FeaturesGrass Roots

Fan Diary: ‘I will be going back, a decent ground with decent people’

If you did not already know, here at TEB we love our football. Whether that be watching Palace finally get their first goals and win of the season over reigning Premier League champions Chelsea or witnessing a passionate and fully committed game of non-league football. It really does not matter to us.

So with that in mind, we continue our commitment to promote local non-league teams around SE25 and surrounding area. This season we return to one of our former haunts, Croydon FC, to provide round-up articles, a fan diary and more. Our first set of articles following Croydon went online last month and I urge you to go check them out here and here.

Suniel Bhardwaj set the tone for the first of our fan diary entries last month. This time around it is Ben Hunter’s turn in the hot-seat as he tells us about his experience of watching Croydon play at the Arena.


In terms of distance, I only need to take a bus then a tram to get to Croydon’s ground, so it’s fairly easy.  I jumped on and headed towards Elmers End and began my journey to the Arena. The good thing about Elmers End is that it is literally opposite so you don’t have a long walk like you might get at other grounds.

After the dull travelling bit, I was ready to experience what this non-league lark is all about. I got to the ground, and to your right there is a shed which on the inside is the rather quaint clubhouse. The turnstiles are not very non-league but that is expected as the ground is run by the council and used for athletics events.

The turnstile operator seemed quite (sarcastically) annoyed that the club were letting under-16s in for free, something which surprised me. Although I had been before (for an FA Cup game against Faversham), it still struck me as one of the coolest non-league stadia I have seen. Even though there is an athletics track between the stand and the pitch, it does have that Olympic Stadium vibe to it but you easily get drawn in.

Besides from the dodgy viewpoints, the ground itself is very unusual. Again, it’s used for other events by the council however the one smallish grandstand with three different shaped separate covered terraces on the other side make it look slightly abnormal. I was a good thirty minutes early, so wasn’t too surprised to see many empty seats.

Ten minutes before kick-off, the loudspeaker started and the two teams were read out. I looked on the back of the programme and although most of the players were there, a few were not or had changed numbers. That confused me before, and it did again. I’m still no closer to working it out!

I decided to walk down to the sidelines and watch the first half from there, and on my way I picked up a Croydon FC beanie and pin badge. I found my spot just as the game started and I stood there for the first half hour of action. I then took a seat in the grandstand, which can hold around 300 people. The seating colours of yellow and blue aren’t quite true to the actual team colours, but then again that is probably due to it being used by the council and other sports teams.

The view from the majority of the stand is obscured by two huge pylons, so sitting in the middle is advised. However, the middle also contains the official’s box, so they get the better view.

The opening of the game was pretty drab so I decided to migrate up to the scaffolding by the clubhouse to give myself the best possible view. As I got up there, a Sevenoaks corner was poorly defended by Croydon and Jack Miles was on hand to head in to give them an early advantage.

The half-time whistle went, whilst disposing of my meal deal responsibly I headed towards the clubhouse to watch Final Score. And, to my disappointment, Palace were a goal down at Manchester City, a game which ended in a one sided win for Pep Guardiola’s side. I came back out as the second-half started and resumed my place on the scaffold.

The second half livened up a bit, which I was relieved about as the last time I attended it finished goalless. Fifteen minutes or so into the second half, Croydon managed to find an equaliser. A simple pass through to Stefan Joseph who made sure the simple chance which was gobbled up nicely. However, celebrations were muted just six minutes later as Sevenoaks somehow managed to bundle the ball into the net as Bryon Walker wheeled away in celebration.

A frustrating final twenty minutes resulted in nothing for the Trams, who sat tenth in the Southern Counties East Football League after that result. I went back into the clubhouse to catch up on all of the day’s football scores, and then left for the tram back home.

Although the Trams lost, it was still a good day out. My ratings of my experience are below:

Ratings:

  • Atmosphere – 2/10
  • Game – 6/10
  • Food – Didn’t try
  • Location – 9/10
  • Prices – 8/10
  • Friendliness – 9/10

Overall: 7.5/10

I will be going back, the Arena is a decent ground with lots of decent people and while it feels very raw, it is a club that is going places.

Stay tuned to more supporter dairy articles next month!

 

 

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Michael Stokoe

Michael Stokoe

Michael is an avid football fan growing up through the highs and lows of following Palace. Currently pursuing a career in journalism at the University of Brighton.

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