FOREST AWAY: Stoke City, Saturday 21st August – Fan Guide
It is said that the darkest hour comes just before the dawn. This is a hell of a long night isn’t it? There are blind hedgehogs who see more light than we do.
Three league games in since the return of supporters and here we are curious about if things were preferable when we could shut the laptop in disgust on this godforsaken football club and go and watch a repeat of Dad’s Army on a Saturday evening.
This is a critical time for Forest. Not just because we have decisions to make on personnel and the early direction under the tenure of Dane Murphy, but because it might get a little bit tempting for more and more to start thinking back to those blank Saturday’s and realising that maybe they weren’t so bad. Perhaps more of a blank canvas where you can be the master of your own destiny, not where your weekend hangs on the ability of a pretty shit football team.
In all honesty we are used to it aren’t we? But still there is something absolutely maddening about our continuing trend of nosediving into catastrophe time after time after time. Yet we still continue to focus on intricacies like how good Joao Carvalho is, whether we can sign three more players or the position of the manager. All have merit in the short term but I’m sorry to say that all of the above is just stirring the same shit around in a barrel, none of it is the answer and is never going to taste good in our current situation. Hughton can go for me, I really don’t care. But surely we aren’t expecting the next guy to be the one? Sure we might get a Sabri-esque rollercoaster for a little while but rollercoasters eventually come to an abrupt halt and we all get off.
I am sick and tired of saying this but there is only one aim now for us and that’s to take the mad house, dismantle it and build it up again with the right materials. No more plasticine holding up the roof. Hopefully that process has already begun and there is no doubting that our new CEO will have been hard at work already. But he has on his hands a tired and prickly fanbase. After two decades of patience we cannot be blamed for wondering whether anything will ever change. And if it doesn’t then us peasants may end up needing to think more deeply about what comes next.
Now, where were we? Oh shit, yeah. Stoke away.
Train: The rare treat of a short distance away game at 3pm on a Saturday (our first since 1st February 2020) will probably put a train journey at the forefront of many people’s minds. The good news is it’s pretty simple and pretty well priced too at around £16 for standard return. Taking around 1hr 20 mins the following are likely to be ones to consider outbound from Nottingham:
Depart Arrive Stoke-on-Trent
There is a 11:07 service but it includes two changes and takes over 2hrs so best avoided. The 13:07 is similar so wouldn’t get you into Stoke until after kick-off so the 12:16 is the latest service you can get.
Coming back is still easy enough but there is a limited option. The most straightforward way is to get back to Stoke-on-Trent station for the 17:34. You’ll be back in Nottingham all being well before 7pm. The problem is that the next direct train isn’t until 2 hours later at 19:34. There is a 18:26 service but it takes 3 changes and nearly 2.5 hours to get back. As a result that 17:34 is likely to be packed unless they put a decent amount of carriages on.
You also need to make sure you can get back in time. Stoke-on-Trent station is a fair old way from the stadium, probably a good couple of miles. Before the match you will have opportunity to jump on a bus or taxi, or even walk it but afterwards it could be cutting it fine unless you get a move on.
Road: Like with the train it’s pretty simple indeed. The A50 takes you all the way there, the Bet 365 Stadium sits just off it and cannot be missed. From experience a bit of a confusing road network lies just past it though so try and avoid going too far past the ground which should (if coming from the east) be on your left.
Our Stoke fan below touches on this but on our last visit in 2019 we definitely found it better to get off a junction before the ground and find parking in residential areas. Although it is a bit of a walk (perhaps 15/20 mins) it is straightforward to walk down adjacent to the A50 and you’ll eventually cut through an underpass directly by the stadium. There is paid parking near the ground but try to avoid if you can as it’ll be a battle to get out again afterwards.
Bus: We’ve been asked if we are running buses again like we did for Coventry. For this one we are not, it’ll likely remain an occasional thing for now. We did however get sent a message from John Marsh of the Hucknall Branch of the Supporters Club. They are taking a coach at a cost of £16 per person. Contact John on 07855 934 088.
I don’t remember much about the middle of Stoke, it’s been a while since I ventured into town but there were plenty of pubs about. Just keep in mind the distance to the stadium. For those travelling in by train the town centre can be reached but the place you will be directed to is a dedicated away pub called The Terrace. Head right out of the main exit and then veer left onto the main road. It’ll take 10 mins or so but you’ll find it on the left. The likelihood is there will be police pointing you in the direction of it anyway. Sometimes the designated away pub can be an awful place but The Terrace was actually pretty decent. Not huge but there is a small beer garden out back too. There is also a pool table which was available until the point that people started climbing on it to sing!
The other advantage of this pub is that a couple of buses will eventually turn up (if the same plan is still in place as previous seasons) to whisk you to the stadium from about half 1. There will likely be a small charge but it keeps things very straightforward. After the game there should be buses there to take you back to the station too and hopefully they will be aware of the 17:34 train that many will be trying to make.
If you do end up around the station with a bit of your time on your hands after the game, on a previous visit many Forest fans ended up in the hotel opposite to kill a bit of time in the bar.
There is a little bit of info on pubs closer to the stadium below in the Q&A. In summary there isn’t much. The Power League is probably the main choice for away fans drinking close by. For something a little different and perhaps more for those walking from town down the canal there are are a couple of beer barges that sell cans. That might be something that could be worth a look.
Q&A with Anthony, editor of Stoke fan publication Duck Magazine
1. Now we’re a few games in is there still a degree of novelty about being back at games or does it feel like fans were never really went away at all?
