Edgeley Park, Stockport

Edgeley Park © Hans Henrik Appel

Among his “50 delights of modern football”, Daniel Gray describes “seeing a ground from the train” as the first one. He describes what people do on a train “some jab at their laptop keyboard or a tablet screen. But not me: I have the vague feeling that a flicker of Edgeley Park can be caught, so I am looking out of the window”. I can relate to that. On my first ever trip to Manchester by train in 1980, I remember suddenly seeing Edgeley Park as the train was slowing down on the way into Stockport Railway station. Since then, I have always waited for the glimpse of Edgeley Park from the train when my journey has taken me through Stockport. To me, Stockport has for many years been synonymous with a fascinating glimpse of a proper football ground caught from a train window.

Maybe because the sight from the train was so enchanting, it took me quite a few years before planning a visit. It felt as though I had already been there. And it probably wouldn’t to live up to my romantic idea of it, once I went. It was not until 2018 that I put it into my match day schedule. But, alas, that match was called off in the morning because of a water-logged pitch. Then the covid pandemic put my football travels to a halt for some three years, before I went on my next trip in September 2022. By then, Stockport County had won promotion to the football league after some years in the National league, and I planned to see their away match at Tranmere Rovers’s Prenton Park, another ground on my to-do list. It seemed a fairly safe time of the year to travel – the football pitches are still in prime condition in September. But on the very day of my arrival, the Queen died and all matches were called off during the following weekend.

With no matches on, my good friend Dale in stead took me on a couple of road trips to visit as many football grounds as possible. And we started one of them at Edgeley Park before going to Coventry to see the Coventry Arena. The contrast between the two grounds was startling. It is perhaps unfair to compare two football grounds on the basis of visits on a non-match day. But I can’t help doing it …

In 2005, Coventry City moved from Highfield Road near the city centre of Coventry to Holbrooks near the M6. Not just to build a larger ground but also to get better parking facilities and road links. The A444 – named the Jimmy Hill way – with four lanes each side of the road runs past it. In fact, a roundabout just outside the ground makes the traffic seem even more hectic. On the other sides of the ground, you have a shopping centre with a huge car park and an industrial area. The residential area of Holbrook may not be far away, but it feels like an uninhabited place. It is a stark contrast to the old ground, Highfield Road, surrounded by terraced housing – and to Stockport County’s Edgeley Park.

You approach Edgeley Park through streets with terraced houses. Whereas Coventry Arena has been dumped in an industrial area, Edgeley Park and the surrounding streets go back to the decades between 1880 and 1910, when urban development with terraced houses, parks, churches, local pubs, clubs and sport fields spread on the land around the residence of the Sykes family (Edgeley House), the Edgeley Mills and the reservoirs behind them. The Stockport Rugby Club got Edgeley Park as their playing field in 1891, but at that time it was rather basic. If you look at a map from 1895, you can see how Hardcastle Road still did not extend all the way past the ground; how the ground only had two small stands; and how terraced houses had not yet been built opposite the ground. It has all changed on a map of 1914. In fact, the terraced housing in Hardcastle Road opposite the football ground was built so close to it that when the main stand burned down in 1935, 11 of the houses opposite it caught fire as well. Whereas you just feel surrounded by cars and traffic at Coventry Arena, you feel surrounded by human life at Edgeley Park.

Then there is the ground itself. The Coventry Arena is of a modern bowl-shaped design. When you walk around it, it looks more or less the same from all angles. To be fair, The Coventry Arena do have a couple of distinct features to help you orientate yourself. To the west, a casino and conference centre is attached, and to the East, you find a memorial garden behind it (the previous day, we went to Rotherham United and Doncaster Rovers, two bowl-shaped grounds with hardly any features to give the sides of the ground distinct characters, at least from the outside.) But apart from that, the Coventry Arena basically looks the same from all angles. At Edgeley Park, all the four sides of the ground are distinct. You have the main stand at Hardcastle Road, rebuilt in 1936 after the fire. The two ends contrast sharply. Towards the railway, you have uncovered seats, whereas you have the two-tiered 5.000 capacity stand from 1995 rising high above the rest of the ground at the Cheadle End. Opposite the main stand, the family stand seems to have been squeezed in between the playing pitch and a reservoir. I didn’t visit the family stand, but apparently toilets and refreshment facilities are located in an outdoor concourse behind it.

Supporters may not find an uncovered stand or an uncovered concourse charming on a cold, rainy day, and Stockport are therefore about to undertake a long-term development of the current ground. I do hope that the stands will remain distinct, though. It is not that a stand has to be old to have character. I really like the Cheadle End from 1995, for example. The view is great, the seats are good, the concourse wide and welcoming, and they have still managed to put in conference facilities.

On the Sunday that we visit Edgeley Park and Coventry Arena, there is a football programme and memorabilia fair on in the Cheadle End conference centre at Stockport; at the Coventry Arena there is Nails and Beauty fair. At the programme fair, all visitors are football fans, most of them male, most of them +50. At the Nails and Beauty fair, it is hard to spot someone who looks like a football fan, and we definetely feel that we do not belong there! It sums it up well. Edgeley Park – including the relative new Cheadle End – is a proper football ground in a community. Coventry Arena is an event facility that could be anywhere and could host anything (and I haven’t mentioned the casino!).

So, I really look forward to finally visiting Edgeley Park for a match together with my son Thomas and my friend Dale. After a couple of days with glorious sunshine, the weather is grey and rainy. Dale has arranged that we can park at the house of his friend Matt, who will drive us straight to the ground (he is not attending). We go there three hours before kick-off to have a look around the streets surrounding the ground, but just as we approach, rain suddenly starts to lash down, so we quickly head to the Edgeley Conservative Club in St. Matthews Road for shelter. This is where we are due to meet another of Dale’s good friends, Graham. Whereas Matt is a Manchester City supporter, Graham is Stockport County season ticket holder, and he has bought the tickets for us. And along with the tickets, he presents me with a Stockport County scarf, so that I am properly dressed for the match.

The Edgeley Conservative Club with Edgeley Park at the end of the street. © Hans Henrik Appel

Graham’s friends David and Allan join us for a drink, and we look for a table for the seven of us. I ask a group at a neighboring table, if we can have one of their chairs. “Only if you buy a fanzine!” one of them replies. As I like fanzines, I am happy to pay £2 for issue number 100 of “When I was Young & Lazy”. The content is mainly photos of County fans – from 1937 up to recently. Much to my surprise, there are no sarcastic articles on how the club is run, but then, of course, Stockport County fans have every reason to be satisfied with the way things are going, as they are chasing their second successive promotion.

Churchill watching over us © Hans Henrik Appel

The Edgeley Conservative Club predates the football ground. It was opened by the former mayor of Stockport, A.H. Sykes on 16th February 1889, two years before the Rugby club moved in. The purpose of the conservative working men’s clubs was partly to serve as a political platform, partly to provide a ‘moral’ alternative to the local pubs. Whether they still serve as a political platform, I don’t know. Apart from the inscription “Edgeley Conservative Club” over the main entrance, there is a photo of Churchill hanging on the wall. As for being a ‘moral’ alternative to the local pubs, you can go to “Higginson’ Dance & Fitness” before going to the bar. But as I look round the room, there doesn’t seem to be many customers from the dance & fitness studio. Most are male +50 football supporters, having a drink and a chat before the match. It is a real nice atmosphere, and Graham and his friends make us feel welcome. They hope that we will bring some luck. Stockport County have been held to a draw in their last four home matches, whereas visitors Newport County are unbeaten in six games. The match seems to have “draw” written all over it.

If I had been on my own, I propably wouldn’t have known what Higginson’s Dance & Fitness is hiding. © Hans Henrik Appel

Just under an hour before kick-off we drink up and leave for the ground. It is still raining, so rather than stroll around the area to take photos, we head purposefully towards the covered fan-zone behind the Cheadle End. Which is a shame. I am really curious to see how many former pubs in the streets, it is possible to detect. A few years after Stockport County took over Edgeley Park, in 1906, there was a fascinating confrontation at the local police court between the owner of the Commercial Hotel by the railway station and the reverend of the St. Matthews church over the former’s application for a license to sell intoxicating liquors inside the football ground on match days.

Arnold Street © Hans Henrik Appel

The football club and the hotel owner argued that somewhere between 1500 and 2000 of a normal 5000 crowd asked for pass-out checks to go to a pub at half-time, as many of the spectators came from a distance and therefore went direct from their work to the ground without dinner. This resulted in chaos, as first everybody had to get out through two narrow gates into the narrow streets. Then, on their return, there usually was a crush to get back in, with some people having lost their pass-out checks.

Hardcastle Road © Hans Henrik Appel

On the other hand, the reverend argued that “thousands of people who did not belong to Stockport, some of them not the best characters, went on the ground, and he was sure if the magistrates heard the foul language that the children had to hear in the streets on Saturday afternoons in Edgeley they would not grant the application. Some of the property in Edgeley built by a brewer was tenanted by some of the poorest people, and he was sure it was lowering to the neighbourhood to have the football ground there”.The court granted the license for the following match, and therefore the club abandoned the pass-out check system. Although all the spectators were kept off the street during the match in this way, the solicitor of the church used the abandonment of the pass-out checks to have the application turned down for the following match. He argued that by keeping the spectators locked-up inside the ground, the club was disturbing the free trade of all the local pubs around the ground! The 1906 autumn clashes in court between the agent of the hotel owner (and the football club that was entitled to 30% of the profits) and the solicitor of the church over the applications for a license were more frequent and arguably more exciting than the football matches at Edgeley Park. I try to envisage the rush of up to 2.000 spectators to get to a pub and have a drink and back into the football ground during the half-time interval. It is usually bad enough for people to find enough time for half-time drink in the concourse inside the ground. Getting in and out of the ground must have been an ordeal.

The fan-zone is a novelty this season. It is located behind the Cheadle End, and you can enter on display of your match ticket. It basically consists in three ship containers, one of which serves street food, one is a bar, and the last one has a scene with live music. A tent covering the area in front of the containers gives shelter for the rain. After a hat-trick of fish ‘n chips Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, we have already decided to go for pies today. And that is a great decision. The steak ‘n ale pie with mash and gravy is home made and is definetely in the top three pies, I have ever had at football grounds.

Quite unusually, I haven’t spotted any programme sellers on the walk to the ground. It is probably the rain that has either made the sellers look for shelter or me overlook them. Match day programmes is a serious matter. The best football book I have ever read is the late Dave Roberts’ brillant “32 programmes” – that is probably my biggest regret in groundhopping that I never got to go to a Bromley match with him and get him to sign the programme. One rainy match day, I relied on buying a programme inside the ground, but presumably because everybody else did the same, they had run out of programmes in the stall on the concourse. So I insist on visiting the club store to ensure I get a programme, despite kick-off approaching fast.

Being reminded of my hip replacement operation 6 weeks ago © Hans Henrik Appel

As I wait in the club shop queue, I worry if I will be further delayed on entering the ground by the fact that the security staff at our entrance gates are carrying metal detectors. One thing is that I am carrying my camera, which some grounds do not allow. I have also just got an articifial hip replacement which set off the alarms at the airport. There, I had to go to the body scan machine, but I guess that they won’t have any at Edgeley Park. Maybe it is my luck that I go to club shop. Because by the time we get to our entrance, the security staff with the metal detectors have left, so I enter the ground without any problems.

Inside the ground, we head straight for our seats in the middle of the Cheadle End stand. The view is fabulous, something you don’t get at the modern bowl-shaped football grounds.

What a view! © Hans Henrik Appel

The view of the pitch is perfect. I do prefer to watch matches from behind one of the goals. It gives you a much better view of the positioning of the defenders and the movement of the forwards. But the real exciting thing is that you all the time are aware of being at this very ground. The 1936 Main stand. The open Railway End. The narrow Family stand. Behind and inbetween them, you can see trees, housing, the spire of the St. George’s Church – and in the distance the hill tops of the Peak District. This is not an anonymous, placeless bowl. It is a unique place. I can even see the trains passing by in the corner between the open Railway End and the Family Stand. After all these years looking at the ground from the train, I am now looking at the trains passing by from the ground. And the hill tops in the distance keep disappearing from view and reappearing, as the rain clouds thicken or are lifting.

From my seat, I can even look into the streets around the ground, where late arrivers are hurrying towards the entrances. And again I imagine what it has been like in 1906, when hundreds were leaving and reentering during the half time interval to go to a pub.

Late arrivers hurrying to the ground © Hans Henrik Appel

The modern bowl-shaped grounds strive for sameness. Ideally, you should have the same view from and the same comfort in all the seats around the ground. A sharp contrast to the traditional football ground, where you only had all the comforts of a sheltered seat and good facilities in the grandstand, whereas you sometimes would be standing in the open with poor if any catering or toilet facilities on the popular side. I have been brought up on such a ground in Denmark, and depending on my age, my mood and the weather, and depending on my going on my own, with my father, my son or my mates, I have gone to different stands in the ground. All offering slightly different experiences. Edgeley Park offer the same variety. Graham told us, that he used to go the Cheadle End, but now he has a season ticket in the main stand. But sometimes miss the Cheadle End.

Getting soaked in the uncovered Railway End © Hans Henrik Appel

Of course, as the rain is pouring down, I do not envy the brave supporters at the open Railway End. On such a day, everybody prefers a covered stand, especially when you are seated. But on the match highlights on television the other day, I noticed the packed open end at Brunton Park, bathed in sunshine. Some times an open end is great, although obviously not in rainy weather. Usually, grandstands were always placed on the west side, so the spectators wouldn’t be bothered by sun in their eyes. But I remember many a cold but sunny match day in early spring at my local ground in Denmark, where more people would go to the open popular stand on the East side to enjoy the warmth of the sun than sit freezing in the covered western main stand. I am not claiming that open stands are preferable to covered, far from it. But I am questioning the ideal of same-ness inside the ground. The same goes for restricted view. Sometimes you find old grounds with shocking restricted views; but I do not mind to have to lean back or forth to see the all action, rather than being rooted in the same position all the time.

The away support from Newport in the Family Stand © Hans Henrik Appel

On this rainy day, I am pretty sure that the travelling Newport County supporters are grateful that they have not been put in the open Railway End but in the section of the Family Stand next to it. And from there, they probably have a much better view of the main stand than I do. But then, they can’t see the rain clouds rolling over the hill tops in the distance. The sight from every part of the ground is different.

Players entering the pitch © Hans Henrik Appel

The players enter the pitch, and the atmosphere is quite good. There is a drummer not far from our seats. Usually, I find it very annoying, but maybe because there are so many visual impressions, I don’t bother that much today. Or maybe he is just more in sync with the crowd than they usually are.

1-0 for Stockport! © Hans Henrik Appel

Stockport County take an early lead from a brillant header by their striker Wooton after a perfect cross. In fact, Stockport County are comfortably the better team. They are much stronger, and they look dangerous whenever they manage to put crosses into the area. Newport County, on the other hand, seem short of attacking ideas, and their only real threat at goal comes from a hazardous pass across the back line by a Stockport defender. Just before half-time, Wooton doubles Stockport’s lead, and the game seems over as a contest.

There may not be a need for pass-out checks at half-time anylonger, but I notice quite a few people passing from the main stand to the Cheadle End at half time. More people than are queueing at the food kiosk in the main stand. It is probably because you are not allowed to drink alcohol in sight of the pitch, and maybe the facilities for that are poor (or even non-existent) inside the main stand. But pass-out checks do not seem to be necessary to regulate this traffic. While I am watching it, I suddenly hear the announcer over the PA system welcoming me and Thomas to Edgeley Park! It is Graham, who has asked him to do it. I am introduced as a historian from Denmark, taking photos for my writings, and then the greeting message is repeated. What a nice surprise! I see Graham by the kiosk trying to spot where we are. It puts a bit of pressure on me. I hope that my blog post won’t make disappointing reading.

