Updated: Nov 23, 2019
In the crispy winter sunshine, I was sitting in a cafe and looking at Dagenham & Redbridge FC’s website, I got really excited about visiting this club which I have never even heard of before. That was yesterday.
Today was started with drizzling and Met office app was showing heavy rain forecast. What a discouragement! But anyway, I forced myself to get out of the house putting on all the possible protectors, i.e., down jacket, waterproof, knitted hat, snow boots and Japanese hand warmers.
I have never been to so far east on a District Line of London Underground. Since I had a bit of ‘experience’ with drunk Hammers supporters a few years ago, I was a bit reluctant to visit East London clubs. As reaching Dagenham East station by tube, I found a rather peaceful residential area across this club’s ‘parish’. That’s a relief for me. However, where are all these football crowd who suppose to be wearing red/blue shirt and scarf and holding a pint glass? It’s less than two hours before the kick-off, but I didn’t see any trace of match day football club nearby.
As soon as I turned into Victoria Road from Rainham Road (what a name!), I spotted a security guy in a familiar orange uniform. Great, I wasn’t lost in the residential area of Dagenham. Because I hadn’t had my ticket sorted yet, I walked straight into the ticket office and I asked a guy there ‘Is a match ticket still available?’ ‘Oh, you can get it at a turnstile.’ a guy told me with a smile. It’s rather informal. ‘Ok, thanks. Is there any chance it would run out?’ I asked seriously. ‘No,’ he game me a grin.
I asked many people around which stand I should choose, I eventually went for Family Stand based on 1: I don’t want to be standing, 2: I want to be covered, and 3: I want to be seated in a home stand. But a bit of respect paid for core fans, at least until I pass half way of my pilgrimage. Stadium was small and far from packed, but it felt somehow well-ordered. Later announced the attendance was 1877 people including two hundred something away fans.
Looking over the ground, I felt like back in time. From my seat, I could see all the fans in North Stand and Bury Road End standing. The silhouette of standing fans wearing dark-coloured coat looked just like the old black and white photos I have seen at some football museum or even in books. I didn’t know that there are still people who watch football standing without seat in professional levels in England. I couldn’t help imagining that people back in 1950’s watched the football exactly in the same manner here. I like the atmosphere of small stadium.
Finally the time has come for kick-off. However small the stadium is, the excitement and butterflies of the moment when players come out of the tunnel is still the same. I will skip all the match details. It’s much better to leave it to professionals with half a century experience. But one thing I can tell you, it was bloody freezing!
At half time, in ladies toilet, a blond woman looked at me as I looked at her. We were both trembling. ‘Freezing, isn’t it?!’ I said. ‘They are crazy, aren’t they?’ she replied. ‘Absolutely.’ As agreeing I just realised I don’t have any male companion with me today. Well, in this case, I am the crazy one… I explained the reason I was here today and she said my pilgrimage is a great idea. As a woman involved in football, probably this is quite fun way to look at, I think. Saying ‘Good luck with the 2nd half!’ we left the toilet. Neither of us probably meant the match, but just encouraged each other to bear another freezing 45 minutes plus extra.
As I was so grateful about a steaming hot chocolate, Daggers’ first goal came! Half time is a good game changer both for them and for me. It was absolutely freezing, but I stayed until the final whistle. After repetitive Bury’s last minutes attacks, home victory wrapped the whole stadium in a warm mood. I don’t think this squad makes to the top tier so soon, but I really liked this club. Friendly and warm people’s family club. Thanks for letting me be a home fan for a day.
Dagenham & Redbridge FC (Sky Bet League Two) The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium Victoria Road Dagenham Essex
Dagenham and Redbridge FC came about following a series of mergers which saw Leytonstone, Ilford and Walthamstow Avenue form Redbridge Forest who in turn merged with Dagenham FC in 1992 to form the current Club. http://www.daggers.co.uk/club/history/
Victoria Road Stadium’s capacity is 6078and has existed as a football ground since 1917, when the Sterling Works side, whose factory was situated alongside, used it. It was not fully enclosed until the summer of 1955, when Briggs Sports moved out to Rush Green Road, and Dagenham FC moved from the Arena. http://www.daggers.co.uk/club/stadium/