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Official Review by Chris Tuck, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
On the edge of the national forest in central England sits the market town of Burton-on-Trent. A town with a population of just over 72000, famous for brewing beer, is now just as well known for its football team. No patronising words here about Burton Albion FC though; they are in the Championship, England's second tier, and they are there on merit.
The Brewers, their nickname due to that local beer making prowess, were founded in 1950 as a non league side. 59 years later they were promoted and their compact Pirelli Stadium became a league ground, one of England’s 92 top flight clubs. Their previous home was named Eton Park, where they played from 1958-2005 just up the road from the Pirelli.
The stadium is a rare (and popular) sight so high up the English league ladder as three of the four stands are terraced with only the main stand providing just over 2000 seats. Thus, on a mild February afternoon, Stadium Journey came to see Burton, fighting for their lives near the bottom of the championship, against high flying Norwich City.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Drinks and snacks are available in the ground. A burger or hot dog is £3.20, sausage and chips sets you back £3.30 and the gloriously sounding 'double faggot and peas' is just £4.20!
Overall the quality is good, the choice is what you'd expect and prices about right. Soft drinks come in at £2.20, children's drinks £1.40 and hot drinks £1.80. Our recommendation would be to sample the local area for your drinks and food but if you've not had time, the in-stadium provision will do the job!
The atmosphere at the Pirelli is friendly and good-humoured. Both sets of fans at each end of the ground were in good voice and as Burton moved towards a famous victory in the second half, the whole ground were supporting their side, getting them over the line.
The stadium architects were Hadfield, Cawkwell and Davidson and you can see the result of their work in the photos tab at the top of the page. It's one tier all round, four separate stands and sight lines are all good. Overall it's got just enough character to make it an attractive sight as you near the ground. Four tall floodlight pylons complete the 'proper football ground' look. The three terraces of course allow for the world's tallest person to come and stand in front of you at 2.59pm but that's all part of the terraces experience! The scoreboard is above the away end terrace, quite small but the numbers added up nicely for home fans on the day.
The PA announcer did a decent job of trying to rouse the locals, whilst the mascot arrived to mixed reviews. Home fans stopped to take photos, while away fans wondered just what kind of mascot he was, although they used slightly more forceful language than that to ascertain an answer...
I'd recommend using any of the terraces to watch the game. Occasionally the sun can cause a distraction but that wasn't a problem I discovered personally on my late winter visit.
There is enough to see locally to warrant a longer stay in East Staffordshire with some historic battle sights, exploring the national park itself and of course the local breweries. The stadium is located a good 25 minute walk from the town centre, where all the usual outlets can be found. Closer to the ground there is a great fish and chip shop, a local brewery with a warm welcome and good parking opportunities for a swift exit.
Burton Town Brewery is nestled in an industrial estate 10 minutes from the ground. Helen the manager was on hand to provide a welcome - see the photos tab to see how well she has made a dour industrial unit into a welcoming venue. A good range of locally brewed beers would give you plenty of options for a pre and post match visit. Just up the road towards the ground is The Fish Hut (Burton's Fish and Chips), a restaurant with a wide menu including starters, platters, burgers and of course good old fish and chips. A large cod and chips sets you back £7.95, while a chicken burger and chips is £5.95.
Locally you should stop and take a look at Burton Bridge. It saw important battles in 1322 and 1643 and although it was replaced in 1863 you can still feel the history. Other than that the National Brewery Centre is a museum and tourist attraction that many will feel worth a visit, and on Sunday mornings, the Burton Community Church will give you a warm welcome!
Travelodge, Holiday Inn and Holiday Express all have hotels in the Burton area. For a more 'Old English' place to lay your head then try the Riverside in Branston.
Burton fans are on a real high at the moment, enjoying life in the fast lane and loving bigger clubs being humbled at the Pirelli. An average attendance in the 2016/17 season at time of writing of 4,968 is a divisional low, however they still fill over 70% of the ground. The game against Norwich City attracted 5,263 with the away side bringing an impressive 1,704 fans.
There is a fine array of fans yellow & black flags at the back of the home terrace behind the goal including 'Once a Brewer always a Brewer,' the 'Burton Boys' and simply 'Be Loud' (see photos tab). Norwich City fans sang throughout, my favourite from their repertoire being 'we shoot burglars,' although the genesis of the song is hardly edifying. The Burton boys went with terrace classics such as 'we'll sing on our own' and 'Albion, Albion' and a rousing chorus of 'Don't worry, about a thing' as their side held on for a 2-1 win.
With the relatively low attendances it can be quite easy to get in and out of the stadium area. Depending on where you are heading there are places to park to ensure you can exit swiftly if you need to.
Fly into East Midlands or Birmingham airports or take the train to 'Burton-on-Trent' station. If you drive, you will find Burton north of Birmingham in between the M6 and M1. There is a car park opposite the ground which charges £5 but at just £3 (which goes to charity) the Pirelli Tyres staff car park is open on match days which is just along from the stadium on Derby Road. Finally you can park for free in certain parts of the Hawkins Lane Industrial Estate.
Tickets are available in advance via the ticket office or online. Information for disabled supporters can be found on the club website.
£20 for a championship match seems a fair price and with a £3 programme and a friendly welcome I'd definitely recommend a trip to the Pirelli Stadium.
Seats cost £24 for adults, £22 for seniors and £14 for under 17s. A ticket for the terrace is £20 for adults, £18 for seniors and just £7 for under 17s.
A bonus of today's visit was to see a footballing great in the home dugout. Nigel Clough was a fantastic midfield talent and has a growing reputation now as a manager. You may just have heard of his father too, a certain Brian Clough, a legend in these parts.
The previous week to my visit saw the England manager Gareth Southgate in town to open a new £1M community hub including a new floodlit all-weather pitch adjacent to the stadium. With some talented youngsters in their ranks, the first team playing at the highest level the club have ever been and a town famous for its beer, visit soon as there is definitely something brewing!
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Unit 19 Northside Business Park Hawkins Lane
Burton-on-Trent, England DE14 1DB
+44 1283 845060
Burton-on-Trent, England DE14 1NG
+44 1283 532880
Burton-on-Trent, England DE13 9RN
+44 1283 576200
Riverside Drive, Branston
Burton-on-Trent, England DE14 3EP
+44 1283 511234
2nd Ave., Parkway
Burton-on-Trent, England DE14 2WF
+44 1283 504300