Adventures in Football #30: London Road (Peterborough United FC)
September 29, 2021
PETERBOROUGH UNITED vs. AFC BOURNEMOUTH (Championship)
The Posh are a relatively new club, by football league standards, founded in 1934. They’ve spent the whole of their existence at London Road. The previous tenants were Peterborough and Fletton United, who folded in 1932. After winning five straight Midlands league titles in the fifties they were elected to Division four in 1960 and immediately won it. In 1966 they made the semi-finals of the League Cup. Being a football club seemed a doddle to Peterborough.
That was until they were relegated in 1968 for making illegal payments. They got back up to division three in 1974 and would have made it into the second flight of English football were it not for goal average, which decided positions in 1978. 1979 they were back in division four. They stayed there until 1991 and in their first season back in division three they were promoted via the play offs. By 1997 they were back in the fourth tier.
The Championship seems to be Peterborough’s natural ceiling. They’ve been here twice recently in 2009 and 2011 but both stints have been short lived. Darren Ferguson pulled them back into the Championship last year and here we are again. The ground is an old one and the chairman, Darragh MacAnthony, seems to be in two minds as to whether they should relocate or improve the existing ground to meet Premier League grading standards.
On to game day and in a drastic improvement over yesterday’s trip to Shrewsbury the sun has got his hat on. It’s a warm autumn afternoon, 15C. We have a pleasant two hour drive east across the country to Peterborough. It’s half motorway and half A roads but we don’t have any issues. We pass an oversized lorry carrying the coal section of a steam engine, which is pretty rad but apart from that it’s a quiet journey. Oh, and we drive through a random section of rain between Kettering and Peterborough. It absolutely pissed it down for about two minutes and then went sunny again.
I have some recommendations, because our travel was excellent this time out. Pleasure Fair Meadow Road is very nearby and an easy car park to get into. We got there at 5pm and it was basically empty but even at around 6.45pm there were spaces. Depending on what part of it you park on, you can see the ground. It’s that close. A mere stone’s throw away. I took a photo but sadly it’s blurry (I needed a piss, sorry). It’s an all day car park for £4 so you can turn up when you want.
This also gives you easy access to this, just over the railway bridge. This is a dual pub/Thai restaurant. We didn’t go into the pub as we sadly ran out of time but it looked great. The beer garden is huge so there was no danger of a lack of space. I’m also pretty sure there was an outdoor bar, as well as the boat bar, which was called Charters. The upstairs is a Thai restaurant called East. We went there and the food was sensational. I had a Malaysian rendang curry and it’s like the chef was a mind reader. He got it the right texture, the mix of flavours was bang on and it had a perfect amount of spice to it. It worked out around £25 a head but it’s delicious food and definitely better than the football ground standard.
We head over to the ground, after going to Asda to replace Maria’s bra (I have no explanation here). The Asda is just over the Nene river from where that boat restaurant is moored so if you need anything it’s conveniently located. A little further on are an assortment of eateries and coffee shops and whatnot for whatever your pre-match prep is. I spotted a Grizzlers on the map if you like burgers. There’s also a Greggs, Five Guys, Nandos and a steakhouse. The local pub, other than Charters, is the Peacock, which is just the other side of the ground. I didn’t even see it to be honest. On the approach to the stadium we stopped off at the club shop, which is very small, and took a quick picture of the Chris Turner statue. Turner was a ‘Boro player from 1969-1978 and returned as manager and chairman in the early 90s triggering one of their more successful stints. He suffered early onset dementia and sadly passed away in 2015, aged only 64 years old.
After just about getting through the turnstiles, which have to be the thinnest in the football league or at least a contender for that honour. Look at how tiny the space is! I had to turn sideways to get through, and breathe in, and I’m not a gentlemen of heft. Due to our pre-game restaurant visit there’s no need for the concourse but it appears to be substantial. I’ve booked us in the upper tier of the BGL South Stand. It’s the family stand but I heard some pretty colourful language up there. It was nice to see a mixture of supporters including families with young children.
