I [heart] Saltergate

When the makers of The Damned United were searching for locations suitable for the adaptation of David Peace’s novel, one of their tasks was to find a contemporary football ground which could represent Derby County’s Baseball Ground as it looked in the early 1970s. They were probably expecting to have to settle for somewhere which was similar in its original structural design but, inevitably, in a much more modern condition.

Then they found Saltergate. In the end all they needed to do to travel back in time by 40 years or so was to cover the main stand’s blue paint with green. Chesterfield Football Club decided not to bother repainting in the main stand after filming had ended – after all, it had needed a new coat for years, and with the club due to relocate just a few months later, there wasn’t really any point.

Here, Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) directs the Derby County players’ training session. This scene is great for views of Saltergate: this shot sees the Main Stand in the background, complete with era-authentic advertising hoardings (Texaco) added. The bright patch over a hole in the Main Stand roof (top left of picture) was there before filming. The stand looks a lot darker than in real life due to all the green paint. And what the hell have they done to the pitch??

As Clough and his Chairman, Sam Longson (Jim Broadbent), argue, The Kop is visible in the background.

And as they continue, we see the Cross Street end, where many an away fan would get soaked by the North Derbyshire rain, and laughed at by the home fans (“you’re getting wet, you’re getting wet, we’re not, we’re not” – oh the wit).

There’s very little of the Compton Street stand visible in the film, presumably because, with 1,000 or so bright blue plastic seats it was the most un-1970s-Derby-County of all the stands. It’s visible here behind Clough as he argues (again) with Longson. I assume they covered the seats with a bit of grey tarpaulin to achieve some kind of non-descript terracing effect.

On the other side of the Main Stand is (oh… ‘was’. It breaks my heart to correct myself in that way) the main entrance to the club. Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor (second from the left, Timothy Spall) welcome three new signings to the club. The rusty corrugated iron with its paint peeling off was, again, not added for the benefit of filming.

Here’s a clearer view of the main entrance. CFC’s official club letterbox remains visible, at least in this photo (not taken from the film).

And finally, here’s a close-up of the press box, its surroundings painted green for the film (I’m not entirely sure why a section of the roof has been removed).

(Many thanks to the kind gentleman at DoingThe116 for the use of the photo of the press box, taken during a wander round the ground which he details in a wonderful, touching post here. And indeed, reading here, he appears to be more more of a Spireite than me. These posts are all in Dutch, so you might want to have the Google translation bar, or something similar, at the ready)

I was genuinely delighted when I heard that Saltergate would be used as a location in the film, meaning that a personally evocative, but to others obscure, part of my life would be immortalised. I didn’t know it at the time, but the choice of Saltergate would also come to mean that the savagely crushing realisation that my digital camera’s memory card had failed during the last ever match there (thereby forever losing the photos carefully taken from my own long-standing vantage point within the ground) was slightly eased.

Only slightly, mind. I’m still bloody upset about it.

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