When you are just about six and a half years away from getting your free bus pass and a venue that you have spent about 85% of your life visiting disappears, it should be perfectly natural to go all misty eyed and nostalgic about it, but the truth, as I see it anyway, is that Ninian Park was a functional, charmless and tatty football ground that was about twenty years past it’s sell by date.
To be fair to the old place (I refuse to use the gut wrenching epithet “The Old Lady”!), I liked the fact that you could stand on terraces (if I am still going down the City in forty years time, I will still prefer to stand given the choice) and it could be a very atmospheric ground, but it’s gone now and first impressions are that it’s replacement represents a definite improvement.
I have a seat about fifteen rows up in the corner where the Ninian and Canton stands meet and the view is great. As I said before, I would prefer to stand, but the truth is that the view I would get if everyone around me was allowed to do that would not be a patch on the one I get now. The rules say that I have to sit and I am fine with that and it would normally gall me a bit that others, particularly in the Canton end, kept on behaving as if those rules didn’t apply to them.
However, in this instance, I have sympathy with those who stand in that area because the club have been a bit naughty in the way that they let it be known in those meetings they held with supporters about the new ground last winter that standing would tolerated more in that area – the signs are that this promise has not been kept.
As far as the atmosphere goes at the new stadium, early signs are encouraging – I have been to four matches and I thought it was okay against Celtic, not too good against Valencia, good against Scunthorpe and not bad given the size of the attendance against Dagenham and Redbridge. With our next three home matches including two local derbies and a visit from the division’s most attractive team, it seems to me that, for the first time, we will see games at the new ground with sizeable away contingents and this will only add to the atmosphere on the day.
Just a few other observations, speaking as someone whose outlay for food and drink at Ninian Park only went as far as the occasional pre match pint, I am barely ever going to use those facilities, but, although the club should be praised for listening to complaints about the initial pricing of these items, they are still too high when you consider the competition just a few hundred yards away.
As for visiting the ticket office and club shop, well, my experience of the former is that, just as at Ninian Park, it all depends on who you get serving you – the majority of times there’s no problem, but, every now and then, it can be a frustrating and annoying experience. With the club shop, I think a criticism I have heard from Dave Jones about the new stadium applies – our manager has mentioned that at the moment, it’s a bit sterile and antiseptic, but that will change in time. I hope that applies to the club shop as well. At the moment, it just doesn’t “feel” like it is ours – obviously, the rugby merchandising doesn’t help in this respect, but it’s more than that and, at the moment, the pokey old club shop is the only part of Ninian Park that I truly miss!
*Originally published on 18 August 2009.