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Official Review by Anluan Hennigan, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
St Andrews, home of Premier League club Birmingham City, has had a tumultuous existence. It first became the residence of "The Blues" in the early 20th century when the club, formed by a group of cricketers, outgrew its previous home.
At one time holding up to 75,000 spectators (in the era of terraced seating); it is now one of the more modest top-level grounds. During World War Two, St Andrews suffered a horrific bombardment from German forces, eventually hit on 20 occasions. In many ways, it feels like the place is still recovering.
Prominence and success gave way to malaise and dilapidation. However, the arrival of owners David Gold and David Sullivan coincided with a long-overdue redevelopment of the ground in the nineties. In 1994, £10m was invested on a development of the Kop and Tilton stands, fans taking home debris as souvenirs. The new Railway Stand followed five years later.
In spite of this work, a clamour still exists for further improvement. A brand-new, 55,000 capacity stadium has long been mooted. As of yet, it is far from coming to fruition.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
It's all rather po-faced, but you would be foolish to expect anything less (or indeed more) upon visiting the ground. An indistinguishable pie and drink can be bought for £4.20, which is in line with most Premier League grounds. It's a shame that a little more personality can't be injected into things but it is alas the nature of the beast.
Also bear in mind that alcohol can't be taken in to the arena. Even roaming the concourse is forbidden, with strict white lines illustrating where you can and can't go.
In many cases, the game drives the atmosphere. In this case, the game was arthritic with, unfortunately for the home fans, the away side in the ascendancy. The main source of virility was frustration at the lack of potency from Birmingham and some entertaining, if unimaginative, bating of the opposition. If you want to experience St Andrews at full pelt, then a trip to see the blood and thunder spectacle of the Second City derby between Birmingham and Aston Villa is recommended.
Only a goal kick from the city centre, St Andrews is right in the heart of the action. This is ostensibly a blessing and a curse. Situated in the Small Heath area, the ground is right next to Digbeth, a place that is not worth lingering in for extended periods.
Birmingham is a city of tremendous light and shade however and the marvellous Bull Ring shopping area is only a mile or so away. It dominates the city and is one of the most architecturally shocking things you will see anywhere. There you will also find all manner of culinary options to fill the void that the ground creates. It may not always be pretty, but Birmingham is second only to London in size so there will always be things to do.
An undoubtedly hearty lot were eventually worn down in the midst of an insipid match and a most unsatisfying conclusion. Poor play was met with redoubtable chants of "que sera sera, whatever will be will be, we're going to Wembley" - an allusion to Birmingham's upcoming involvement in the League Cup final. It has given Blues fans good cheer in an otherwise perilous season, with relegation a prevalent prospect. That sense of uneasiness is pervasive in the ground and amongst the fans.
Once in such a large city, the options available to you are myriad. Train travellers will need to find their way to Birmingham Moor Street station and mount services going to Bordesley. There are numerous buses which stop near the ground also. All in all however, there is no simpler method than walking. Simply follow the hoards of blue-shirted fans walking up Digbeth and you can't fail to arrive at the ground. From the Bull Ring, the walk is no more than a mile/20 minutes.
If you want to risk getting there in your own car, do bear in mind that the queues will be horrendous, so give yourself as much time as possible. A number of auxiliary car parks are usually available next to the ground for between £5 and £10.
Plenty of time should be allowed for entering the ground also, as I found to my cost on this night. The turnstiles can be particularly cramped and slow-moving, and by the time I had got into the ground, I had missed the first goal. The most pleasing aspect was the lack of queuing in the concourses. It was remarkably easy to get food and drink instead of the usual survival of the fittest experiment.
Birmingham must be commended for its ticket structure which offers almost unparalleled concessions. While adult tickets are around the average for Premier League grounds (£30-£40 for a game against one of the top clubs), student tickets are half price, while children can get in for even less. Subsequently, St Andrews is a particularly attractive option for families.
Couple this with the fact you are visiting one of the largest and most eventful cities in England, a trip to St Andrews is more than worth your while.
One corner of the ground is dominated by a big screen which is a valuable and informative resource, offering replays of near misses, major incidents and goals. It is something other Premier League grounds greatly lack. Little else is offered to further the match-day experience. Stadium tours are available throughout the year if you wish to delve deeper into the eventful history of the club.
Member Review by sanderkolsloot on Jan 29, 2013
Nice experience, but the crowd is a little dull, neighborhood is ok, food and drinks were mediocre to ok
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