A big welcome to Ross Hamilton-Milburn who makes his debut on our blog reporting back on a trip to the Macron to see if the Trotters veteran strike force could down the Seagulls.
Ground: The Macron Stadium 12/92
Game: Bolton 1-0 Brighton and Hove Albion
Thoughts on the Ground
Like many new-build modern stadiums, the Macron Stadium is quite remote and a long distance out of the city centre. Normally this can be a bit of an issue in terms of travel as it’s 6 miles away from Bolton train station so it’s certainly out of the question to walk to the ground. Fortunately there is a secondary train station (Horwich Parkway) just a short 5 minute walk away from the ground. Unfortunately the weekend I went to the Macron the station was closed for engineering so I was forced to take a delightful replacement bus service trip through suburban Lancashire. Rounding a corner on the motorway I glimpsed my first sight of the stadium and it’s an impressive sight. Each of the four floodlight towers lean in over the stadium at a pisa-esque angle. The exterior of the ground is well decorated with various sponsors and graphics and it also contains a small hotel. The ground must also boast one of the best club shop/ticket office complexes in the country quite simply named ‘Bolton Central’. I am a fan of cheap football merchandise tat and Bolton doesn’t disappoint. It stocks the usual school pencil case sets and funny hats as well as club branded sweets and even underwear. Buying a ticket was simple and fast and finding my seat was easy.
Like most grounds the goals are positioned behind the north and south stands. Inside the ground, each of the four stands look like they’ve been copied and pasted from each other which is fine but it doesn’t give the place much character or charm. Each stand is two-tiered and each seat get’s a decent view of the pitch due to the lack of support beams or other visual obstructions. The pitch was quite worn in places but nothing too bad that it affected the quality of the game.
Thoughts on the game
The game was a classic scrappy affair between two lower half championship sides. Prior to the match I had looked up both club’s team sheets and I was looking forward to seeing in person such famous names as Gudjohnsen, Heskey, LuaLua and Wheater. Both teams have struggled for goals this season and the game reflected this. It was a game of very few chances and it was only a brief moment of magic from a young Zach Clough in the 64th minute that separated the teams. I was fortunate enough to have a seat directly behind the goal and so had a perfect view of the goal as Clough spun the ball around the defender and deftly finished the shot as it trickled into the corner. I was treated to an immaculate attacking performance from Emile Heskey. As Heskey is now 37 and is likely to retire within the next few years I was honoured to be able to watch the maestro in action, a privilege that future generations will only be able to read about. Heskey didn’t let me down with multiple spooned shots. On balance, Bolton probably didn’t deserve to win the game. Ben Amos in the wanderers net played a fantastic game and did well to keep a clean sheet.
Atmosphere 3/5: Like many championship grounds the club struggle to put bums on seats. The occasional chant would go round the home end of the stadium but nothing close to ear-drum busting. However, the acoustics of the ground are good so whenever anything of note occurred during the game like a clever spell of play or a substitution of a player, the applause reverberated well around the ground. The goal music was ‘Samba de Janeiro’ which is a cheesy tune at best and it just felt cringeworthy. I’m generally against goal music at grounds but if you insist on it then at least make it something good. The away support from Brighton were good in numbers considering the distance and their club’s season so far. No-ones expecting anything like Partizan Belgrade from Brighton but they could have done better in the noise department.
Location 4/5: As previously discussed the ground is a long way out of the town but it still quite easy to get to. The ground is well signposted with reasonable amounts of parking near the ground for those who are driving to the game. The local train station is relatively well serviced (when open) and busses regularly go from the town centre to the ground.
Value for money 4/5: Tickets are cheaper than most championship grounds and they offer a u-23 discount which was gratefully received. The club have a Category A, B and C ticketing policy depending on the importance of the match but it I found it impossible to find out which category match the one I was attending was going to be (it was a B if you’re bothered).
Pie and Pint 3/5: I didn’t drink at the game but I did have a pie. The lager was just the standard choice mainstream brands so nothing notable there. I headed for the concourse about 30 seconds before the end of the first half but I still had to join the back of a very substantial queue. Most items had sold out before I had got to the front of the queue and I was forced to have the last cheese and potato pie on offer and it was tasty but I’d prefer a larger selection of pies.
Programme 3/5: The programme is quite short but still a decent buy. The programme is £3 so the price is standard. It featured a 10 page feature on Simeon Slavchev (who?) which was an interesting read. A large proportion of the programme is taken up by adverts and club promotion which was annoying but it was still a good programme.
Overall 3.5/5: To sum it all up it was a good day out. There was nothing exceptional or notable about the ground other than the floodlights. Quite cheap, clean and well run, I’ll probably be visiting again soon, even if it is a bit dull.
You can keep up with Ross and his journey doing the 92 league grounds on Twitter @RossHamMil and on his 92 here. Have you ticked the Macron off your 92? Add it to your list here www.the92.net/ground/reebok-stadium or plan your visit using our away day planner here www.the92.net/plan-your-away-day/reebok-stadium.