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  • Alex Steward

Following the Rams Away on Wheels 18/19.

Updated: May 6, 2019

This season my Dad and I managed to go to 22 away matches, so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the games, and access at Championship stadiums. It’s going to be a long post, so maybe go get yourself a cuppa before reading on.

31st May 2018, the day Frank Lampard was appointed as Derby County manager. This still doesn’t sound real, but a year later here we are in 6thplace with hopes to secure our play-off position on Sunday.

Spy gate, inflatable snakes and cup runs, this season has been an entertaining one and it all started with Reading away.

03/08/18 – Reading

Reading is a great stadium to visit as a disabled fan. Their seating for away fans is on a platform in the middle of the away fans stand, meaning you’re right amongst the away atmosphere, exactly where I like to be!

The atmosphere in that away end was full of anticipation. No one knew what to expect from Frank Lampard’s Derby County. But what a match we saw, Mason Mount scored his first goal in a Derby shirt, the first of many and Tom Lawrence scored a dramatic late header to win the match.

There was a long way to go, but a real sense of belief started from this match.

18/08/18 – Millwall

This was my first time visiting The Den and I’m not in any rush to go back.

Visiting disabled supporters are sat on the lower tier, whilst the rest of the Derby fans were on the upper tier. This layout frustrates me as it takes away the atmosphere of the match when you’re sat with a couple of other disabled supporters eating some chips waiting for kick off to happen. They were good chips though.

There was no kiosk for visiting disabled supporters, so a member of staff came down to ask if we would like anything getting, which is great, but not perfect.

We lost 2-1 by the way.

28/08/18 + 01/09/18 – Hull

We found ourselves having Hull away twice in a week. I mean, I can think of better places to go twice in a week, but the double win was worth it.

For the 4-0 win in the second round of the Carabao Cup I sat on the disabled platform. I’ve sat here before and it’s a great view.

For the second match I tested out their pitch side seating, which was good and closer to the rest of the away fans. However, I preferred the platform, I think I always will.

15/09/18 – Rotherham

Why can’t we win at Rotherham? Remember back in 2016 when we were winning 3-0 until the 83rdminute and somehow drew 3-3?! Yep, I was there.

For that particular match I sat on the pitch side seating which is slightly raised, I like this kind of seating, it’s a great view.

However, for this seasons trip to Rotherham, I was in the other disabled seating available, up in the top corner. I didn’t enjoy this seating, it was very high and separate from the other fans, meaning you couldn’t really soak up the atmosphere. If there was any to soak up!

Additionally, it took quite the adventure to get to the seats, following a confused steward through secret corridors, before doing a u-turn when we arrived in catering !

The match itself is one to forget, with both Lawrence and Frank getting a red card.

25/09/18 – Manchester United

Moving on to happier times, we faced Man United in the third round of the Carabao Cup.

This was my first trip to Old Trafford, and it did not disappoint! It was great to experience disabled facilities at an established Premier League club, especially being able to test out their recently upgraded disabled seating.

Honestly, I didn’t expect much from this match. Juan Mata scored in the third minute and there was a feeling that we were in for a hiding.

But then up steps Harry Wilson in the 59th minute to strike an unbelievable free kick to make it 1-1. We had a game on our hands and what a game it came to be. Jack Marriott scored his first goal for Derby in the 85th minute, what a place to score your first goal in a Rams shirt!

Then on comes Fellaini for United who predictably scores a headed equaliser in the 95th minute, silencing the Derby fans. It was time for probably the finest set of penalties you are likely to see, until Carson saved from Phil Jones. Victory !

29/09/18 – Bolton

The trip to Bolton is another one to forget, we lost 1-0 after a goal from Noone in the 10th minute. It took us 88 minutes to get our first shot on goal, that should give you some idea of what the match was like.

Access wise, disabled away fans find themselves sat pitch side in front of the away fans stand with a bit of an awkward view.

06/10/18 – Queens Park Rangers

This was my first trip to Loftus Road, and the seating for disabled away fans is pitch side and uncovered. I point out the fact that it is uncovered because it absolutely chucked it down.

The staff provided covers for wheelchair users and very nicely allowed me to go up a few steps behind to be able to keep my medical equipment dry. Thank you to the steward who spent the whole match making sure my wheelchair was covered.

The result was 1-1 with Jack Marriott opening the scoring.

24/10/18 – West Bromwich Albion

This is one of my favourite away matches from this season. The away fans disabled seating is at the front of the away fans stand on slightly raised platforms, which you access via a ramp. This gives a decent view, right amongst the atmosphere.

The football itself was great. We won 4-1, with goals from Marriott, Lawrence, Wilson and Malone’s first goal for Derby, with one of the most unusual celebrations I’ve ever seen (I don’t think he knew how to react!)

27/10/18 – Middlesborough

The game of two own goals. Friend kindly gave Derby a goal in the 19th minute, thanks mate.

We should have easily won this match, but Bogle gave them an equaliser in the 84th minute. It was an odd result, and we had to grudgingly accept the point.

The disabled seating at The Riverside was good. I found myself sat on a purpose-built platform in the same stand as the other Derby fans.

24/11/18 – Sheffield Wednesday

I had completely forgotten about the roof support pillars at Hillsborough until I got to my spot and there was one right in front of me. There is a gap between disabled away fans and the others thanks to the away fans being in the top tier, and due to the age of the stadium, there is no way to get chairs up there. Although disabled fans can’t access the concourse, there was a separate kiosk window outside the disabled entrance so you can get refreshments.

A steward came to check we were ok and knew where the facilities were, which was refreshing to see.

We won 2-1 with Wilson and Marriott getting on the scoresheet to secure the 3 points.

