Pre-season has begun as clubs and players across the land get match fit and prepare for the season ahead. It's also a kind of pre-season for my groundhopping adventure as I attend my first games and hone my writing style for the big games ahead.
So here we go. My first game was an early pre-season trip to Barnet who were playing Premier League Swansea. Barnet’s website passed its first test and provided my with a quick and easy user journey to buy my £10 ticket and find out how to get there. The ‘Getting here’ page provides clear information on the nearest stations and the limited first-come, first-served parking spaces. My only criticism was that I was firmly asked to print my e-ticket, so it wasn't really an ‘e’ ticket.
I arrived at Canons Park underground station around 45 minutes before kick-off and walked through the park to The Hive (turn left out of the station and the entrance is sign-posted 100 yards down the road). I’d seen on the website there was a rotisserie chicken restaurant called Pecking Order overlooking the pitch. It seemed to mainly be operating as a bar at this point, so despite the tempting looking menu I decided against some pre-match poultry.
My seat was in the East stand. It’s the smallest stand at The Hive but it did have padded seats, a small food and drink kiosk and is nice and close to the action. The whole stadium has a modern feel but with some traditional touches. The empty corners allow Jubilee line passengers to get a glimpse of the game and the passing trains offer a unique backdrop. The South terrace also provides a standing area for anyone that wants to watch the old fashioned way.
All in all I spent £12 for the ticket and a bottle of coke. I didn’t see any sign of a programme. It’s been a while since I went to a pre-season game, so not sure if programmes are usually produced at this stage of the season.
Tickets had only been sold for the East and North stands but a decent smattering of people had turned up including a good amount of Swansea fans. At a couple of points in the second half the home crowd even got quite lively. It definitely gave the impression that the atmosphere would be a lot more energetic for regular season games. Both sides played separate sides in each half which gave the crowd the chance to see most of Swansea’s star names including the £50m rated Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Barnet won the game 1-0 thanks to a well worked, first half, goal by John Akinde who was famously the first player ever bought as a result of a fans poll. I was one of many people who’d bought a £50 stake in Ebbsfleet at the time, so it was good to see he’s still in the football league and scoring goals.
Despite the early pre-season feel to the game I really enjoyed my first trip to The Hive and will definitely look to go back when the season is in full swing. Hopefully I’ll get to sample some rotisserie chicken as well.