consisted of a toilet, sink and a rather powerful shower which is always appreciated.
After an uncomfortable nights sleep, we checked out quite early in the morning which was a simple process, we didn't stay at the hotel for breakfast, which at £8.50 was quite overpriced.
I am a fan of Travelodges, but this was one big let down, and I certainly wouldn't stay there again, not even if it was free!
Ashton Gate is the home of Bristol City Football Club - It is an all seater stadium with a capacity of 21,479. I have visited the ground on several occasions and this review is based on my most recent visit in March 2010.
The ground is around 8 miles from Junction 18 of the M5. You leave the M5 at junction 18 and follow the A4 Portway and the ground is clearly signposted. It is quite a scenic route into Bristol, along the river gorge. You can often see people rock climbing, and also the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
The nearest train station to the ground is Parson Street which is around a 10 minute walk. Bristol Temple Meads is over 2 miles away from the ground and it is not recommended that you walk from there unless you have a spare hour before the match.
Parking at the ground is for permit holders only, unfortunately on our latest visit we weren't aware of that, however, the police kindly let us park next to the coaches just outside the ground as we had a disabled passenger. Most of the streets around the ground are for residents only or have double yellow lines, so the best bet is the Ashton Vale carpark which is a couple of minutes walk away and costs £3.50 per car.
Tickets in the away end are £25 for adults, £20 for senior citizens, £15 for students and £10 for under 16's. These are quite high considering the facilities in the Wedlock Stand where the away fans are housed.
The ground itself
The ground is a traditional style football stadium with 4 separate stands which are all single tiered - although the Dolman Stand has a double tiered effect. The newest stand is the Atyeo which is behind one of the goals, this was built in 1994 to replace a terrace, and its the most modern of the 4 stands and also houses the changing rooms.
The away fans are housed in the Wedlock Stand which is behind the opposite goal to the Atyeo. This also houses the more vocal element of the Bristol City fans, meaning that on a good day, the banter between the fans can create a great atmosphere.
The Wedlock stand is quite tired, and is simply seats bolted onto an existing terrace, it is quite unique as the seats don't have any backs on them, so you can forget leaning back and relaxing at any point during your visit! The seats are all covered, however, there are quite a few supporting pilars, which means that unless you sit on the first couple of rows, your view of the pitch is obstructed.
The usual array of food is sold (pies/burgers), the prices are quite high at around £3 for a pie and £4 for a hot dog! The drinks cos £1.90 a bottle, and when I purchased one on my latest visit, it was 2 months out of date and tasted awful - they did change the bottle, however, it took them a few goes to find one that wasn't out of date!
The toilets are situated at the back of the stand and are adequate. They have toilet roll and were quite clean, although the doors didn't all have locks on them. Soap was provided (a rarity) along with anti bacterial handwash.
There isn't a concourse in the Wedlock Stand, the toilets and snackbars are behind the ground where there is no cover - so if you want to stand and queue for some food at half time, you run the risk of getting wet! Also, as it is an open area, people are allowed to smoke in the area.
Getting away from the ground
As we parked right next to the ground, and not many people park there, we had a very swift getaway and were back on the motorway around 15 minutes after the game had finished. I imagine this is the exception rather than the rule and we got lucky!
I like Ashton Gate, it is a proper traditional football ground, and the acoustics in the Wedlock Stand are great. Unfortunately, they club are looking at moving away from Ashton Gate, and building a new stadium at Ashton Vale, just half a mile away from the existing ground. The new stadium will have a capacity in excess of 30,000 - which will be increased to in excess of 40,000 if they are chosen as a host city for the 2018 World Cup. For a team that doesn't fill their stadium as it is, it seems an awfully big ground, and will probably end up being like most other new stadiums - just another soulless bowl.
Glanford Park is the home of Scunthorpe United. It has a capacity of 9,183 which is predominantly all seating, however, there is a terrace behind one of the goals. Glanford park was one of the first 'flat pack' stadiums to be built, it has been their home since 1988, and was the first new stadium in the country since the second world war. At the time, it was seen as a modern stadium with good facilities, however, the game has moved on and it is now very tired looking and in need of modernisation. The club had submitted plans to turn one of the stands into a 2 tiered stand, but they are currently on hold as they seek to move to a new site,
The ground is on the outskirts of the town, and very easy to find. You leave the M180 at Junction 3 and take the M181 towards Scunthorpe, the ground is at the end of this road, and clearly visable. It is worth noting that despite the M180 being one of the least used motorways in the country, it has a very high police presence, they tend to have a van placed at the top of the slip road of Junction 2, especially on a match day. It is advisable that you keep your speed down, I have fallen victim to thinking 'empty road, I can put my foot down' and ended up with 3 points on my license when traveling to a game there a few years ago.
