Opponents: Derby County
Date: Saturday 3 February
Post code for sat-nav: DE24 8XL
Derby County have called Pride Park Stadium their home since they relocated from the Baseball Ground in 1997.
Once a bustling venue capable of housing over 40,000 fans, their former home was another to fall foul of the Taylor Report and a reduced capacity of 17,500 in the mid-‘90s was simply unfeasible for a club with The Rams’ ambition.
But that wasn’t the only issue, as the ground’s wooden components were deemed incredibly unsafe in the wake of the Valley Parade fire a little over a decade earlier. After initially rejecting the plans for a state-of-the-art stadium at the Pride Park business park on the city’s outskirts, Chairman Lionel Pickering decided to progress with the £16m construction in February 1996. The Rams’ Reserve Team remained tenants of the Baseball Ground for a full six years after the First Team’s departure before its eventual demolition in 2004.
Less than 18 months and a further £6m building costs later, in July 1997, Queen Elizabeth II declared the stadium open – the first time she’d officially opened a football stadium. Two weeks later, Vincenzo Montella gave Sampdoria a 1-0 win over The Rams in the first match to be played there. The first five seasons at Pride Park were spent in the Premier League, and though the club did return to the First Division – later the Championship – promotion to the top flight in 2007 delivered extravagant expansion plans, including an increase from a 33,000 to a 44,000-capacity venue. Though the plans were subsequently scaled down to involve the construction of retail premises and a Velodrome from 2012, they were scrapped after the club suffered one of the worst Premier League seasons in history – a campaign in which they won a solitary game and chalked up just 11 points from 38 games.
This will be the 32nd meeting between the two sides and The Bees’ fifth trip to Pride Park - a stadium where they are yet to record a victory. They’ve lost two and drawn two since the first visit in 2013, with Alex Pritchard’s strike in a 1-1 Championship draw back in April 2015 the only time they’ve breached The Rams defence in Derbyshire.
Tickets for next weekend’s game are reasonably priced: adults pay £22, senior tickets are £15.50, while juniors aged 13-17 are £12.50. Entry for juniors aged 2-12 costs just £7. Click here to check availability.
How to get there:
It is approximately 127 miles by road from Griffin Park to Pride Park Stadium. To get to the ground from the south, take the M1 to junction 25 and follow the A52 towards Derby. After five and a half miles there will be signs to the stadium and it is accessed via Derwent Parade. Drivers will find parking available at the Velodrome next to Pride Park, which is closest to the stadium’s away entrance and costs £8 per car, or £6 if there are four or more passengers.
But that is not the only option for travelling fans. There is an away fans’ car park at the Derby Conference Centre costing £5 per car and Bamfords Auction House which is also £5. For the early birds, there is free street parking to be found at Downing Road on the West Meadow Industrial Estate.
The nearest station to the ground is Derby, which is around half a mile from the stadium. Train travellers can get to Derby in just over an hour and a half on East Midlands services from London St Pancras and super off-peak return tickets - at the time of writing – cost £66.50 for adults and £33.25 for children, but as ever, there are advance bargains to be found.
Where to eat/drink:
As another weekend dawns, The Bees travel to another modern stadium built as the centerpiece of an industrial estate. And, at a mile and a half away from Derby city centre, the stadium’s location means places to eat and drink close by are few and far between. There are many highly-recommended pubs in the town proper, including the Exeter Arms on Meadow Road. Closer by you’ll find the Navigation Inn on London Road, a friendly establishment that welcomes away support, shows live football and serves food. The lion’s share of the pubs opposite the train station are designated as home supporters only, though the Mansion Bar and the Tiffany Lounge on Midland Road are both good options on arrival.