The reasoning behind visiting Hillsborough was the fact that Bury had drawn them away in The Carling Cup, and I was offered a lift by the Pilling Family. The Pilling family are very good to me and have helped me tick off quite a few of ‘the 92’. It was my first Bury away trip and I didn’t know what to expect but I was really looking forward to it.
After a day out in Wigan meeting Chris Kirkland and Gary Caldwell (There was nothing else to do), I came home and quickly got ready. We set off to Sheffield, and the traffic was horrendous! Fortunately we arrived at Hillsborough in plenty of time, parking on a petrol forecourt right near the away end.
We then had our usual pre-match stroll around the stadium, and nipped in the club shop. Danny buys a pin badge from every stadium he visits, just as I have my photo taken.
Now, Gary and Danny always visit a chippy before matches, and this was another new experience for me. Unfortunately I didn’t buy anything in the chippy, as being a Lancastrian I find it hard to order ‘foreign food’ in my ‘foreign language’.
The Bury fans had been handed tickets in The Leppings Lane End. This is the stand in which the infamous ‘Hillsborough Disaster’ happened. The exterior of the stand looked outdated and in serious need of refurbishment. Going through the turnstiles it was evident just how the Hillsborough Disaster occurred. Obviously the stadium underwent a major redevelopment after the tragic event, but the concourses and space available within that stand seemed somewhat inadequate.
Within the stand was a tunnel which led to the lower seating area. With a strong breeze it was like walking down a wind tunnel. At the bottom of this tunnel stood a group of friendly stewards, I think I speak on behalf of everybody when I say I do love our fluorescent coloured friends.
There were probably a couple of hundred people in the stadium when we entered, if that. I was having my usual photo, when suddenly a steward informed me that I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures within Hillsborough whatsoever as there is “a huge legal battle like lad”. Ignoring his demands, I continued to have my picture taken and took a few photos of the stands… he didn’t look impressed!
After deciding I was pushing my luck with the stewards, I was blown back down the tunnel to purchase a pie. This is when I learnt that a potato in Yorkshire is called a ‘Tatty’ or something along those lines, which confused me momentarily. The lack of pie flavours resulted in me buying a Meat and Potato, and I can safely say it is the worst pie I have ever had the misfortune to taste. It was basically water within a crust!
The view of the pitch from the Lower Leppings Lane End wasn’t brilliant, but at least it wasn’t restricted!
To my right was the most distinctive of all four stands – The South Stand. It has a capacity of 11,354 and bears the most distinctive feature of Hillsborough, the clock. The clock has been with the club since they played at their old Olive Grove stadium in the late 1800’s.
Directly opposite stood The Spion Kop. The Kop is built into a hill which gives it an eye-catching appearance from the outside. The more vocal Wednesday fans usually sit in The Kop.
I leave the best stand (in my opinion) until last. The North Stand doesn’t hold as many supporters as The South, but it looks far more impressive. Nothing too fancy, just a brilliant, traditional, British stand.
As kick off approached, the stadium filled up a little… but not much.
Bury started off very strongly, and looked the better team throughout the first half. Andy Bishop had a goal disallowed and then hit the crossbar. However, I was far more interested in a strange looking Sheffield Wednesday fan. For those of you that have seen Peter Kay playing the Absorbaloff in Doctor Who, you will find a resemblance. He paraded around The South Stand encouraging people to sing songs such as ♫ You’re just a shit team from Oldham ♫ If you’re a regular at Hillsborough you will know EXACTLY who this man is!
The second half arrived and the game was flat, and the crowd weren’t that much more exciting either. In fact, all I have to say about the second half is that Giles Coke scored a good goal for Sheffield on 60 minutes to secure them a place in the 2nd round.
The game drew to an end and it was time to go home. Danny and I left the stewards all of our rubbish to clean up – We then however realised it would be the cleaners that would clean this up… Schoolboy Error!
I hope to visit Hillsborough again as it is a traditional British football stadium, home of a team that deserve to be in a higher division. Hopefully when I go back the stewards won’t be the same ones, and my favourite manager Gary Megson won’t be there.