Victoria Park has a capacity of just under 8,000, 4,500 of which was taken up for Hartlepool’s match against Portsmouth. However, this was not especially impressive as the attendance was including 977 travelling Pompey fans, and one might have expected the Poolies to turn out in their numbers to help their side out of their current relegation plight. The atmosphere wasn’t especially vibrant from the home supporters either, although it has to be noted that they were not given much to cheers about by their side’s less-than-impressive performance. It was, however, noticeable that the ground’s acoustics, especially in the away end, allowed the fans to generate a good noise level.
The home end is called the Town End and is where the main hardcore of Poolies stand. It is a covered terrace and was where the majority of the atmosphere was coming from. The away end, by contrast, was all-seated and was very comfortable, if a little on the small side. The Rink End was sold out but could still only house just under 1,000 away supporters which isn’t a great allocation for when the bigger followings come visiting. The other major downside was that the roof of the stand was held up by pillars which blocked the view of supporters from many angles. My view was impeded by a particularly annoying pillar which obstructed about half of the goal. One thing which the ground has to be given credit for is that the roof completely covered all of the away fans. The rain was pouring down for much of the second half but the away supporters did not get at all wet, although the same cannot be said for all the home fans.
As far as the facilities were concerned, I didn’t actually see too much inside the ground. Food seemed to be widely available ad I saw more than a few Pompey fans carrying burgers into the stands. The turnstiles seemed to function relatively well, as they were run by a person with a machine to scan tickets, but there were only two turnstiles for the entire away end which led to lengthy queues. This may not be a problem for the standard League Two away followings, but it is something that could be worth sorting out if Hartlepool have aspirations of playing at a higher level any time soon. The area surrounding the ground was mixed as much of it was filled with housing, but there is also a Vue cinema, a Pizza Hut, and a KFC which was the area where many supporters congregated both before and after the match.
The ground is not the easiest to get to from the South Coast, as it requires a 650 mile round trip from Portsmouth. The stadium itself is relatively accessible by train and is a mere ten minute walk from Hartlepool station, but getting there is no mean feat and involves going from Portsmouth to London Waterloo, then on the tube to King’s Cross, before a long distance train to Aberdeen. Fans must then change at Darlington, then again at Thornaby, before finally going to Hartlepool station. It is possible to get a direct train from Hartlepool to King’s Cross on the way back which is far more comfortable and also has a buffet carriage, but still involves a lot of travelling. The ground is also reasonably accessible by car as, although the ground itself is closed off prior to the match, there are a selection of side streets which people can park in within 20 minutes walk of the stadium.
On the whole, I enjoyed going to Hartlepool and would be open to going back there again, although the ground could do with some improvement in future in order to function in the higher divisions. The ground is fairly accessible but, with it being so far from the South Coast, it is the kind of place where you really need a performance from your team or you will see it as a day (and a lot of money) wasted. I look forward to my next visit to Victoria Park but I can only hope that whatever game I go to next will be worth the travelling!