There is an official car park at the ground which costs £3, however, getting away from this car park is very time consuming. The ground is next to a retail park and a Tesco's, however, they do monitor the cars coming in and football traffic is prohibited. Some people park on the grass verges as you come off the motorway, not sure how legal this is, but there are plenty that do it.
Tickets for away fans are very reasonable, they cost £19 for a Cat A match and £18 for a Cat B. These prices drop to £12/£11 for OAPs and under 21s and £6/£7 for Under 16s.
The ground itself
The ground itself is a single tiered stand that is fully enclosed, although the corners are used for snack bars/advertising rather than seats. As mentioned above, 3 of the stands are all seating, and the home end behind the goal is a terrace. This is where are large proportion of the home fans congregate and is where the majority of the singing is done from the home sections. The away fans are located behind the opposit goal, and the stand has a few supporting pillars which means that views can be obstructed. If there is enough demand, the stand to the right of the away fans is partly used for away fans, taking the total tickets available to around 2,200.
As well as supporting pillars obstructing your view, the seating is also very cramped, as the seats are just bolted onto old terracing, those with long legs may find sitting uncomfortable.
The usual array of food is sold (pies/burgers) and costs around £2.50 for any one item. They don't sell alcohol and the queues for the snack bar can get very lengthy at half time.
The toilets are situated down by the snack bar, which means that half time can be a bit of a nightmare as people go towards the toilets and to get food. There are only 2 womens toilets, and whilst they are clean, it can take forever to actually use them if you are going at half time. Be prepared to spend most of the 15 minute break queuing to get in and then battling to get back through the gents queue and snack bar queue when you go back to your seat!
There isn't a concourse as such, just the area infront of the stand (between the seats and pitch), it is covered though which offers a little bit of comfort. There are no luxuries in terms of video screens etc.
Getting away from the ground
There is one road that takes you away from the ground which means that it is pretty slow moving and you can end up spending anything upto an hour getting away if you are in the official car parks.
In desperate need of a face lift, what was once modern is just not upto the standards of the modern game.
Picture Proud are photographers based at Elsecar Heritage Centre in South Yorkshire - a convenient location just 5 minutes from Junction 36 of the M1.
They were formed in 2007 with a vision of providing affordable studio photography. Most of us know that a lot of studio's lure people in with offers of free photo shoots and a free print and then hit you with the reality that they may chose the free print and it could be a print you didn't like, and if you want any additional prints, then you have to pay a fortune. Me and my sisters had this experience several years ago when we wanted a professional photo for my parents - we had our free shoot and then had to pay £400 for one frame and a further £25 for an A4 sized print!
Picture Proud are a revelation to the photography business, not only do they provide affordable studio time, but they don't retain full copywrite over the images that they produce, you get them ALL to take away on a disc in colour and black and white - you can upload them to social networking sites, print them off as many times as you like etc, all for no additional cost.
Their basic studio sitting is £160 for a 45 minute photoshoot and all the images on CD. You don't pay for the shoot upfront, the shoot is free - it is only once you have viewed the images that they take any money from you - if you don't like the images, you are under no obligation to pay and they don't have any pressure tactics.
Along with the basic photoshoot, they also offer a range of other services which include the following:
Bumps and babies - This is a 15 minute photoshoot, with every image provided in colour and black and white and costs £60. They also do a bumps and babies pack for £160 which is 3 15 minute sessions taken over a 15 month period - with every image provided on disc and in a 6"X4" print.
Pets - They offer pet photoshoots and pets can also be incorporated into a normal shoot.
Weddings - They have a 3 tiered wedding service depending on how long you want their time for. All of the packages include a free studio sitting before the big day, all images on disc in black and white and between 30 and 50 pages/prints in an album. They also offer a mobile studio for wedding receptions.
Parties - Provide parties for children, where the birthday girl/boy can bring along 5 friends and have a photoshoot for 45 minutes and then spend 45 minutes viewing the pictures and picking which ones they like. All the guests get a copy of the images on CD and also get prints from the day as well.
As well as doing the actual photoshoot, they do offer prints and various products such as canvas's which are at very reasonable prices, far cheaper than other studio's I have visited, and they don't compromise on the quality either.
I used Picture Proud for my wedding, the owner is the husband of an ex colleague of mine, and when I was discussing my wedding photography with a current colleague, she happened to mention Picture Proud, and the fact that they offered full copywrite to the images, which is something I insisted on, so I decided to look further into it.
Booking an appointment to go and see them was easy, a quick call to arrange a time, and that was that. When we got down to the studio, we were provided with drinks, whilst Steve, the owner, talked us through what they could offer, and then showed us the kind of images that they took on the wedding day. They offer a more contemporary style of photographs, whilst still doing the traditional shots that you would expect to see in a wedding album. After seeing the photo's, we knew that they were the photographers for us, and the only decision we had to make was how long we wanted them for, as for weddings, you pay for their time.
