LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Bristol City

Robins remain in local hands at revamped stadium

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Settled in the Championship after knocking on the door of the play-offs in 2019, Bristol City now play in a newly modernised stadium, part of a successful groundshare arrangement with Bristol Rugby.

Last seen in the top flight in the late 1970s, the Robins enjoyed a memorable run in the League Cup in 2017-18 – but flew highest in the early 1900s.

Founded as Bristol South End in 1894, merging with Bedminster FC and moving into their current home of Ashton Gate in 1904, Bristol City achieved impressive results almost immediately after hiring ex-England right-back Harry Thickett as manager.

Ashton Gate/Peterjon Cresswell

Bringing England centre-half Billy Wedlock back to Ashton Gate, Thickett led City to the Second Division title with a record number of points, then charged up the First Division to finish three points from the league title itself in 1907. Two years later, still with Thickett in charge and Wedlock marshalling the defence, City lost by the only goal of the game in the FA Cup final to Manchester United.

Wedlock didn’t retire until 1921, to work at a pub opposite Ashton Gate, but the Robins were relegated in 1911, not to reach the First Division again for 65 years.

The club’s next purple patch came after the arrival of former Chelsea half-back Alan Dicks as manager in 1967. Given time to lift the side from the relegation zone of the Second Division to the top, Dicks nurtured teenager Gerry Gow, teaming him in midfield with fellow Scot Gerry Sweeney and the equally youthful Trevor Tainton. With goals from young Scot Tom Ritchie, City gained promotion to the First Division in 1976, staying up for four years.

Ashton Gate/Peterjon Cresswell

Dicks left shortly after the descent back to the Second, which turned into a three-season tailspin down to the Fourth. Deep in debt, the club was declared bankrupt in 1982. A new company was created, partly thanks to the altruistic action of the so-called Ashton Gate Eight, a solid core of players who accepted a significant cut in salaries due.

Climbing back to Division Three under former England left-back Terry Cooper, City replaced him with former Leeds team-mate Joe Jordan to reach the League Cup semi-final in 1989, a narrow defeat to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest.

Jordan returned in the mid-1990s but the Robins remained in the third flight until 2007. Keeping faith with under-fire manager Gary Johnson, City almost reached the Premier League at the first attempt. Johnson’s men gave as good as they got in front of nearly 87,000 at Wembley, Hull scoring the only goal in the play-off final.

Bristol City away catering/Peterjon Cresswell

The Robins slipped out of the Championship, coming back up in 2015. Hefty wins in the spring helped City to a goals total of 96, though manager Steve Cotterill found managerial life harder in the higher tier.

Former City midfielder Lee Johnson, son of 2007 hero Gary, then steered the club into calmer waters, as the full renovation of Ashton Gate, instigated in 2014 as Bristol Rugby moved in to ground-share, was completed in the summer of 2016.

In 2017-18, with goals from Bristol-born Bobby Reid, City tore up the Championship and knocked aside four top-flight clubs in the League Cup. This included Manchester United, a rare goal from Korey Smith in the 93rd minute causing wild celebrations at a near capacity Ashton Gate. Going ahead with Reid penalty at Manchester City in the semi-final, the Robins then suffered a late winner themselves as Sergio Agüero allowed his side to take a 2-1 lead to Ashton Gate. Another 26,000 crowd then saw the home team level the score at 2-2 on the night but it wasn’t enough.

Despite Reid’s departure for Cardiff, City came close to a play-off spot in 2019, though the mediocre campaigns since will have given local club owner, investor Steve Lansdown, much cause for concern.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

With the £45 million reconfiguration of Ashton Gate completed in August 2016, fans of Bristol City and Bristol Rugby can watch their sport in contemporary comfort. Bar-code readers, Wi-Fi, a fan village, match-day shuttle buses and Europe’s biggest TV screen in the on-site sports bar now feature here, south of the Avon – the contrast with a visit to Bristol Rovers could not be more striking.

The 27,000-capacity all-seater arena would pass muster in the Premier League, particularly with the tier of corporate boxes now in place in the Lansdown Stand unveiled before the 2016-17 campaign.

The home South Stand was opened in 2015-16 while the Dolman Stand has been considerably modernised. Opposite the home end, away fans are accommodated in the Atyeo Stand nearest Ashton Road.

getting there

Going to the ground – tips and timings

Shuttle buses are now laid on from various outlying P&R points in greater Bristol.

A separate Service A (£2 single/return) run by abus calls at Temple Gate (stop T) by Temple Meads and Old Market/Bond Street (stop Ok), dropping off and picking up by the KFC outlet on Winterstoke Road, the main road lined with car warehouses and DIY stores on the other side of the stadium from town. Buses set off 1hr before kick-off, and are often too full to cope with demand.

Regular city bus 24 runs every 10-15min (every 20min Sun) from Old Market/Bond Street (stop Ol, in an island in the middle of the road) to Ashton Gate, stopping at Frayne Road and Durnford Street close to the stadium, journey time 25min. Towards the ground, it passes a number of handy bars and restaurants on nearby North Street, away from the more partisan pubs alongside the stadium.

A taxi from town should cost around £8-£10.

The sat nav code for Ashton Gate is BS3 2EJ. There is no parking at the ground and only very limited possibilities in the surrounding streets. Bedminster Cricket Club on Clanage Road (BS3 2JX), a signposted 7-8min from the ground, offers match-day parking at £5/car but fills quickly.

The club advises drivers wherever possible to park at a distance from the stadium and use public transport. One possibility is the Wapping Wharf car park (BS1 6TL), which charges £4.50 for 2-4hrs or for any period over a weekend. From there, Southville Place on bus 24 is a 7-8min walk via the footbridge, then six stops/6min to Frayne Road. The dockyards also have other parking options.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

The visits of Aston Villa and Newcastle in August 2016 were both sell-outs but by 2018-19, the average gate was nearer 20,000 so availability is rarely a problem. For all enquiries, contact supporterservices@bristol-sport.co.uk.

There are no advance sales in person. General sale begins online 2-3 weeks before the game and by phone (0117 963 0600, option 1; Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, from 10am weekend match days, from 5pm weekday). Tickets will then be sent by email to print at home.

Buying on the day from the office behind the Atyeo Stand is usually possible, from 10am at weekends, from 5pm weekdays. 

Prices are organised into two categories according to the opposition: £34-£42 in the Lansdown Stand and £30-£39 in the Dolman Stand, £28-£33 behind the goals in the South Stand and away Atyeo Stand. There are discounted prices for over-65s/under-25s (£25-£39(, under-22s (£22-£36), under-19s (£16-£23) and under-12s (£10-£17).

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

Behind the South Stand, the Bristol Sport Store (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 10am-1pm, match days from 9am/10am, then for 30min after final whistle) stocks current kits – away strip for 2021-22 is black with a sky-blue trim – and ‘warm-up T-shirts’, a Jackson Pollock affair of splashed colours over landmarks of Bristol. 

More traditional souvenirs include Ashton Gate 8 tea towels and coasters. Look out, too, for The Colour of Football by Steve Stacey, the first African-American to play professional football in England, for Bristol City in the early 1960s.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

The classic City pubs on Ashton Road closest to the ground, the traditional Coopers Arms and the Rising Sun, remain busy with Robins fans on match days.

For the neutral or visiting supporter, it might be easier to turn the corner into North Street, where there’s a row of restaurants and takeaways on each side of the road – and still easily walkable to the ground.

Amid the cafés and eateries you’ll find the Tap Room of the Bristol Beer Factory, offerings from the brewery alongside poured from five hand-pulls and eight keg lines. Further up towards town, the Hen & Chicken makes use of its surrounding terraces, changing its rota of real ales and providing own-dough pizzas and comedy shows of a Saturday.

Across the road, The Lounge flies the flag of Bristol City but is more just a funky place from breakfast through to evening drinks. Filling a former opticians and hairdressers with kitsch art, providing quality snacks, burgers and paninis, and decent draught beers, a trio of Bristolians made such a success out of this venue they opened scores of others across the country. You’ll find Bath Dark Side and Cruiser Atlantic Pale among the ales, Estrella Damm and Beck’s Vier among the lagers.

On match days, the Ashton Gate Sports Bar & Pizzeria behind the home South Stand opens three hours before kick-off for lashings of Heineken, Amstel, Thatchers cider and Guinness, plus  pizza-and-pint deals, surrounded by a dozen plus screens, including the largest indoor one in the UK.

The Heineken Lounge caters to corporate clients, its balcony overlooking the pitch from the South Stand

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