Manchester City FC
Ashton New Road
Academy Stadium Page
Ground Number: 909
Tuesday 11th March 2020
Manchester City 6-0 Stoke City
Premier League U18 Cup Final
I’d been looking forward to my week off for ages, having worked solidly for six months without a break. I’d been counting down the days for the past month and had long ago booked a trip to Belgium and Holland for the coming weekend. I was especially looking forward to the time off after dodging panic buyers concerned about the uninvited Coronavirus that had hit the world recently and hoped that my weekend would not be affected. However, I had two sets of midweeks to decide and decided that I’d stay away for one and stay based at home for the others. I quickly established the north-west as the best area, given that it was the only one with an afternoon game at an unticked ground in Runcorn Linnets. I booked a room in Salford for £22 a night and was initially thinking of driving as I fancied a visit to Steeton before they moved out of the rugby ground at Keighley. However, when looking at the costs (anything from £80 - £100 in petrol and car expenses) I decided to look again at coaches. Travel was secured for around half of that cost for the whole few days and it would mean that I could remain productive for the whole journey. The only negative was that it would take longer and I’d have to save Steeton for Easter Saturday, but was hoping that another hopper could come with me. There’s little choice of footy on a Wednesday night in the Manchester area, so this was only achievable when Golcar United moved their game to AVRO FC due to the weather blighting their own pitch. This was another reason for leaving a decision so late, all this was booked a few minutes after midnight on Monday whilst suffering from insomnia.
I finished work at lunchtime on Monday and started planning the finer details of the local public transport I’d need to use once up there. I had a reasonably early night for a day off, going to sleep at 11.30 having also had an afternoon nap after a poor night’s sleep the previous night. My alarm was set for 6.30, a real lie in for me, but I woke up 10 minutes ahead of my alarm. I was glad I did, after having a wash and getting dressed, I was out of the house at 6.45. I was in Cumberland Close in Chalfont, my parking place discovered by Google Street view, around 20 minutes later, though with parking tighter than usual, I was pleased to get a space. I’d decided to go to Wenzl’s bakery for breakfast but my toastie took longer than usual meaning I didn’t get the train until 7.29. What with the dreaded virus doing the rounds, I was suddenly more aware of people with colds and coughs more than ever and the Metropolitan Line seemed an especially unhealthy bunch. Thankfully, it was more pleasant on the equally packed Bakerloo and Victoria lines but I was at Victoria at 8.30 and on my coach 15 minutes later. I was pleased to see that it went straight to Manchester via the airport, eventually ending up in Cumbria at Whitehaven. I was willing the coach to leave so I’d get a double seat to myself and indeed everyone did. I’d still not decided my evening game at this point, with options at Atherton Laburnum Rovers, Prestwich Heys, the City of Manchester Academy stadium and Wythenshawe Town. The latter were the only ones to reach out to me on Twitter, but the journey on public transport was a bit of a pain, longer than the others. I made my decision once fellow hopper Dan informed me that their pie was decent and I was just hoping for a decent game. I’d got the clubs history researched and written by the time we made an unscheduled stop at Milton Keynes to change driver by which time, a pitch inspection had been announced for 4pm. I’d hold off making any firm arrangements until then with buying travel tickets but was hoping for a positive outcome. We stopped at Kings Norton services and for once, I was glad of a break and to get some fresh air. I was also pleased to get lunch - a £3.50 BBQ chicken wrap meal which was nice and great value for a service station.
Before I’d even got to Manchester, two options at Prestwich Heys and Wythenshawe Amateurs had already bitten the dust. I was in Manchester by 2.15 and was looking forward to a pint in one of my favourite pubs, The Crown and Kettle. However, it was closed for refurbishment and my second choice, Bar Fringe was also closed. So I headed to the plainly titled 'Wetherspoons' where I had a pint of Thatchers Gold for £3.25 as it was the best their disappointing selection could offer and I was parched by now. It was the National Football museum after that, free re-entry due to visiting in September and it was nice to look at the shirt exhibition. I then got bad news about the Atherton Laburnum Rovers game, though it wasn't unexpected. Worse still was the PSV Eindhoven game being called off for my upcoming weekend trip. I salvaged what I could by cancelling all my hotels and coaches, though had to settle for partial gift voucher refunds for the latter. It had been a poor day, but I walked the mile or so to my room and dropped my bags off. I then headed out to my replacement game, no time to have a proper dinner but I wasn't even hungry. Two buses later, I was at the academy stadium 35 minutes before kick-off.
Once I'd picked up my ticket, there were the usual security checks to get in, though entry was a bargain at £3. Stoke had the better of the early exchanges, but gradually the hosts came back into it. Man City came close on 25 minutes, Liam Delap hitting the bar, but it would have been offside anyway. The hosts did take the lead on 39 minutes, Samuel Edozie curling home from outside the area, though it was harsh on Stoke. Man City improved in the second half and four goals in six minutes sealed the game for them. On 64 minutes Delap finished off a well-worked move with a diagonal shot in the bottom left-hand corner and then on 65 minutes James McAtee shot home from the edge of the area. McAtee scored another into the top corner on 67 minutes to make it 4-0 and then Cole Palmer made it five a couple of minutes later. Palmer got his second on 75 minutes from the spot after a tiring Stoke defender tripped a Man City man in the area and a penalty was awarded and converted to make it 6-0. After the game, I popped into ASDA for some Irn Bru before hopping on the tram into Manchester. My initial intention was the Brink bar but I spotted a Wetherspoons and decided to do steak club. The Waterhouse was a lot nicer than the run-down place earlier and was my 198th in the chain. From there, I headed to the Brink where I ticked off a new cider in Durham Press Sawpit which was pleasant but not exceptional. It was then a walk to get the final bus back to my room, it was 15 minutes late but I still got back just before midnight. I stayed up for half an hour before going to sleep.
THE ACADEMY STADIUM is a smart ground which is a lot better than some League 1 and League 2 venues. It has a capacity of around 7000 with approximately 5500 seats and 1500 terrace spaces. There was no bar on my visit, but the tea bar offered some interesting choices at fairly reasonable prices. There are a few pubs and takeaways nearby and a big ASDA but a better selection can be found a short tram ride away in Manchester itself. It’s a nice friendly place (albeit with the usual security checks) and on my visit to this and the Etihad, they didn’t rip fans off too much with prices, unlike their cross-city rivals.