We ended up deciding on 3 hours, to cover before the ceremony, during the ceremony and then pictures at the church afterwards. The cost for this was £750 and it included the pre wedding photoshoot, digital enhancements in respect of the photos taken and 40 pages/prints in an album. Whilst you can get cheaper photographers, most do not offer the copywrite to the photos which was one of the main factors for us.
On booking, we paid a 50% deposit and booked in for our pre wedding photoshoot which we took around 4 weeks before the wedding. This was to get us used to the camera (can take earlier if you want to use the photos for invites etc), the shoot lasted around 20 minutes and was a fantastic experience and we got some really nice photos out of it. We were made to feel at ease during our time in the studio, and came out very relaxed, especially given that my husband doesn't like having his photo taken.
We were also given forms to fill in, naming people in the bridal party etc, and outlining any specific shots we wanted on the day, and also letting them know of any family politics etc and anything they should avoid. We chatted this through at the pre wedding shoot and they informed us that they would also be in touch with the vicar to talk about taking shots in church and they would also visit the venue to ensure they knew where it was and to check out the setting, lighting etc.
When they big day arrived, there were 2 photographers who covered the day, and they both had top of the range camera's that backed images up to two separate memory cards, and they both took the same shots so each image was saved 4 times ensuring that should anything go wrong with one camera, or one memory card, we would still get photo's which was reassuring.
During the ceremony, one was based at the front of the church and one was based at the rear, they took photos throughout but they were not intrusive, and didn't ask us to pose for any shots aside from when we were signing the registrar so all the shots were natural shots which turned out fantastic.
They did a fantastic job after the ceremony, I have a huge family so organisation was key and they got it spot on, especially given that the weather was very hot and most people wanted to get to the reception to get a drink and cool down. The photo's after the ceremony lasted no longer than 90 minutes, with a lot of the shots of me and my husband coming at the end of this to allow others time to get to the reception venue before us. Despite us paying for 3 hours of their time, they arrived before the time we had booked them and left afterwards, so it wasn't as if they suddenly said 'right your 3 hours are up that is it, we are off'.
Before we went on honeymoon, we booked in a session to go back and view the photos. We could have got the disc before we went on honeymoon, however, it was a tight turnaround and we didn't want to rush them. When we went back we viewed every single image, including those from the pre wedding shoot and it was a fantastic experience, especially for me, as obviously I had not seen everyone arriving at the church so it was a nice surprise. They had taken a wonderful selection of pictures and we were very impressed.
They sent us away with our disc to pick the pictures we wanted, we had 222 images in all, in both black and white and colour, so narrowing this down from 444 to approx 60 was a tough choice which took a good few months. Having the images on CD meant that we could show family and friends all the images rather than just those that ended up in the final album.
We chose to have a contemporary album, which was a hardbacked book with the photos printed onto the page, we could have between 1 and 3 prints per page and upto 40 pages. We chose this because it was different, and also more hardwearing - meaning that we could leave it out and people could flick through it and it wouldn't get ruined.
We filled in a form stating which pictures we would like and emailed this to the studio, who then produced a mock up of the album, which they emailed back before it went to print. This was done within the space of a few days despite it being a busy period in the run up to Christmas, they went beyond the call of duty by emailing me the mock up quite late at night, clearly putting the hours in!
With the pictures they had made some enhancements, and changed layouts slightly from what I had requested, but their suggestions looked far better in all cases, they really have an eye for putting the albums together. We agreed the final mock up, and the albums were ready to pick up within 10 days - we had 3 printed, one came within the package and the other 2 cost £50 each which is very reasonable.
The reaction to the albums has been fantastic, everyone has commented on how beautiful and different they are, and they are a definite conversation starter when people come and visit. I really couldn't have asked for much more.
Consequently, whenever anyone mentions having professional photos done, I cannot help but gush over the service we received, and always recommend Picture Proud. They are unique in the service that they offer, have fantastic prices, and don't compromise on service or quality.
As you can tell from this view, I have nothing buy praise for the guys down at Picture Proud and I will definitely be using them again in the future!
Akbars is an Indian restaurant chain which operates predominately in the Yorkshire area, with their flag ship restaurant being in Bradford.
The locations of their restaurants are as follows:
Leeds - Greek Street
Leeds - Eastgate
Bradford - Leeds Road
Bradford (Cafe) - Leeds Road
York - George Hudson Street
Sheffield - Meadow Bank Road
Middlesbrough - Linthorpe Road
Manchester - Liverpool Road
Birmingham - Hagley Road
They are also opening a restaurant in Newcastle during 2010.
I have only ever visited the Restaurant on Greek Street in Leeds so my review focuses on that.
