EXTRA COVER: Football has gone but the ice cream remains

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The Independent Online
The last first-class ground to share its space with League football, Wantage Road's double life ended when the muddied oafs of Northampton Town decamped to purpose-built Sixfields Stadium, leaving the flannelled fools free to ply their trade unhindered from spring to autumn.

Now practically all traces of the county's former house guests have gone. What remained of the Abington Avenue grandstand has been demolished and the Kop flattened. Only the most observant spectator would notice the odd remnant of football ground brickwork in the corner by the County Tavern, which itself used to be owned by the cricket club.

Flanked by factory walls and urban housing, Wantage Road hardly offers a delightful panorama, although perceptions vary depending on the vantage point. From the lofty upper deck above the indoor school, a spot rarely warmed by the sun, the rows of terraced houses stretching into the distance can create a very bleak outlook.

Settle down in a sunny spot on the football ground side, however, and it could almost be a different ground. The main stand housing the school is not the most edifying piece of architecture but the players' pavilion, built in 1978, and the recently refurbished Spencer Pavilion, create a pleasant backdrop to either side.

Strollers can happily circuit the whole perimeter, pausing perhaps to ponder the history of what appears to be a small railway signal box fitted out as a lounge on the west side. In fact, this curious structure, now given over to sponsors, was built in 1904 at a cost of pounds 72 to house the scorers and the press.

Or else they can jostle with the players in the queue lined up by the Gallones van, waiting to sample the best ice cream on the circuit.