By Ian Sheard
“Let’s go to Bristol for my birthday,” my mate suggested to me a few months ago via the power of Facebook “We can go down on Saturday, watch the game and come back Sunday.”
“Sounds like a plan, can’t be any worse than sitting at home listening to WYS whilst pretending to do the housework.” But, like a badly written episode of 24, I should have stayed put!
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed spending time with my mates, having a few beers and ticking another ground off the list – but Bristol is not the greatest place in the world. Firstly the hotel charged £8.50 for all day parking, secondly they got the room booking messed up (meaning I had to sweet charm the receptionist in order to avoid ‘spooning’ my mate) and thirdly, the hotel was in the middle of an industrial estate with no corner shop in sight.
Anyway, after paying £12 to travel to the ground via Bristol’s delightful inner city area, we arrived outside the ground. £18 later we were in the ground taking a wiz in a terrapin at the ‘back’ of the stand. It’s time like this when, as a City fan, you realise how lucky we are to have Valley Parade and how obvious it is that opposing teams “up-their-game” when visiting due to its size and fan capacity. At least that’s what we kid ourselves, but I believe there is some truth in this. Having discussed for a few minutes why one area of the pitch resembled the contents of ‘Lyle’s best’ we were ready to watch City continue their recent revival.
The match itself wasn’t the greatest spectacle, but I don’t think the pitch helped as neither team really managed to string together a few passes or, get the ball on the floor to even attempt to. It’s seems almost ironic that, given Parkinson favours signing wingers, Craig Fagan started in a wide position again; a role in which he seems to look more uncomfortable as the weeks go on, leaving the right back exposed on numerous occasions.
He wasn’t to blame for the first goal and I am still convinced it was close to being offside – we (unlike the linesman) were in line! Fagan did however create City’s only real chance of the half, but mistimed it horrifically and fired wide. So concludes my memory of the first half! So back to the terrapin for another wiz while someone queued for pies.
As the sun went down behind the stand opposite, so did our hopes of getting three points when the usual incredible Andrew Davies slipped to allow them to sneak a second, underserved goal. City fans, obviously with not much to cheer about, began to create their own entertainment, singing to Kyle Reid and Deane Smalley as they ran up and down the touchline as well as some ones from the back catalogue including: “Peter Beagrie sh****d…”, “12 days of Molenaar” and “We all dream of a team of Stuart McCalls”. If only! The next thing we discovered was that Rob Kozluk had been sent off for…who knows what? Officiating a game may be another article/ramble altogether.
On came Reid and the game sprung to life. Suddenly City realised that there was a left winger on the pitch. No disrespect to Will Atkinson but it seemed at times like he was the new kid nobody wanted to pass to. After some good work by Reid, a throw in got City back into it and suddenly we thought we could nick the game. With a minute to Reid went charging in the box only to be brought down. No penalty. No surprise!
Not the greatest game. We left the ground and paid a whopping £18 for a taxi back to the hotel, before showering and sampling the delights of the many Wetherspoons on offer in Bristol. The docks in particular were the standout part of a City half way through re-development, but lacking the character of Bradford.
Free entry to an Indie club was also a highlight and seemed slight compensation for the payments made previously that day. The rest of the evening, like the game, became a bit of a haze followed by a kebab and bed.
I often wonder what opposing fans think of Valley Parade and Bradford as a whole. But, whether the result tinted my outlook on the place, Bristol is somewhere I won’t be returning to in a great rush!