When I first started to visit, I was completely blown over, the food was superb, as was the service and the setting. The restaurant in Leeds is quite large and I would estimate that it seats around 150 people on a split level. The seats are high backed leather seats which are very comfortable, the only downside for me was the lighting which was rather dim, most restaurants have mood lighting, but I like to be able to see what I am eating, and would prefer it to be a bit lighter.
The menu is quite vast, with several starters and main courses, catering for every need, and if there is something you would like that isn't on the menu, they will endeavor to make it, and you can always ask for variations of the dishes i.e. less/more spicey.
You start off with a pickle tray (if desired) and poppadoms, which are large so usually only need one each. The pickle tray includes mango chutney, raita dip, some kind of onion dip and a mixed spices dip which is quite hot.
Since I have started visiting, I have worked my way through most of the starters, which are all fantastic, they range from things like Onion Bhaji's to Chicken Nambali, the latter is my favourite starter - Marinated chicken topped with melted cheese, served with potatoes and peppers. It is simply sublime. The starters range from approx £3 to £5.
The range of main course dishes is also extensive, their Chicken Tikka & Garlic Balti is that good I have it every time I go - it is swimming in garlic which means that no one wants to come near me the next day! We tend to go with my mother in law who is a vegetarian and they do a wide range of dishes to cater for those who don't eat meat. The main dishes range from around £7.50 with the most expensive one being around £13 (King Prawns). They also have a chefs challenge which is as follows:
Chicken, Lamb keema and potatoes cooked in the famous Akbar's Balti sauce served with naan and pilau rice. If someone can finish this challenge alone they will qualify for a free dessert.
I cannot imagine how anyone would be able to finish this alone, mainly due to the size of the naan breads, which are simply huge - one normal size naan will easily feed at least 2 people and the family sized naans are more suitable for about 4. The first time we went, we didn't realise how big the portions would be and ordered a starter each, a main dish each and then a portion of rice, chips and a naan, and we wasted quite a lot.
They serve puddings, I have only ever tried the ice-cream which was served when we went there for our engagement party, they brought it out with sparklers in, and took a picture of us as a memento of the night (this cost an extra £5). If you don't fancy the puddings, they finished the meal off with a plate of fruit, which included pineapple, banana's, apples, oranges and melon. This was complimentary and they also bring chocolates over with the bill.
All the restaurants are licensed and they serve a wide range of lagers, spirits, wines and soft drinks. They aren't cheap though, and a couple of rounds can add almost £10 onto the bill for 2. We tend to go with just a jug of water for the table which is free.
Since those early days, things have changed and we no longer visit as often. The standard of food hasn't really declined, but the portion sizes and the service definitely has. Even when the restaurant isn't busy, they like to rush you through as soon as possible, on one occasion, our main course was brought out before we even finished our starters. The portion sizes were massive before, and you did get too much, now it has swung the other way, and you can leave the restaurant not feeling full.
One of the main disappointments for us was when they stopped serving the fruit at the end of the meal. It was always a nice touch and was refreshing to have some fruit at the end of the meal - now they do not even offer it as a paid dessert.
We went just after the Christmas break when the weather was bad, and the heating system had stopped working, however, they didn't tell us this when we entered, and we had even asked to sit downstairs away from the door to stay warm, it would have been the perfect opportunity for them to tell us.... As it only become apparent once we had sat down and ordered drinks etc, we felt like we couldn't get up and leave and it somewhat spoilt the meal as we rushed through it huddled up in our coats because it was freezing.
If I had wrote this review a year ago, I wouldn't have been able to stop gushing about how fantastic it is, but they do seem to have let their success go to their heads somewhat and let the standards slip. It used to be the first restaurant I would contemplate going if we were eating out, now we are spreading our wings are trying other Indian restaurants, which may not be as nice food wise, but you get far far better service.
Bloomfield Road is the home of Blackpool FC, it is an all seater stadium with a capacity of 9,731.
Follow the M55 from the M6 into Blackpool and you will come to the ground, which is approximately half way between the South and Central piers. You can't really miss the ground coming in from the M55.
There is a large car park across the road from the ground which run almost the whole length of the golden mile (however around half a mile inland). These are pay and display, but are relatively cheap and can cost as little as £1 during off season.
Tickets for away fans are priced as follows:
Over 60's £19.50
Under 19's £16.50
Under 16's £14.50
Tickets for home fans are 50p more expensive than away fans, but home fans get a £5 discount if they are a member of the club, or the supporters association which costs as little as £5 per annum meaning that an adults ticket is just £20. This is their way around getting around the regulations that away fans cannot be charged more for comparable accommodation - you will see why this is even more disgusting when you read below.
