Adventures in Football #56: New York Stadium (Rotherham United FC)
July 10, 2022
FRANCE vs. ITALY (Women’s Euro 2022)
My first question is; where is Rotherham? I always thought it was near Nottingham somewhere, but it turns out, it’s near to Sheffield and about as far north as Manchester. Mansfield, Chesterfield and Rotherham are all geographically interchangeable in my head it seems. Seeing as we’re not going to see Rotherham United play, I’ll not ramble on about them too much. They were founded in 1925 and have spent most of their history as a lower league side, although they have flirted with the second tier of English football in their recent history (6 of the last 9 seasons have been at Championship level) and they made it to the final of the first league cup back in 1961.
Rotherham left their home stadium Millmoor back in 2008. The Millers moved into their new purpose-built home in 2012. It’s close to Rotherham Central and in the heart of the town, unlike most new build stadia that tend to be out of town and attached to a retail park. It’s only a half a mile walk along a canal from the station to the ground. It’s a boxy little stadium and with a 12k capacity is one of the smaller grounds being used at Euro 2022.
It’s 1h 48m from door to car park, which is up at the top level of what I’m prepared to do for an evening kick off. It means getting home around midnight, if we’re lucky. The aim is to park near the stadium but not too near, go and check out the Rotherham Minster, Chapel on the Bridge (one of only four bridge chapels in England), maybe get in a cheeky pint in, get something to eat somewhere and go to the game.
Into the car and we stick the destination; “Unity Place car park” into the satnav and immediately we’re told the road is closed and we can’t go there. Zuh? Ok, let’s go into town and see what happens. I’ve picked Unity Place because it’s small and therefore won’t get too congested on departure. Our journey today will take us through six counties. Driving around Birmingham makes that happen. On our way through Leicestershire I spot a dead fox on the motorway. A sign of things to come for Brendan Rodgers Leicester City perhaps.
On arrival in Rotherham we discover there are significant and confusing road closures. The car park I was aiming for is behind a row of cones. As we go to pull a U-turn I notice that Westgate car park is in fact open. Westgate is a large expanse of land used for parking during the week and is usually closed at the weekend. The owner doesn’t think it makes enough money. He charges £2.30 to park there for the match. It might be the cheapest car park I’ve ever been to. There’s no shortage of parking space in Rotherham and a saturated market means prices are low.
After parking up, and discussing parking politics with the guy directing us into a space, it was off into the centre of Rotherham. Maria with a KFC bucket in hand from the services, which caused KFC jealousy among the locals. “Where is the KFC?” one pleaded. Maria offering to sell them two hot wings was an early highlight of the evening. We visited Rotherham Minister (above), which is a beautiful building. A stunner to look at and about 500 years old in its current form. We also checked out the Chapel of the Lady bridge chapel (below). My plan had been to walk up to there and walk back along the canal but that was blocked off…for reasons? So, we had to walk the long way around.
As with Milton Keynes, it’s hot today. The car temperature reads 30 degrees C.
Thankfully the sun is on the way down as we head towards the 8pm kick-off. I’m thankful this wasn’t at 5pm like the previous game. After walking around the ground, thanks to the one approach being closed off, we head around the back to gates 19-21. I get searched with a metal detector! The officials were being sensible and allowed us in with a bottle of water, due to it being so goddamn hot. We make our way to our seats and we’re up in the corner and surrounded by Italian fans.
The French seem to be congregated behind the goals at both ends. I can’t get a read on how loud any of them are because of the volume of the Italian chants all around us. In my notes I’ve called it a 80-20 Italy-France split but this may be a touch generous.
Both sides belt out the national anthems (two of the better anthems, with Italy following the men’s team example from Euro 2020/21) and we’re underway. We benefit from being at the end France attack in the first half as there’s a lot of French attacking. Geyoro puts them ahead on 9’ and a cross/shot from the wing spills loose for Katoto to make it 2-0 on 12’. It’s not the best of starts for Italy and the pressure just keeps coming. By the time Delphine Cascarino smashes in #3 the game is dead and buried and it could end up being embarrassing.
