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Saturday, February 18, 2006

UNDER A GRANGE END STAR: Why i like the worst view in the ground

The view from behind the goal
I was supposed to be in Brighton this weekend, but the plans fell apart at the last minute. So what should I do, no kids, no work and Cardiff City at home?

I headed down the A470 with Flyscreen's 'Council Pop' blasting out of the car stero and hit the big smoke. I went down a little early and nipped into Spillers and grabbed meself the ‘Welsh Rarebeat’ compilation and a few bits and pieces, then made my way on to the Grange End.

The Grange end is something of a rarity now, a standing area at a football ground. Since disasters like Heysel in 1985 and Hillsborough in 1989 standing areas have all but been phased out. Having everyone sat in a seat eliminates overcrowding and acts a barrier to hooliganism. They are going to have to put seats on the Grange End soon, but while it is still standing it will remain my favourite part of the ground.

When I was going regularly in the 1980’s the Grange End was reserved for away fans and I always stood on the ‘Bob Bank’. At that time the Grange End had not long been reconstructed as a roofless concrete monstrosity. Prior to that it had been a massive wooden stand that was the heart of the ground, it was legendary in the football league and echoed to the chants of “1,2,3,4,5, if you want to stay alive, keep off the grange End”!

I never went in the old stand, and as I say used to stand on the ‘Bob Bank’, which is now all seated, except for a section at the front which stretches beyond the roof so aint a great place to be unless you know it aint gonna rain.

I stopped going when they put seats on the ‘Bob Bank’, an event that happened to coincide with me becoming a dad. After the divorce I was persuaded to go back down the city and all the memories came flooding back. I have been going quite regularly since, though not as regularly as I used to. After sitting on the Bob Bank a few times, an experience I find a little sterile, I started going to stand on the Grange End and have been bitten by the bug.

It has a roof now, and is used for both home and away fans. A welcome addition since the ‘80s is a bar underneath the stand so you can have a pint at half time.

The Grange End is behind the goal, which has advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is a pretty crap view of what is going on, especially when things are happening up the other end, but on the positive side when city are playing into the Grange End you get a great view of the goal mouth action.

I like standing up at a game, because you can mingle and even if you go on your own, as I did today, you can meet up with friends you had not planned to meet. It also means if you are in a gang you can all stand together, not worry about sitting apart because you bought tickets at different times. Sitting to watch football just does not feel right anyway, being confined to a small space restricts the jumping up and shouting and waving fists in the air.

Because of the restricted view it is slightly cheaper which has traditionally meant it is an area where the more ‘working class’ element hangs out, which therefore means more of an atmosphere and the Grange always out-sings all other areas of the ground.

But the Game is in front of you lads!
Because the away fans are also in the Grange, there is an area nearest to the away fans, where a ‘youthful’ element stands and spends most of the game goading the travelling fans. This adds to the excitement and atmosphere, but having stood among them a few times to soak up the vibe, I would not fancy their chances if it kicked off, most of them are school kids and would run a mile if the away fans took up the offer to “Come and join us over here!” It would be a brave firm that did have a go though, because behind the CHAVs are the hardcore of City’s loyal, with an average age of about 40 they have been about a bit and although on the whole they have grown out of looking for ‘agro’ they are not likely to run. These are the lads that make up the bulk of City’s away following and are the reason City’s name is feared throughout the football league.

Anyway, I am starting to sound like a hooligan now, which I aint. The important action today occurred at the wrong end of the field for us to get a decent view, as Cameron Jerome banged in the only goal of the game up at the Canton End. There was a bit of excitement in front of us as Neil Alexander made a few incredible saves (my man of the match), but on the whole City dominated the first half and most of the play was in the Hull City half. In the second half City took their foot off the pedal a bit and there were a few hair raising moments, but in the end they managed to hold on and came a way with three points to keep us up their vying for a place in the play offs. Then it was back to the car and head back up the A470 listening to Papa Brittle.

City are hoping to build a new stadium in the next year or so, they will never replace the atmosphere of Ninan Park, and in particular, the Grange End; the Roar of the pies, the smell of the crowd... make the most of it while it lasts!

Check out the Urban 75 views on the Grange End.. click here
Detailed report of game... click here (Official Site) or here (Western Mail)


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