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28DL and UE in the News - Doncaster Free Press, 01/02/07 | 28DL and Urban Exploring in the News... | 28DaysLater.co.uk

28DL and UE in the News Doncaster Free Press, 01/02/07



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BELLE VUE: FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND
WITH all eyes now focused on Doncaster Rovers' brand new £32 million Keepmoat Stadium, it won't be long before the now-departed Belle Vue is consigned to the history books.
The demoliiton process is well under way and in the shadow of the new stadium, 84 years of history are gradually being reduced to rubble, barely a month after the final game against Nottingham Forest.
Lifelong Rovers fan and Free Press features editor DARREN BURKE went to take one last look at the place which holds so many memories for so many people...

IT was typical funeral weather.
Grey, glowering and rain-laden clouds, the occasional icy blast of a wintry shower and vicious and cruel biting winds, carrying with them the debris of days gone by.
It's scarcely a month since the cheers and tears of Belle Vue's glorious finale ebbed away but while supporters have now turned their backs on the old girl in favour of a new, sleeker model, the bulldozers, souvenir hunters and elements have already taken their toll on the already crumbling stadium.
The infamous car park puddles greeted me - but as ready as I was to pay my respects to the place I've called home every Saturday afternoon since the winter of 1981, nothing could prepare me for what lay beyond the graffiti-scribbled and battered but otherwise normal peeling red paint exterior of Belle Vue.
Clambering up a dusty wooden staircase, littered with empty plastic bottles, fading crisp packets and soggy newspapers, the smell of decay and devastation was already rising in my nostrils.
It was a journey I had to make, a funeral I had to attend. Forget the fireworks and singing of December 23, here was death in its truest, rawest sense.
Pulling my coat tighter against the freezing, blustery showers I stepped into the dark, cavernous Main Stand. The wind whistled eerily around the now empty banks and bare planks of wooden seating, cladding panels rattling their death knell, the ghosts of Alick Jeffrey, Charlie Williams, Billy Bremner snapping into vivid focus with the shouts of thousands of supporters carried on the gusts.
My eyes fell to the the turf, the turf that's hosted scores of great and plenty not-so-great players since 1922. The dugouts, goalposts and line markings were gone, ugly great scars of bare earth ripping through the once pristine, now waterlogged, green pitch where excavation vehicles and fans alike have left their mark.
The roof of the Popular Side, sheered off and sliced into hulks of scrap metal on the terrace below, carpeted with the remnants of food, screwed up half-time draw tickets and weatherbeaten polystyrene cups, simply left to swirl in the wind after the Forest finale.
Splinters of shattered advertising hoardings and muddy brown puddles were everywhere, scorch marks and holes where crush barriers breathed their last, lumps of grey, shattered concrete now resting where thousands of feet used to tread.
Rusting speakers, still attached to pillars and wires trailing and whipping in the wind, never again to tell supporters details of scorers, attendance figures, warnings about smoking in the Main Stand or simply advising errant husbands that their wives had gone into labour.
Each and every part of the ground had a story to tell - dumped and unsold matchday programmes soggily flapping in the shadow of the Main Stand, a half-empty bag of sugar in the deserted Rossington End snack bar, a solitary bunch of red roses laid forlornly on the pitch by a tearful supporter, splintered red wood where turnstiles snapped up by supporters have now gone to homes and gardens across Doncaster.
A ground that once hosted an incredible 37,000 people, welcomed the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United and saw every emotion you could ever imagine, finally knew her time had come.
As I climbed the wrecked terrace steps, I took one last lingering look around the ground, knowing that after 26 years, the place - my place - that's been a constant in my life will soon be gone. So, with a lump in my throat, a tear in my eye and a thousand different memories clouding my mind, the time has come to write the closing chapter on a long, rollercoaster ride of a life. Farewell Belle Vue - rest in peace.
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