By Simon Good
July 23 2002
With Welford Road heading for a revamp over the coming years, I got to thinking what would make the perfect ground to watch the Tigers in?
Not being particularly imaginative (or particularly original), I decided to steal some features from the different grounds around the country that I have visited.
Some grass and undersoil heating
Well, I guess some grass would be a good place to start. The Welford Road pitch was only relaid in the summer, but is now starting to look cut up as a result of the Leicester weather and having to get it thawed for the Calvisano game at the beginning of January. Football grounds tend to have nice smooth pitches because of their strange tendency to want to kick the ball around rather than using their hands. So, the first component to our new ground will be the Saracen's Vicarage Road pitch.
A ground is not a ground without plenty of accommodation for supporters. Northampton have recently completed a redevelopment of their ground and they now boast an excellent stand forming a horseshoe around three sides of the pitch. This is the kind of facility that it would be nice to see at Welford Road, when the stands are replaced.
Terracing a must have
Occupants of the Crumbie terrace will know that there is nothing like standing crammed in and crushed on all sides when you go to watch the Tigers. No matter where you are you will always find someone 2 feet taller than you standing right in front of you (quite a mean feat when you are over 6 feet tall like I am), and there will always be someone who insists on explaining the rules very loudly to the person they are with (and usually getting it wrong).
But there is nothing that beats being on a terrace to watch a rugby game - the crush of people keeps you warm, there is always plenty of chanting and banter going on and the atmosphere is tremendous. The most famous terrace in English rugby is, of course, the Shed at Kingsholm. Here the Gloucester supporters terrify the opposition with their shouts of 'Glaaaawster', and the atmosphere gives a huge lift to their team. It definitely must have a place in our new stadium.
So we have the supporters safely in their places, but how do they get to the ground? Some will walk, some will want to get the train and plenty will drive. The Madjeski stadium in Reading is a good example of how to cope with these problems. There is plenty of parking for those who bring their cars, and there is are plenty of buses to and from the town centre for people who come by train. A special mention must also go to the Guinness pouring machines that simultaneously pour out about 5 pints. Anyone would think London Irish supporters drank a lot!
Of course every rugby ground needs a bar where the supporters can unwind after the game, and the place that stands out for me is the Stoop. The Harlequins ground almost seems like a second home with the number of games that we seem to play there (apart from the fact we have a tendency to lose some of them). It is also the place to get food before the match, when you can get huge plate-fulls of such things as curry and lasagne.
Music Tigers Please!
After the game there is always a Harlequin supporters band, the Melody Fakers, on. They create a great atmosphere with excellent renditions of a wide range of songs, including a slightly ironic version of 'We are the Champions'. They would of course have to be converted to the Tigers cause, but I'm sure that could be managed with a few visits to Welford Road and some mind altering drugs.
The visit to Leeds this year will not be remembered by the stunning rugby played by the Tigers. Leeds played really well and the Tigers got well and truly beaten. However nothing gets rid of the disappointment of defeat like going into the bar and buying 5 drinks only to find you get plenty of change out of a tenner. If only it were as cheap as this at Welford Road (hint, hint if anyone important reads this!). So the beer at Leeds must definitely be included in our ground.
Miserable weather ?
One of my memories of Newcastle this year was a whining wind blowing in my ears. Then I realised it was just Rob Andrew talking. But you know what they say, its grim up north and maybe a bit of unpredictable weather would spice up the games. After all you haven't truly experienced rugby until you have stood with pouring rain soaking your clothes, while the players play catch with a slippy ball and you can't even tell which team is which because they are so covered in mud - or maybe thats just me!
The question, of course, is what should be taken from Welford Road? I could pick many things - the bars, the terrace, it's nice position near the city centre, the new carpark that has just been built, and there is a great atmosphere at games. Of course the supporters will have to come to the new ground. We may only know two chants, but we love our team and would follow them through thick and thin. However if I had to choose one thing from Welford Road to take to a new stadium, it has to be something that really gives the place character, that cheers us up on cold days in winter, and is as much a part of the match day experience as the rugby...
...step forward our announcer, Tudor Thomas.