Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stadium tour: Dagenham & Redbridge Football Club

Emdad Rahman
After years of watching Barcelona at the Camp Nou, Liverpool at Anfield and Old Trafford, Benfica at the Stadium of Light Lisbon, Lazio at the Olympic Stadium, Rome, it was time to visit my local team. So I took my little one and took the short drive down to Victoria Road for a stadium tour.
The stadium has been a showpiece of the local area since 1917 and the local Sterling Works side used to play their games at the venue. It was convenient as the pitch was situated right next to the Sterling Works factory.
In 1955 Briggs Sports and Dagenham FC moved on and left the stadium and Dagenham & Redbridge have been a fixture at the ground since. After some resurfacing and structural work was completed on the terraces construction began on the main stand. J.W. Bowers, chairman of the Essex County Football Association was chief guest at the grand opening of the new ground on 7 January 1956.
Over the years the ground has achieved several milestones:
  • Victoria Road hosted its first floodlit match – an FA youth Cup game on 26 September 1957. 
  • The very first senior outing was against Rainham Town on 19 March 1958.
  • In 1967 the club achieved its highest attendance total as 7200 excited punters jam-packed into the stadium for an FA Cup tie against Reading FC.
Moving forward to the year of Italia 90 and Redbridge Forest moved in to ground share. It was a pital moment as the rickety old ground had fallen into a state of disrepair. The cash boost was most welcome and to increase the capacity of the ground the new tenants funded a new stand as well as the replacement of grass banking with firm concrete terracing. The completion of these new works bought the ground up to Football Conference standards. Two years later Dagenham and Redbridge Forest merged.
In 1995 a new brick built pitch perimeter was built to further modernise the stadium. On August 4 2001 the newly completed 800 seat stand hosted its first game - The Essex Senior Cup final against Canvey Island. The works continued as the club installed new turnstiles and replaced old floodlights with newer ones. A number of crush barriers were also installed in 2002. In January of the same year the Daggers achieved their highest attendance figures as 5,949 fans turned up to watch the game against Ipswich Town.
In July 2007 a new sponsorship deal was set up with the Barking and Dagenham London Borough Council with the stadium renamed the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium.
In 2009 the terraced away end was replaced with a new all seater stand to fulfill government standards. The number of seats in the stadium now total 2,200.
Victoria Road has hosted UEFA Youth International matches involving England, San Marino and Cyprus, a Women's Full international match between England and Sweden, various County and League Cup finals, an FA Women's Cup semi-final, and an FAXI against an Isthmian League representative side. West Ham United reserve teams have played their home matches at the ground in previous years.
The club has produced and hosted several players of note. Iconic skipper Anwar Uddin is currently riding high with Sporting Bengal in the Essex Senior League. There is Dwight Gayle at Crystal Palace and ex Hammer Zavon Hines is still going strong. This is a compact ground with a generally friendly atmosphere. There is good local support and the club regularly plays hosts to family events as well as hosting several events with the community in Barking & Dagenham and beyond.
Thank you to Managing Director Steve Thompson MBE and Jodie Crane for the tour.

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