Graham trying to spot us, as his message is read out over the PA © Hans Henrik Appel

The second half just confirms Stockport County’s superiority. Whereas their forrays down the wings in the first half were dangerous, they mainly came from deep balls in behind the Newport defence. During the second half, they also find their crossing positions from slick passing moves, and whenever they put a cross in, they look like scoring. The guy in front of us gets more and more excited. He follows the scores of Carlisle and Stevenage, Stockport County’s rivals for third spot and automatic promotion. He is going wild as Stockport gets their fourth goal just before the end, as other results mean that they move into third spot on goal difference, at least for the time being.

Fourth goal and third spot © Hans Henrik Appel

At the final whistle, I once again enjoy the view from the stand into the side streets. They are buzzing with life, as the crowd of just under 10,000 leaves the ground – reminding me of the disapproval of the football crowd in the streets from the church back in 1906.

Into the streets © Hans Henrik Appel

On our way out, I take a quick look at the concourse to see the facilities that attracted so many of the main stand ticket holders during half time. It is pretty spacious, a nice bar, quite a few tables, and even some plastic seats.

As we leave the ground, I am hoping finally to take some good photos of the ground with the surrounding streets. But just as we get out into Hardcastle Road, rain turns into hail, and we end up hurrying back to the Conservative Club for shelter.

I do, though, notice The Prince Albert pub on the way and wonder, if it was one of the watering holes around the ground in 1906. I have to do a search on that, and if so, perhaps I should see what it looks like inside on my next visit. But today, we are meeting Graham and Matt again for post-match drinks and evaluation of the match at the Conservative Club. There seems to be more young people now than before the match. Everybody seems excited with the emphatic four goal win and the new position in the league table. There is an air of contentment around our table. A good game, a great result, a lovely football ground, a terrific day out. Edgeley Park is definetely worth another visit. Thanks to Graham, Dale and Matt!

Contentment © Hans Henrik Appel

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Thirty-three football grounds in seven days – Day 3, 10th September 2022: Yorkshire

7. The Shay, Halifax

8. Oakwell, Barnsley

9. New York Stadium, Rotherham

10. Millmoor, Rotherham

11. Keepmoat, Doncaster

The main event of my tour should have been Barnsley FC against Portsmouth at Oakwell – with three tickets already bought for the Archibald Leitch stand and an appointment with Barnsley club historian David Wood. But the match is called off because of the Queen’s death. David calls me the evening before. He lives 100 miles from the ground, and with no match on, he won’t be going to Barnsley. He has tried to find out, if there would be somebody there to allow me a look inside, but he hasn’t succeeded. There will probably be nobody there to help us.

Still, that doesn’t deter us. Dale, his son Aarran and I set off from Irlam in the morning with first stop on the way Halifax – the match we had chosen as replacement for Barnsley before that as well along with all other non-league matches had been cancelled.

We drive up in front of the main entrance. There is a delivery man waiting at the door. When a staff member comes to let him in, I tell him that I am travelling from Denmark to visit football grounds and had planned to see Halifax, but, alas, the match had been cancelled. Would it be possible to have a look around the ground? He tells us to wait, while he takes care of the delivery man.

Main entrance to the Shay, Halifax 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

Some people may wonder, why Halifax and not some of the Premier league or Championship grounds of Yorkshire? Well, I want to visit some of the grounds, I haven’t been to before – and I have done Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Leeds, Chesterfield, and Bradford City previously. And there are quite a few reasons why Halifax is particularly interesting.

Following up on the visit to the site of Manchester City’s Maine Road, it is often claimed that the main stand at the Shay was bought by Halifax from Manchester City, when City left Hyde Road for Maine Road in 1923. For instance, Simon Inglis in his Football Grounds of Great Britain (1987 edition) claims that Halifax “spent £1000 on preparing the ground, much of it going towards buying a stand from Manchester City” and the Manchester City historian Gary James writes in ‘Manchester. A Football History’ that “another section of roof still survives today as a football stand at Halifax Town’s Shay Stadium. City sold the stand and a few turnstiles to Halifax for £1,000”. In fact, most sites mentioning the purchase from Hyde Road single out the roof of the stand.

The 1921 main stand at the Shay in 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

Indeed, an advert in the Manchester Evening News on 23rd August 1923 does inform that City have “bricks, slates, all timbers, steel and wood principals, girders, columns, iron and wood doors and frames, windows, shop fronts, football stands, barriers, firewood etc.” for sale at Hyde Road. It could well be that a club like Halifax has made a move for the stand.

I have gone through the local papers of Halifax to find confirmation. It is certainly not the entire stand that was bought from Manchester City. Halifax had to get a new football ground ready for September 1921 to become members of the new third division of the football league. They worked all winter and spring 1921 to convert the former rubbish tip into a football ground. And on 27th August 1921, the Halifax Evening Courier could inform its readers that “work is being commenced on the covered stand on the Skircoat-road side, and I have been led to believe that the covering at any rate will be ready by the end of next month”. Three days later, work has commenced, and still the stand is expected to be completed within four weeks.

On a photo from the opening league match at the Shay a couple of days later, 3rd September 1921, you can see a roof in the foreground http://www.halifaxpeople.com/The-Shay.html. This, however, is not the stand, but the office and dressing rooms, which are still there. The girders to carry the roof were not erected until the end of September. In fact, on the photo from 3rd September 1921 you can see excavations for them around the halfway line. On the 15th October 1921, the Halifax Evening Courier brings another photo, showing the girders, and tells that work will be completed in three weeks. https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0003295/19211015/128/0007?browse=true And so it proves. On 4th November 1921, Halifax Town can promise spectators shelter, if the weather should be wet for the match against Hartlepool.

The former club office and dressing room in the corner of the Shay, now used by the groundsman. Photo 2022 © Hans Henrik Appel

So, what happened in 1923, when the Hyde Road stand was put up for sale? The Halifax Evening Courier is following the goings on at the club closely. In July a loss of more than £2,000 is reported, making it hard to believe that Halifax Town would invest £1,000 in a stand shortly afterwards. On 31st August 1923 it is reported that there has been some rearrangements at the ground. “Spectators may transfer to the enclosure for an additional sixpence, to the wing stands from the enclosure for a further sixpence, and to the centre stand for 1s 6d”. Could the wing stands be an extension bought from Manchester City? I doubt it, especially considering the economic problems the club were in at the time.

Ironically, Halifax Town faced Manchester City in the FA Cup in February 1924 – with Manchester City demanding that they put the prices up. The tie generated so much revenue that Halifax came out of the season more than £2,000 to the good. It could be that they bought the stand from City with some of the money, but still the papers do not mention changes to the ground. It is possible that the story of Halifax Town being saved by the revenue from the City tie, has been mixed up with the story of their struggle to get the ground ready for the league in 1921.

In 1925, supporters were so dissatisfied by the lack of shelter in appalling conditions that they started a collection, and in the close season 1927, the Social Section helped the club finance a £1,000 extension of the stand, so it could hold 5,000 rather than 2,000 spectators. That is exactly the amount that Halifax is supposed to have paid Manchester City for the Hyde Road stand/roof. But would Manchester City have kept the stand/roof from Hyde Road for four years? I doubt it.

Anyway, I am really curious to have a look at the old Skircoat Road stand at the Shay. Today, it is an all-(plastic)seater stand, but I have seen old photos showing that the extension to the north was a standing enclosure, with wooden seats to the south (previously benches). It could, of course, be that the standing enclosure is “the wing stand” mentioned in 1923 – and that it was a new construction purchased from Manchester City. But I doubt it.

Not only is it hard to believe that City put it up for sale on 23rd August 1923, and that the rearrangements to enter it had already been made by Halifax Town eight days later. The extension in 1927, on the other hand, is said to have more than doubled the capacity of the stand, and the extension is said to have been 140 feet compared to the original stands 120 feet. The old part of the stand has currently 66 seats in each row, the new one 75 seats.

The 1927 extension follows the design of the main stand, but the pillars are slightly different and further apart, the roof extends an additional foot toward the pitch, the wall at the back of the stand is slightly different, and so is the construction of the girders. The work was undertaken by Messrs John Booth & Sons of Bolton, who had previously erected stands at Bolton, Blackburn, Burnley, Oldham, and Nelson (as late as in 1971, they supplied the steel for the new main stand at Goodison Park). As mentioned, the entire cost of purchasing and erecting the stand with forty tons of steel was £1,000. The newspaper articles describing the project do not mention that the roof (or anything else) had been purchased from Manchester City. But of course, it could be that John Booth & Sons have bought up building materials from Hyde Road and used them in later projects.

The £1,000 did not include the terracing of the extension. That had to wait till Halifax Town had raised additional funding – in 1934. Maybe it was seated in 1989, when Halifax Town bought some of the seats from Scunthorpe United’s old ground.

We are quite overwhelmed that our guide spends half an hour showing us around the ground. He shows us a tunnel behind the former dressing room next to the Skircoat stand. The Shay used to be part of an estate, but once the mansion had been demolished around 1900, there had been several plans for it. The Midland Railway Company had plans for a goods depot on the site, and a railway tunnel was constructed. The company apparently gave up their plans in 1909, but the tunnel remained. Apparently, boys had used it to sneak into the ground.

The Skircoat main stand is very basic. No concourse, no stalls, nor kiosks (although the newspapers do mention a large refreshment buffet along the back of the stand as part of the plan for the extension in 1927). It is now where the away support is located, with the home supporters enjoying the bars in the South and East stands. Realizing how interested we are, our guide takes us to see the old turnstiles, but, alas, they are locked, and he hasn’t got the key.

As basic, though, as the main stand may seem, it was just about the only part of the ground to stand up to new safety requirements after the Popplewell Report in 1985 (after the Valley Parade fire). A small stand – just 60 feet long – was built opposite the main stand in 1953. It soon became the main stand called “the patrons’ stand” with dressing rooms and a director’s box. But part of it was closed due to safety issues as a temporary measure on 17th June 1985.  All the standing areas were closed as well, and the capacity reduced from 16,000 to 1,777. There were just banks at the two ends with no proper terraces with crush barriers.

No wonder Halifax Town soon were heading for an economic collapse. Somehow, the club survived but was relegated to the conference league in 1993. The club did so well in the 1997-8 season that promotion to the league looked a distinct possibility. However, the ground did not comply with the minimum standards for a league ground. So in January 1998, the bank at the north end of the ground was terraced with concrete, enabling Halifax to return to the league in the summer. After two seasons back in the league, the old “Patrons’ stand” was demolished to make way for a new, modern East Stand. The building, however, was halted for a lack of funding, and then Halifax was relegated in 2002 and went into administration, leaving the stand as building site for the following six years. Before that, they had managed to terrace the South end of the ground and add a bar, making this the preferred end of the home supporters.

Although Halifax Town managed to survive in 2002, they were still struggling financially, and ended back in administration in 2007, before being liquidated in the summer 2008. During these turbulent years, the future of the ground was just as uncertain as the future of the football club. Back in 1995, a plan was launched to build a new super stadium for the Rugby and Football clubs of the town at Thrum Hall, but in the end the council turned it down. Instead, the council handed the management of the ground to the Halfiax Stadium Development Company in 1998, but they were liquidated in 2003. A new Shay Stadium Trust was set up to manage the ground.

A new phoenix football club, FC Halifax Town, was formed in 2008, and a new chief executive at the council backed the Shay Stadium Trust to restart work on the East Stand the same year, and it was soon completed. Our guide takes us inside to see the dressing-rooms.

I really like the Shay. It is central in the town, but at the same time has a rural feeling, surrounded by trees, and in the distance, you can see the hillsides. The main stand with its extension tells the story of the expansion of the league with two third divisions in 1920-1 – and the race to join it. The other three stands not only tell the story of the repercussions of the new stadium regulations in the second half of the 1980’s for smaller clubs; but also how automatic relegation has made those clubs walk a tightrope. At the time of writing, AFC Halifax Town is at the bottom of the National League, so their situation could easily get perilous again. But as we stand in the North Stand, overlooking the ground, leaning against the crush barriers, the club seems to be too big for that to happen.

View from the North Stand, the Shay. Photo 2022 © Hans Henrik Appel

We promise to return for a match on my next visit.

We get back to the car and head towards Barnsley, our main destination. Rugby was still the dominating sport in most of Yorkshire in the 1880’s, when association football turned into a real business in Lancashire. That was the case in Barnsley too, but in 1887, the reverend T. Preedy at the St. Peter’s church set about forming a football club. Barnsley St. Peters Football Club, they were therefore called for the first ten years of its existence.

Having become the centre of football in Barnsley, the club hit the national footballing scene in 1895, when they were drawn to face Liverpool in the FA Cup. Liverpool’s secretary send a protest to the FA, arguing that 1) the Barnsley ground was not enclosed, making it almost impossible to check the gate, 2) the ground was situated on the slope of a hill with a dangerous dip from side to side, 3) “the touchlines are cut in the turf, and would be dangerous to players unused to them”, and 4) there is absolutely no shelter at the ground.

The Liverpool secretary was too late handing in the protest, so Liverpool had to turn up. They were forced into extratime before scoring a late winner in front of a crowd of 4-5,000. It was two years after this, that the club was renamed Barnsley Football Club – to signal that it was ready to represent the town at a national level. And because the name had become available because a former Barnsley Football Club had folded. Maybe somebody else would lay claim to the name. The following year, the club for the first time applied for admission to the second division of the football league, and already the following year, 1899, Barnsley F.C. was admitted.

The car park outside Oakwell is completely empty when we arrive at about 12.30. As I take a photo of the South Stand from 1995, I notice the sloping ground. The Liverpool secretary had a point back in 1895, before the field had been levelled out. I also wonder if the church-like windows in the stand is a tribute to the founding reverend of St. Peters Church.

Once the club had been admitted to the league, ground improvement became a top priority. Not just levelling out the pitch, but also erecting stands that would attract bigger crowds. In 1900, the club was registered as a limited company with a capital of £1,000 to pay for ground improvements. Two years later, in 1902, the local paper concluded that “having been placed on a good basis the Barnsley Football Club is now going strong; it has a capital ground enclosed with stands, not architecturally beautiful perhaps, but suitable for the purpose…” The following year, the club started talking about “paving the way for a first division club”. Still, however, the club had to sell their top players or give up home-advantage against the top crowd-pulling teams to make ends meet (Barnsley, conceding home advantage to the likes of Aston Villa and Liverpool, however, also persuaded Nelson to concede home advantage to Barnsley).

The 1910 Archibald Leitch stand behind the 1908 walls and turnstiles. Photo 2022 © Hans Henrik Appel

Improving the ground was a way of breaking this vicious circle. In 1904, the club accepted a £600 plan for a new grand stand by the architect mr. Clegg, enlarging the capacity at Oakwell to 10,000. This resulted in an improvement of club finance, and in 1907 the club was able to purchase the ground (at £1,325), and the following year the ground was fenced in with new turnstiles, dressing rooms and refreshement booths at a cost of £305. “The long-needed modern dressing-rooms have been highly appreciated, and the refreshment rooms, improved entrances and exits, have contributed to the comfort of spectators”, the board announces at the next annual meeting. This makes the board announce a new policy. They will now retain their best players, even if they get offers from the first division clubs. And in 1910, Barnsley succeed in making it to the FA Cup final, before loosing to Newcastle in a replay. But Barnsley make a £5,380 alone from the FA Cup semifinal and finals, leaving the club with a turnover of £10,320 and a net profit of £4,943.

