Pair of earphones at the ready for the Pirelli – Carl Marston’s Travels with Town
- Credit: Pagepix Ltd
Football writer Carl Marston has visited 120 Football League grounds over the last 30 years, many of them reporting on Ipswich. Here he spotlights tomorrow’s stop-off at Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium
On my first visit to the Pirelli Stadium, the small, cosy, but proud home of over-achievers Burton Albion, I remember thinking that I should have brought my boots along with me.
And that's because the press lounge, in the early days, was situated right next to the dressing rooms.
You could almost hear the team-talks, we were that close.
The music boomed out from the players' dressing rooms and the walls almost shook with the vibrations, both before and after kick-off.
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This felt like proper non-league, even though by this point Burton Albion had risen to the heights of the Football League - they have been a member of the FL since 2009.
It also felt like there was a rave going on next door, and that of course we gentlemen-of-the-press were not invited. I just munched on the complimentary sausage rolls and tapped my feet awakwardly to the dance music.
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League Two is jam-packed with such small, intimate grounds, though not many of them are as smart and relatively new as Burton's Pirelli Stadium, which was first opened in 2005.
But League One is also home to several tight, cramped stadia, as Ipswich Town's players and fans are about to find out this season.
Town are no strangers to the Pirelli Stadium, having recorded back-to-back 2-1 away wins in 2017 during the Brewers two seasons in the Championship.
But this is not the only League One ground where crowd capacity does even threaten 7,000.
AFC Wimbledon's Kingsmeadow (4,850), Fleetwood Town's Highbury Stadium (5,327) and Accrington Stanley's Crown Ground (5,450) all have smaller capacities than Burton's current maximum of 6,912, with just 2,034 seats.
So intimacy is going to be the name-of-the-game for Town fans at many of their away trips this term, starting beside the River Trent this weekend.
In all, 14 of the third tier grounds have less than 15,000 capacities, which of course is less than half of Portman Road's own 30,311 official maximum.
Wycombe, Bury, Oxford, Bristol Rovers, Shrewsbury, Rotherham, Gillingham, Southend, Lincoln and Rochdale are the others in that select group.
Naturally, I'll be bringing along my ear-phones to the Pirelli this weekend, just in case the rave/dance/garage/grim music gets too loud for my delicate ears.
Ground: Pirelli Stadium
Club: Burton Albion
Town's 1st visit: 2-1 win on April 14, 2017
Town's last visit: 2-1 win on October 28, 2017
Town's overall record at the Pirelli Stadium: P2 W2 D0 L0
Quirky fact: Burton were so far ahead at the top of the Conference in 2008-09 - they were 19 points clear of the pack in February - that league sponsors Blue Square prematurely crowned the Brewers as champions and paid out all bets.
In the end, Burton shipped points in dramatic fashion during the last couple of months and only went up on the last day by the skin of their teeth, by a two-point margin from Cambridge United.
If you get stuck in traffic, on the way to Burton tomorrow, don't get too worried - you probably won't miss too much of the action.
Town's two visits to date have both yielded 2-1 wins, with all six goals coming in the second half, so there's no need to hurry.
The last trip sticks long in the memory of Town fans, both for the dramatic and rather wonderful 89th minute winner from Bersant Celina, via a stunning free-kick, and also for the fiesty post-match comments of manager Mick McCarthy.
Responding to the suggestion that fans' chants for Celina to come on as a substitute had swayed his thinking, McCarthy retorted: "I don't give a s***e about that, by the way. He didn't go on because of that, let me just clear that up.
"In fact, there's more chance of him not going on when they start telling me what to do. And yes, I am a belligerent f**k. Let's just clear that up."
I will gloss over my first-ever visit to the Pirelli Stadium, because it didn't feature Ipswich, although former Town players Tom Eastman and Darren Ambrose were in the squad that day (2015).
Managerless Colchester United - ex-Town defender Tony Humes had just stood down as manager - ended in a humiliating 5-1 defeat. The music from the home dressing room was very loud that night!