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LFW Awaydays - Swansea, Liberty Stadium
LFW Awaydays - Swansea, Liberty Stadium
Thursday, 11th Nov 2010 16:09 by Awaydays

A night of speed cameras, anti terror legislation and salad bars as the Northern R’s head to South Wales for Swansea v QPR.

On the pitch

A game of missed opportunities. Paddy Kenny saved a first half Swansea penalty, Jamie Mackie missed two very good chances from close range, and the result was a goalless draw.

Mackie snatched at his first chance, hammering it into the side netting from five yards out when goalkeeper Dorus De Vries was grounded and the goal was begging to be scored. Then, ironically, he took too long with his second after being played through on goal by Adel Taarabt – his unnecessary extra touch on the ball enabled the Dutch keeper to make a fine save one on one.

The penalty was controversial. Darren Pratley hit the deck in the area after a clear shove from Clint Hill, but the linesman that gave it initially signalled for a free kick outside the area and then changed his mind for reasons known only to himself. He got it right in the end, but caused needless confusion and controversy in the meantime.

David Cotterill made it blatantly obvious which way the penalty was going and Paddy Kenny stretched out to make a fine save – the second penalty miss in QPR’s favour inside four days. Adel Taarabt was fortunate not to be sent off near the end but the referee overall did well to keep hold of a feisty match played in a lively atmosphere.

Scores >>> QPR performance 7/10 >>> Opposition performance 7/10 >>> Referee performance 7/10

In the stand

You may recall that the Northern R’s have fallen foul of the sweeping Counter Terrorism Legislation in this country once before. A couple of years ago at the Player of the Year dinner the third member of our party, who we were relying on for a lift home and a bed for the night, disappeared at about 1am leaving us with no means of making it back from the other side of Heathrow Airport to Staines other than to start walking. Which we did.

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Grumpy but content – the QPR fans were unusually subdued.

Alcohol does strange things to the mind though and having set off for Staines and realised it was a long way to walk in the middle of the night in lounge suits Young North and myself recalled a time we had flown in late from Italy and, not wanting to pay for a hotel room that we’d only stay in for four hours, got our heads down on a bench in the airport terminal and waited for the first train in the morning. We decided that if we could make it to the other side of the runway at Heathrow we could kip in one of the terminal buildings again and get a train back to Sheffield when the Piccadilly Line opened for business in the morning.

Now there is a road tunnel underneath the runway at Heathrow, but it has no pedestrian walkway, and, rather sensibly considering our tired and emotional states, we realised that if we walked through there we would quickly be picked up on the CCTV and taken away by the police. Looking back now I’m astonished that we were thinking so clearly as to realise that, especially when you consider that the alternative plan that we actually went with was to scale the fence and walk across the runway to the terminal building. The logic, as I recall, was that it was too late for planes to be allowed to take off and land and the runway was shrouded in darkness and therefore we’d probably get away with it. Turns out that the anti-terror police rock up a lot quicker if you try and climb onto the runway than they ever would do if you walked through the bloody road tunnel.

Anyway, that was a pretty flagrant breach of the anti-terror laws I’ll give you that. But so, as it turns out, is taking a photograph of a police officer. Yes indeed. I had prepared an angry rant for this section of this Awayday review about the treatment Owain and I got at the Liberty Stadium on a theme of South Wales Police having better things to do with their time – bearing in mind the local teenage population’s propensity to kill themselves or each other with alarming and distressing frequency – than go after a couple of 20 somethings quietly watching the match and taking the occasional photograph. Before you chime in with your copyright law and what not, I’m well aware that we’re not permitted to take photographs of footballers actually playing football in a football stadium under pain of a good rodgering from the Football League – but every now and again Owain will bring a camera along and take a few pictures of the QPR fans, the ground, the town and other items of note to add a bit of colour to my mad ramblings. But it seems the police were quite within their rights to object, and spend the first 20 minutes of the second half filming us as we sat and watched the game, which at the time I felt was childish and excessive but now obviously completely understand.

At half time in this match Owain had a little walk around and took some photographs of the Liberty Stadium, one of the more impressive new grounds but pretty dull all the same, and the people who had bothered to fill it on a wet Tuesday night. And it was while doing this that he fell foul of the anti terror legislation. One such picture featured the small group of police officers to the left of the away fans. After returning to his seat and calmly sitting down for the second half Owain was then chased by one of the officers who chastised him for committing such an offence which, if you’re interested, falls foul of Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act. What a strange society this is where four known terrorist threats can be spotted on CCTV carrying rucksacks towards the Underground and nothing is done or said, but two lads in the away end at Swansea on a Tuesday night take one photograph and the sky falls in.

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Relax, we only do our Jihad on the second Thursday of every month

Anyway after much soul searching and law reading I’ve decided we’re safe to run with the picture as, according to the Metropolitan Police in any case: “The information would have to raise a reasonable suspicion that it was intended to be used to provide practical assistance to terrorists. Taking photographs of police officers would not, except in very exceptional circumstances, be caught by this offence."

What else can I say in this section? Oh yes, the QPR fans that did travel were unusually quiet throughout the game which prompted rage from three well oiled members of the brethren at the back of the stand who encouraged their fellow supporters to sing rather too enthusiastically and were all quickly removed so the rest of us could go back to being cold and grumpy.

The Swansea fans made a decent noise for a home crowd in a new ground, but their reaction to fouls is laughable. Every little trip or handball or minor offence brings the whole side stand to its feet, screaming in anguish and throwing their arms in the air demanding the opponent is immediately removed from the field and shot in the head. It’s ridiculous really, and the referee on the night did well to ignore it.

Scores >>> QPR support 5/10 >>> Home support 7/10 >>> Overall atmosphere 7/10 >>> Stadium 6/10 >>> Police and stewards 3/10

On the road

Swansea used to be a major world centre in copper production, now it’s the country’s foremost producer of driving licenses. We’ve all come to know what to expect by now when we call the DVLA; several hundred ‘press one, press two, press three’ menus, then some time on hold and then just when you cannot stand it anymore a really upbeat and happy sounding Welsh girl answers and is just so polite and lovely that you really don’t feel able to complain about the wait, or the £37 she’s just taken from you for some minor alteration to your motoring records.

There’s something about the accent in this part of the world. It’s got a friendly bounce to it that makes the people you’re speaking to sound like they’re doing you a favour even when they are ripping you off.

There was plenty of time to ponder such things on the Northern R’s journey to South Wales which started in Corby and wound its way down through Kettering and Northampton to Oxford and then Didcot to pick Owain up and then along the M4 and over the Severn Crossing to Swansea. It’s a bloody long way that, especially coming back in the middle of the night, and the journey time was extended unnecessarily by 45 minutes because I sat in the car park at the Didcot McDonalds waiting for Owain and assuming he was late, and he sat in the McDonalds assuming I was lost.

In your standard adventure films the heroes often face a series of challenges and booby traps which become more frequent and severe the closer they get to their destination. And I have to be honest I did feel a little bit like a home counties version of Indianna Jones or Frodo Baggins the closer we got to the home of the DVLA. It started as I left Corby and passed a speed camera on the A43 that I know for a fact through my work has been switched off. Then there was nothing for a while, then there was a little burst of average speed cameras through Northampton. Further down the line I encountered those annoying front facing speed cameras that they always put just over a hill or round a corner forcing you to jam your brakes on but on we went. The M4 had those cameras that are only on when the speed limiter signs are on but then there was a bridge toll, and then there was an average speed check at 50 miles per hour for 20 miles past Cardiff for no other reason than to make money. We knew we were close. It’s like these methods of persecuting the motorist spread from the DVLA headquarters and fly on the wind before settling somewhere so the closer you get the more of them there are. Driving into Swansea there was another Gatso on a residential street outside a fish and chip shop, presumably checking to see if they served the bloody fish too quickly.

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Welcome to Swansea. Home of pristine sandy beaches, and the DVLA

I think, touch wood it’s been two weeks now, that I managed to get there and back without persecution – although sitting at 50 miles per hour through an average speed check at 1am in the morning with no cars in either direction for ten miles had me vowing to emigrate. Bloody stupid country.

The happiest man in the world, no exaggeration, sold me a Wispa bar and another £50 tank of petrol (second of the day) at Membury services on the way back and I was back indoors just after 2am.

Scores >>> Journey 4/10 >>> Cost 2/10

In the pub

When does the invitation to “make use” of a free salad bar expire I wonder? It’s not a very pressing concern I’ll admit but it is one worth consideration if you are partaking in the food on offer at the Harvester next to Swansea’s ground.

As I’ve often said the problem with new stadiums is they are built on brownfield sites on the edge of town where the land is cheap but the pubs and restaurants fans can enjoy at the traditional, middle of town grounds are sadly absent. And that’s the case with the Liberty Stadium where the choices near the ground are basically Frankie and Bennies, where you can hear the ping of the microwave as you cross the car park, or the Harvester.

We’ve been in this one before, so we knew the drill. On the one side is a very crowded bar area where there is nowhere to sit, a long queue for a drink and when it does arrive it comes in the evil plastic glass which immediately reduces the taste of even the finest wine to that of warm water from the bottom of a blocked dishwasher. So we arrived early, at 5pm, and quickly got a table to ourselves on the restaurant side. We looked like a cute gay couple but they didn’t care and neither did we really.

Now from past experience here once you have finished your meal you are asked to leave your table so they can seat somebody else there, and return to the bar area where your drink is then poured into the evil plastic glass and you’re forced to stand and lean against the fruit machine by the toilets for want of a better spot. Quite why you can be trusted with a glass on the restaurant side but are immediately assumed to be some beered up loon who will gouge somebody’s eye out with a bottle of Peroni on the other is lost on me, but I sense it may be a policy enforced on the pub by the same police force that thinks taking pictures of them in the stadium falls foul of anti-terror legislation.

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Free food this way – salad bar offer causes confusion

So we didn’t finish our meal. We had a starter each, and a main course, and a desert, and then we kept going back to the free salad bar for bits of pasta and croutons and such like. Ok, so maybe we took the piss a little bit, and the waitress who served us was lovely and chatty all night and didn’t kick up too much of a fuss when she told us rather firmly that it was time to go back through to the bar now, some two hours after we’d first sat down and perused the menu. But if you advertise a free all you can eat salad bar don’t be too upset if somebody who can eat quite a lot of tomatoes and croutons turns up and wants to stay at his table until just before kick off.

In a final act of rebellion, I kept my bottle under the table and sipped from it when nobody was watching. Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.

Scores >>> Pub 6/10 >>> Atmosphere 6/10 >>> Food 6/10 >>> Cost 7/10

Final Score - 79/130

Photo: Action Images



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hoof_hearted added 17:22 - Nov 11
I decided a sunny beach was a more attractive prospect than Swansea away this year. Thanks for the affirmation.

Pasta, potatoes and croutons and then telling the missus "I just had a salad for lunch so I need a great big ruby tonight". My world exposed.
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AshteadR added 20:36 - Nov 14
I stayed with friends on Barry Island so not too bad travel wise. Although the Swansea atmosphere can be somewhat partizan, the biggest chance of violence seemed to be between our own fans and the over exuberant (p**sed) group at the back!
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