Delphine Cascarino was right in front of us for most of the half and I was enchanted by her quick feet. Her ability to run with the ball, confuse defenders and cause problems was a massive issue for Italy. The movement of the front three in general was great and Grace Geyoro’s darting runs from midfield were adding to numbers in the box. It’s Cascarino I’d like to focus on though, having seen her up close. After having watched her for about half an hour my wife turned to me and said, “I’m in love with her, I’m gay now”.
Delphine then delivered the game’s finest moment. A dip of the shoulder, those swift feet and a rocket flew past the keeper on the angle. It was genuinely a fantastic goal. Two minutes later Geyoro added a fourth and then another to complete her hattrick. Half time, 5-0 France and Italy couldn’t complain. They’d been absolutely rinsed. They were lucky it was 5-0 to be honest. They were equally lucky that Corinne Diacre started subbing her star players off early in the second half. The second half was a disjointed affair with several outrageous late tackles. One of which, from Italy defender Gama, warranting a straight red card. Somehow, VAR decided to overrule it but she literally kicked Cascarino in the face. It’s a good job I was able to hold my wife back, she was ready to throw hands.
The rhythm of the game horribly disturbed by fouls and substitutions the game faded badly in the second half, the tedium only disrupted by the energetic play of Italy sub Valentina Giacinti. At one point leaving Wendi Renard on her arse, one to tell the grandchildren about. Milena Bertolini eventually figured out France; they’re tall, and brought on Martina Piemonte to help deal with set pieces. She promptly scored a header. Italy technically won the second half, so well done to them.
As we traipsed out of the New York Stadium, I felt like a combination of shoddy refereeing and disruptive coaching had robbed us of an all-time great match. The first half was magnificent and Italy were primed for a comeback until they all started kicking lumps out of each other. Imagine if this finished 5-5? I can but dream. The first half alone was worth the price of attendance and that, combined with the sunny weather, will leave me with pleasant memories of Rotherham. A place I’ve never been before and will likely never go to again. If I’m in the area I’ll probably just go to Sheffield because it’s Sheffield. Nobody comes to see me in Bromsgrove and starts asking what there is to do around here, we just go into Birmingham for pints like normal people.
Let’s finish by handing out some points, shall we?
Nowhere near as vocal as the fans at Milton Keynes or Old Trafford but the Italians gave it a go. The French fans were far quieter despite having five goals to celebrate. I could hear “Allez les bleu” near the end though. ***
£15 to see a game with a bunch of goals and be sat in the midst of a load of Italians when their team ships five goals? Absolutely priceless. ****.
If the whole game had flowed like the first half this was pushing a very big score. As the second half was a big old wet fart compared to the first…we’ll drop the rating a bit. ***½
EASE OF ACCESS:
Surprisingly easy. Despite the random road closures, we drove on in there and got parked up in a real car park for £2.30 (not even £2.50, £2.30!). At the end of the game the flow of people was in our favour and we just drove on out of there. Walking to the ground was frustrating as they closed the most direct path but getting out was easy. ****.
This is where Rotherham will suffer. While I loved how close the ground was to the train station that comes under ease of access. It’s a new build and it’s nowhere near as classy as MK. I’m aware they have less money but it’s a 12k capacity box. Nothing to really get excited about. I did, however, have an excellent time. *
Rotherham is an odd experience because I’m sure it’s not normally this pleasant of an experience. It was all cosmopolitan with multiple groups of people chatting away in Italian, French, Swedish etc, all around the town centre. For a Rotherham United game day, I don’t think I’d get that. Nor the 30-degree heat. Nor the pure joy of little Italian kids cheering on their country. Still, I must rate it on the game I see, and I had a great time. The compact stadium should create some cracking atmospheres and must be intimidating as the ground is right on top of the pitch. We had great seats, by the way, for £15. Like, Burnley vs. Chelsea good.