Dr Pit Welfare Park (Bedlington Terriers)

This ground review gets a much higher mark than it should, purely because I’m writing it on my mobile phone whilst stood in the sea.

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Bedlington is a club I have a lot of affection for. Firstly, their full title is Bedlington Terriers, a name steeped in romance and history and also slightly mental. Secondly, Dr Pit Welfare Park is a lovely little non-league ground, packed full of character and peculiarity.

So when their website advertised a pre-season friendly a couple of weeks ago against their own reserve team at 10.30am on a Saturday I jumped at the chance. I set my alarm (don’t judge me, I don’t have children or a proper job) and made the short car journey, slightly bleary eyed but excited to return to one of my favourite clubs in the North East.

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You can imagine my disappointment then when the place was deserted. Turnstiles closed, no goal nets up, nothing to suggest a game was taking place. Nobody to ask what was going on and frankly, with the sun shining and other stuff to do, I elected to take a few snaps then head to the beach.

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The ground itself is smashing. There’s a weird sort of complex around the clubhouse with corporate facilities that’s not really visible from the outside so please blame Bedlington Terriers for this. There’s a main stand that has clearly been there a long time and in one corner is the my favourite thing of all: the scoreboard.

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I’ve borrowed a photograph from a previous trip there as this beast is incredible. An American businessman who randomly bought the title “lord of Bedlington” on the Internet decided to google Bedlington and discovered the football club. He’s now their main sponsor and he donated the scoreboard as a present.

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It stands about as tall as the two storey houses behind it and taller than any other part of the ground whatsoever. It’s a full on video scoreboard that I believe previously belonged to an American Football team. It’s absolutely absurd but a brilliant novelty and one which elevates the Dr Pit Welfare Ground above its peers.

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I didn’t get a good glimpse of it today, which is infuriating, but hey, you should see my tan now. I still feel like I won.

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Couple of photos I’d previously taken:

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Easter Road (Hibernian)

When your ground’s biggest fault is how bland its main entrance is, you know you’re doing something right. And thus, Easter Road is something of a cracker.

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Wedged in amongst Victorian townhouses on the edge of Edinburgh city centre, I’d only ever been here once before, when one of the stands was being rebuilt, and in all honesty I couldn’t remember much of it. After a day of watching shows at the Fringe (including the superb Phil Ellis – highly recommended) this was the perfect treat before heading home.

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Plenty of club banners on the outside to give it character, although it is mightily strange how featureless the club’s main stand is. Honestly, I walked past it three times before I realised that was the main bit.

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It’s a huge let down, as are the massive screens in each corner of the ground preventing anyone from looking in. From a commercial point of view it’s probably quite good, but for tourists like me it’s frustrating. Also, surely one of the perks of buying a house opposite a football stadium is being able to see into the ground on a match day? Poor form, Hibbies.

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The plus sides are how much the ground dominates the local area, as well as gorgeous views out towards the city centre and surrounding countryside (including Aurthur’s Seat). Plus, bright green metalwork in club colours jutting out. It makes it much more photogenic than Tynecastle, home of fierce local rivals Hearts.

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It may be a relatively newer stadium (in terms of the stands being built), but it’s far nicer on the eye. So for me, in the Edinburgh derby, there’s only one winner.

I’m going to the green side.

 

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Tynecastle (Hearts)

A short trip up to Edinburgh for the world’s best arts festival meant only one thing to me – Tynecastle and Easter Road. Oh, and Meadowbank, obviously.

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Tynecastle was first up and honestly was quite disappointing from the outside. I’ve been in once before and it’s a decent enough stadium, but it’s not very photogenic. We circled the ground looking for a decent angle, something to photograph, but there was nothing. Even the stands seem to be walled off and hard to really get a good look at, with turnstiles just randomly plonked away from the stands. It’s as if the shy bastards knew I was coming.

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There was an old-school charm to a lot of the brickwork, with guttering in club colours, and a lot of the stands have massive sets of stairs you have to climb up jut to access the stadium. Really this saves it – the steps seem to be a disappearing feature of new stadia so any ground with these, complete with handrails also in club colours, wins big points in my eyes.

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Overall, a disappointing ground to visit purely as a tourist but to visit for a game I’m happy to confirm it looks magical.

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The Globe Arena (Morecambe)

Morecambe FC’s impressive League Cup exploits involved disposing of Wolverhampton Wanderers this week, but I’m mightily relieved I wasn’t at the Globe Arena to witness it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of the underdog, but what stands as a replacement to their former home Christie Park is a soulless nonsense of a ground.

I didn’t venture far into Morecambe, but the stadium seems to be very much on the outskirts of town, in a little park with a chain pub that sells carvery meals and has a soft play area instead of sticky carpets and proper beers.

I’m aware I’m here to review the ground and not the pubs nearby. Having said that it just adds to the feeling that this stadium, as grand as it is, was poorly thought out. And looks very little like a football ground from the outside.

Honestly, it’s insane. There were times I found myself double checking I was still on the right road. I was, but there was very little to see inside. I toyed with climbing a deserted ladder left outside which could have been huge fun, but sometimes you find yourself asking whether it’s really worth the risk when you’re wearing flip flops.

All in all it was a disappointing venue. Not a lot of character and out of the way. This isn’t what football is supposed to be.

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Old Trafford (Manchester United)

Love them or hate them, I’d suggest a trip to Old Trafford for a variety of reasons. Mainly, regardless which football team you support, this will emphasise just how small your club is.

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We’ve all bemoaned them and belittled them and argued that we support big clubs. Visiting Old Trafford on a non-match day is something else. It shows 100% how massive Manchester United are.

I visited at around 5pm on a Friday afternoon. There was nothing happening. No games, no signings, it was July for god’s sake! Yet the ground was absolutely teaming with tourists. Bus loads of them, constantly. Just coming to see where Manchester United play. Big deal? Yes, big deal. I suspect there are a lot fewer coaches full of Japanese tourists visiting Newcastle United or Wigan every week.

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United have done a brilliant job of entertaining people, if that’s the right word. Tributes to the Munich air disaster, a history of the event and the club itself all adorn the Old Trafford walls and provide information for visitors. So much so that at times it feels less like a football stadium and more like a theme park.

Usually I’m able to poke my head over the wall and grab a snap of the inside of the stadium but with United’s skyscraper size stadium it’d be impossible. Imagine my surprise when one of the doors to the Theatre Of Dreams was swung open due to work being done on the pitch!

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I couldn’t see much, but the players’ tunnel was in the car park outside which was a nice bonus, and just to see the lush green turf gave me a thrill that only football fans will understand, but it was enough to sell me.

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Manchester United may live in a corporate tourist attraction, but they’ve kept it as classy as possible and if nothing else I can only suggest you pay a visit to understand the size of the thing. They must be the only club with a public toilet built into their ground.

Now that’s massive.

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