Saturday, 14 May 2011

Women and children first.

Bristol Academy 2 Arsenal 2
Thursday 12th May 2011
FA Women's Super League
Stoke Gifford Stadium, Bristol
Attendance: 1,138

It's probably fair to say that when the FA and their team of thick rimmed glasses wearing, iPad toting, crack marketing bods got together to work out their core demographic for the, newly launched, FA Women's Super League late 20's males with half arsed blogs on non league football weren't high on the list of people they expected to see at the matches. However, if there's a football match on and the opportunity for “free face painting and...even a beer tent” just try and keep me away.

Add to this a chance to see the first stadium in the UK built specifically for women's football, a team playing Arsenal in the Women’s FA Cup Final next week and also playing in next seasons UEFA Women’s Champions League then it's definitely worth a look. But don't overestimate the allure of the beer tent and face painting, I quite fancied a tiger stripes face, ala Young Kenny from Phoenix Nights.

Two 'Smurf Army' and a 'Go Vixens Go' please.

There's a bit of confusion on arrival as the kick off team has done a Samoa and jumped unexpectedly into the future. The advertised time of 6:30, had suddenly become 7:15. Never mind; more time to work on them tiger stripes. There's also confusion, in my mind, about how £2.50 (Two Pound Fifty) can be charged a programme!

"You told me Bristol were playing Chelsea! As if we didn't look foolish enough both wearing our Petr Cech shirts we're at the wrong game! I don't think anyone will notice though"

The ground is pretty smart, it's got an athletics track running round it but you can still get close to the action, just don't lean on the barriers too much as they look set to topple over in a keen wind. The main stand was decent, a good non league temporary feel about it. The pitch was the best I've seen all season, I'm still not convinced that it wasn't astroturf and/or that face paints had been used on it to give it that perfect look. All in all worth a ‘thumbs up’.

Beer tent located (less a tent, more a Wendy House), beers purchased and time for the tiger stripes. But no, sadly not. You could have your face painted in any style you liked; as long as that style was light blue all over – in regulation 'Smurf Army' style. Yep, you read that right. Smurf Army.

Nice flat cap sir.

Fair play though, by kick off there wasn't anyone under the age of 17 without their face painted and the kids loved it. You don't get this at Bristol Manor Farm. The Bristol Academy Smurf Ultras/Firm have even churned out their own merchandise, with badges and flags available for their discerning Smurf. Chuck into this mix a flag waving display and a kids pick & mix stand and the evening is only a tombola short of having all the razzmatazz of an Infants School fete. Which I'm pretty sure is the look they're going for really.

Even the stewards weren't immune to the outbreak of smurfitis.

It's a very impressive turn out for the match. Anyone who attends the adjoining Filton College seems to be here (including representatives from the Table Tennis Academy – no, really), families of all ages, some curious Arsenal fans, a couple of suspicious looking oddballs (Hi!) making for a family friendly atmosphere. It's a long way from my usual gloom filled afternoons in the Toolstation League that's for sure.

There's chanting! You don't get chants in the Toolstation unless the programmes run out and the ground hoppers storm the bar area in protest (What do we want! We want programmes…to put in our pollypockets. When do we want them! As soon as they are available and could I trouble you for two copies please?). The Smurf Army, led by their Kapo Vicky the Vixen, all jump on a storage hut and get stuck into some flag waving and chants. Good effort, they seemed to be enjoying themselves, although their Smurf Army flag waving tifo display requires more choreography. Ironic winky face.

Bristol Academy Ultras. Proper nawty. One of them once stole a twix.

The football then. The first half saw Arsenal playing some really nice stuff but not able to score, sound familiar? Bristol offered little to excite the Smurf Army, and the two men brought in to hammer a drum any time they got near the Arsenal goal didn't have much to drum about – thankfully.

Arsenal took the lead through Ellie White on 37 minutes and the half time whistle led to a stampede towards the pick and mix table. Or, for me and tinpot companion Duncan, another trip to the beer wendy house and an attempt to find shelter from the freezing wind, which was unwittingly turning our faces as blue as the members of the smurf army.

Please could you stop the noise I'm trying to get some rest.

The second half was much more competitive. Bristol got stuck in, the drums were thumped frantically.The football played, by both teams, was really good. There was some fantastic skill and passing, which was far above anything I'd seen in most of the games this year. Bristol played some great attacking football and got an equaliser from Grace McCatty, only to fall behind again to a bizarre goal direct from a corner from Rachel Yankey.

Token match shot.

Bristol came back though and only some poor finishing stopped the great approach play getting the equaliser they deserved, before they finally levelled with 2 minutes remaining. I would tell you what happened but I'd gone by then. Sorry!

Token match shot

While the atmosphere wasn't for me Bristol Academy have clearly achieved their aim of getting women and families interested in the game; the game was the 2nd highest attendance of any of the WPL matches so far. *doffs AiT cap* The football was of a high standard, definitely worth a look and this won't be my last trip here, the prospect of European football later this year being strangely alluring. But, please can I have my face painted in tiger stripes next time?!!

For a proper match report click here.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting fact young Kenneth that smurfed up steward is now a full Welsh international. I like to think you had a big part to play in this.