The board decide to invest the profit in the ground. The mortgage is paid off – and the football architect Archibald Leitch, who has just completed Old Trafford, is invited to build a modern grand stand, just six years after the erection of the previous. It will hold 1,400 seats, and 50 feet of terracing. And despite being much bigger than its predecessor, there will be a margin of 15 feet between the touchline and the barricade all round the ground. The cost is estimated at £2,500, that is half the profit from the FACup – and four times as much as the old grand stand. The plans are approved, the stand is built. But the cost raises to £5,000. At the same time, Barnsley have an awful season and have to apply for reelection to the second division. It seems that the gamble has failed. But next season, Barnsley again makes it all the way to the FA Cup final, and this time they do win it. The gamble has paid off after all. Hopes of making it into the first division are high. They finish just outside automatic promotion the following three seasons, before the league is suspended in 1915 because of the Great War, two places and four points ahead of Arsenal. When league football is resumed in 1919, the first division is extended from 20 to 22 teams. Surely, this is the chance for Barnsley to finally make it into the first division. But Arsenal are chosen ahead of Barnsley. Barnsley have to wait another 78 years before playing in the top tier of English football.

We walk down Grove Street along the 1908 wall with the old turnstiles. Barnsley club historian David Wood has been so kind as to send me his scans of the architectural plans for the new facilities from 1908, and I compare the present turnstile gates with the drawings. Not much, if anything has changed.

With John outside the players entrance at the North Stand, Oakwell. Photo 2022 @ Dale Tinsley.

We try to peek through the gaps around the exit-gates to get a glimpse of the stand and other buildings around it. The old dressing room from 1908 should still be there. But it is difficult to get a proper look. Suddenly a car appears from the academy car park behind the North Stand. Shortly after followed by another one. The drivers are in their twenties – they could very well be footballers. Although a sign on the gate tells that no unautorized personnel is allowed beyond this point, we enter the car park. I can see another couple of footballers inside the stand. As one of them exits the stand to get to his car, I tell him that I have travelled from Denmark to see the match – and ask if it would be possible to get a look at the old main stand. He tells us to wait for a minute and goes back inside. Shortly after, he reappears and tells us that the security officer, John, will take care of us. He is there within a minute.

In hindsight, perhaps it was a good thing that the match was called off. Otherwise we wouldn’t have met John, and the tour he takes us around the Archibald Leitch stand is definetely THE highlight of my trip. He takes us inside – first stop the 1908 dressing room and turnstile gate, the latter complete with an Ellison rushpreventive turnstile. W.T. Ellison patented his mechanic turnstile, that allowed for up to 4,000 entrants per hour in 1892. This one has been repainted so many times that the serial number at the bottom of the inscription plate cannot be dechiffered. But I am quite sure the turnstile must be the original one. Maybe the ones at The Shay that we didn’t get the chance to see were from Ellison too? It is quite fitting that we should see one. After all, we have set off from Irlam this morning, and Ellison had his workshop in “Irlams-o-th-height. Manchester”, although this is only barely discernible because the many layers of painting.

John takes us to the main stand. The brickwork, some of it painted red, and the wooden entrance and exit doors, also painted red with the door frames black – to me this what a real football ground should look like. It is oozing history and tradition.

First, John takes us to the boardroom. Whereas the furniture is modern, the wooden panelling on the walls are the original Archibald Leitch work. There is a list of guests left behind from the last home match, most of the guests visiting directors. In the corner, there is a display of trophies and memorabilia, among them the ball from the 1912 FA Cup final victory.

The corridors of the stand have been completely modernized. The white walls, the lights, and the grey carpet make me think of an average hotel, but some memorabilia along the walls make you remember where you are.

Finally, we enter the stands. Wauw. This is the real thing. Steel, bricks, and wood. Wooden floors covered by a gable roof of currogated steel plates. The acoustics inside such a stand are just so special. I have to find an expert one day, who can explain to me why. I wish there had been a match on. John, however, tells us that the most vocal Barnsley supporters sit in the uncovered former standing enclosure in front of the stand. Still, the sound in the main stand is special.

And then, of course, there are still wooden seats. In fact, in the back row, there is a wooden bench. Here, there is even enough leg room for me (I must try to get a ticket for the back row, when I finally get to a match here. Maybe a plastic seat is slightly more comfortable, but it just looks and feel so much cheaper. You can just feel that so much more work has been put into these.

John takes us to the televison gantry, from where we have a spectacular view of the ground. In a way, it is heresy to have put the gantry right in the middle of the iconic Archibald Leitch gable. I wonder why they haven’t put it in the new, tall East Stand opposit from 1995, enabling the gable to be restored to its original form – and for the Archibald Leitch stand to be the iconic background for television footage from the ground. Maybe the board back in 1995 preferred to show their new stand – complete with executive boxes – to the rest of the world. But today, the east stand could be just about any other ground.

From the gantry, you get a good impression of how much leg room you would have, if you were to choose to sit in the enclosure rather than the stand. But I guess that I would always go for the covered seating, nevertheless – and especially if I can have wooden seats and wooden floor.

We climb down the gantry, and John takes us pitch-side. The old players entrance is sloping downwards, following the natural slope of the ground. But you also had the players running unto the pitch before the days of modern football, where the television cameras are to have plenty of time to dwell on the “entrance of the gladiators”. As we are standing by the substitutes’ benches, I have a look at the top of the floodlight – and I am made aware of the peculiar soundscape down here. At least a hundred birds must be sitting there chirping, with no other sounds audible. There is no traffic nearby, in fact, despite being very near the city centre, you almost feel like in the countryside.

John says that he cannot show us the dressing rooms, unless all the players have left the ground. He will have to go to the ground control room to check. According to Simon Inglis’ Football grounds of Britain, this was built in 1986, predating the stands on the other three sides. From here, you have a stunning view of the ground in general, and the Archibald Leitch stand in particular.

It turns out that all the players have left, and John takes us through the players’ area with gym and dining room to the dressing room. All smart and modern. I guess the players must have been overjoyed, when they got these facilities. I remember visiting the dressing rooms at Craven Cottage, where a new minimum standard for the size of dressing room facilities for away teams means that Fulham players have had to cram into the much smaller away team dressing room. Well, I guess that the dressing rooms have been moved to Fulham’s new stand now.

On the phone, club historian David Wood told me the previous night that I ought to see he heritage timeline in the East Stand concourse. But John has already spend an hour and a half showing us around the ground – we are still processing the many impressions of the Archibald Leitch stand. So the East Stand must wait till my next visit. Because I am definetely coming back. Oakwell is definetely one of my top 10 English grounds – probably top 5.

Heading towards Barnsley city centre. Photo 2022 © Hans Henrik Appel

In fact, leaving John and the ground, we realize how hungry we are. So rather than do my usual walk around the ground, we head for the city centre to find something to eat. It is almost 3.30 – we would almost have been approaching half time, if the match had been played.

We grap a meal deal in a Greggs and then head for Rotherham, where it is still possible to see the old ground, Millmoor, just down the road from the new one, The New York Stadium. I hadn’t planned on going to Rotherham – it is the cancellation of the match that has given me the opportunity. So I have not really studied the history of the ground.

The name of the ground has nothing to do with New York City. In fact, the ground is named after the part of Rotherham, where it is situated, New York, although Wikipedia mentions that it is hoped that the name will attracts sponsorships from New York City. And right now, a sponsorship deal has changed the name to the AESSEAL New York Stadium.

The AESSEAL New York stadium, Rotherham. Photo 2022 © Hans Henrik Appel

Wikipedia also informs that the new ground came about because of a dispute with former club owner – and still owner of the old ground, Millmoor, – Ken Booth, back in 2008. By 2012, the club had built it’s new ground, less than half a mile from the old one.

New York Stadium with he floodlight pylons of Millmoor in the background. Photo 2022 © Hans Henrik Appel

First, we take a walk around the new ground. There is nobody to be seen – and probably nobody is there late Saturday afternoon with no matches on. The new ground seems to be slightly closer to the city centre. Behind some derelict industrial building, you can see the tower of the minster in the distance. So Rotherham can’t have had their match day routines ruined too much. Although you feel strangely cut-off from the town by the river, the railway and the noisy A630. You could walk through a residential area to Oakwell; here the only way is through industrial dereliction.

It is most unfair to Rotherham United that we come straight from such a brillant experience at Barnsley. But there just doesn’t seem to be much character to the ground, as we make our way around it. In fact, in some places, it doesn’t really feel like a football ground. Even though the ground still has floodlight pylons, they look strangely impotent, compared to the signature rising pylons at Barnsley. But at least the turnstiles are classic in their design. And peeking through the gaps of an exit-gate, I can see that the tower of the minster is visible above the stands from this side of the ground – giving you some sense of the space around it.

From the New York Stadium, we head to Millmoor. It is somehow scary to see a ghost ground. I had recently read that the ground is still used for youth matches, but it must have been some time since the pitch was last used for a football match.

As mentioned, Rotherham United moved because of a fall-out with former club owner, Ken Booth. He still owns the ground, as well as the scrapyard that borders up to it. A few football grounds have been built on former rubbish tips, but I can’t recall any other bordering up to a scrapyard. I remember when my children were small and watched Thomas the Tank Engine. In one episode, one of the engines is sent to the scrapyard – I don’t think any other film has ever made such an impression on them.

In fact, there is a train waiting for demolishment in the scrapyard; and it seems that the scrapyard is slowly encroaching on the derelict ground. But even when the ground was still in use, it must have been scaring for away supporters to walk down the narrow Millmoor lane. I certainly wouldn’t fancy walking down this on a cold, dark, wet night.

Adding to the feeling of a ghost ground is the fact that the new main stand has never been completed. Work started in 2005, but was delayed – among other things by the discovery of japanese knotweed in the foundation and a shortage of funding. I guess that the fallout leading to the club leaving the ground derives from this, but I have to research that one day.

I like the quirkiness of Millmoor. When I recently went to the ground of my childhood team (BK Frem Copenhagen), I noticed that apart from a new astroturf and an electronick scoreboard, hadly anything had changed in the ground. It is extremely basic – with exactly the same main stand that you will find in any Copenhagen ground more than 50 years old. Opposite it concrete terracing, with scaffolded wooden terraces behind the two goals. As a child, I always went to the concrete terracing with my dad. As a youth, I went with my mates to one of the end terraces. When I brought my son – and when I am going there to meet old friends – we take a seat in the stand. Last time, though, I met one of my old mates on the end terrace, where we used to go – despite all the rest of the home supporters had gathered behind the other goal. Completely different experiences, different memories. It was the same with the old national stadium in Copenhagen – in fact the differences between the different stands were even bigger here. But modern grounds are very much about giving everybody the same experience. The same (unrestricted) view of the pitch, the same plastic seat, the same space, the same catering. And when you walk around the ground, the stands look all the same. In that sense, I guess that I would miss Millmoor terribly, had I been a Rotherham United supporter. But perhaps Millmoor in its later days was already so derelict that the prospect of the relative comforts of the new ground would seem more attractive. And at least, from one of the stands, you will have the added experience of seeing the tower of the minster in the distance.

It is getting late, but I ask Dale if there is time for a detour to Doncaster. As always, Dale bears with my crazy suggestions – what would I have done without him? It is not that I have prepared anything. But some five years ago, I wrote an article of the scattering of ashes and the development of memorial gardens at football grounds. I have traced the scattering of ashes at football grounds back to the 1920’s. But around 1990 it became so widespread that it became a problem – the FA even making regulations for it. At a club like Manchester United, they had ashes of up to a hundred supporters scattered on the pitch yearly, until the players said that it was too much. At other grounds, it was the groundsman who was worried about the effect on the grass..

I haven’t been able to establish which garden was the first. It seems that South and East London were first movers, with Millwall, Crystal Palace, Charlton and West Ham all among the first between 1994 and 2000. The only other claim to being the first is in Yorkshire, at Hillsborough – probably in 1996, as the ground was prepared for the Euros. Sheffield United got one at Bramall Lane in 2009- and then Doncaster got one in 2012. It is one of the few gardens I haven’t visited myself – I have only seen some old photos.

So we head to the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster, or the Eco-Power stadium as it is now called. The car park is empty, it is after all after 6. There doesn’t seem to be anybody around. I must confess that I am a romantic who prefer football grounds surrounded by the life of residential areas. But the Keepmoat is surrounded by a shopping outlet, sports facilities, and the Lakeside Lake.

We are about to walk around the ground, looking for the memorial garden, when a man leaves the ground. I run over to him and ask about the memorial garden. His uniform like clothes indicate he is a security guard. He points me to a wall, where fans can have bricks inserted, but I tell him that I am looking for a garden, where supporters have their ashes scattered. I suddenly eye what could be the memorial garden – I point to it. And he just nods. Whereas John had been at Barnley for 18 years and knew all about the place, I doubt that this guard is a hardcore Doncaster Rovers fan.

It is the memorial garden. The security guard makes a gesture, indicating that he all the time knew I was looking for this. It is one of those gardens, where you can have a inscription on a standardized plate. Usually featuring the name, date of birth and death – along with a personal message. It is always very emotional to read them. “A loving son, brother and uncle. He asked for a little but gave a lot. A local Rovers fan”. “Always wanted a pint with King Alick. Now I have my wish”.

I count just under 90 plates. A couple have passed away in 2010 and 2011, before the date I have got for the inauguration of the garden. Is it older – or have they just kept the ashes, waiting for the opportunity to have them inferred here? Below the plates, there are wreaths and flowers with messages all around the garden. I wonder if the ashes are scattered along the wall or over the pebbles around the roses. Or are they buried underneath?

We take a quick walk around the ground. The memorial garden and a statue of Nike and Hephaestus on the lake side of the ground does give it a bit more character than the New York Stadium. Also, the floodlight pylons are more classic, rising abouve the stadium roof.

The green color on some of the corrogated steel along with the Eco-Power name and the green surroundings all add to the special character of the ground. Still, I don’t get the same feeling like I did at the Shay and at Oakwell that I just HAVE to watch a football match here. In Rotherham, you could at least see the minster from one part of the ground. I guess the view must be exactly the same all around the ground here.

Well, we have spent almost nine hours on the road, doing five football grounds. Maybe I am just getting tired. In fact, I get a little concerned if my plan for eleven grounds in Lancashire on the same day is too ambitious. That is in two days. Perhaps we should take it a bit easy on our Midland trip tomorrow before Lancashire is coming up.

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Thirty-three football grounds in seven days – Day 2, 9th September 2022: Liverpool

  • 3. Anfield Road
  • 4. Goodison Park
  • 5. Prenton Park
  • 6. Bramley-Moore Dock

The evening’s match at Prenton Park between Tranmere Rovers and Stockport County was already called off last night; and soon all the league matches for the weekend, including the match at Barnsley for which we had tickets, are called off as well. It takes some hours before it is announced that ALL football is off, so we spend some time considering different non-league options, before we realize that we will just have to throw in a few extra ground visits to make up a full schedule.

Anyway, for today, I had already  planned to do Anfield Road and Goodison Park on the trip to Liverpool before the Tranmere Rovers match. But we have more time now, so there is time for me to go to the Manchester city centre to look for football books in the fabulous Waterstones.

On my flight to the UK, I had been reading a Danish novel about a street artist, battling it out with competitors to have her sign in the most prominent places of town. This makes me look at the ever present photos of the late Queen Elizabeth as street art. And as such, it is impressive. All electronic advertising boards display photos of and tributes to her. Estate agents put her portrait among the photos of estate for sale. And instead of the latest odds, the boards of bookmakers show portraits of the Queen.

