The Roland Harris Column

Wednesday 13 August, 2003

Will someone please beat a drum for me and wake up Valley Parade

I have no axe to grind with Roger Holmes, to be honest I haven't got a clue who he is aside from the fact that he has the job of safety officer at Valley Parade. Most people who work behind the scenes do a decent job but fans seem to act like they are open for the same sort of criticism as players. I don't really get that and I'm glad no one ever did it to me when I was a worker.

But Roger Holmes's behind the scenes job is becoming very much in front of the scenes, its becoming very much a problem.

Last night Roger Holmes decided that the penalties should be taken at the Darlington end of the ground. The 4,000 odd City fans squinted out of the League Cup.

Is it that the mass of 4,000 City fans might get out of hand? We can only wish! I do not know whom gave the order but heavy handed and mean-spirited stewarding has turned Valley Parade into a ground with all the atmosphere of an out of season holiday camp. Increasingly games are watched in front of a near silence crowd. Against Norwich you could hear the players shouting at each other fro my part of the Midland Road Stand, that's not right.

Back in October, 2002 [It's the ticket, stupid] I had a go at people standing up on the Kop and I stand by that. It's not safe to stand in seated areas and stewards are right to stop it I'm told that the stewards once took a balloon off someone at the back of the Kop last year. That's just stupid.

Not that I mind stupid, but I mind the atmosphere or lack of it. It's getting boring. Not everyone in the ground is a singer, not everyone wants to wave a flag or beat a drum. Not everyone wants to throw tickertape in the air and not everyone wants to scream their heads off but I think everyone wants someone to be doing those things. They are the atmosphere of a football match. That's what we tell people to tear themselves away from the Champions League to come down to Valley Parade on a week night to experience. Frankly I wouldn't be surprised if you got more atmosphere in your front room than you do at VP these days.

Flags are banned from Valley Parade as a fire risk which is a touchy subject in these parts of course and rightly but I don't see many games called off each week cause a bit of nylon has burnt. Air horns are banned from the ground but I do not see many people write into 442 to moan about becoming deaf from the blast of one of them.

Putting your feet on the seats, bad habit and you wouldn't do it at home but lets face it it's not going to break a seat that can hold some of the Lenny sized fans you see at VP but the schoolmasterly tell off from a steward breaks the spirit.

Valley Parade feels like an assembly, not a celebration and none of that would be a problem if it had not started to effect the guys on the pitch.

No atmosphere, no performance on the field. It's no wonder we won so many on the road last year, I bet our boys are glad to get away from the grey of Valley Parade.

Hypothetically moving Roger Holmes to another part of the business imagine him taking balloons off kids as they got on rides at Flamingo Land. Some people think that Roger Holmes should be sacked. I don't know if he should but I know that if he can not manage to manage 4,000 City fans on a night like last night then he is in the wrong job and I know that what goes on in the name of safety at Valley Parade does not happen at other grounds and is leaving VP as flat as any ground I've ever been to.

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