Sheffield Wednesday, Saturday 9th September 2017 – 5:30pm k.o
My first ever away game was at Hillsborough. December 1998 on a chilly Monday night. I was fourteen and insisted on pulling the red shirt over my big coat which, I can see now, probably looked ridiculous. Unsurprisingly we lost, more surprisingly Thierry Bonalair scored.
My main memory is being in awe as the away sparked into life just before kick-off with a rendition of ‘Nottingham, Nottingham’. There was (and is) a different vibe about being an away supporter; the feeling of being outnumbered and a kind of siege mentality that takes hold. That probably sounds a little silly given it’s a football match but some of you will know what I’m talking about. Still being a schoolboy at the time only compounded that special feeling of representing my team outside of Nottinghamshire. It’s never really left me since.
Hillsborough is one of the best grounds to visit in this league. It’s a dated and vast stadium but wholly unique; a world away from the identikit grounds that have been erected over the last twenty years. You hope that grounds like Hillsborough can be around for as long as possible.
If the demand is there the away allocation is huge. Sadly I’ve only been part of one truly massive following there on Boxing Day 2002 under Paul Hart when 7,000 Reds descended on Sheffield. Oh for a following like that again this time. At best we’ll probably fill most of the upper tier – not a crowd to be disappointed about by any means. Those big bastard blue columns aren’t half a pain though.
One little quirk I always used to enjoy about a visit to Hillsborough was the wooden seats that can be clattered against their metal frame creating a right din. Every corner and dangerous free-kick was greeted with thousands of seats being banged to buggery resulting in a hell of a noise. I don’t know whether this was strictly a Forest thing or not but unfortunately this little tradition seems to have died now. I received a few bizarre looks when trying it on our last visit there. Give it a go on Saturday!
For those of you, like us, travelling via train you’ll be best off sticking about in Sheffield city centre ahead of the game. First of all it’s a great place for a drinking session and around the ground you’re likely to be trying to infiltrate home only pubs. A designated away pub may exist but I have no idea where it is.
Trains are regular with at least two an hour either 17 minutes past the hour (Northern Rail) or 47 minutes past the hour (East Midlands Trains). If travelling in groups of 3 or 4 you can get a third off when buying in person at the ticket office as long as you are travelling back on the same day. This only applies to the East Midlands Trains service and NOT the Northern Rail trains. A standard return is £13.90 with the group saver deal reducing it to £9.26 return.
In the city, the top end of town (West Street / Division Street area) is worth a visit. First though you’ll need to avoid the clutches of the inevitable police presence outside The Howard across from the station. Don’t fall into the trap of ending up here. You might find a few Forest fans but it’s a crap place to spend your pre-match. Instead avoid walking out of the station in big groups and head straight up past The Howard and veer right and across the road up the steps to the Crucible area.
Already you’ll be finding a better choice of pubs – The Graduate, Head of Steam and the Brown Bear – but there are plenty more options if you keep walking up through the town and past the town hall past the Lloyds No1 bar. The Frog & Parrot is only a short walk from here. It’s a small place but worth a stop off. It’s usually our first call upon landing in Sheffield.
Just around the corner is the tram line you’ll need to get to Hillsborough. Be warned that not every service goes that way so you’ll need to have a bit of an idea what you’re doing or just follow others. Also keep in mind that the trams begin to get very busy from 1.5 hours before kick-off. You’ll be struggling to get on them with less than hour until the game starts. The journey is around 25 minutes and getting off at the Leppings Lane stop will leave you a few minutes’ walk from the away end.
After the game the trams back towards the city are carnage. You’ll end up penned in at the tram stop and battling to get on board. A better bet is to avoid all of this and find a drink somewhere. Obviously if you have trains to catch etc this isn’t possible but we tend to stroll down the tram line to the Rawson Spring pub. It’s busy and colours won’t be permitted but it beats the uncomfortable tram journey. After a beer or two you can board a pretty empty tram directly across the road.
Our post-match typically involves a slow crawl back down the hill towards the station and a late train home. The juke box at The Graduate used to take a hammering but to our dismay it had been removed last season. Let’s hope we’re boarding that train with the points!
We’ll hopefully see you there. If you’re around then shout up and we’ll see you for a beer.
*Along with the Trust, Bandy & Shinty and London Trickies we are calling on all Forest fans to try and attend the game at Hillsborough if at all possible. If you can make it and you can justify the expense then don’t just watch it on TV, get to Sheffield and back the Reds. The club are providing a number of free coaches to help supporters get to the game and it would be a big sign of the renewed positivity and faith in the new ownership, manager and players if we travel to Hillsborough in big numbers. After defeat against Leeds giving us a slight downturn heading into the two week break it would be a great demonstration of the togetherness at NFFC for us to respond in such a way.
Have a look at our ‘Get Yourselves to Hillsborough’ piece on the home page of our website.