The ground itself
The ground is pretty unique in the fact that up until recently, it only had 2 proper stands which are relatively new. The ground underwent extensive redevelopment and 2 new stands were opened in 2002. The stands are single tiers and the corner is filled in. Delays in building the rest of the stadium mean that the away fans are housed in a temporary stand which runs the length of the pitch. This stand is uncovered, and akin to a stand at the golf rather than a football ground. Not only are you open to the elements, but the stand also isn't the safest, a Luton fan fell through the stand a few seasons ago, yet it is still open and used.
The stand offers no comfort whatsoever, the seats are narrow and the leg room is poor. I have been when it was bright sunshine and ended up with mild sunstroke, I have been when it has rained for 90 minutes and ended up soaking wet, and I have been when its been very cold and ended up, well, very cold! When you consider the home fans get a roof over their head for £4.50 less, its hardly fair!
The away end holds 1,750 but has just a few portaloo's for the fans to use and this causes massive queues at half time. It also has only one snack bar, which normally runs out of food/drink well before half time is over and done with. Up until recently, the walkway infront of the stand wasn't tarmaced which meant that when it rained, it was like a quagmire.
Because there is no roof, it is almost impossible to create any kind of atmosphere in the away end. The home fans have no problem though, the atmosphere is generally good from them, and is generated by a couple of drums near the away end and having a roof helps!
A 3rd stand, the South Stand, is currently under construction and nearly complete, however, no one is hopeful that it will be open before the end of the 2009/2010 season. It is hoped that once this stand opens, the away fans will be moved to the North Stand and the home fans will move into the new South Stand meaning the temporary stand will no longer be needed, but it remains to be seen if this is definitely the case.
The food is expensive, you have to queue for ages, and it is overpriced. I would recommend eating before you go in and taking a flask.
As mentioned above, the toilets are portaloo's and not very pleasant, there isn't many of them and the queues at half time are horrendous.
The 'concourse' which is just a walkway infront of the stand is not too bad now it is less muddy and dirty, but offers no protection from the elements and no comfort at all.
Getting away from the ground
As Blackpool don't pull in big crowds, getting away from the ground is not normally very troublesome, however, if you go in peak tourist periods, it can take longer.
An awful ground for away supporters, which rips you off, provides no comfort, and leaves you feeling rather grim.
Cardiff City Stadium is the home of Cardiff City FC, it is an all seater stadium with a capacity of 26,828. The stadium has only recently been built and came into use at the start of the 2009/2010 season after Cardiff left their previous home, Ninian Park, after 99 years. The new stadium is over the road from Ninian Park, which has now been almost completely knocked down, with only one stand remaining. The old Ninian Park site has been sold to Redrow who have already started building houses on the site.
The easiest way to get to the ground is leave the M4 at junction 33 and take the A4232 towards Cardiff. The ground is clearly visible (along with the Millennium Stadium, whats left of Ninian park and the new Athletics Stadium) from this road.
There is an official car park for away fans, however, coaches are given preference for this area so if they take up all the available space, you will have to find somewhere else to park. The car park is £5. There is street parking around the ground, however, it is very slow to get away from, we parked down a long street just opposite the ground and spent 90 minutes getting back to the Motorway which was very frustrating.
There is a retail park next to the ground which prohibits football traffic.
Tickets bought in advance of the match are £26 for adults and £13 for concessions. Prices increase by £2 on a match day. These are the prices for the away fans - the cheapest advanced tickets for home fans are £18, rising to £30.
The ground itself
Like most new grounds, the stadium is a bowl shape, with 3 identical stands which are all single tiered. The 4th stand has 2 tiers and also houses the executive boxes and corporate hospitality section. It has large access tunnels in the corners, and it is above one of these tunnels that the away fans are housed in an area which can hold upto 1,800 fans. The away end is separated from the home ends by a 'no mans land' section which for high profile games will also house plenty of stewards/police.
The seating is quite different to any other seating I have seen in a ground, with all seats being 'individual' rather than joined together at the back. This means that it is quite spacious and despite being plastic, they were rather comfortable.
The 3 single tiered stands don't have seating which extends to the back of the stadium, there is a supporting wall which separates the seating from the perimeter of the stadium and like most new grounds, there is a perspex strip around the 3 stands to allow natural light in.
The usual array of food is sold (pies/burgers) and costs around £3 for any one item. They also sell alcohol which was £3 a pint. At half time, they had drinks ready poured (including hot drinks) which made the service very quick.
The womens toilets were huge and contained plenty of cubicles, meaning there were no queues. Also had running water (which wasn't very hot!) and very powerful hand-dryers. They were clean (which you would expect in a new stadium).
The concourse was large, meaning that it was comfortable under the stand. There were TV screens which showed the match so you didn't miss anything if you had to move away from your seat during play.