I went to the Reading game last Saturday and it was a bit of both. Personally, it was a huge game for me as my dad’s ashes are buried by the side of the pitch, and it’s the first chance I’ve had since March 2020 to pay my respects. Whilst the win was the cherry on the cake, it was about far more than the match itself for so many people.
I felt strange, weird…..but to walk with my youngest lad to the ground again was life affirming. Reassuringly, the ref got slated within the first five minutes….nature was healing!
2. The last time we (supporters) travelled to the Bet365 Stadium it was the final days of of the short lived Nathan Jones reign. A Forest win that Friday night put us top of the table and, in a way, we’ve been on a bit of a decline ever since. Give us a brief summary of how Stoke have fared under Michael O’Neill – nearly two years on is he holding the unequivocal backing of Stoke supporters?
Without MON, we would be playing in the league below and our club would be in an awful mess. He arrived with us needing snookers at the foot of The Championship and performed a minor miracle in keeping us up. He did so through attacking football and scoring quite a few goals – as I’m sure you’ll remember!
But last season he seemed to go into ‘Northern Ireland away at Germany’ mode. As we entered December, we were as high as second in the league, and whilst we were scratching results, we were getting them. But Tyrese Campbell got injured and we never replaced him, and the football became really dour at times in what was a free hit of a season. However, this club and squad needed sorting out.
We spent obscene amounts of money in trying to win instant promotion, and had a number of seemingly half-arsed players on crazy money. MON has done a superb job in lowering the average playing age and the wage bill, and is the Steady Eddie sort who are the polar opposite to Nathan ‘Drunk puppy chasing a balloon in the wind’ Jones.
MON deserves the time to accomplish his goals in ST4…..just can we have a bit more joy in doing it, Michael?
3. What would represent a good season for Stoke?
Tough one, as when you look at the league I feel it’s the poorest on paper it’s been for quite some time. Top 10 and some attractive football with lots of goals would be acceptable, and if Tyrese comes back firing in a few months then that could propel us a few places higher.
He’s signed some good, hungry young players this summer, but we do lack in a couple of areas, but I’m pretty excited to see what this season has to offer. We have some really excellent young lads that have broken into the first team and squad.
4. When we spoke for a previous edition of this guide some time ago we discussed efforts of fan groups to improve the atmosphere and support at Stoke home games. Clearly such initiatives have taken a back seat in recent times but how are these initiatives progressing?
We’ve always been pretty well served by independent voices in ST4. From the sadly departed The Oatcake fanzine through to us, there has always been a zine to buy. We have some quality podcasts such as Wizards of Drivel and fan TV stuff, and in Unita 1863 the start of a section near the away fans for those who are a bit more vocal.
The world has changed, and it’s great to just be able to go to matches. How our magazine progresses and how others progress will be interesting to see…
5. This will be a first away Saturday 3pm k.o with Forest fans in attendance since 1st February 2020! Tell us, if you would, about navigating our way from Stoke station, it’s a fair old way isn’t it? What’s the best bet to get to and from the stadium? Is it walkable?
Yeah, it’s walkable. About 25 minutes. Turn right out of the station, then right again, under a bridge then follow the signs….you’ll walk alongside the canal all the way to the ground. Indeed, there’s a nice little beer barge by the ground.
Many away fans get directed to The Terrace pub, which is by Staffordshire University and then get bussed to the ground.
6. And for those coming in car, are there any useful tips for parking? Maybe that avoid the queues and costs of spots close to the ground.
Coming in car – the closer to the ground you park the longer it will take you to get away, but be careful if you park in streets – traffic wardens leap out about 2.55pm – check the street isn’t permit holders only. Personally, coming down the A50, I’d get off there around a mile or so from the stadium and look to park up. If you keep yourself to yourself you’ll get no mither.
7. What about pubs for us to visit? Both near the station / town centre and closer to the stadium? Any dedicated away pubs or hidden gems worth a try?
Recommending pubs anywhere comes with it’s own risk. The Terrace is the designated pub for away fans close to the railway station. Nearer the ground, there’s a Harvester, Power League and Hem Heath Cricket Club is popular. It’s not the best away day in the league, that is for sure. Although in recent years, three points softens the blow of not having many places to drink in for away fans!
As it’s a relatively new ground, you’ll know the drill by now – if you want pubs then head elsewhere. Stoke town centre is filled with home fans, so if you do go there and don’t act the dick then you should be okay.
8. What can you tell us about Duck Magazine? It feels like there has been a bit of a renaissance of hard copy fanzines and publications recently. We’ve had the brilliant Bandy & Shinty and Trevor Francis Tracksuits at Forest which have become very popular.
Eight years old, mostly in print, for the last year we have been digital only for obvious reasons. We still don’t know what the future holds for us as the pandemic hit the mag hard, but we will be about in some format. We love getting interviews in the mag – both past and present players etc…..from Gordon Banks to Boja, from Ryan Shawcross to Lou Macari……we’ve had over 40 so far.
Our website is at www.duckstoke.co.uk if anyone fancies a gander!
9. We’ll end with something a little topical in the game at the moment – recently our group has been asked to join an alliance of fans combating high ticket prices. How do you feel about prices at Stoke and across the Championship? Is Twenty Plenty?
Ours are better than most, but football is too expensive. Full stop. If I wanted to take my three kids to Brum away on Saturday it would be £110, whereas across that city I can go watch The Hundred with them for £30!!!!
It’s a disgrace really, and football clubs need to be careful. The pandemic has shown people that there are other things that they can do with their spare time…..many for free or at minimal cost. Twenty really is plenty.
Thanks to Anthony and see you all at Stoke on Saturday. You Reds.