28/11/18 – Stoke

Three words to sum up Stoke away? Rowett, snakes and confusion.

The disabled seating I eventually ended up in was great. I was on the platform in the middle of the away stand, but there was also some pitch side seating available.

I say confusion because the stewards seemed to have no idea which section my ticket was for, or where the disabled toilets were, meaning we had to push our way through the crowds in the concourse a couple of times.

I’m trying to think of some highlights from the match, but honestly all I remember was that Frank forgot to give Bradley ‘fangs’ Johnson his pre-game snack! Oh, and all the inflatables obviously.

08/12/18 – Wigan

How did we only win 1-0 when they got a player sent off in the 15th minute?

Disabled away fans are seated in strange little cut away platforms in the away fans stand which give you a good view but remove you from the atmosphere.

26/12/18 – Sheffield United

We lost 3-1, not the best way to spend Boxing Day.

There was pitch side seating for disabled away fans, it wasn’t the best view.

29/12/18 – Norwich

Norwich away is definitely one of the most memorable matches of this season, all thanks to a dodgy floodlight. It’s certainly a match I will never forget.

The canaries were 2-0 up when Fikayo Tomori came to the rescue and scored his first goal in a Derby shirt, before showing his delight in front of the away fans. Mount then equalised just before the half time whistle. Pukki then scored in the 81st minute and it just felt like it was over.

That was before electrics intervened and there was a 20 minute break thanks to one of the floodlights failing.

Once the match restarted it was Jozefzoon to the rescue. He scored an equaliser in the 87th minute and then it was the anxious wait for the fourth official to announce how much additional time there would be – 10 minutes. The magic of Frank Lampard’s Derby County was alive once again and Jack Marriott scored the winner in the 92nd minute.

Access wise, wheelchair users find themselves pitch side in front of the away fans. Whilst it’s great to be in the same stand as the away fans, it’s a very awkward angle with the pitch being slightly raised meaning it’s a struggle to see over the barriers.

Additionally, the stewards weren’t great; they were sat in the way a lot and then all stood up at the end meaning you couldn’t see the celebrations from the players and Frank.

11/01/19 – Leeds

Ah spy gate, where to start? Leeds away is always going to be an interesting one isn’t it? But this season it was even more so thanks to Leeds spying on Derby’s training ground.

Leeds beat us easily, that was just going to happen wasn’t it.

Access wise, Leeds disabled seating is on a platform in the middle of the stand with a good view. It’s a long bendy ramp to get up though, so I hope you’re a good wheelchair driver!

26/01/19 – Accrington Stanley

In the fourth round of the FA Cup, we took the trip to Accrington. There was a brilliant atmosphere round the stadium both with home fans and away fans.

The disabled seating was actually better than some championship clubs. The seating was raised, meaning there was a decent view, but there was an awkward barrier in the way. However, we were allowed to just move further forward to see over it.

The match itself was tougher than I predicted, we won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Waggy.

It was also a game of two red cards, one for each team. Jayden Bogle really took one for the team getting a red card for a ‘professional foul’ in the 90th minute, stopping Accrington from equalising.

01/02/19 – Preston

Cold, snowy, 0-0, pitch side, ‘knee-high-view’ seating, nothing much to note.

02/03/19 – Aston Villa

This is one of the worst matches of the season and definitely one to forget.

We lost 4-0, Jack Grealish scored a worldie and disabled away fans were sat with the home fans.

The seating and view itself was great, but we were sat directly opposite the rest of the away fans. Being sat with the home crowd in your Derby shirt is not fun when you’re losing as badly as we were.

09/04/19 – Blackburn

We lost 2-0.

Blackburn is another stadium where disabled fans are on the lower tier and the rest on the upper.

On the positive side, the lower tier concourse was open for us wheelchair users. Often when it’s just wheelchair users on the lower tier the concourse is either closed or upstairs, so it was a refreshing change to be able to go get a hot chocolate.

27/04/19 – Bristol

The seating at Bristol is good, but also confusing.

The entrance for away disabled fans is at the end of the away concourse, meaning you avoid the crowds but you’re still in the same concourse and able to go to the kiosks etc should you want to.

They have a purpose-built disabled platform designed for the away fans, which you’re not allowed to use because it is in front of the home fans. I don’t understand why this platform was closed off, even if away fans can’t use it why not just use it for disabled home fans? It’s been ready for around 2 years. It seems such a waste, and terribly planned by someone. Bristol is one of the clubs that has a very good liason officer for disabled fans, who greets you on arrival.

Anyway, on to the football. This match was a big one in Derby’s race to the play offs. I went into the match with doubts that we would do well, praying that we manage to scrape a draw, but the Frank Lampard magic was alive once again and we won 2-0.

I found myself pitch side in front of the away fans, which was great to celebrate both goals; the first from Lawrence, followed by Bogle getting his second goal for the Rams.

01/05/19 – Swansea

This was my first trip to the Liberty Stadium, and what an important match it was! We could have pretty much secured our 6th place position if we won this match, so of course we had to concede a goal, leaving it all down to final day on Sunday.

Access wise this was a good stadium to visit, you enter in the same concourse as the rest of the away fans, meaning you have access to kiosks etc. The seating was in the middle of the away fans stand with a great view, one of my favourite seating positions of the season! The lift could maybe do with a little update, other than that it is a great stadium to visit for disabled fans.

This was a great last away day of the season and the atmosphere from the Derby fans was good despite it being a Wednesday night.

Whatever happens on Sunday, this season has been great to be a part of, and I have fallen in love with Frank Lampard’s Derby County.

Up the Rams x If you enjoyed this post and would like to find out more about my experience as a disabled football fan you can read my story here.

*All pictures are my own*

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