It was on this night in 1997 that Stoke City started a new era.
It was the first game at the Britannia Stadium – now the bet365 Stadium – and 12,768 spectators were in the stands as witnesses. There were teething problems like the fact there was no water in the changing rooms – but surely they would quickly sort out traffic and parking issues.
The Sentinel gave the occasion extensive coverage, including this review from a supporter.
From the archives: August 28, 1997
‘I didn’t really know what to wear for the best,” worried Nigel Walker as he combed his hair in readiness for a big night out at the Britannia.
There was momentary alarm in the Walker household that the new stadium would be so posh even Nigel’s smartest jeans would be frowned upon by burly security staff.
The 45-year-old Stoke fan has been so excited by Stoke City’s new home that he has visited the Sideway site twice a week since construction began just to check on its progress. Last night he finally went inside.
A normal home match for the season ticket holding print manager from Baddeley Green would include a few pints at his favourite pub before a last minute dash across Stoke for kick-off at the Victoria Ground.
Now he is a proud Britannia Stadium season ticket holder with a pass for the Legends supporters’ bar and a car park pass.
But just to make sure, Nigel checked his tickets twice at home and then stopped his car a minute into his journey, got out into the road, scrabbled in his pockets and said: “Hang on! Have I got my tickets?”
“I just don’t want anything to go wrong,” he explained.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for ages. I paid for my season ticket in April and I have got tonight planned out.”
Nigel has been a die-hard Boothen Ender since he was 11 when a friend took him to watch Stoke play Tottenham in 1962.
He has been to Wembley and stadiums all over the country, even admitting to the occasional night away watching the reserves.
His journey to the stadium last night was early enough to miss the heaviest traffic – Nigel wanted to be there in good time for a look around.
But a wistful glance as the sun set over the vacated Victoria Ground was quickly replaced with a smile as the new stadium came into view on the Sideway horizon.
“Look at that,” he said proudly, “it’s like a bloody space station, a marvellous sight.”
The first queue Nigel encountered was for the car park outside the stadium and he could barely wait to get out of his Vauxhall, impatiently blowing the horn at passers-by dawdling in his path.
Then it was up to the ground to press his face against the window of the main foyer and marvel at the size of the stadium.
“I was apprehensive when they said that Stoke were leaving the Victoria Ground, but you can’t live in the past. Look at this – it’s a cracking stadium, one of the best in the country.”
Nigel kept with one of his Victoria Ground traditions by asking his teenage daughter Kate to buy a programme – and then refusing to touch it until after the final whistle.
But his years spent supping pre-match pints down the The Beehive in Penkhull were over as he walked into the new Legends Bar and settled down with his first Britannia Stadium beer.
“Not bad that, I quite like it in here,” he declared, before noticing that the worn looking tables in Legends had already seen service in the Stanley Matthews Suite at the Victoria Ground.”Never mind, I am sure that they will fetch in some new ones.”
Checking his tickets again, Nigel led Kate and son Gareth around to the Sentinel stand.
He said: “A lot of my mates have decided to go in the north stand but I thought I would pay a bit more and have a go over here with a seat on the half-way line.
“It still feels like a football stadium in here, they haven’t lost any pre-match atmosphere.”
A wide smile when he saw the players warming up on the lush pitch was soon replaced by the anguished array of facial expressions of your average football fan as Stoke squandered a couple of chances in a tedious first half.
Tucking into a meat pie at half-time he said: “Well the stadium might be new but the football certainly isn’t. We should be a couple up by now at least.”
As the clock ticked towards 90 minutes Nigel was desperate for a goal – not wanting the Britannia Stadium to remain unchristened.
And he leapt from his seat when Kavanagh provided it. “Now that was a goal worthy of a stadium like this,” smiled Nigel – before Rochdale ruined it by popping in an equaliser.
But Nigel was philosophical.
“I would have preferred an outright win and a better game, but it was a wonderful night.”
And his verdict on the stadium? “Fantastic. The only thing that’s disappointed me was the football.”