It was that time of the year! No, not transfer deadline day… it was Carling Cup time. The Carling Cup has its critics but I personally love it. It gives clubs and supporters the chance to visit places that they’d never usually get the opportunity to in the league.
After agreeing with my parents that if either Bolton or Wigan got a reasonable away tie I could go, I was really looking forward to the draw! However, the inevitable happened. Bolton drew Southampton away. Wigan drew Hartlepool away. Too much travelling for a school night I was told. So Blackburn v Norwich it was.
I had visited Ewood Park for a school trip around 6 months earlier – We did a ‘Le Tour de Ewood Park Video’ for French at school. My French accent was brilliant, it was French but with a hint of Lancashire… okay, maybe more than a hint!
Anyway, here is about a minute of our video from that day! As you can see, when I’m stood next to The Jack Walker Statue… My French accent is brilliant. If you listen very carefully, you can hear everybody laugh at me. I can also confirm I have got better at French!
Anyway. After that embarrassing video… back to the match.
Dad and I set off on the short journey to Ewood Park. I was even wearing my Blackburn top which I bought for £5 last time I was there! Bargain! *Please don’t question my allegiance to Bolton Wanderers*.
The journey was hassle free and simple, and so was the parking. We parked in the Albion Road car park which is situated just over the road from the stadium, and it didn’t cost too much.
Walking over the road, I purchased my programme. Blackburns’ programmes are brilliantly presented and at £3 competitively priced.
I went to have my usual photo outside the stadium. This is when it struck me that I had left the camera battery at home! Absolute disaster! Then to make matters worse, it began to rain.
We did our usual pre-match stroll around the stadium, bumping into a few peculiar looking fans before finally approaching the turnstiles.
This is where we met the female steward who resembled the ‘fruit and veg pervert off The One Show’.
“Welcome T’Ewood Park. I shall now check your bag for cans, bottles and other restricted items.”
Speechless at what I had just heard I unzipped my bag…
“Now son, I can tell you for a fact you are not taking photos inside T’Ewood Park with that camera of yours”
To which I replied, “I can’t anyway, it’s got no batteries in it!”
She then glared at my Dad in a quizzing manner as if to say… “Control that petulant child of yours, I don’t appreciate back chat”. Realising this woman was of the jobsworth variety, I turned around to see 4 lads. You may be thinking, what’s so special about 4 lads? Well, these 4 lads had been denied entry to Ewood Park on the grounds that they were eating Happy Meals. Yes, they were standing there, in the rain, munching on their chicken nuggets looking slightly disgruntled to say the least.
After that conversation with our fluorescent friend, we were finally allowed access into the Stadium. The tickets had cost £5 for an Under-16 and £10 for my Dad, and we chose to sit in The Jack Walker Stand Upper. It offered a great view over the pitch and the surrounding hills.
It was approaching kick off, and the stadium was pretty empty.
The Norwich fans were housed to our right in The WEC Group Darwen End Stand.
The ‘vocal’ Blackburn fans, who bless them… couldn’t sing collectively, were situated to our left in the recently re-named The Ronnie Clayton Stand (Previously The Blackburn End)
Opposite was the iconic Riverside Stand. It looks like an old traditional stand, but surprisingly it was only constructed in the 90’s with help from local steel firm Walkersteel. The owner of Walkersteel was Jack Walker. Ironically, he soon took over the club, and eventually helped Blackburn win the Premierleague title in 1995.
The match started off being a typical, slow paced Carling Cup encounter. With Blackburn just passing it around, and Norwich being cautious. However as both teams grew into the game it became more exciting.
Blackburn were passing it about well and creating some great moves out wide. Rovers’ pressure finally paid off when on loan Manchester United striker Mame-Biram Diouf scored a well headed goal from Morten Gamst Pedersens’ long throw after 29 minutes.
The halftime whistle came, and the teams went in at 1-0.
The second half began just as the first had, with neither team looking likely/bothered to create goalscoring opportunities. The Blackburn fans were still attempting to sing as one, and Sam Allardyce didn’t look bothered about the game in the slightest.
A young, relatively untried defender named Phil Jones came on midway through the second half for Christopher Samba. I had seen Phil Jones playing in the reserve squad at Leigh Sports Village and had been very impressed with him. I am now considering taking a job as a football scout…
Mame-Biram Diouf scored his second goal on 80 minutes after Morten Gamst Pedersen had had his shot well saved by Declan Rudd, before finally being scrambled in by the Senegalese international.
Diouf ensured that he’d be going home with the match ball 4 minutes later when Pedersen picked him out at the backpost, before finishing well with another header.
Norwich pulled back a consolation goal in stoppage time to send the visiting supporters home with at least something to savour. The goal came from a corner, and Jens Berthel Askou headed well past Mark Bunn in the Blackburn goal.
It was a relatively entertaining evening out with my Dad, and one which we’ll remember. I hope to visit Ewood Park again to see what the matchday experience is for a league match.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 24 miles
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £2