Awayday Reviews - Preston, Deepdale
Monday, 19th Nov 2007 09:59
Rangers drew 0-0 at Preston at the end of October and events off the pitch were just as dire as those on them.
1 - The Game
It was hardly what you'd call an advert for the Championship. Two teams lacking quality and confidence refereed by a fussy old woman who couldn't keep the whistle out of her mouth for more than 15 seconds at a time. That Trevor Kettle was assisted by two linesmen with a very flimsy grasp of the rules of the game didn't help matters either. Preston had the better of it, and were only denied a win by a string of fine saves from Lee Camp, including a penalty save from Paul Gallagher.
Rangers only really threatened when Marc Nygaard was introduced but with Camp in great form it had 0-0 written all over it and those unfortunate enough to be inside Deepdale were left to reflect on £20 spent on watching two teams executing a lesson on how not to play football and a referee running round shouting "look at me" and penalising everything for the benefit of his ego. If only somebody could get close enough to Mr Kettle's whistle to choke him to death with it.
We wished we'd stayed in the warm pub even before we got back there to find Arsenal had put on a display of total football in the Champions League and won 7-0. An evening wasted.
2 - Rangers' performance
3 - Rangers' Support
4 - The Ground
Points lost for the, as ever, complicated and confusing ticketing arrangements. First of all you're not allowed to pay cash at the turnstile, you have to go to the adjacent ticket office. This doesn't matter on a Tuesday night when there is nobody there but it's a real pet hate of mine, especially on a Saturday with a big crowd. You end up with a big queue of people at the ticket office, then another big queue of people at the turnstile, so you're queuing twice as long. I don't understand why clubs do it. It requires five or six members of staff in the ticket office, and five or six turnstile operators, whereas cash at the actual turnstile halves the number of staff required. It's like these stupid barcode swiping devices the Premiership clubs have put in - you need two stewards on each gate to help people work them. Madness.
Preston said before the match that tickets would rise by as much as £5 if you paid on the night as opposed to paying in advance. Again, why? If you pay in advance is the seat more comfortable? The match a better quality? The weather warmer? No, it's the same load of old crap served up in the middle of Lancashire in the freezing cold but you bought your ticket on Monday afternoon instead of Tuesday night. Again it makes no sense and penalises the fan. Just as strange as the idea of charging extra on the night, is Preston's decision not to enforce it on the night. Why say you're going to charge a fiver extra and then don't?
Having said all of that points gained for the wonderfully friendly, and bloody good looking, girl that served me in the ticket office and the prices which, without the match day increases, are very reasonable for this division.
5 - Atmosphere
6 - Pre Match
Now I try my best not to be unkind, but Jesus Christ. A pub on a mainline railway station, in the middle of a town, during the rush hour, should be buzzing. There should be a warm welcome and cold drinks and piping hot food and it should be so inviting that it makes you miss your train home for just one more pint. The Railway in Preston is so poor you almost find yourself missing the match and getting the hell out of town on the first available train to anywhere. It's not a good start when you walk into a place on a weeknight, during the rush hour, on a night when the local team are at home and there are eight Champions League matches on the television to see the vast majority of the pub locked up and shrouded in darkness but that's what we found.
Bottles of Becks in hand we parked ourselves in the only open part, a small hard floored and cold bar at the back of the pub with a pool table in the centre and, and this is a cardinal sin in a pub, a pop music channel on the plasma screen. Live sport, Sky Sports News, or turn the bloody thing off.
There was the two of us, one other bloke, a barman and numerous Celtic and Irish flags hanging off the walls and ceiling. I was just composing my rant to Steve for when he arrived, his local knowledge was supposed to find us a decent pub near the station and yet here we were. Thankfully we then got a text from Mick, we'd picked the wrong place! We were actually meant to meet in The Old Vic, a fraction further up the road on the other side of the traffic lights. Steve was already there, Mick joined a short time later, there were carpets, it was warm, there were people, there was Champions League on the television, it was much better all round.
An hour or so before the kick off we headed for the ground and had a final drink in the social club next to the ground - where I got ID'd on entry and my younger brother didn't. That seemed a decent enough place, although the temperature inside was about three thousand degrees. If we both manage to stay up, or we both go down, I think we'll just go straight in The Old Vic next time and stay there!
7 - The Journey
But that still means you've got this bridge, and a train every two minutes. It's carnage. When we arrived at a little after 4pm the platform was rammed, five trains were queuing to get in outside the station, none of the staff or departure boards knew which one was coming in first and in the end we were half an hour late leaving. Not only that but the first train of the rush hour to Bolton, Preston and Blackpool only had two carriages on it. It was so full by the time it left that nobody could get on at any of the subsequent stations and scuffles ensued on the platforms as people tried to force one more body into the cattle trucks.
The driver improved matters by whacking the heater on as high as it would go and then, with the delay approaching an hour, announced that the train would actually be terminating at Preston not Blackpool and if you wanted to go further than Preston that was tough.
It's a horrible journey by train this one, and we didn't make it back to Sheffield until twenty past one, although I did at least have room to stretch out and sleep on the way back so most of it passed me by. Mercifully we arrived back on time because on my three trips on the late train from Manchester to Sheffield I have experienced it not turning up at all, it catching fire and 50 drunk Sheff Utd fans causing havoc and forcing it to stop and tip everybody out in Edale in the middle of the night. Grateful for small mercies on a horrible night to travel.
8 - Police and Stewards
There's been a few exceptions to that of course - who can forget the Plymouth Argyle stewards refusing to believe Scott Donnelly and the other reserve players that they were in fact players and wanted to go into the dressing room at half time? They were forced to stand at the front for 20 minutes while supporters showed the stewards pictures of Donnelly and the others in the day's match programme. Or the Wolves steward who looked at the world's biggest ball of snot and gunk that had just been deposited on my coat by some Neanderthal in the upper tier at Molineux and told me it was "condensation from the roof". Or George, bless him, at the Ricoh Arena, a fully paid up member of the Nazi party with moustache to match.
They are exceptions though as I say, I can actually count on the fingers of two hands the amount of times I've felt aggrieved at the stewarding or policing of a match I've been to. Even when you do disagree with the way it's being handled, sitting down, shutting up and watching the game is a sure fire way to keep yourself out of whatever trouble may be going on. I have little sympathy for people who get in a steward's face, get involved with pushing and shoving or anything like that who then find themselves trying to find a good vantage point to watch the final hour of the game from in the car park.
However, our trip to Preston on a cold Tuesday night in October is right out there in a league of its own. Never have I seen stewarding like it. It was scandalous and thuggish behaviour from people supposedly there to protect the supporters against all of those things. The game kicked off with about 400 QPR fans spread across the away end, and the usual gang of between ten and twenty standing at the back. I was off to the left hand side as you looked at the pitch and also stood for the majority of the match, as did my friends, because it was bloody freezing and it was good to pace up and down a bit just to keep your feet in the land of the living.
We were left alone by the stewards but the gang at the back of the stand were not so lucky. First of all a couple of the standard orange jacketed stewards went up to the back to have a word and ask people to sit down. This is pretty standard stuff after ten minutes of a match, happens all the time and is usually followed by a chorus of "stand up if you love Rangers" and then everybody complies and the rest of the game passes by. However on this occasion the 20 or so QPR fans standing up pointed out to the stewards that 700 Preston fans were, to a man, standing up not fifty feet away from them on the other side of the segregation divide. The stewards shrugged, some people sat down, some remained standing, the stewards left, that seemed to be that.
Then, moments later, a line of men in yellow jackets, about ten of them I would say, appeared at the bottom of the stand and started to march up the steps in single file towards the standers at the back. I immediately pointed a couple of them out to my brother because they were unusually large guys. I think I said something along the lines of "wouldn't fancy being thrown out by them" as they made their way up the steps.
I watched them arrive at the back of the stand and once again tell the QPR fans to sit down. The next thing I knew all hell broke loose. One of the stewards, a huge guy with a skin head and tattoos on his neck, grabbed one of the younger Rangers fans round the neck and wrestled with him in a headlock dragging him across the seats. I've never seen anything like it. The steward just lost it and started to attack the QPR fan who.
The scene then descended into chaos as the other stewards tried to pull their colleagues off the QPR fan and stop him doing some serious damage to the lad. He was then led away by the other stewards who seemed to be telling him to calm down. He just totally lost it.
Frankly I am appalled by this. What on earth was said to the guy in the ten second conversation that preceded this mindless violence I can only guess at but I'm assured it was simply pointing out that if 700 Preston fans are allowed to stand why can't 20 QPR fans do the same? As I said earlier the best thing to do is just comply and sit down to watch the game, but if you don't you shouldn't expect to be beaten up by somebody employed by the club to keep you safe.
Preston North End need to look into the stewarding situation as a matter of urgency because at the moment it's not only a disgrace it's also unsafe. That lobotomised gibbon may feel all big and brave now, dragging a teenager head first over a row of seats and laying into him when there's less than 400 QPR fans there on a cold Tuesday night, but Preston have some big derby games this season. I wouldn't like to be in the away end with 4000 Blackpool or Burnley fans this year if he tries that on again. He could have a full scale riot on his hands.
It's a scandalous, needless way to treat football fans and the famous old name of Preston North End is sullied by the presence of that hooligan in uniform on their pay roll.
Total - 32/80
Photo: Action Images
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