Getting away from the ground
As mentioned above, getting away from the ground was a nightmare, it took 90 minutes to get back to the motorway which is around 6 miles away. Not only do you have to contend with the football traffic, but also the retail park traffic, and traffic coming from the city center.
Ninian Park was a fantastic football ground, full of tradition and character, and Cardiff City Stadium will find it hard ever to get to the same level due to it being bland like most new stadiums. The fans have managed to capture the Ninian Park hostile atmosphere at the new ground, so hopefully that will help shape it in years to come.
Pride Park is the home of Derby County FC, it is an all seater stadium with a capacity of 33,597. I have visited the ground twice, and most recently in January 2010.
Like most new grounds, the transport links are pretty good, if not a little slow. The ground is just off the A52 and is well signposted, but the queues do back up on a match day. If you are going by train, it is around a 10 minute walk from the station to the ground.
There is official car parking at the stadium, however, this is in short supply and places usually have to be booked in advance, it is £6 to park at the ground and that includes disabled parking spaces. The disabled car park for away fans is behind the goal and whilst it is a little walk away, they have golf buggies to take fans to and from the car park. There is a large car park just after you pull into the area where the ground is (next to KFC) which costs £6 and also a few others in the office blocks around the ground.
Tickets range from £24 to £35 for adults, £9 to £18 for under 16s and for over 60s and under 21s the prices range from £14 to £21. The lowest prices are around average for the Championship however the top end prices (for Platinum Plus games) are rather expensive. The prices above are for tickets bought in advance of match day and can rise by upto £3 more on the day of the match.
The ground itself
Pride Park is another new stadium, which means that it is similar to all other stadiums built within the last 10 years. It is a bowl design and 3 of the 4 stands are all single tiered stands of the same height. The 4th stand is a 2 tier stand and the most expensive area of the stadium to sit. This stand houses the dressing rooms and dug outs as well as the corporate hospitality sections. Around the top of all the stands are Perspex panels which allow natural light to come into the stadium. In one of the corners (opposit the away end) there is an electronic scoreboard and also the press boxes/police control room etc. Despite it being a new stadium, the leg room left a bit to be desired and the stands are not as steep as it some newer grounds meaning that your view can be impaired if there is someone tall infront of you. There are no supporting pilars etc to obstruct the view.
The ground has been designed so that an extra tier can be added to the 3 single tier stands, taking the capacity to 44,000 however it is not envisaged that they will be doing this anytime soon, especially now they have lost out on being a potential host city for the World Cup in 2018.
The usual array of food and drink is available at pretty average prices (£3 for a pie/burger etc) and they also sell alcohol on the concourses and do a pie and a pint meal deal.
The womens toilets are of normal standard, they have toilet roll and ot running water.
The concourses are not that large meaning it can get cramped, they do have tele's on which show the game so if you nip to the loo or to get some food whilst the game is in play you can see what is going on. They also have a bookies on the concourses to place your bets pre match.
Getting away from the ground
Like getting to the ground, getting away from the ground is very slow, especially if you are parked near to it. The first time we visited it took over an hour, and the latter time around 30 minutes which can be quite tedious.
The ground is one of the better grounds in the Championship and is slightly different to a lot of the new style stadiums, and the black seats make it look a little more classy. It provides a decent setting to watch football, its a shame that the team playing there week in week out are so poor!
I have been following the Weight Watchers diet plan for 11 months now, and everytime I need a bit of a boost, I drop my points allowance which means I am always on the look out for low point food which is filling.
The soup recipe below is one that is full of goodness and also very healthy, the points value of it is Zero, it is perfect for aiding weight loss and warming you up in the cold winter months.
1 small swede
4 sticks of celery
5 peppers (any colour)
2 medium onions
2 tinned of chopped tomatoes
7 vegetable stock cubes
1200ml boiling water
1. Peel all veg and chop into pieces, the size of which depends on how chunky you like your soup. Place all veg into a big pan.
2. Mix with 2 tins of chopped tomatoes.
3. Boil 1200ml of water and add in 7 cubes of vegetable stock and add to pan.
4. Add in garlic, herbs and chilli (I use easy garlic and easy chilli for ease - and add in around a teaspoon of each).
5. Bring to the boil and then simmer for approximately 2.5 hours until the veg is soft.
The above recipe makes 4 large servings - it is so quick and simple to make and tastes amazing once it has done - I have had for lunch for the last 2 weeks and cannot get enough of it.
I have had a phone contract with o2 for about 6 years, 18 months ago I decided it was time to take the plunge and sign up for their broadband.
They offer discounts to existing customers (both those with contracts and pay as you go phones - depending on top up levels) and this brings the cost down to as low as £7.50 a month.