Waterstones is still just fabulous, even though I have to go to the National Football Museum to get David Proudlove’s recently published book: “When the Circus Leaves Town: What happens when football leaves home”. But I get a few others at Waterstones as well – and warm to the sight of two of the late Dave Roberts’ books. His “32 programmes” is my favourite football book ever. I am truly devastated that he died of cancer last year. I had got into contact with him on facebook a couple of years ago and was so much looking forward to watching a match at Bromley with him one day.

Back in Irlam, we wait for Dale’s eldest son Callum to come from work, before we set off for Anfield Road, Liverpool. I have been a few times. The first match was back in 1981, but I was not really tuned into looking at the grounds and surroundings back then. I went again in 2013, and I found the area looking like a war zone. Row after row of empty, boarded-up terraced housing. The club had been buying up houses in order to make room for ground expansion. As the area deterioated with the many empty houses, local resentment increased. After the club’s plans had been put forward and heavily critized in 1999, alternative plans to build a new ground in Stanley Park and convert Anfield to a recreational area, Anfield Plaza, were put forward. In 2012, however, the new owners, the Fenway Sports Group, found the Stanley Park project too expensive and reverted to the expansion plan.

Soon, the council and Liverpool F.C. joined forces in a new Anfield regeneration project – and in 2016 work on the expansion started with a new main stand. It is really huge. As we drive up Walton Breck Road towards the ground, it towers above the street. And right now, they are building a new Anfield Road stand to match it.

Walton Breck Road, Liverpool 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

Ever since local brewer and conservative politician John Houlding bought the ground and rented it to Everton F.C. as a football ground back in 1884, Anfield Road has been threatening to outgrow its surrounding residential area. When the first stand was built in Kemlyn Road in the late 1880’s, the owners of the houses complained of the loss of daylight and the noise. But as they gave up their protests when they were presented with season tickets, maybe their biggest loss was that they could no longer watch the matches from their windows. In 1978, Liverpool made plans for expanding the Kemlyn Road stand, but the plans were stopped by the two Mason sisters, who refused to leave their home in the road. In the end, all the other houses were demolished, but the sisters held firm. As the club could not start building, the area around the sisters’ house was converted to an executive car park. It was not untill the Hillsborough diaster 1989 and the ambition to make the ground an all-seater stadium, that the sisters finally gave in to the pressure and moved out. The new Kemlyn Road stand was ready for Liverpool’s centenary in 1992.

On the other side of the ground, however, their seemed to be room for expansion. Houlding had only bought half a field, the other half being left empty. But when Everton won their first title in 1891, the owner of the field said that he wanted to sell it for housing. And, if houses were to be build, Houlding had to give up a bit of his field to make room for a road between the two fields. That would mean that the grand stand at Anfield would have to be taken down, as it bordered on the neighbouring ground. Houlding suggested that Everton were turned into a limited company, so they could raise the money to buy both fields (in fact, he had wanted it for a long time, so maybe he got his neighbour to make up the building plans to put pressure on the reluctant members of Everton F.C.) . Houlding would still maintain 50% of the shares and have a controlling interest in the club (and not have to listen to the growing number of members – liberal tea-totallers!), and at the same time get his investment back. The majority of the members revolted and moved to Goodison Park. Houlding, however, had already had Everton F.C. registered as a limited company, but he was not allowed to take over the name. So he changed it to Liverpool F.C. and started his own, rival club.

In this way, you can argue that it was the growth of Anfield Road with the erection of stands right to the very edge of the neighbouring land that led to Everton moving away and Liverpool F.C. being born. Houlding bought the empty neighbouring field. He didn’t build housing but left it empty, almost as a buffer zone for later expansions. The first one came in 1906, when Archibald Leitch built a new grand stand – without having to squeeze it in, as he had in many other grounds.

When I visited back in 2013, there was still plenty of open space around the ground on this western side, bordering up to the back gardens of houses in Lothair Road. But just about all the houses there were standing empty, waiting to be demolished to make way for the expansion of the ground. On this visit, I had taken a photo in Rockfield Road of the ground, just about visible above Lothair Road in the distance. I now take a photo from exactly the same spot (by Sybil Road). The entire Lothair Road has been demolished. The new stand of Anfield looks like the giant foot from the intro to the Monty Python shows, having trampled out the housing.

I had also taken a photo of Lothair Road, looking down towards the shops in Walton Breck Road. Again I go to (almost) the exact same spot to take a photo. It is not just the terraced housing in Lothair Road that has gone, also the shops in Walton Breck Road. The gigantic stand has completely taken over.

Maybe I am a romantic, but I find the architecture around 1900 so much more attractive than modern architecture. Looking at what Walton Breck Road used to look like compared with today, it just seems so anonymous and soulless.

I guess it must have been the council that has developed the plan for modern housing in the area. It is not just the housing in Lothair Road and Rockfield Road that have had to give way. On the northern side of Walton Breck Road, Bagnall Street, Baltic Street, and Gilman Street have been demolished as well. And on the southern side of the Road, the terraced houses in Venmore Street, Towson Street, and Hartnup Street have been demolished as well.

On a board in Walton Breck Road, you can find a sketch of the proposed vision for the area. There is still some way to go, but it is clear the planners want it to look like a modern City square rather than a late nineteenth century neighbourhood. It is probably great on a match day, but on days such as this, it feels lifeless and anonymous.

The famous Albert Pub is still here. But you wonder for how long. It looks weary, the inn sign is falling apart. I really do hope that it will prevail.

At the Anfield Road end of the ground, work on a new stand is in progress. They are keeping the old stand for as long as possible, the same way they have done at other grounds ever since stands got so big, that they could not just be erected during the close season from May till August.

Despite the gentrification of the surroundings, we agree that it is still not a place, where anybody would dare walk around on his own wearing a Manchester United shirt. It must have been the cue that a little boy around the corner has been waiting for. No sooner have the words been spoken than he appears around the corner, wearing a full, yellow Manchester United third kit. We look at each other – and then at a car that is just passing us with an Aston Villa streamer at the back. Maybe it is not that hostile after all.

We take a walk across Stanley Park to Everton’s Goodison Park – a doomed ground. I have been to four matches there, one in the lower section of Gwladys Street, three in the upper. It is one of the two remaining Archibald Leitch stands in the ground. Despite the restricted view, I just love it. In the lower section, the concourse is nice and spacy; but upstairs, you have a wooden floor, which completely alters the acoustics of the match. I just love it.

Even though the streets around Goodison are almost empty and quiet, it feels homely and friendly. And the knowledge that people are living in houses right up to the ground somehow make the area feel alive.

I had hoped that somebody would be around and that we could persuade them to have a look inside one of the stands. But there is nobody around. At Anfield there were a few security men telling us not to enter the car park, and there were quite a few football tourists with bags from the souvenirs shop. But there are just a few people living in the surrounding houses at Goodison.

We just take a walk around the ground to grasp the contrast to Anfield. The housing borders right up to the ground – and, of course, there is the St. Luke’s church right in the corner of the ground with the Everton memorial garden. I will have to dig a little deeper into whether Everton have had plans to do like Liverpool. To buy up housing and demolish it.

They did so around a 100 years ago, when they bought the houses on one side of the Gwladys Street to make room for their new stand. And in the late 1990’s, a couple of houses behind the Park End stand were demolished to make way for a car park. But it seems that Everton since the Taylor Report have only explored the possibility of moving to a new ground.

And this after Goodison Park, when it was built in 1892, was head and shoulders above any other football ground in the country. And in the early 1900’s, they got Archibald Leitch to draw up a master plan of four covered stands, making it the best ground in the country (although the new Highbury took over in the 1930’s as the most modern ground). At the time of the World Cup 1966, Goodison was still one of the top grounds in the country, and five years later, this was emphasized by the erection of the largest three-tier stand to replace the old main stand. Since then, however, the ground has changed little, with only the Park End being rebuild. On the one hand, this is why Goodison Park is my favourite ground. On the other hand, this is why they now have to relocate.

Having seen how the pubs and chippies around Maine Road have disappeared, I cannot help wonder, what will happen to the shops and pubs in Goodison Road, when the club leaves.

We walk back to Dale’s car via the Liverpool Cemetery, and then head for Birkenhead. The first time I crossed the Mersey.

It is almost 6 pm when we get to Prenton Park. We park in the otherwise empty car park by the ground, but a groundsman comes out and tell us that we can’t park there now. He is about to lock up the gate. I tell him that I have travelled from Denmark and planned to see the game – was there any chance, we could have a look inside the ground? He is great guy. As we have travelled to see his team, he stays on for 20 minutes and allow us inside.

Gate at Prenton Park 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

Whereas Anfield Road and Goodison Park have been two of the top league grounds since the 1890’s, Prenton Park did not become a league ground untill the expansion of the league with two third divisions (just after WWI). The current main stand was erected in the 1960’s, whereas the two end stands and the opposite east stand were all built in 1994 in wake of the Taylor Report.

The Main Stand, Prenton Park 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

The groundsman tells us that the owners are planning a new stadium, just across the Mersey from the new Everton ground! They think that the maintenance of the old ground is too costly, whereas a lot of the fans are furious, as the club is very much a community club. It certainly feels like that.

The Kop, Prenton Park 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

I walk up the stairs of the big Kop stand. From there, I can see over the top of the Borough Road Stand to the housing across the street. Behind the stand at the opposite Cowshed End, you can also see the housing. This must be a wonderful place to watch your football.

The Borough Road Stand, Prenton Park 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

Apparently, I am not the only one to think so. The groundsman tells us that when Tranmere are playing at home and Liverpool do not have a match, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp usually sneaks into the ground just before kick-off. He likes the atmosphere of lower league football. After hearing yesterday that he brought Rose flowers when playing Manchester City, this gives me even more respect for him.

The Cowshed End, Prenton Park 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

It may be costly to maintain, but the main stand from the 1960’s just looks so much more welcoming and inviting than some of the more modern grounds, that we visit the following days. I had Prenton Park on my list of grounds to visit for a match; but the intimate feeling of the ground being the very centre of the local community combined with the news that the days of the ground may be numbered make it move into the top 10 grounds on my list.

We tell the groundsman that we intend to have a look at Everton’s new ground next. He advises us to do it from this side of the Mersey. You cannot get near enough to see anything really, and from this side, you have a good view. He goes regularly to take photos of the progress. But we have better hurry up, before it gets dark.

There is just time to get round the ground and take some pictures before we head to the area, he has recommended us to go to.

When we get there, the sun has set and it is getting dark. With a proper camera and in daylight, though, this is the place to take some cracking photos. The new main stand of Anfield rises dominantly in the distance, whereas the new Everton ground will get to dominate the waterfront, once completed. And between these two, you can see the top of the three-tier Goodison main stand from 1971. Three grounds in one view. And when Goodison Park has been demolished, a new Tranmere Rovers ground might make it possible to see a similar sight in the future.

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Posted in Football grounds

Thirty-three football grounds in seven days: Day 1, 8th September 2022: Manchester

  1. Maine Road
  2. Old Trafford
Maine Road 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

It has been three years since my last football trip. So much has happened since then. Brexit, Covid, war in Europe. On top of that, my osteoarthritis now makes it hard for me to get around. So, I am a little apprehensive as I set off to the UK. Fortunately, my friend Dale – who I met at the Manchester United training ground the Cliff some 40 years ago – has offered to drive me around, as I plan to make up for lost time. Five matches, thirty grounds – former, present, and future.

Dale picks me up at Manchester Airport in the morning. We start off in Moss Side, Manchester, the site of Manchester City’s Maine Road ground from 1923 to 2003. On the way to the ground, I tell Dale that I, actually, visited Maine Road as a teenager on one of my trips back in 1980. It was midweek with no match on. But I remember feeling very uncomfortable, as a number of school kids spotted me through a fence, pointing and shouting at me in a not very welcoming way. Eight months later, Moss Side turned into a riot area, as a thousand youths stormed the local police station. I didn’t feel like going again on my subsequent visits to Manchester.

Dale’s memories of Maine Road are even worse. He went to the FA Cup semi-final replay between Manchester United and Liverpool in 1985 and got separated from his friends in the mayhem in the streets following United’s win. A terrible experience.

But as we drive up Kippax Street and park, it all seems quiet and peaceful. I have brought a photo of the Kippax Stand taken on the final match day back in 2003, and I take a photo from the same spot. The terraced housing in the streets around the ground still looks the same, but where the stand used to hover 20 years ago, there are now modern residential houses.

The Kippax used to be the popular side of City’s ground, with terraces extending the full length of the pitch. In its heydays, it could hold more than 30,000, but in its final days in 1994, the capacity was reduced to 18,000. With the conversion of grounds into all-seaters, a three-tier stand with more than 10,000 seats was opened in 1995, at the time the highest stand in England. It rose so high about the terraced housing that many of the houses had to get extensions for their tv-antennas, as the signal was disturbed. And people around the ground complained that their back gardens now were literally in the shadow of the imposing stand.

It lasted only eight years, however, before Manchester City jumped on the chance to take over the City of Manchester Stadium, built for the Commonwealth Games 2002. And the new stand was demolished along with the rest of the ground in 2003.

As I am taking my photo, a woman in her thirties asks me, if I come from the estate agent. I have to disappoint her and tell that I am just travelling around to visit sites of old football grounds. Her face turns into a mixture of surprise and disbelief. A football ground? Here? She had never heard of it.

Now it is me turning into disbelief. Especially as Dale and I shortly after come to what used to be the centre circle of the ground. It is clearly marked out – how can you not be aware that this used to be football ground?

The Centre Circle, Maine Road 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

The centre circle is surrounded by the new residential houses that in turn are surrounded by the old terraced housing. I would like to walk on into the old streets, but it turns out that all the little passages from the new housing estate are locked off. It almost feels like a throw-back to being fenced in at the old grounds. We have to take the long way to find a road.

I have read descriptions on how City fans made their way to the ground through the many small passages connecting the streets of terraced houses, finding their usual pubs and fish ‘n chips shops along the way (Edensor & Millington: Going to the Match. The Transformation of the Match-day Routine at Manchester City FC). But pubs as well as chippies have gone with the football ground. I recently read that only one out of 19 pubs has survived. Sad. I have found a photo of an old chippy at the corner of Maine Road, and we go to see what is there now. “Khartoum Mini Market”.

I have always been fascinated by aerial photos of Maine Road, as the ground was totally hemmed in by rows and rows of almost identical terraced housing. They must have been built at the same date. They all have the same decoration on the gable. Some of the housing in Kippax Street was put on sale in 1903 – twenty years before the ground was built. I guess that the rest of the housing must predate the football ground as well. The housing has not grown up around the football ground. Rather, the football ground has been squeezed in among the housing.

The site of the ground is oddly trapezoid shaped. It used to be the site of the Moss Side Brick Works. As late as in 1903, the owner of the brick work was fined at Manchester County Police Court for the nuisance caused by the emission of black smoke from his chimneys, that was carried the 40 yards into the Corporations area, when the wind was from the south.

Maine Road in 1923

But four years later the machinery of the brick work was put up for sale, and the site was sold by the owners, Fairhaven Estate Company in 1913. It was, however, a further nine years, before Manchester City decided to buy the site, as they had been refused extension of their lease by the Tramways that owned the site of their former ground, Hyde Road. And because their attempt to find a new ground at the Belle Vue had failed.

Whereas most other main league grounds in the first decades of the 20th century were constructed by football ground architect Archibald Leitch, Manchester City went for the local architect Charles Swain – with Maine Road being the one and only football ground he ever designed (he did, though, design the greyhound racing track in White City, Old Trafford, four years later). Swain has undoubtedly relied heavily on the experience and expertise of his contractor, Sir Robert McAlpine and Co, who at the time was erecting the first Wembley Stadium.

