The Top 5 Best and Worst Football Grounds in England
I love watching football, and I especially love watching football in a good, old-fashioned stadium that has plenty of atmosphere. New stadia simply don't cut the mustard, usually, so here's my top 5 best and worst grounds in England - those that really rock, and those that suck.
The best - no.5 - Bloomfield Road, Blackpool
I grew up a few miles from Bloomfield Road, and it was always a ramshackle place. Corrugated iron, old-fashioned terraces and one hell of an intimidating old-school atmosphere that few of the modern stadiums can rival. As it is today, it's maintained that atmosphere with the seats, making it one of the most entertaining, but small, match venues in the country.
The best - no.4 - Craven Cottage, Fulham
Some fans dismiss Craven Cottage as a sleepy, quaint little ground, with a stand for neutral supporters that takes away from the atmosphere. I disagree - it's a jagged little place with a proper cottage in the corner, great pies and it's a real walk-up stadium, like they used to have in the old days. I love going to Fulham for games, and wouldn't have the ground any other way.
The best - no.3 - Stamford Bridge, Chelsea
I think it's a shame they're talking about leaving Stamford Bridge, as it's a proper old-fashioned football stadium. They even have a proper old-fashioned sing-along before games, and the closeness of the stands to the pitch makes it a more intimidating place than most Premier League grounds. People tend to forget that Chelsea's excellent home record comes partly because the ground works in their favour - unlike, for example, Arsenal.
The best - no.2 - Villa Park, Aston Villa
When you enter Villa Park, you feel you're entering a place with great history, a place with a sense of tradition. A great old stand, and the brilliant old FA Cup semis - this place really does create an atmosphere all of its own. Villa fans add to the stunning noise of Villa Park - one of the best grounds in the world.
The best - no.1 - Goodison Park, Everton
On its day, Goodison Park absolutely rocks. When Everton are doing well, they really do fire up the crowd, and there's nowhere in the Premier League that creates as much noise - or in the country, in fact. It's falling apart, yes, and it urgently needs updating, but until that happens, it will always be a place where you feel transported back to the 1960s. A real 'Old Lady', you just hope, for Evertonians' sake, that they update it and that they keep that special Goodison atmosphere going.
The worst - no.5 - Ewood Park, Blackburn
You could hear a pin drop sometimes at Ewood Park, if it weren't for the away supporters. Tucked away between the terraced houses and the hills, Ewood Park could be a lovely venue, but it's all too sterile and dull.
The worst - no.4 - The Madejski Stadium, Reading
They call it the Mad Stad, but it's anything but Mad - it's a soul-destroying bowl of a stadium on the outskirts of a decrepit railway town, and what's more, it's in an industrial park. Yuk. The old Elm Park Road ground is long gone, and Reading is now stuck with this sterile, functional little stadium that is usually half empty and just screams - help.
The worst - no.3 - St. Mary's, Southampton
If they hadn't left The Dell, then St. Mary's may not have made it onto this list - but moving from a stadium full of character and bizarre charm to a stadium clearly built by someone who hates football is a crime. St. Mary's leaves fans feeling deflated even before kick-off. Yes, they have nice toilets, but that's not the point.
The worst - no.2 - White Hart Lane, Tottenham
This may have been one of the best grounds in the land, but the sneering of the home support makes it one of the most distasteful grounds to visit. I've been to WHL several times and haven't enjoyed the atmosphere at all - a horrible area with fans that only ever chant against the opposing fans, and not for their own team.
The worst - no.1 - both The Reebok, Bolton and the DW Stadium, Wigan
Two new stadiums that can be described as sterile, dull, devoid of atmosphere, and usually half-empty. The corporate sell-out of football can best be expressed in gleaming stadia like this, stuck in the middle of nowhere, away from the old northern towns where walk-up stadiums created such an atmosphere - although generating less money. Awful stadiums, and an awful experience.
Barry Hornwhistle writes for Free Bet Bookmaker, a site that gives you bookmaker offers galore.