We signed upto the £7.50 a month package, which gives you the following:
- Upto 8meg download speeds
- Unlimited useage
- Free wireless router
- Upto 1.3meg upload speeds
- McAfee security software
- 100 web texts
- 10 o2 email addresses
Plus many other features. You have to sign up for a 12 month contract and when I signed up, I was told that the router is just a loan router and has to be given back if and when you cancel otherwise a £50 charge is levied.
The router and installation pack arrived within a couple of days, my Husband is an IT technician, and prefers our own robust router which has higher levels of protection than the o2 one, so we left the o2 one in the box and used our own, this meant that the installation CD had little use, but it was still very easy to set up, far far easier than AOL who we were previously.
Unfortunately for us, the switchover between AOL and o2 didn't go smoothly and left us without the internet for 2 weeks as AOL didn't untag our line properly which meant that o2 couldn't provide a service to it. This was rather disappointing, but at no fault of o2 - I did get rather frustrated and told them I wanted to cancel the service, but in the end it was all sorted and we got it up and working.
Due to saying I wanted to cancel, they put a stop notice on my account, which didn't 'go' anywhere, this meant that I still received a service, but I wasn't being billed for it. I told them this a couple of times, and they said they would look into it (I didn't want to be cut off) but it was around 6 months before they started taking payment - I guess I cannot complain on that front!
Due to this, my official contract did not start with them until December, rather than June, so the 12 months started from them. However, it wasn't a problem as I am delighted with the service I get, so to be tied into them for another 6 months was no issue at all.
In the 18 months we have been with them, we have never experienced any downtime. There has been one occasion when the service was slow for a 24 hour period but we were emailed in advance to say that works were being carried out in our area and service would be slow, which I find very helpful, other providers just go ahead and do things without thinking of, or informing their customers.
We constantly get fantastic speeds, close to 8meg, and our upload speeds also reach as high as the 1.3meg. Even in peak times, the speeds we can achieve do not fall. We had thought about upgrading to a higher download speed package, however, o2 told us that it was unlikely that we could achieve any higher speeds, so we stayed on the lowest package. This was very geniune and honest of them, AOL would have just taken our money and run, despite the fact they knew we wouldn't be able to benefit from the speeds we were paying for.
Around a month ago I received an email from o2 saying that my 12 month period had come to an end, and I could carry on on a 1 month rolling contract, or I could extend for another 12 months and get the 3 month free. Needless to say, I went for the latter option and will now be with o2 until at least December 2010 - I cannot imagine using anyone else for the time being.
The billing is done separate to your mobile phone account - I often wonder why they don't bundle it in and take just one direct debit, but this is not really a problem. They send you an email and a text message to tell you that your bill is online and tell you your direct debit date so you are always aware when the payment will be taken.
One of the main advantages that o2 broadband has over all its other competitors is that they have a UK based call centre who are open 24 hours, which is manned by people who actually know what they are talking about rather than reading from a script. I lost count of the amount of times I had to call AOL and they went through 'solutions' that weren't even relevant to the problem because they didn't understand the issue due to language barriers and lack of knowledge. You get none of that with o2, the call centre is superb. I only had to use them in those first few weeks, since then its all been smooth running.
In summary, I couldn't recommend them highly enough, even if you don't have a phone contract or pay as you go phone with them, the lowest package is still only £12.50 which is cheapest than a lot on the market, they are well woth considering when you come to renew your broadband subscription.
Bramall Lane is home of Sheffield United FC, it is an all seater stadium with a capacity of 32,702. I have visited Bramall Lane on several occasions, with the most recently in October 2009. Away fans are housed in the lower tier of the Halliwells Stand and my review focuses on that area of the stadium.
The ground is a couple of mile away from Park Square roundabout in Sheffield, which is accessed from the M1. Being in the centre of Sheffield, it is always quite busy to go to and from, and I would recommend either taking the train, or using the Park and Ride from Meadowhall (where you can take the train or the tram to the centre of Sheffield). From the station the ground is about a 10/15 minute walk.
There isn't much parking around the ground and therefore you would be better off using one of the city centre car parks or finding street parking in the area. In the past we have used the Q carpark at Sheffield train station, the prices are pretty reasonable, especially for evening matches.
Sheffield United have 3 price categories depending on the opposition, the price ranges are as follows:
Adults - £10 to £26
Concessions - £5 to £16
Under 16's - £5 to £8
The Cat A prices (highest ones) are towards the top end of prices for Championship games. As I support Doncaster Rovers and the game against Sheffield United are local derbies, our games have been Cat A games meaning that it is an expensive day out.
The ground itself
Bramall Lane has character, it is a tradional football ground, but has also seen a lot of development over the past few years meaning that it is quite modern. Entry to the ground is via electronic turnstyles which are manned by stewards checking that people are using the right category of ticket (i.e. stopping adults sneaking in using a childs ticket!). Once inside the ground the concourses are not very wide and can get a bit cramped if there is a large away following.
