Football League Two
March 25th 2007
A match I’ve been really looking forward to, the only league Derby clash in the North-East this season and my first visit to the Darlington Arena.
Darlo and Pools rivalry stretches back 99 years when they first came together in the old North-Eastern League in 1908,they were both elected into the Football League in 1921, through the then newly formed Third Division North,and they've been the fiercest of enemies ever since,with only twelve seasons apart during this time.
Darlington moved from Feethams, their home of 120 years in 2003, the shift was the brainchild of egotistical fanatic and former safe cracker George Reynolds,whose dream it was to build a new football arena and name it after himself (so his immortality was assured )and take ‘The Quakers’ all the way to the Premiership,but it’s a crime he didn’t realise that it’s good players on the park that are essential and not the players surroundings which would ever make his fantasy come true,but crime is something the former Darlo chairman is all too familiar with.
The original Reynolds Arena name only lasted until April 2004 when ‘Gorgeous Georgeous’ went bankrupt and was nicked on charges of money laundering.The club went into administration with club creditors ‘The Sterling Consortium’ eventually taking control of the club,but not without a stubborn residence from the former chairman.The first steps of the new ownership was the removing of all evident Reynolds Arena signs, and indeed the alleged legacy(so immortality denied) and after a brief rebranding as Williamson Motors Stadium the ground is now named after new sponsors,local radio station for the Tees Valley area 96.6 TFM.
The ground consists of a single tier which bowls parallel around the stadium,divided into 40 blocks of seats,the only distinction between each stand is the black and white lettering imbedded within with the sea of red seats with the words Quakers(predictable) DFC Darlington(expected)and Come On Darlo(that’s more like it!)spelled out legoland style,there is also sponsors executive boxes in the South Stand,along with a police control box,there is a perpex strip to release more natural light,which circles the top of the stand,the stadium is completed by a giant widescreen television in the North-East corner.
The choice of red seats is a strange one considering Darlington play in black ‘n’ white,I remember a few seasons back Mr.Reynolds wanting to change the club colours to red and white stripes(well he is Mackem bred) but this went down like a lead balloon amongst the Darlo faithfull,so I suppose he got his own way in the end with his choice of seat colouring.
I ordered my ticket for the South Stand online and what a great seat I got, next seat to the directors box,just in front of the press area,along side the TV cameras,I was seated behind the SKY Sports match reporter(did anyone see iz?)I couldn’t have got a better view,it was if Darlo knew I was there representing ‘The 100 Football Grounds Club’website,so they give me the best available seat in the house.
The match had a cracking atmosphere with the hint of an undercurrent of local hatred (there was a bit of bother)both sets of fans sang throughout,trying to outdo each other in the choral stakes with Pools fans coming out on top, likewise their team,who produced a splendid second half performance to run out easy winners in the end by three goals to nil,and stretch their unbeaten sequence to a club record 22 games.The match was also to witness the best goal I’ve seen at a game this season,a brilliant chest and volley,’Roy Race style’ from Eifion Williams.
The capacity of the stadium is 27,500,but it is limited to only 10,000,which is a shame considering more fans would have liked to have been at this game,I must confess that I didn’t really attend this game as a neutral, I’ve always had a soft spot for Hartlepool United,my personal experiences in the past of attending games at Feethams and Victoria Park being the reason for this,let’s just say that the supporters of the team that play in blue and white are a lot more friendly and are more hospitable than their bitter rivals from along the road.
My overall impression of The Darlington Arena is it’s just another purpose built stadium.yes..it has great facilities and is a pleasant arena to watch football,but there’s no spirit or character,I’m positive any die in the wool Darlo fan would happily take that walk within the Town Centre,stroll past the cricket pitch,click through the turnstile and take their place in the old ‘Tin Shed’,happy days indeed, but now just a distant memory.
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