Among the features of the ground were no fewer than 90 turnstiles around the ground, and that “every spectator, no matter where he may be located, will be able to obtain an uninterrupted view of the game”. It also applied for the goalkeepers, as the stadium was designed so that the sun would never shine directly into their eyes.

The era of the motor car was emerging, so the ground was also fitted out with a car park – making use of all the space within the trapezoid ground. All cars and cabs taking spectators to the ground were, according to council regulations, to turn off the Wilmslow Road at Claremont Road, and then go down Maine Road and drop off their passengers by the reserved stand – presuming that everybody going by car would also be seated in that stand. Omnibusses and charabancs were to proceed down Wilmslow Road to Platt Lane, and then go up Yew Tree Road on the other side of the ground – the cheap, popular side. The convenience of a class society.

Similarly, 60 cabs were to take up position in the streets on the side of the main stand, the first ten of them advancing to the main entrance “immediately after the half-time interval”, with the next ones ready to advance in rotation as vacancies occurred. Only 24 cabs were to take up position around the popular stand in Kippax Street, even though this was where the vast majority went.

Passages connecting the streets around Maine Road 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

There was also good service of tramways, so Maine Road, at the time of building, was considered geared to handle the heavy traffic of a match day. But walking around the streets now, it truly feels like a residential area, so remote from modern stadiums placed next to motorways.

In some places, the football grounds have swallowed up the houses immediately surrounding them. In this case, housing has swallowed up the football ground. If City had stayed at Maine Road, they would probably have tried to buy up some of the housing to demolish it, so they would have been able to expand the ground. That is, if they managed to make it to the top of English football, which is questionable. They were not particularly successful when they made the move to the City of Manchester Stadium, and they were in dire straits just after the move. But then – possibly attracted by the combination of a top modern stadium and an old traditional football brand – Sheik Mansour bought the club and put so much money into it, that City rose to the top of English football. It is highly unlikely that he would have bought the club, if it still had been at Maine Road with little room for building a brand new stadium.

Going down a street behind the former site of the Kippax stand, we see an elderly lady standing outside her house, talking to a neighbor. Dale asks her, if she lived here, when the football ground was still in use. “I still work for Manchester City!” she says proudly.

Rose 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

Rose, as she introduces herself, is truly amazing. We talk with her and her son for 45 minutes. She moved into the house back in 1958. “All the houses here”, her son tells us, “are made of bricks from the old brick work”. A few of the houses further down the street had toilets in the kitchen, whereas the others had them at the back. “Imagine having a toilet in the kitchen”.

Rose started working for Manchester City in 1974, so she has been working for them for almost half a century. Nowadays, they send a limousine to pick her up on match days – and to take her home around half-time. She really has become an institution at the club. But she has no interest whatsoever in football. She cannot get why people get so worked up over it. And she leaves at half-time, when her job is done.

She is sometimes referred to as the tea-lady, but this annoys her. She has done a number of different jobs at the club, but now she takes care of the 25 photographers, who are allowed in on matchdays. She shows us photos of her office – the walls are covered in photos of Rose together with former and present football celebrities. She shows us a photo from last season of Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp, bringing her flowers when Liverpool played City. Even though I am not a Liverpool fan, it is things like this that make me respect Klopp. In contrast, Rose tells us that City boss Guardiola never has been around her office to say hello. He is the only City manager, she has never spoken to. She shows a photo of Guardiola – and then decides to present it to me. Her favorite manager, without a doubt, was Kevin Keegan.

But there have been many other good moments. When City played Barcelona a few years ago – one of the matches at the Etihad I have attended – everybody in the photographers room were talking of Messi. “Don’t you dare call my room messy!” she had said – which probably was why she had been presented with a photo signed “To Rose – Messi”.

Rose keeps going into the house to find more photos to show us – she also gives us a number of old match day programmes  – while her son tells about what it was like growing up next to the ground. The only particular match that he mentions, is the FA Cup semi-final 1985 that Dale had attended. He points to the nearby passage. The Liverpool fans kicked the gate to the passage open after losing the match and ran up and down the street smashing windows in all the houses. Frightening.

The passage where the Liverpool supporters broke through in 1985. 2022 Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

But it had not just been football. Back in the 1970’s Jehovah’s witnesses had held a congregation at the ground. They had left the place much tidier than they found it. They had even painted it. I browse the internet and find a video from 1971 about the congregation. It seems that Maine Road was used by the Jehovah’s witnesses several more times, from 1960 till the mid 1990’s. But the visits in the 1980’s Rose’s son remembers, are the rock concerts. David Bowie, Rolling Stones, Queen etc. For some of the concerts, they were handed free tickets because of all the hassle in their back garden.

Since the days of the football ground, the area has changed. Prices on housing has gone up dramatically, and lots of new people have moved in. But Rose has still got nice neighbours. And there are one or two of the old ones remaining.

Not a neighbor of hers, but Rose goes on to talk about the Queen. She didn’t look well two days ago, when she welcomed new prime minister Liz Truss. It is strange to think that Rose moved into her house only five years after the Queen’s coronation. And Rose seems still to be going strong.

New houses have replaced the football ground in Maine Road 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

Dale and I break up, after promising to go round her house on my next visit. It is a nice walk back to the car. I much prefer to walk down these old streets to going to Manchester City’s new ground, which seems to be a desolate place. Maybe because we have been lifted by talking with Rose, the streets around Main Road look friendly and welcoming to us.

We had planned to go to Stockport County’s Edgeley Park in the afternoon, before going to Old Trafford for the night’s Europa League match against Real Sociedad. But we have spent so long talking with Rose and her son that we decide to postpone Edgeley Park till Sunday morning. Instead, we go to Dale’s house in Irlam to pick up his son Aarran, who will be joining us for the match.

By the time we get to Irlam, all the media are alerted by the poor condition of the Queen. “The entire country will grind to a halt, if she dies” Dale says. I suddenly panic. Imagine waiting three years to make sure that Brexit and Covid wouldn’t destroy my plans and going in early autumn to avoid matches being called off by bad weather, only for them to possibly be called off because of the Queen dying. Around 4, just before we leave for the ground, rumors on social media say that she has died – but the BBC keep saying that the doctors are merely concerned, and the family is therefore on their way to be with her.

I normally get to Old Trafford from Chorlton, walking down the lovely streets to the station, past the Cricket Ground and up the Warwick Road to Chester Road. There you find the chippies, the cafés, the pubs, and the fabulous Red Star ‘alternative’ souvenir shop. Stalls are set up, selling souvenirs, burgers all sorts of stuff. You find the sellers of fanzines – and ticket touts.

This time, though, we come from the other side of the ground, on the new metro line, and get off at the new Wharfside station. This is where the Sam Platts Pub used to be. It was shut down to make way for the metro in 2017 – and only a few days afterwards the building was burned down.

You cannot help but admire the foresight of the directors of Manchester United, when they chose Old Trafford as the site of a new ground back in 1908. An industrial area some way away from their old ground Bank Street (which ironically now is the site of the cycling arena in the Stadium of Manchester complex). But it has allowed United to buy up more land, as the industries by the harbor have left, so United have had it much easier adapting to the spatial demands of a modern football ground than other clubs. And the entire harbor area has become a modern cultural stronghold, with the Lowry, the BBC headquarters and the Imperial War Museum North.

The downside, however, has been that United started the development of OId Trafford into a modern all-seater ground right from the kick-off of the Premier League in 1992. It was expanded in the successful 1990’s with extra tiers added to the East, West and North stands, before quadrants were added in the corners in the early 2000’s. United had the money and the land to make this expansion and move ahead of the other clubs in terms of capacity and facilities. But since then, the money in football has become so much bigger, and it really shows that Old Trafford was transformed in the relatively poor 1990’s. The stands are a bit parking house like. The concourses are dull, there is very little room between the seats, the roof is leaking, and the acoustics are poor. I am to visit the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium and Anfield Road later on my trip for comparison. But there is little doubt that Old Trafford is no longer state of the art.

There are ongoing discussions at United as what to do about it. One idea is to add another tier on the Southern stand – but that will not improve the existing three stands from the 1990’s; and there are problems building over the railway that runs just behind the southern stand. They would probably have to buy up and knock down the terraced housing along the railroad. Another idea, therefore, is to “do a Tottenham”. To build a new ground next to the old one in the huge car park next to the current (original) ground, before demolishing it or turning it into an alternative venue for less attractive matches.

While the club is considering its options, they have done something to make the ground look less weary. They have in recent weeks repainted the red steel work. Somehow, the hue of the red doesn’t seem quite right; or maybe I have just gone used to looking at the old faded one. The new color looks ok on the 2000-ish quadrants of glass in the corners, but not really on the concrete and steel stands of the 1990’s.

The terraced housing, south of the railroad, seen from Chester Road 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel.

Another new feature, are two walls hemming in away supporters, waiting to enter through the turnstiles. Allegedly, they were erected for the match against Liverpool a couple of weeks ago to prevent fighting. And there is a new line of security guard searching all visitors to the souvenir shop, probably fearing that anti-Glazer protesters will storm the shop.

Maybe it is because it is just a Europa League match, maybe because of the rumours of the Queen dying, but the place seems more quiet than usual on a matchday. We head for the residential and chippy/pub area behind the south stand by Chester Road.

Back in 1981, three days prior to United playing at Anfield, a ticket tout here offered me a ticket for the match. I told him that I already had one – through the supporters’ club. “Seat?” “No, standing”. “Standing at Anfield is murderous. They use knives” he told me. I got so apprehensive that I went down to the supporters’ club office and asked, if there was any chance, I could swop my standing ticket for a seat. I could. I went back to the ticket tout and thanked him for his advice. He was about to find the ticket in his pocket, when I said, “oh no, I already swopped it”. I still remember the expression of annoyance in his face. Ever since, I have spotted him at every single match I have gone to, hanging around the Chester Road. And he is still there.

We go into Angelo’s Red Star Souvenir Shop. Angelo’s wife recognizes me and calls for Angelo who is having a small break. So good to see him and chat again after three years. I leave the shop with a new Cantona-hoodie. We go to Lou Macari’s chippy next to Angelo – a fish ‘n chips from there is essential in my pre-match rituals. When I didn’t do it for the local derby in 2013, we lost 2-1.

As usual, we eat outside Angelo’s shop, next to the Bishop Blaize pub, which, as usual, is packed with singing United supporters. While we are eating, a man is chased down the streets by a couple of policemen, soon followed by two police horses. Apparently, he gets away, because after a few minutes the police officers return with a group of their colleagues, deep in conversation. While we are observing this scene, we suddenly notice that the tune from the Bishop Blaize has changed. For the first time ever, I hear them sing the National Anthem. I don’t notice whether they sing “the Queen” or the “the King”. But I notice that once they have ended it, all the singing and chanting stop. We check our phones, and yes, news of the Queen passing away has been announced. Maybe that is what the policemen are talking about. Will the match go ahead? It is just about an hour till kick-off.

Prematch meal outside the Bishop Blaize 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel.

Suddenly, everything has gone quiet and somber. I must admit that all my thoughts are on this and the subsequent four matches. Will they be postponed? Having finished our fish ‘n chips, we walk down the streets of terraced housing to the little bridge across the railroad to the Stretford End. We start to wander around. I had planned to take a lot of photos of the surrounding area, but I am to worried about the match going ahead to concentrate on it. Instead, we enter the ground – somehow irrationally feeling that maybe it will make it little more awkward to postpone the match, if the ground is already full.

The bridge across the railroad 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

We have got tickets for the new safe-standing section. Usually, we go to the Stretford End, where everybody is standing in front of their seat throughout the match, anyway. There only seems to be two differences. Before the match and during half-time you can sit on your seat in the Stretford End. You are also supposed to be able to do that in the safe standing area, as a seat has been attached to the crush barrier behind you. But there is even less leg room than in the normal seats, and I find it impossible to squeeze in my long legs. So, it means standing uninterruptedly for three hours. The only positive is that you now have the crush barrier behind you to lean against. Which, I suppose, is an improvement, but nothing really to get too excited about.

The atmosphere inside the ground is just about the strangest atmosphere I have encountered at a football match. Everybody seems anxious and uncertain about the match going ahead. Even when we read confirmation on our phones, there are still rumours circulating that it will be called off. There is no music being played over the PA system, no messages or information on line-ups. The electronic advertising boards are switched off and black. Some half-an-hour before the kick-off, the Spanish supporters start chanting, but it is quenched by booing around the ground.

It is not until the tunnel area gets busy, preparing for the players to enter the field that an anti-Glazer chant is heard from the Stretford End, and when the players enter, they are accompanied by the usual “U-N-I-T-E-D, United are the team for me”. There is an announcement of the Queen’s death. The players wear black armbands and line up around the centre circle for the observance of a minute’s silence. It is observed impeccably by everybody – the Spanish supporters holding up their scarves – although you can hear some distant music, probably from one of the stalls on the concourse.

A minute’s silence at Old Trafford, 8th September 2022. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel

The match is a strange, flat non-event. Maybe it is the somber atmosphere. Maybe it is because the static Maguire, Lindeloff, Casimero and Ronaldo along with the erratic Fred have replaced the dynamic Martinez, Varane, McTominay, Fernandez and Rashford in the line-up. The match has a scoreless draw written all over it, when the referee decides to give the Spanish team a very soft penalty in the second half. They take the lead, which should have sparked a reaction from United to get back into it. But it is the Spanish team that is buoyed by it, and they are closer to adding a second goal than United to equalizing.

After the match, it is back to the somber silence. Usually, you would be listening to post-match interviews with managers and players, and analysis from the pundits. But there is absolutely nothing. In a way, it is a throw-back to the 1980’s, before the advent of Sky Sports. In those days, at least you bought the match day Pink Final that was printed or sold literally 30 minutes after the final whistle. I subscribed to the Pink Final as a boy in Copenhagen. It arrived Thursday after the match – and the match reports were basically written as the game progressed. You could have a report describing all United’s good play and many chances, as a storyboard that would end saluting a famous United win – only for the last two lines of the report laconically informing that the opposition won 2-1 thanks to two last minute goals. But that disappeared with the internet – which is now all about the Queen.

We get back to Dale’s house. Even Sky Sports is all about the Queen. But there are still two – worrying – football related news. All Friday matches have already been called off, and the possible cancellation of all weekend games will be discussed in the morning. So, Friday’s match at Tranmere Rovers’ Prenton Park is already off. Usually, the frustration with that and the anxiety about the other matches would have kept me awake, but as I have been up for 21 hours, I do manage to fall asleep.

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The cultural and material history of the English football league ground 1888-2020

“The cultural and material history of the English football league ground 1888-2020”. That is the working title of my new project. As you may know from my blogposts, I am fascinated by the way football grounds encapsulate the history of clubs and the ways football have been consumed for more than a century.

The football ground was the platform for professional football. The income of clubs used to be almost totally dependent on gate receipts (especially if you include subscriptions/season tickets). So football being played in virtually empty grounds for the past year, is the perfect time to take a look at the way football grounds (and football economy) has changed since the league was founded in 1888.

You can give me a helping hand for this project with very little effort – by voting for my previous book “Barrison-feberen” as History Book of the Year 2020 in Denmark. The book is among 5 nominated, and voting is open till 31st March 2021 on http://www.historie-online.dk/aarets-historiske-bog-2020

The title comes with a prize of 20.000 Dkr (roughly £2500), which would enable me to go on a trip around grounds and archives in the UK to gather material for the project. And winning the title would probably make publishers more interested in this new project.

I really would appreciate your help.

Below, you can read a description in English of “Barrison-feberen”, so you have an idea, what you would be voting for!


Hans Henrik Appel

Barrison Fever!

The story of ‘The Five Barrison Sisters’, the Danish-American pop phenomenon who shocked Europe’s metropoles in the 1890’s, as they challenged the ruling views of gender, body and morality.

