Sunday 6 December 2009

Oxford United

I had a wonderful day at Oxford United at the end of October. I was there because the Oxford United supporters' team Raging Fever FC were playing their counterparts from Belgian side
UR Namur, from where I have some good friends.

It's not very often I go to top flight non-league matches, so the opportunity to have my 'international debut' guesting for Namur, and then visit a ground I haven't been to before, was something I couldn't say no to. Truth be known, sad as it may sound, i was honoured to wear their shirt.

Although Oxford 'only' beat Altrincham 1-0 I have no doubt that next season they will be back in the Football League.

The ground is a little unusual, in that it is three sided, with a capacity of 12,500. Approximately 5,000 in either stand along the sides, & 2,500 in the main home end behind the goal. The stands themselves are quite bland, and remind me,in style, of Millwall.

The Kassam Stadium, named after a former chairman, is also home to a conference centre type facility. Next to the ground is also a bowling/hotel/leisure type complex, which is where the club shop is based.

The ground was opened in 2001, the highest attendance here was the 12,243; which was at the end of the 2005/06 season against Leyton Orient. This was the match where they lost their Football League place.

On 24th July 2006 17,500 people squeezed in for a pop concert by Sir Elton John.

This sign is tacked onto the outer fence of the open about 'non league...and you know you are!'

The front of the main entrance shows that they are certainly not 'nonleague' in terms of facilities!

Before the main match we headed to this pub, called 'The Priory', a few hundred yards from the ground. Outside, here, they sold delicious & cheap burgers. Well worth a visit if you ever go there.

Walking from the pub towards the ground you can see how close it is.

A bit closer and we look across the car park towards the ground. But we're not going there yet. turn left...

And we head towards the club shop.

In this shot you can see the stadium in the background.

They probably have more replicas shirts in stock than Dulwich Hamlet have supporters'! ;-)
I bought a mug, which had a picture of the stadium on it.

We're now going back to the ground, the others are returning to the pub, but I'm going on a circuit of the outside of the stadium.
We going to walk straight ahead here, and go round the perimeter in an anti-clockwise direction.

We ARE still outside the ground, I take this picture through a slight gap in the gates in the corner. We are looking over to the two tiered main South Stand.

This is from the same corner, but turning my camera toward the main home end.

This is the main home end, from outside. The East Stand, formerly sponsored by the local newspaper the 'Oxford Mail', & still referred to by many as that.

From this corner another shot, through a small gap in the fence, of the main stand.

Now onto the next corner, with burger van.

Presumably the local fun fair was shut today! The burgers at the pub were cheaper too!

Now we're on our way round, behind the main stand.

You're only as good as your position in the table, but what on warth are a club with facilities as smart as this doing in non league? Answer is probably they don't own the ground, and don't make a penny from it, apart from the gate money. The message from me your food and drink in the local pub!

Now we're back at the car park end, where this strange 'creature' was!

It's a week before Guy Fawkes Night, and it was the winner in the local 'wicker man' competition!

Another glance back across the car park, as i head back to the pub for a pre-match burger!

After that it's time to go into the ground, and we walk back to the car park, to head around the main stand, for our seats in the home end, £14 each.

On the way we pass this statue of an ox, which I, somehow, missed earlier. It was unveiled in March 2008.

I also spot this 'wall of bricks'. I didn't have a chance to look at it closely, as it was almost kick off, so am not 100% sure what it was for, presumably in aid of club funds, but with the shysters who own the stadium I can't be certain!

I did snap this close up, so you can see some of the names on it, but also for the 'little schoolboy' type graffiti at the bottom!

Queueing to get in at our turnstile.

Under the concourse were these food & drink outlets.

A 'Football League' attitude prevails! You don't see these posters at the non league grounds I usually go to!

Inside the ground now-at last! The main stand to our left.

Home fans in the 'noisy' end! If you're wondering about the man in the funny witches hat...the date was 31st October-Halloween!

The North Stand is to our right. Away fans down the far corner.

Here's another shot of it, higher up from my seat.

The main stand again, also from my seat.

And now looking across the pitch, where you see the empty open end, with the leisure/hotel type complex behind it. As we look the club shop is round the back of it, on the right hand side.

Looking over to the North Stand once more, with the visiting Altrincham fans in this shot.

At the back of our end were supporters' flags, like this one. Note the gap behind them.

This is just a disused void area. I have no idea as to why the seats do not go right to the back.

Here is the North Stand once more, from the top corner of the East Stand.

From the same spot we look along the East Stand.

Another look at the main South Stand. The photos here today are all a bit 'samey', but that can't be helped, when grounds like this are functional, but lacking in real character. But that was made up for by the passionate home support in the end I was in.

Here we look up into my end, from the front.

Another angle of it, further along.

Only a few more 'repeat' pictures to go, as the lights come on. The main South Stand again...

From behind the goal, at the front, looking over to the East Stand.

And another crowd shot of the main home end, to finish our visit to Oxford United.

Game over, one final look over the pitch as the players are on their way over to applaud the fans.

I cannot finish this post without expressing my thanks to John, who runs the Oxford United supporters' team. I continually pestered him with questions he must have heard untold times beofre, about what it's like for them in the Conference, but he answered them all with a smile, and not a hint of boredom. He isa true gent! And the rest were a great bunch of lads, who really looked after the touring Belgians, and three 'hangers on' from Dulwich Hamlet! From the game in the morning, played in a great spirit, won 5-1 by the hosts, through to the match, & pubs in the evening, they are a credit to Oxford United Football Club. A team I have no affinity to, but now I always check out their results, and wish them all the best as they endeavour to regain their Football League place. I wish them well.

This photo shows myself on the left, in Namur shirt, & fellow Dulwich Hamlet fan Lawrence Marsh in the middle. On the right is my good friend from Belgium, Nicolas Lucas. A loyal Paris Saint Germain & Union Royale Namur suupporter!

No comments: