Sunday, 13 September 2009

Day Eight

Its hard to believe how quickly this tour is going. We've now completed two thirds of the 92 grounds and I've simply run out of ways to explain how much i'm enjoying it. Today's journey from our overnight base of Warrington up through all Liverpool and some Manchester based teams was no different.

We arrived at the home of Tranmere Rovers at about 7.30 am to be greated by a mass of people there for a boot sale in the far car park. Fortunately there was a lot of activity throughout Prenton Park as part of the clean up process for the game the day before. The security guard was happy for us to let ourselves in and walk around.

After the short journey through the Mersey tunnel we took a detour through Penny Lane and the roundabout at the end of the road. The barbers and bank are still there but in the centre of the circle was a run down and boarded up cafe called Sgt Peppers. You would expect places like this to make a lot of money and this subject provided the main line of conversation for the next hour or so. It was a shame to see the area had been allowed to get into the state it is. With all the beatles tours run daily, there should be a market for a cafe. But i guess it just hasn't been done rightly so far.. Anyway, back to the football!

Liverpool was the 2nd scheduled stop of the day and the tour manager kindly took us through a side gate into Anfield. Unfortunately, at most Premier League grounds there's been heaters and lights all over the pitch which does take away from the pictures we're trying to take. Outside the stadium, we took in the Hillsborough memorial and the famous gates. Including the statue of Bill Shankly, there's just so much to capture on camera.

At Everton we caught the security lady on her way in. We had been promised a signed photo on the gate which wasn't forthcoming but at least they allowed us pitchside to keep up our record of having taken photos inside every stadium since Leyton Orient on day one.

Oldham were friendly enough and allowed us in. We had a contact of Lois Best who had given us her phone number to call when we arrived. If we'd have struggled to get in we may have had work to do but we didn't so we called Lois to let her know and moved onto Man City.

We arrived at Eastlands knowing that we'd been told we wouldn't be allowed access but we've learnt a lot on the way round and thought we'd put our experience to work. We found security, but no luck, club shop, no luck, and then finally we found the tours centre. Dianne Hill, tours manager was very friendly and helpful and also interested in our story. She was at the infamous City v Gillingham play off final in 99 but came away with some much happier memories than us. Anyway, she showed us down to the pitch where we took some quick pics and set off to Old Trafford.

Our contact was stadium manager Gordon Shields but he'd been unable to meet us and so arranged for his colleague Paul Constanti to take his place. We were at the ground early so i called him to let him know. It was only then we realised he was coming in on his day off just to show us round! He arrived and took us straight into the Theatre of Dreams. From there he walked us round the dug outs, the changing rooms, players lounge and even up into the commercial boxes. A place the public tours dont even go! We came across the tours manager in one of the boxes who chatted to us for a while before asking Paul to collect a pennant from his office on the way down to help with our fundraising. From there we were taken down to the museum and guided around through all sections including the main feature of the 99 treble. By the time we left, Paul had spent over an hour with us. It was an incredible effort from a club widely recognised as the biggest in the world. They didn't have to do what they did but it was hugely appreciated and will add to the memories we'll take away.

That was due to be the lot but with day nine all set to be a long one, we chose to tick off Stockport and Macclesfield. At Edgeley Park it was quickly apparent that no one was home. So, desperate to get pictures inside we found a low gate and I climbed up towards barbed wire territory and took some. However, i wanted a picture of the end behind the goal so after an adventure through a derelict building and an overgrown hill, I levered myself up between a fence and a tree and managed to get the shots I wanted.

Much of the same at Macclesfield until the kitman appeared through a side door. We pounced and I think he was just happy for some company and as such ushered us through. We got all we needed and made the trip back up to our hotel for the night.

Still a very early morning planned but it is, at least, 2 grounds lighter now. Hopefully there'll be no need for any mountaineering tomorrow. But when needs must..

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