Opponents: Bolton Wanderers
Date: Saturday 23 September
Post code for sat-nav: BL6 6JW
In September 1997, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott officially opened Bolton Wanderers’ new stadium, bringing 102 years of football at their previous Burnden Park home to a close. At the heart of the Middlebrook development in Horwich- six miles away from Burnden – sat the newly completed Reebok Stadium, with a name that was met with initial criticism from locals and a futuristic design that belied its 1990s’ build date.
Though it appears unique in its architecture, the stadium is similar to the design of Huddersfield Town’s John Smith’s Stadium, opened three years previously in 1994. With its towering white supports that overlap the stadium-proper, the iconic venue is lit up during darkness rendering it visible from miles away. Twenty years down the line, the Reebok is now The Macron and has held Trotters fixtures in the UEFA Cup, Premier League, Championship and, as recently as last season, League One. A versatile multi-use venue, it has hosted rugby league matches and high-profile Oasis, Coldplay and Elton John concerts, but if that wasn’t enough, it houses the sports-orientated Bolton Wanderers Free School as well as the 125-room Bolton Whites Hotel, an asset the club took control of in 2013.
In Bolton’s Premier League days, The Macron would cater for anything up to 5,000 away fans, but with significantly lower gates those figures are rarely replicated today. Brentford have received an initial batch of 1,092 South Stand tickets for the trip to Greater Manchester and judging by the followings at both Villa Park and Loftus Road, The Bees will be well backed against the Trotters, not least thanks to the generously priced £15 adult ticket – all other concessions pay just £7.
Did you know?
Bolton’s home is not only unique in its appearance, but also the manner in which teams enter the field of play. The Macron’s dugouts sit in front of the Nat Lofthouse Stand and are flanked by two tunnels, meaning the home and away sides can emerge individually.
How to get there:
Taking the swiftest route to Bolton from Griffin Park, the 219-mile journey should – depending on traffic – take around three-and-a-half hours from door to door; the Trotters’ official website says the following:
“If travelling up the M6, follow signs for the M62 and leave at Junction 21a, following signs for Manchester. Join the M60 at Junction 12 and proceed to follow signs for the M61 towards Preston. Do NOT take the A666 towards Bolton. Turn off the M61 at Junction 6 and take the third exit off the roundabout onto the A6027, De Havilland Way. At the next roundabout, take a left turn onto Burnden Way and park in the main stadium visitors' car park.”
The stadium’s location on the sprawling Middlebrook Retail Park in Horwich means on-site parking for away fans should be elementary; drivers should be aware that there is a £7 fee to gain entry.
Train tickets are expensive for this away day, with an off-peak return from Euston to Horwich Parkway coming in at a handsome £83.90 for adults, £41.95 for children and though billed as around three hours in total, journey durations vary depending on which train you board. If you decide to travel by rail, the station is a mere 200m walk from The Macron stadium.
Where to eat/drink:
The aptly-named Beehive pub is the favoured haunt of fans choosing to visit The Macron and is just a 10-15 minute walk from the South Stand turnstiles, also offering a welcome alternative to the on-site parking offered by the club. The Barnstormers on Lostock Lane is less than 15 minutes’ walk away and welcomes travelling fans, too. Fans are left with no shortage of food outlets; the Middlebrook Retail Park – the largest Retail and Leisure Park in the country – features various high street fast-food chains as well as plenty of options if you choose to prepare for the game with a sit-down meal.