‘Barrison Fever!’ is a micro-historical account of the cultural upheaval in the fast-growing metropolitan cities of fin-de-siecle Europe. By focusing on the remarkable story of how The Five Barrison sisters overnight became an international celebrity pop phenomenon, the book gives a vivid description of fin-de-siecle cultural tensions as new perceptions of gender, body and morality were breaking through in the wake of the emergence of consumerism, the leisure industry and international mass media celebrities.

The book

The book tells how the five Danish-American Barrison sisters (between 13 and 21 years old) in 1894, overnight become the most coveted stars of the variety scene in the western world. They create a sensation with their almost identical appearance, the synchronicity of their moves, their skinny bodies without corset and feminine curves, and their double entendres and dances that balance between childish innocence and bubbly sexuality. They are among the very first celebrity stars in an emerging international news feed, and wherever they go, they create a stir with their appearance, whether cycling around cities wearing bloomers or being coveted by noblemen and rich businessmen at parties and balls.

Helped by an unprecedented (and strategically planned) marketing through cabinet cards, posters, merchandise, scandals and gossip spread by news agencies, the Barrison sisters make the headlines in newspapers internationally, at the same time as the phrase ‘The New Woman’ is coined. Therefore, they invariably become central figures in the debate about female emancipation, embodying this new concept. To some, they serve as a model for a new emancipated way of life, to others they are the very incarnation of the moral decay of fin-de-siecle. They become the enemy that spur Christian defenders of traditional morals to rally and organize, especially when it comes to light that their manager, the husband of the eldest sister Lona, William Fleron was convicted for his anarchist activities in Denmark back in the 1880’s. Surely, this pop phenomenon must be the latest anarchist onslaught on bourgeoise society?

The Barrison sisters become a big name in Paris, they make Berlin go wild, and they are the centre of attention in Vienna. In their native Copenhagen, however, the police decide to ban them immediately after manager William Fleron’s anarchist past is drawn to their attention. In the English-speaking world – London and New York – the reception is reserved. In the fall of 1896, Lona Barrison triggers a scandal in New York as she tries to enter the Madison Square Garden’s Horse Show, riding astride in a split skirt on a men’s saddle.

After this American scandal the sisters return to Europe in January 1897. But by now the Barrison phenomenon is confronted by Christian, conservative, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces in Austria and Germany. In a whirlwind of censorship, lawsuits, legislation and bans, the troupe disintegrates, though their manager, William Fleron, and his wife Lona Barrison try to keep her solo career going for another 10 years.

Through 10 chapters, the book follows the emergence of the Barrison fever, its heyday, the disintegration of the troupe, and Lona’s and Fleron’s subsequent battle against censorship in Germany and Denmark. With the sisters’ (and Fleron’s) career as the focal point of the story, readers are led on a journey through fin-de-siecle culture as it unfolds in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, New York, Copenhagen and other metropolitan cities.

The book is an historical account, based on thorough archival research, but written in the ‘historical present’, using a dramatic plot structure and ‘thick-descriptions’ to convey a sense of immersion, rather than academic distance.


“What really makes Hans Henrik Apple’s book worth reading is his excellent ability to put the Barrison sisters into a context that extends far beyond the artists themselves. In this way, the book provides an excellent snapshot of 19th-century fin-de-siècle, social tensions and clashes of culture, burgeoning socialism, New York’s theater scene, eroticized Paris, Puritan movements and much, much more … From the first to the last page it is an absolute joy to read.”

– Ph.d. Joachim Lund in Dagbladet Information 

“Hans Henrik Appel has made a scoop of a book … [he] gives a detailed and absorbing description of life in Europe’s major cities at the turn of the century … It’s brilliantly written throughout and the illustrations do the wicked girls full justice”

– (Six stars out of six) Bent Blüdnikow in Berlingske Tidende

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The 2019 Race for the Football League – Tradition vs. Entrepreneurship

IMG_7711The race for winning promotion to the Football League is entering its final stage, and my son Thomas and I have the perfect opportunity to compare two of the leading contenders – Leyton Orient and Salford City – as they both play at home on our last trip to the UK this season.

Whereas Leyton Orient is one of the oldest London clubs, and had continually been members of the Football League from 1905 until their relegation two seasons ago, Salford City have never played in the Football League, and their current status as a National League club is their best ever position. And this position has been achieved by winning promotion in three of the four seasons since the six former Manchester United players – Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, Butt and the Neville brothers – each bought 10 percent of the club. The race for the football league seems to be a battle between footballing tradition and footballing entrepreneurship.


It is not that Salford City is a brand new club. According to the club website, it was formed in 1940 as Salford Central. It doesn’t tell about the circumstances, although it would be quite interesting to know the story of a football club being formed in the very year that the phoney war turned into the Battle of Britain. On the other hand, Leyton Orient did not adopt the name Leyton Orient until the end of WW2, having previously been named Orient and later Clapton Orient – after originally playing as Eagle Cricket Club’s football team. To add to the confusion, they took over their current ground from Leyton F.C. in 1937, after which they changed their name from Clapton Orient to Leyton Orient. And for a 21 year long spell from 1966, the club reverted to the short version of the name – “Orient”.

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In fact, Leyton Orient have had a quite turbulent history, which is reflected in their ground. You can start with the name of it. When Leyton F.C. played here, it was called Osborne Road. Clapton Orient renamed the ground Brisbane Road after moving in – before changing the club’s name to Leyton Orient. Then, when boxing-promoter Ben Hearn bought the club for £5 in 1995, he renamed the ground after his company “The Matchroom Stadium”. And currently, the Breyer Group has a 2-year deal for the naming rights.

But – with this blog focusing on football and material culture – it is the ground itself that is really fascinating. When Leyton Orient won promotion to the second tier of English League football in 1956, they invested in a new main stand. Or rather- they bought it from the Mitcham stadium. A stadium built just a couple of years before Leyton’s move to Brisbane Road by the housing entrepreneur Sydney Parker. He figured out that the many people moving into the newly built semi-detached houses of the area, would need some sort of entertainment. He build a stadium with a capacity of somewhere between 30.000 and 60.000 – and experimented with rugby, greyhound racing, baseball and football. According to an excellent article by Totts on http://www.gandermonium.com/2018/10/mitcham-stadium-mysteries.html,  Parker almost persuaded Clapton Orient to move into his ground just before they decided to go to Leyton in 1937; and apparently, he was also in talks with the Fulham F.C. owner to move to Mitcham, so Craven Cottage could be converted to housing. In the end, Mitcham Stadium didn’t find a viable concept, and the ground folded in 1955. So what Leyton Orient did, was to buy up one of the stands from Mitcham and move it to Brisbane Road.


Oddly enough, Leyton Orient only put up 3/4 of the newly acquired stand in 1956. It was not until Orient won promotion to the top tier of English football in 1962, that the stand was completed.  And even more oddly, the distinctive white roof gable with the club name is not positioned at the centre. According to Simon Inglis’ authoritative “Football Ground’s of Britain”, this second oddity is a consequence of the first. They put the gable in the centre of the firstly erected 3/4; so when the stand was extended towards the south, the gable lost its central position. However, Tott’s excellent article on Mitcham Stadium features a photo that shows, that the gable at Mitcham was similarly off-centre. But Inglis do point out that the gable is said to have housed the steward’s box for the dog racing at Mitcham. That seems to be the explanation – that the gable was at the finishing line of the racing track at Mitcham stadium –  which was not at the centre.


The gable apparently runs all through the roof of the stand, as it can be seen from the outside as well. But inside the stand, you can actually see that the two gables do not quite fit. The one towards the street has probably housed a staircase to get up to a gantry walk, leading to the steward´s box in the gable towards the ground.


I discover another oddity, as I take my seat in the old main stand. Under my left foot I have wooden floor, under my right foot I have concrete floor. In other old stands, it is fairly common to find a mix of wooden and concrete floor, as concrete was used in the standing paddocks at the front, and wooden floor in the seated area at the back. And you can find the odd stand, where part of the original stand with wooden floor has burned down and been rebuilt in concrete.

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Although Inglis points out that the East Stand nearly burned down on it’s opening day in 1956, there may be another explanation for this oddity. Looking at photos back from the 1970’s, there seems to have been a segregation of the section of the stand under the gable, starting right at the column immediately in front of me. I guess that the stand came from Mitcham Stadium with wooden floor for the section around the finishing line of the racecourse, as this section would be the most attractive and exclusive. The cheaper seats after the finishing line got concreted floor. Inglis points out that the embankment around the ground was built up and concreted by Leyton Orient from 1949-1962. This part was probably done, when the main stand was erected in 1956. But if any Leyton Orient fans reading this has the explanation, please let me know.

IMG_7617I had been in two minds whether we should buy tickets for the new West (Main) Stand, so we would have the pleasure of looking at the old East Stand with the gable during the match, or whether we should go for the “traditional” old stand experience. In the end, I decide for experiencing the old stand rather than looking at it. I am glad I did. I like the quirkiness of it. The East Stand used to contain offices, dressing room, club shop etc. Or rather – small buildings containing such facilities have been attached to the stand  from Mitcham Stadium. A big black O with the club crest in the middle between the words “Leyton Orient” and “Football Club Ltd” make up the decorations on the rather drab grey cladding, along with red and white attached buildings.


The East Stand is located in Brisbane Road – which is linked to High Road Leyton by the terraced housing of Osborne Road. The community of Leyton is on this eastern side of the ground, whereas there used to be a water works and an isolation hospital between the western side and the railway. Now, you find mainly allotments here. It has a sense of ‘back-yard’ to it. No wonder the prestigious new main stand was put in Brisbane Road to the East.


We have definitely made the right choice by going for the East Stand. This is a proper old school stand. I love the wooden floor. It gives a completely different soundscape to modern concrete stands. I love the column obstructing my view, making me have to move from one side to the other with the flow of the game. And I love the irregular concourse underneath the stand where I find the “Leyton Lunch” (although the Pukka Chicken Balti pie, I have, is not properly heated).

IMG_7644IMG_7645IMG_7649Our choice of stand may have cost us the sight of the iconic gable as a lovely bacground scenery for the match, but in its own way, the new West Stand is just as fascinating to watch. Above the ordinary rows of seats is a gallery with seats for the visitors to the executive boxes. And at the top of the stand, there is a spectacular gallery for the press. It really looks impressive, when the lights are turned on.


All the four stands are hemmed in by residential blocks with flats in the corners of the ground. The corners were sold off in order to finance the building of the West and the North Stands. The houses have balconies overlooking the pitch. It must really be exciting to be the estate agent showing the flats to potential residents. Who will get the thrill of their life when they see the view? And who will walk out in protest? I would certainly love to live there – but I am pretty sure my wife would be horrified by the thought.

IMG_7670IMG_7691Anyway, the onlooking residents on the balconies somehow rounds off the press gallery at the top of the West Stand with their silhouets matching the journalists. A fascinating effect – I wonder if it was intended.


The South, West and North stands were completed in 2000, 2005 and 2007 respectively, after a grand plan to completely rebuilt the site, turning the pitch 90 degrees, had been abandoned. The selling off of land to help finance the rebuilding sums up the struggle to keep up with the stadium transformations after the Taylor Report. Much to my surprise, I really like the presence of the residential blocks. In Parken in Copenhagen, I find the offices in one of the stands highly distracting in the overall impression. But somehow, it works here. In fact, further residential blocks have been built behind the South as well as the North Stand, but you can only see the blocks in the South Stand from the inside of the stadium.


The entrances to the South and North Stands are located in the residential blocks. It looks like a modern day version of the Oak Road End entrance through a terraced house at Luton Town’s Kenilworth Road – and the now gone Filbert Street at Leicester City. And it is fascinating in the same sort of way – the ground and the surroundings growing together organically. In the same way, the statue of one of Leyton Orient’s greatest ever players, Laurie Cunningham, is not at the ground but in the Coronation Gardens next to the residential blocks.


The new West Stand not only contains club shop and offices and a supporters’ bar. There is also room for parking facilities, a pharmacy and a policlinic. Mainly due to the bar, it is quite lively – and once again gives this impression of the ground having grown together organically with the community.


In fact, right from the moment we got off the tube at Leyton, we have got this feeling of being in a vibrant, busy  community with people in the streets. It may have something to do with the time of day – Tuesday at 6.30 – but it is a stark contrast, when we take the bus to Salford City’s Peninsula Stadium at Moor Lane Saturday morning at 11. There is hardly anybody in the streets. The ground is in a residential area but not very heavily populated. Opposite the ground is a church and Kersal Moor.

IMG_8059.JPGAnd arriving at the ground, the contrast is even starker. Salford City has been playing here for 40 years, but until the Class of 92′ owners took over five years ago, it was a very basic football ground with a perimeter fence around a Sunday League pitch – with the addition of two small stands opposite each other by the centre line. The capacity was just over 1.000. But as part of the project of taking Salford City into the football league by 2020, the new owners have built a brand new stadium around the pitch. It was all done in 10 months – raising the capacity of the ground to just over 5.000.


The four stands – standing terraces behind the goals and seated stands along the length of the pitch – are integrated in a bowl-like design. It gives the impression of being a proper ground. An amazing transformation over such a short time.


There are no concreted embankments here – and no wooden floor either. It is all metal. Some 15 years ago, I organized an annual tournament of knights at the Danish Military Museum. The stands remind me of the temporary seated stands that we erected for these 10-day events. It looks like a temporary stepping stone on the way to the top tier of English Football – and I have, indeed, heard rumours that they will have to play their matches in another ground, if they do win promotion to the Football League.


A sign tells fans no to bang on the rear panels. The odd dent in the panels tell the reason why.


You sense that the ground was really built in a hurry. Near the away end, it seems that they suddenly became aware that the number of seats between the aisles didn’t add up, and an additional aisle has been thrown in somewhat randomly.


There are some executive facilities in the main stand along Moor Lane (where my mate spots Gary Neville), but otherwise the stands are too small to contain facilities. They have all been places in containers behind the stands – toilets, kiosks, souvenir shop. And it seems that the dressing rooms are not much different.


Although it is quite cold, the sun is fortunately shining, and it makes it a pleasant area to enjoy halftime refreshments. And, in fact. it is not unlike some old school grounds like Griffin Park in Brentford, where you also have to spend half time in the open air.


The most distinctive feature of the ground, though, is the pitch. It doesn’t seem as though it was relaid as part of the rebuilding project. It must be sloping more than a yard from Moor Lane towards Neville Road. Standing behind the goal, looking down the other end of the pitch, it is really striking when you follow the lines of the roof and the crush barriers.


In fact, the pitch look more like the one where my super veteran team Dynamo Birkerod plays every Sunday than a football league pitch. We see groundsman sprinkling the pitch with a garden hose;  although later it is revealed that a couple of sprinklers have been built into the pitch – so some pitch work has been done.


Whereas the ground at Leyton Orient oozes tradition, history and community, the Salford City ground is underpinned by sporting ambition. This is a necessary stepping stone to becoming a league club – and probably to getting all the way to the top. There is not much history around, but statements about intent like this one of the staircase: “There is no elevator to success; You have to take the stairs”. But Salford City seems to be jumping rather than walking up the stairs.


Or “You don’t just support a team. You belong to it”. This statement, however, would perhaps be more appropriate at Leyton Orient. It is not just the stadium buildings that differ; the atmosphere in the two grounds differ as well. It is not just that the crowd at Salford is just under half the 5,200 at Leyton Orient. There doesn’t seem to be the same passion around the ground. Maybe it is because the club by many Manchester United fans are seen as a sort reserve team. Plenty of people go to the match wearing their Manchester United colors, and will probably be on their way to Old Trafford for United’s match against West Ham later in the day. Just like we are.


