Roundabout MK

Saturday 31st October 2015 – MK Dons 0 – 2 Hull City AFC

Championship @ Stadium MK, Milton Keynes

Life has been busy of late, but there was still time for football…..just not writing about it. So this is one of three, hopefully to be, quick fire blog entries following my trips to MK Dons, Brentford, Bristol City and Rotherham over the last six weeks.

Hull have progressed from bumbling early season achievers, to top of the league high flyers, followed by what is hopefully a blip. MK Dons marked the start of that middle phase in the assault on the Championship promotion spots.

I’d never been to Milton Keynes before, it was a place to pass through on the train to other places. Hull’s previous visit had been to the National Hockey Stadium, not attended because it was literally a school night. But as Hull dropped down into the Championship last season, MK Dons entered the league from the opposite direction. A first visit to Stadium MK was set up.

Their history is well documented; I don’t agree with it, they shouldn’t exist. But this scribbling won’t focus on that – it has been done to death elsewhere. I was admittedly intrigued; the ground looks great from the photos, but what would the atmosphere of a ‘new’ club at this level be like?

The first tip I can give any day tripper to Stadium MK is to befriend a local taxi driver. The ground is c. 4 miles from the main train station, and for even the most ardent of walkers, there are few footpaths along the multiple soulless roads en-route. We used the same one for the trip to the pre-match pub, the final leg to the ground, and for the trip back to the station post-game.

Our pre-match watering hole was Ye Olde Swan in Woughton on the Green, one of the many villages that makes up Milton Keynes, and a recommendation of an old mate who lives in the area. It took about 10 minutes – and £6 – by cab from the main train station.

I won’t wax lyrical about this one – it was a pleasant enough place serving decent beer, but not a football pub (we were in fact the only football fans in there!). That said, there was nothing in the immediate vicinity of the train station exit!

The sun was however shining strongly for a game in at October’s close (the coats were not needed) so no complaints as we supped in the adjacent beer garden.

We headed to the ground half an hour before kick-off. The ground itself is sandwiched amongst a retail park (nothing new there for a new ground) and from the outside it is difficult to tell the difference between the nearby Tesco.

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Inside however the ground is, arguably no doubt, one of the better new stadiums. The concourse is wide and spacious with multiple food and drink outlets, the seats are padded and have bags of leg room, and the view of the pitch is decent. We were also allowed to stand throughout, a big tick.

The Hull fans were stuck up in one of the corners – I was concerned that there was a total lack of taxis 5 minutes before KO, as the number of locals was limited. But the place didn’t fill up. We were surrounded by literally thousands of empty seats…!

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“They’re here, they’re there….”

It felt a bit like Alloa being away at Queen’s Park.

As you can see from the photos, the sun was at its annoying seasonal height that fine autumn day, and was so strong, the shielding from it led to a nice bit of red on my right arm!

The match itself was typical of how Hull have played (at games I have attended anyway) this season. Nothing remarkable, but Hull came away with the three points regardless, with a sexy strike from Diame finishing off the 2-0 victory. The hosts did try, but were in truth poor, and looked like a side that had played a division lower the previous season.

I imagine there will be some who disagree with me, but Stadium MK is a fine place to watch football….optically. If it had 40,000 new seats, its characteristics and sight lines would put it up there with Arsenal’s Emirates. But it doesn’t. And they don’t fill it (15,000 that day, a third of whom filled the away end). The atmosphere was poor and if ever there was a place were fans spectate rather than support, it is here. Perhaps I am being unfair though, there was the small matter of half a stand between the away end and the nearest home fans, who may blame it on the acoustics.

I once had my blood boiled when Milton Keynes was picked as a host city ahead of my beloved Hull for the ill-fated 2018 England World Cup bid. Yes it is well-connected to London and nearby airports. Yes, the ground would have ticked the ‘size’ requirement. But there is no history nor heritage. For both town and club.

I have no doubts MK Dons will reach the Premier League riches one day; they appear well organised behind the scenes, and haven’t been immune to success in their short history. At this point the fair weather Arsenal and Chelsea fans that populate the ‘Shires may well tip up and fill the place. And I wish them well if they do. But for an away experience? Utterly woeful.

Germany vs Uruguay in June 2018 at Stadium MK?  For the above reasons, I am glad that didn’t happen.

It was however a groundtick all the same!

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