The away end is quite shallow, the first time I visited, I was sat towards the back in the centre of the stand and struggled to see over the persons infront of me, especially when people stood up, which will be a problem for most people who aren't reasonably tall. The second time I moved away to the side and got a much better view.
Sheffield United fans sit on the tier above the away fans, and in seasons gone by have been known to throw all kind of missiles (including bottles of urine - lovely!) down onto the away fans. This season, they have put netting up, which doesn't impair anyones view in the lower tier, but stops the away fans getting pelted with all sorts of unpleasant objects.
The other 3 stands are all single tier stands, the most popular being the Hallam FM Kop where the more vocal fans congregate. This stand is opposit the away end and is a large stand, which is accessed by quite a lot of steps from the outside of the ground. The stand has a few supporting pillars which can impede your view.
To the left of the away end is the Visit Malta stand which houses the corporate boxes. To the right of the away end is the Global Windows (South) Stand which houses the dressing rooms and the dug outs. As you can see, all of the stands, and some of the corners are sponsored - a move away from tradition, but one which Sheffield United will get paid handsomely for.
The snack bars offered the normal array of food and drink, pies, pasties, burgers etc, and they sold alcohol before the game and during half time. The prices were pretty standard by football stadium standards. They did a fantastic Chicken Curry pie, which was unlike the normal Chicken Balti pies you get at football grounds - it was a deep fill (Pukka esq) pie and I would recommend to all!
The women's toilets were adequate, they had toilet roll and hot water, facilities to dry your hands and even a mirror!
Getting away from the ground
I wouldn't advise parking near the ground if you want a quick getaway, as traffic very quickly comes to a standstill. It took us over an hour to get away from the station car park last season. This season we parked at the opposit side of the city centre, and whilst it was a couple of miles to walk, once we got back to the car we got away straight away.
Bramall Lane is a proper traditional football ground, which in my opinion, is quite underrated, especially since they have developed the ground and filled in the corners. The traffic links are not great, nor is its location, but I definatly think it is the better of the two Sheffield Stadiums and it is a shame that it has lost out as being a potential 2018 World Cup venue
The Ricoh Arena is home of Coventry City Fc, it is an all seater stadium with a capacity of 32,500. I have visited the ground twice, and most recently in December 2009 and my review is mainly based around the Jewson South Stand where the away fans are housed.
The ground is very simple to find, it is around a mile off Junction 3 of the M6 and is visible from the motorway.
There are several car parks around the stadium, however the majority are available for permit holders only. Away fans can park in car park C which is across the dual carriageway from the stadium and accessible via a subway. This car park is where disabled fans are sent, which is a bit bizarre as it is about a 5 minute walk from the ground, and whilst that wouldn't be an issue if you are in a wheelchair, it isn't easy for those who are ambulant disabled. They also charge £10, even as a blue badge holder, which is rather poor as its not like disabled fans have much choice over where they park. There are a few unofficial car parks on the road from the motorway to the ground. Situated next door to the stadium is a retail park including a Tesco's but I am led to believe that this car park is monitored on a match day and no football parking is allowed.
If bought in advance, tickets are £25 for adults and £13 for concessions - these prices increase by £2 if bought on the day. This is around standard adult pricing for Championship games however the concessions are a little on the high side.
The ground itself
Like most grounds built over the last 10 years or so, inside the ground is quite bland. It is a bowl design and 3 of the 4 stands are all single tiered stands of the same height. The 4th stand is slightly different with a smaller lower tier and then an even smaller upper tier which is used for those who have paid for match day hospitality. This stand also houses the executive boxes. Around the top of 2 of the stands are Perspex panels which allow natural light to come into the stadium. There is also a large video screen which shows the match (and entertainment prior to the game as well). The roof is quite high meaning the atmosphere can suffer a little, there is also quite a gap between the away fans and the vocal home fans meaning it is hard to create a bit of banter.
The stands are quite steep, which means if you sit near the top, you are generally out of breath by the time you get up there! As the stands are steep, the leg room is quite generous, and you can sit comfortably without your knees sticking in someone else's back.
The snack bars offered the normal array of food and drink, pies, pasties, burgers etc, and they sold alcohol before the game and during half time. The prices were pretty standard by football stadium standards and they also had a few meal deals on.
The women's toilets were adequate, they had toilet roll and hot water which is considered a luxury at football grounds
The concourse was quite spacious, however, the snack bars were right next to the TVs showing live Sky Sports coverage meaning that it got quite cramped in that area.
Getting away from the ground
Despite a crowd of nearly 20,000 and the 5 minute walk back to the car, we got away very quickly, with stewards controlling the traffic from the car parks. We were back on the motorway within minutes.
Its quite a tidy stadium, although its very similar to other new grounds around the country.