There is a group of Salford fans standing behind the goal with banners, doing some singing and chanting. But the response to Salford City taking a rather undeserved lead some 10 minutes into the match is quite muted, where we are sitting. Maybe because everybody just expects Salford to record a routine win; maybe because people don’t quite belong yet. In fact, it is the away fans from Maidenhead United, who are having a great day out. They are all dressed up. Superheroes, ghosts and ghostbusters, pirates, wizards, you name it. My favourite is a guy sitting on the shoulders of president Trump.


That is, there is a group of 15 Maidenhead fans who – with the exception of one – hasn’t dressed up. The one exception really stands out with his bare arms and legs, especially considering that it is bitterly cold. Reminds me of the Bridget Jones’ Diary: “Where are all the other tarts and vicars?”. But, the dressedup guys seems to enjoy himself.


It is, though, a far cry from the atmosphere at Brisbane Road. The crowd there is really passionate, living every single tackle. It is ooohss and ahhhs and plenty of chanting from all stands of the ground. A cracking atmosphere, much better than at some Premiership and Championship grounds. I guess it has to do with the tradition. Losing their league status has been a completely devastating blow to the Leyton Orient supporters; it is absolutely essential for them to get back now. Whereas the vast majority of Salford City fans seems more laid back. Feeling confident, perhaps even knowing, that with the backing of the Class of ’92, it is just a matter of time, before they will be in the big time. If they go up this year, they will even be ahead of schedule.


Maybe the actual games influence this impression. Leyton Orient go down to a brillant early goal from Eastleigh. But spurred on by the crowd, they equalize, only for Eastleigh to retake the lead with another spectacular goal. You begin to sense the frustration. But in the second half, the fans rally again, and Leyton grab two goals within five minutes to take the lead. It is a pulsating game – and the quality is surprisingly high. My son and I are both impressed with the technical ability and some of the flowing football displayed by both teams, if fact.

IMG_8161The match at Salford is the opposite. It is quite scrappy, littered with technical mistakes and plenty of long balls just being whacked forward. Maybe the pitch doesn’t help. Salford capitalize on two technical mistakes by Maidenhead to break and score within the first half hour. Still, they don’t play very well. But on the stroke of halftime they go 3-0 up from a penalty after some chaotic defending of a corner.  Nothing much happens in the second half. There is nothing for the fans to get excited about, except some pushing and showing at set-pieces.


There is something exciting about new clubs suddenly making headway through the league system. For instance, Bournemouth’s rise to the Premiership has been exciting to watch. But I must admit that my favorites in the race for League football are Leyton Orient. It is one of those little gems like Grimsby Town that just win me over with their passion and their tradition. And really good football on top of it. I know that they tried to move to the Olympic Stadium before West Ham United beat them to it. I think that they are fortunate that they didn’t get it. Brisbane Road is a brilliant place to go – I will certainly recommend to anybody going to London wanting to have a proper match day experience. As I am writing this, both Leyton Orient and Salford City are ahead in their matches – with another two matches remaining. Leyton Orient are two points ahead. What an exciting race for football league.

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Posted in Football grounds

Pittodrie – from gallow hill and dung yard to cemetery and football ground

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It is almost surreal. It is February, the sun is beaming down, it is hot – and I am sweating on my way up the sloping Park Road in Aberdeen. A green bus stop marks the summit. Standing out against the blue sky. As I approach, the landscape on the other side gradually unfolds. The sea, the coastline, a cemetery – and the giant eastern stand of Aberdeen’s ground, Pittodrie! Like a scenery from the movie “Bagdad Café”. An strange but awesome sight.

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The basic no-nonsense of the scenery is captivating. I love football grounds surrounded by terraced housing and small gardens. The day before, I visited Tannadice with allotments in the back yard. Grounds where the neighborhood over a century has evolved around the ground –  football ground and neighborhood growing together organically. But this is somehow raw. As though the cold winds from the sea have prevented nice little gardens and terraced housing from growing.

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I check a map of the area from 1879. This area was very much out of town. There were two hospitals – an epidemic and a boys’ hospital. A militia depot with a rifle shooting range right on the edge of the current football ground – and there used to be a police dunghill. There was no cemetery yet in 1879, but a gallow hill at what is now the western corner of the cemetery. A map from 1883 shows that the western half of the cemetery had been established by then – and the gallow hill had been converted to a powder magazine. In 1894, a huge gasholder was built between the cemetery and the shooting range. According to Simon Inglis, Pittodrie football ground was established in 1899 – and in the 1902 map, you can see how the football ground has taken over part of the rifle range and all of the dung hill. The golf club has also set up its club house, although the golf course itself is not marked on the map yet.

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Simon Inglis suggests that the name Pittodrie might derive from a celtic word for “place of manure”, but point out that it could also refer to a village 20 miles north-west of Aberdeen. Looking at the maps, the latter seems to be the most likely explanation. Pittodrie Street might lead to the site of the old dung hill, but a map of 1897 shows Pittodrie Place slightly to the north, whereas the road leading to the dunghill has been named Merkland Road East – and in fact continues around the dunghill where you now find Pittodrie Street. It seems as though Pittodrie doesn’t originate from the dunghill. Whatever the origin of the name, it adds to the magic of the place. Pittodrie. It is just as captivating as “Tannadice”.

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Maybe it is the setting with a cemetery and the sea – and the history with a gallow hill, a rifle range and a dunghill –  but as I walk around the ground, I feel that there is certain rawness to it. The towering Eastern (or Richard Donald’s) Stand, for instance, is so overwhelmingly huge. It has the appearance of a giant bulwark against the cold winds and floodings from the sea. It absolutely dwarfs the rest of the ground – or shelters it.


The Richard Donald Stand is the only stand at Pittodrie built after the Taylor Report. It was opened in 1993. Most clubs have built one or more stands since 1990, trying to comply with new ground regulations including all-seaters. But Aberdeen were not really forced into building a new stand. Pittodrie had been an all-seater stadium since 1978 – the first all-seater ground in Britain. So the Richard Donald Stand was mainly a statement, a testimony to the club’s status as the challenger to Celtic and Rangers during the 1980’s under Alex Ferguson.


Continuing around the ground down Pittodrie Street, I find the oldest stand – the main stand from 1925. It is the age of Archibald Leitch, although the great man wasn’t behind this one. But it does have the appearance – just a little more raw. There are no fancy sandstone ornaments in the bricks like at Craven Cottage; no club crests; no elegant doorways or window openings like at Ibrox. Just plain red bricks with raw steel framework, factory-like leaded windows, and very basic entrance gates.


The eastern end of the stand was ravaged by a fire in 1971, and had to be rebuilt. It is quite visible from the outside. The rebuilt section has the same bricks and windows, but does not feature the same steel framework. Also, it is slightly higher, because – as can be seen from the inside – the roof construction is slightly different. The main stand entrance also stands out. It may just be that they have rebuilt the original main entrance – but I would have thought it would have featured right in the middle of the stand like at Ibrox or Dens Park – and not at the eastern end of it.


The overall impression of the original main stand has thankfully been preserved, but nevertheless the old part has a little bit more character. It seems more authentic. Especially at the end of it. I think it is mainly due to the steel framework which seems more ornamental than functional here.


The stand-out ornamental feature of Pittodrie, though, is the granite entrance gate at the Western (Merkland Road) End of the ground. I curse the beaming sunshine as it casts a shadow of the neighboring house down the middle of it. But with no clouds in the sky, I figure out I will have to wait quite a long time for the chance of taking a decent photo of it. So I have to settle for this.


The gate is almost just as old as the main stand – it is from 1928. The terraced embankment behind the wall was roofed as early as 1934 – another proof that Aberdeen was well ahead of the rest when it came to cater for their crowd. Probably a reflection of the rough weather conditions with Pittodrie not only next to the North Sea but also one of the most northern grounds on the British Isles.


To my knowledge, it is still the original embankment, but in the early 1970’s Aberdeen put benches on to it, making it a seated area. During the 1980’s the roof was replaced by a new one, and the benches replaced by plastic seats.


In comparison to the other stands, the South Side looks rather dull. Like the Merkland Road End, it used to be a terraced embankment. But whereas the Merkland had a roof long before the seats, seats were installed here in 1978, completing Pittodrie as an all-seater stadium – before a roof had been put up. The untenable in this was quickly realized, and two years later the current cantilever roof was built. But it doesn’t extent all the way to the corners of the stand. You still have the possibility of enjoying a seat in the rain.


As I walk back around the ground, there is a gate open, and I take the opportunity to have a look inside. Seen from the South Side, there is a marked difference between the roof at the western and eastern end of the main stand. And oddly enough, it is the roof over the original western end that looks new and bright. I find the explanation when I am allowed a walk around the ground in the evening before the match.


The main stand was – like almost any main stand of the time – divided into roofed seats at the back, and an uncovered standing paddock at the front. As seats were installed in the paddock in 1968, it became necessary to extend the original roof to cover the paddocks. An extension was added on top of the original roof, probably in connection with the rebuilding after the fire 1971.


The difference is even more apparent, when I take my seat at the back of the stand for the match. But it also strikes me that just as the outside is devoid of ornamental features, the roof construction and pillars look basic and raw compared to Archibald Leitch’s work at the time. The functional structure, though, is basically the same. But without the little extras. It may be that they have disappeared. I have seen photos showing that the roof used to have a Leitch style gable. And the Craven Cottage-like pavillon that used to be in the north eastern corner of the ground next to the main stand, also had one. As though the cold winds from the sea have swept any ornaments away.


Whereas the front of the main stand was upgraded from standing paddock to seating in 1968, the back of it was upgraded from seats to executive boxes in the early 1980’s. I guess the visitors must be celebrities guarding their privacy, as all of them have white curtains drawn down right until kick-off.

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Apart from being the first all-seater stadium in Britain, Pittodrie was the first ground to erect a dugout for their trainer, so he could keep his notebook dry. That was in the late 1920’s. But with no substitutes in those days, he would probably only have needed one or two chairs. Not a bench long enough for 8 or 9 men. So I guess the current dugouts are modern constructions.


Another kind of dugout has been constructed for wheel-chair users on the South Side of the ground to shelter them. But there are no such comfort for people visiting the Y-section in the south-western corner of the ground (background of the photo).


Nor to a section of the visiting supporters. If you as a home supporter chose to go in the uncovered Y-section, you can save £2 on your ticket. I wonder if the away fans getting an uncovered seat get a similar reduction. Or whether it makes much of a difference, because I can imagine that quite a few of the away supporters under the roof get soaked as well during bad weather, as the wind from the sea is likely to sweep under the cantilevered roof of the stand, as it has no wind shield at the end.


I take another look at the ground from Broad Hill before going back to my hotel to get some rest before the evening’s match – the Dons against the Academicals. Whereas Hamilton’s Academical is a link to the club’s roots as a school team, I guess Aberdeen’s nickname refers to the river Don, though – and not to the university. Anyway, my expectations are high. When I saw Aberdeen play less than two years ago, they won 7-0 away to Dundee FC, with their away support in full voice. I know they have had a few disappointing home results of late, but Hamilton seems to be in an even worse state than Dundee FC were – and they have a fresh 5-0 defeat against Rangers from the weekend.


Approaching the ground in the dark is quite spectacular. There is always something special about a floodlit football ground. Two things make this more spectacular than most. Seagulls keep flying around in the floodlight over the ground. They glow in the air from afar. It is almost like the 1978 World Cup confetti in Argentina.


And the floodlit cemetery is also a spectacular if not a spooky sight.


But the ground is also an enjoyable sight. Especially the main stand, where the glassed windows glow and the floodlights beam from the pylon in the corner.


And the granite gate of the Merkland stand looks impressive in the lights.

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Inside the ground, the Richard Donald stand looks even bigger with the lights on along the roof.


From my seat in the eastern end of the main stand, I can look right across to the away support. A yellow fence and yellow stairs separate them from the home fans. I wonder if the away fans section is extended to the yellow gangway when Celtic or Rangers visit with their massive away support. Hamilton have only brought 32 fans. Even though the weather is dry, none of them opt for the open-air seats in the away section. Usually, away support gather as one single group, however few they are. But the Hamilton fans scatter out in 4 or 5 groups.


After my visit, I regret that I didn’t try to map out the concourse – to find out why the ceiling is sunk in part of it. I almost bang my head into it. Again, it is not like Archibald Leitch at his best, but I love it. With lots of redpainted doors and staircases, and at the same time pretty spacious.


For some reason the queues at the kiosks are not that long, not even at halftime. One explanation, of course, could be poor quality – but that is not the case. I have a good pie as well as a nice cup of coffee. I can only assume that the ratio of kiosk per spectator is higher than usual. Especially because the concourse of Pittodrie is much more appealing than the stands before kick-off.


Not really for keeping warm, as I had expected going to a match in Aberdeen in February. It is 6 or 7 degrees in the evening. It is more the loudness of the music played over the tannoy in the stands. It is absolutely deafening. I try to have a conversation with the season ticket holder in the seat next to me – but it is next to impossible because of the loud music.


When the music finally is turned off at kick-off, the crowd respond with – silence! At last, they seem to think. Or is it just that I have been deafened by the music? I don’t think so. When I visited Tannadice the previous day, fans grouped in the stand irrespective of seat numbers. There was a constant din of talking – with ooohhhss and aaaahhhs rising from the crowd whenever a promising seemed to be under way. But everything seems so quiet inside Pittodrie, despite the crowd being 3 times bigger than at Tannadice. I can hear some talking in the distance – it sounds almost like whispering from one or two people. And it takes a very big chance for Aberdeen to raise the crowd to an oooohhhhh. Most of the time, you only hear some groans over poor control and misplaced passes.

At the same time, the Aberdeen players look like a team short of confidence – and the groaning and moaning seem to get under their skin. Aberdeen have the majority of possession, and they do create some decent chances. But, somehow, lowly Hamilton with their 32 supporters look the more likely team right from the start. Especially the wee Miller up front seems to give Aberdeen all sorts of problems with his movement. And suddenly, Hamilton’s Oakley fires in a stunning volley from the tightest of angles – with shades of Marco van Basten in the 1990’s. Although Aberdeen still create a number of chances, they seem to lack belief, whereas Hamilton grow in confidence.

For the second half, someone has taken out a drum in the Family Stand at the Merkland end. I didn’t hear it in the first half. Normally, I hate drumming at matches, but in this case, I can understand the need to do something break the silence that hangs thick in the air. Even though the drumming is not particularly good, and nobody joins in to clap, sing or chant.

It is not really a surprise, when Hamilton go two up in the second half. Silence. The 32 Hamilton supporters don’t make much nice – even though they dance around wildly. The season ticket holder next to me gets up. “For f***’s sake, take a good look at yourself, Aberdeen!” he yells. It rings out loudly amidst the silence. There is still the odd Aberdeen chance, but a comeback doesn’t seem to be on. Not even some unsporting behavior by Hamilton’s Oakley, as he wins a very soft free-kick and laughs in the face of the penalized Aberdeen player sparks a reaction from the crowd.


By the end of the match, security gathers by the gangway in the away section to prevent a pitch invention. The 32 Hamilton supporters, seeing that they are outnumbered, abstain.

The difference between the Aberdeen performance against Dundee two years ago and tonight is beyound belief. Not just the performance of the team – which oozed confidence and belief – but also the supporters, who were having a carnival time, singing and chanting. It may be that it is just the lack of belief and confidence after five home games without a win. Or maybe there is more to it. Maybe more than 40 years as an all-seater stadium has created a more restrained fan culture. Or is it the noisy pre-match music that makes the fans long for some silence. Or the usually cold weather, which makes fans want to wrap up in some warm clothers over a cup of hot coffee? Or have I just witnessed one of those off-days that every experiences?