Part of my pre-match fun nowadays is checking out the club mascots. Peterborough has three! Pictured above is my favourite “Peter Burrows” a loveable carrot swinging bunny. He was doing physical comedy bits pre-match. Like standing on the leaves of the carrot and being unable to figure out why he couldn’t pick it up. Haha, dumb rabbit. They also have “Mick the Skip”, which is sponsor Mick George’s own corporate mascot. He’s a bit weird looking so I didn’t take a picture but here he is;
They’ve got another similar looking mascot who wears green and has a tool belt. Across from us in the old Main Stand are the Bournemouth fans. They’ve got around a quarter of the stand, away in the corner, but routinely drown out the home support. Their away fans create a vibrant counter to the rest of the ground. There is chanting from the Peterborough fans on all four sides, including the terracing away to our left where it seems to be loudest. I don’t know if it’s just because we’re opposite the Bournemouth fans but they drown out the home fans.
Across to our left is the Western Homes London Road terrace. It’s nice to see terracing at this level but whether that would get into the Premier League is highly suspect. The FA used London Road as a ground in their bid for the Women’s European Championships in the summer next year and London Road got scratched off the bid because it’s not up to UEFA standards. I assume that’s because of the terracing. It’s packed down there and clearly a favourite of the locals.
To our right is the DESKGO Stand, which is the smallest in the ground but a modern looking building. This stand only seats 2,602. The terracing allows more than that and both bigger stands at the sides of the ground are well over 4k capacity. This game had 8,972 in attendance. I’ve taken these pictures around 30 minutes before kick off and all the stands filled out closer to 7.45pm bar the DESKGO, which seems to be the least popular of the four sides to watch from.
When the game gets underway we see a lot of half chances. Harrison Burrows, no relation to Peter, gets in some cracking crosses for the home team. He’s 19 and still learning his trade but he’s scored a couple of goals already this season. He really stood out on the right wing. For Bournemouth there were a number of excellent players including former Chelsea centre back Gary Cahill, who looked at ease marshalling the visiting defence. Jefferson Lerma ran the game from central midfield and was easily man of the match.
Some of the branding was new to me. The moto is “Upon This Rock”, which is Biblical. It comes from Matthew 16:18. Peter means “rock”. “Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church”. IE London Road is the church, built on Peterborough. I quite like the branding. The Bible is mostly a load of old tosh but you can’t beat wording like “all the powers of hell will not conquer it”. Oh yes, lads, let’s have some of that.
At half time antics ensued with two lads trying to chip balls into a skip, Mick the Skip is out here again. Then a fella had to spin around a ball five times before taking a shot at the other Mick George mascot with a beach ball. I do love me some antics. Sadly the second half was quite poor, especially for Championship standard, and it finished 0-0. The best action of the entire second half happened in injury time, which was a ridiculous six minute thrill ride but neither team could find the net and they share the points.
My overall feeling about London Road is that it has a nice delicate mixture of new ambition and old traditions. The ground has little room for expansion, although the main stand could be improved upon. The worry for the club is spending money on what they’ve got here, when they could relocate and have a better ground. It all depends as to whether Peterborough are capable of assembling a team that can make it to the fabled highs of the Premier League. Based on the two times I’ve seen them this season? Probably not any time soon.
As the Bournemouth fans so mercilessly chanted “your ground’s too good for you”. It’s a great stadium and you wonder if Peterborough can ever be a force in English football. Getting less than 9,000 for a game against high flying Bournemouth, who are basically a Premier League team, makes me a little doubtful. Admittedly capacity is only 15,000 so there’s not much wiggle room. If they drew a top team in the cup I have no doubts we’d see a sell out. As far as atmosphere goes, it was a touch disappointing. Considering Peterborough have never played at a higher level than this and only came up last season you would expect a more boisterous crowd. Maybe they’re already resigned to returning to League 1.