I ask the season ticket holder next to me and a couple of other fans about their thoughs on the new ground. One of them is quite convinced that this is, what the club needs. It is embarrassing that they don’t have proper training facilities – and you need a modern ground in the modern game. The season ticket holder is not sure. He can see the point of improving training facilities, but it is a big step to leave behind all the heritage at Pittodrie. The last fan is negative. At the end of the day, it doesn’t make any difference if a football match is played in a modern or an old ground. But moving away from the city will spoil the match day of having a drink in the pub before walking to the ground.


From a groundhopper’s perspective, I identify with the latter views. It is the heritage of Pittodrie and the place that have made me make the trip to visit the ground. And will make me attempt to throw in another match at Pittodrie on my next trip to Scotland. Whereas the new Kingsford Stadium will find itself way down the list of football grounds, I wish to visit. But, of course, Aberdeen have to cater for their own fans, not groundhoppers.

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Posted in Football grounds

Tannadice – what gives a football ground character?

IMG_6661.JPGWhen I made my list of the top 24 English football grounds back in December, I was asked about the criteria. Well, they are not clear-cut. If I should nail it down to just one word, I would say “character”, something that stands out from the rest. Of course, there are many ways of doing this. Dundee United’s Tannadice Park does so in a number of ways.

To start with, there is the name. “Tannadice”. Taste it. It is like a smoked malt. And compare it to “Bet365” or “Amex” or the “SportsDirect” or some other sponsor named ground. When I listened in on the BBC Saturday afternoons in the 1970’s and 1980’s, I was always fascinated by the sound of the name – especially when pronounced with a proper Scottish accent.


Then, there is the place. Tannadice is not located outside town, next to a recycling station or a McDonalds by a ring road. You climb the steep Hilltown from the centre of Dundee and walk through residential areas before arriving at Tannadice Street to find that there is not just one football ground but two! They are – apparently with the exception of a couple of back-to-back grounds in Budapest – the two closest football grounds in Europe. A good goalkeeper will be able to kick the ball from one ground to the other. I am a big fan of Simon Inglis’ encyclopedic work on British football grounds, but I cannot share his lament that Dundee FC and Dundee United didn’t go ahead with plans of a shared ground in 1990. THIS is magic – and Inglis does admit that “all the while we are secretly captivated by the absurdity of it all”.


Well, I don’t find it absurd. As I said. It is about character. And a ground that had to be the home of the tangerine side of a city one week, and then the home of their rivals from the blue side the following week just wouldn’t have as much character. I have not studied the early days of Dundee football properly, but whereas Dundee FC at Dens Park down the road proudly state that they are the oldest club in Dundee – from 1893 – Tannadice can, according to Simon Inglis –  lay claim to being the oldest ground, as football has been played here since 1891, although admittedly it was Dundee United’s predecessors Dundee Wanderers who made it their home that year, calling their ground Clepington Park. It was Dundee FC challenging an existing football club, when they moved to Tannadice Street in 1899 – despite laying claim to being the oldest club. At least, this is what Simon Inglis writes. I have had a look at maps of Dundee from 1891 to 1910 – and whereas Dens Park is clearly marked as a football ground from 1903, there is no marking of a football ground down Tannadice Street before 1910.

When the Irish community of Dundee set up Dundee Hibernian in 1909, they ousted Wanderers from Clepington, renaming the place Tannadice after the name of the street. But you could argue that it was a completely new ground, as Wanderers – much to the surprise of everybody – took stands and fences with them. As I said, I am not that much into the early history of Dundee football; but the story of rival clubs competing for a home in the farmland that was then on the outskirts of the town does tell of the importance of football club identities.


Currently Dundee FC are discussing plans to move to a new ground. From my point of view, it will be a pity if they just throw away their heritage, having one of the remaining eight Archibald Leitch stands. But to me and other football ground enthusiasts, it will not just be Dundee FC losing their magical appeal; Tannadice will lose some of its attractive magic, if Dens Park is demolished. The proximity of the two grounds is compelling.


On my first visit to Dundee, I went to watch a match from the Archibald Leitch stand at Dens Park. Therefore, my first view down Tannadice Street was from the Dens Park end. With the classical Leitch main stand in the foreground, Tannadice looked very much second best. But if you approach from the other end of the street, the tangerine of United and the façade of Tannadice’s main stand look the more appealing, with the blue of Dens Park looking more like a background curtain.


I spend more than an hour in the afternoon, walking around the grounds, not being able to decide which is the most fascinating. Archibald Leitch’s Dens Park, or the tangerine Tannadice? It is a truly unique place. To add to it, the area behind the East Stand of Tannadice (named the Eddie Thomson Stand) are allotments. Or rather, the East Stand has been given an oddly irregular shape to be able to squeeze it in behind the allotments.

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That is another element in the “character” of a ground. That it is not a modern spaceship-like designed ground that has been constructed on a drawing board and could have been put up anywhere. It has taken shape from the surroundings – it has become an organic part of them. It is not just the north corner of the East Stand that has been sliced off to squeeze in behind the allotments. The western corner of the North (George Fox) Stand is also sliced off by the Sandeman Street, giving this otherwise fairly regular stand a characteristic look.


In fact, all the stands seem to have irregular shapes. From the East Stand, you cannot help noticing the asymmetrical look of the West Stand – or the Shed as it is called. There are almost shades of Carlisle United’s Brunton Park, as it looks as though the builders have got it wrong and placed it way too far to the south. The southern end of the stand extends beyond the touchline and the South Stand – and probably therefore, this part of the stand is not in use. On the other side, the northern end of the Shed doesn’t even reach the touchline by the North Stand. Were they drunk when they build it? Maybe. But the reason for the asymmetrical look is probably the two-stepped construction of the South Stand – the main stand.

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The South Stand is probably the most irregular one of them all. It was built as the first cantilevered stand in Scotland and opened in 1962 – the third in Britain after Scunthorpe and Sheffield Wednesday. It doesn’t extent the entire length of the pitch, though. This isn’t unique. You can find plenty of old stands not spanning the entire length of the pitch, but the peculiar thing about this one is that rather than placing it centrally, it spans only the eastern half of the pitch – and then curves around the eastern corner in an L-shape and takes up a little bit of the East Stand. Just like Archibald Leitch’s main stand at Starks Park, by the way.

When the East Stand was built in 1994, it was linked to the L-shaped South Stand. But not much effort was put into unifying them. On the outside of the ground, an extension building – with club offices – was added with a glass façade that contrasts sharply to the profiled steel of the stands. On the inside, the roof is not quite the same height, and the top tier is much smaller in the East Stand, whereas the lower tier is much bigger than the one of the main stand.

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Similarly, an extension of the L-shaped cantilever stand side from 1997 stands out. In 1971, the lower tier of the stand was replaced by a glass-fronted sponsor lounge (the first one in Scotland). In contrast to this, the extension has a lower tier of ordinary seats. This lower tier takes up much more space than the lounge, almost encroaching on the pitch – and it is probably this extension that makes the Shed look misplaced. Almost to underline the difference between the L-shaped main stand and the extension, the roof is much bigger over the extension, trying to shelter all the seats in the lower tier.


It doesn’t stop there. The pitch is visibly sloping from west to east, at least judging from the advertising boards along the North Stand.


And the floodlights are also an odd mixture. I presume that four classical, identical corner pylons were put up in 1962. But in the 1990’ies, floodlights were fixed along the roof of the new North Stand, making the corner stands in the corners of the north side redundant. One of the pylons, though, remains in place, but in a strangely amputated version. And as the new East Stand was built and linked to the L-shaped South Stand, there was no longer room for the original pylon in the southeastern corner of the ground. A stubby new one has been placed on the roof of the stand instead.


It is not just the appearance of the irregular shapes and features that make the ground so full of character. Each of them embodies a little piece of club history. According to Inglis, Dundee United became the first Scottish club to operate their own pools in 1956, raising the money for the Shed at the West End in this way. Then, promotion in 1959 gave a new cash injection that was invested in the L-shaped, cantilevered main stand. The erection of the sponsor lounges also marks a new development in Scottish football in 1971.


Whereas these traces of history can still be seen, others have disappeared along the way. When Roy Stewart was sold to West Ham in 1979, the money was spent on a roof over the terraces on the north side of the ground. And in 1987, Dundee United’s fans won a prize from UEFA for their sporting behavior as they reached the final of the UEFA cup – a prize that paid for a roof over the northern terrace of the South Stand. Both these two new roofs were swept away by the changes in the 1990’s, once the plans of ground sharing had been abandoned. Incidentally, according to Simon Inglis, these changes were mainly financed by selling four players to Glasgow Rangers.


The closer you look at Tannadice, the more fascinated you get by all the irregularities and the stories behind them. Simon Inglis labels it “an odd assortment of angles and awkward corners, but at least now partially unified by external styling, orange seating and plain grey roof fascia”. Once again, I don’t share Inglis’ view. To me, it is precisely the assortment of angles and odd features that gives the ground character, making me increasingly fond of it, whereas the external styling at first made the ground look a somewhat pale background to Dens Park.


Still, there are more stories to be discovered. As she kindly allows me pitch side to take some photos of the stands during my afternoon walk around the ground,  Dundee United communications manager Riki Dauer tells me that over the years fans have had their ashes scattered inside the ground, and in fact, former Dundee United hero Ralph Milne, who tragically died at an early age a few years ago, has had his ashes interred by the Shed. Many modern, anonymous grounds derive their character from memorial gardens and statues erected around the ground; Tannadice doesn’t need that.


I go back to my hotel to rest my weary legs before the evening’s match – Dundee United against Inverness. I have asked for a ticket for the part of the ground with the best atmosphere – and the lady at the ticket office doesn’t hesitate. The East Stand. Before the transformation of the ground in the 1990’s, the Shed used to be the most stronghold of the Dundee United supporters. From 1957 to 1979, it was the only covered terrace, so that was where the home fans preferred to go. But now the Shed alternates between holding the away support and home support, depending on the crowd and the number of away fans anticipated.


For this match, there are about 150 Inverness supporters in the Shed. But I am told that when the two clubs meet again the following Sunday in the FA Cup, a much bigger crowd and away support is expected – and the away support will be transferred to the main stand, with Dundee United fans able to take over the Shed.

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As the main stand in this way also alternates between holding home and away support, it is no surprise that it is almost empty. Only a tiny section in the middle of it is completely full – presumably the director’s box. Quite strange, as they seem lost in the emptiness of the surrounding stand. Whereas the Shed and the main stand are almost empty, the East and the North stands are pretty full. It underlines the irregular shapes of the ground and makes the atmosphere a bit surreal.


I had bought a ticket in advance, but it turns out that you can also pay at the turnstile. Not really thinking about that, I try to find my allocated seat, only to find it occupied, of course. You just have to find a free seat. Which is great, because it enables supporters to group together as they like. With mates going in groups, there is constant din of talking around the stand – a sharp contrast to what I experience at Aberdeen the following day. But whenever there is a chance of a promising Dundee United attack, ooohhhs and aaaahhhs take over. There is very little chanting – but the constant mumble and the engaged oooohhhs and aaaahhs make it a great atmosphere.


The most disappointing feature is probably the Scotch Pie I have on the concourse during half-time. Somehow, it is unusually greasy and dry at the same time. And I must admit that the concourse doesn’t have the same charm as the narrow corridors of Archibald Leitch’s main stand down the road at Dens Park.


Dundee United play some very good attacking football in the opening stages of the game and ought to have taken the lead. But as they don’t, Inverness gradually gets a foothold, and it becomes a fairly even contest. And gradually the crowd seems to become more engaged in pushing their team forward to score. They eventually do from the penalty spot in the middle of the second half. But the relief of getting the breakthrough is almost immediately followed by a second yellow card to a United player for a reckless challenge.


That makes for a tense final 20 minutes. If  Inverness’ former Dundee United player, Donaldson, who was involved in the sending-off incidence, wasn’t already the pantomime villain, he certainly becomes that as he shortly afterwards lashes out at a Dundee United player in an off-the-ball incidence that neither referee nor linesmen spot. It adds to the tense atmosphere – and the United crowd delights, when Donaldson sees a deflected shot just being tipped over the top by United’s keeper in injury time. He buries his head in his shirt, accompanied by triumphant jeering from the East Stand.


The match ends with a 1-0 win for Dundee United. Exiting the ground, the surrounding streets are lit up by the floodlights. And the two functioning pylons can be seen from afar, whenever I turn to have a look back, as I make my way back to the city centre. I look forward to being back in Dundee for football – and hope and pray that there still will be two football grounds in Tannadice Street.


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Posted in Football grounds

Top English Football Ground Advent Calendar 2018: 24th December

01 Everton (1)

Day 24 – Ground no. 1: Goodison Park, Everton.

It is almost like an open-air museum. The Archibald Leitch stands at Bullen’s Road and Gwlady’s Street are top-drawer. The stairs, the concourse in the lower section, the wooden floor and the criss-crossed steel balustrades in the upper section. The rows of terraced houses leading to the ground, which so dominates Goodison Road. And the St. Luke’s church with the Memorial Garden right in the corner of the ground. It just has everything – hurry up, before it is too late.

Merry Christmas


01 Everton (2)01 Everton (3)01 Everton (4)01 Everton (5)01 Everton (6)


1 Goodison Park, Everton

2. Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday

3. Craven Cottage, Fulham

4. Fratton Park, Portsmouth

5. Kenilworth Road, Luton Town

6. Brunton Park, Carlisle United

7. Blundell Park, Grimsby Town

8. Griffin Park, Brentford

9. London Road, Peterborough

10. Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace

11. Bramall Lane, Sheffield United

12. Loftus Road, Queens Park Rangers

13. The City Ground, Nottingham Forest

14. Priestfield, Gillingham

15. Valley Parade, Bradford City

16. Villa Park, Aston Villa

17. Boundary Park, Oldham Athletic

18. Turf Moor, Burnley

19. Bootham Crescent, York City

20. Anfield Road, Liverpool F.C.

21. Elland Road, Leeds United

22. The County Ground, Swindon Town

23. St. Andrew’s, Birmingham City

24. St. James’ Park, Exeter City

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Posted in Football grounds, Uncategorized

Top English Football Ground Advent Calendar 2018: 23th December

02 Sheffield Wednesday (4)

Day 23 – Ground no. 2: Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday

So much football ground history packed into this. The impressive Kop Stand, one of the very few stands that have kept the original embankment underneath. The first full-pitch-length cantilever stand looking very 1960’ish. The renovated Archibald Leitch stand with a replica gable. The two-tier West Stand built in time for the 1966 World Cup. Surrounded by a park to the one side and terraced housing to the other, a river flowing along the ground, a memorial garden. And a cracking atmosphere inside.

02 Sheffield Wednesday (2)02 Sheffield Wednesday (5)02 Sheffield Wednesday (6)02 Sheffield Wednesday (3)02 Sheffield Wednesday (1)

2. Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday

3. Craven Cottage, Fulham

4. Fratton Park, Portsmouth

5. Kenilworth Road, Luton Town

6. Brunton Park, Carlisle United

7. Blundell Park, Grimsby Town

8. Griffin Park, Brentford

9. London Road, Peterborough

10. Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace

11. Bramall Lane, Sheffield United

12. Loftus Road, Queens Park Rangers

13. The City Ground, Nottingham Forest

14. Priestfield, Gillingham

15. Valley Parade, Bradford City

16. Villa Park, Aston Villa

17. Boundary Park, Oldham Athletic

18. Turf Moor, Burnley

19. Bootham Crescent, York City

20. Anfield Road, Liverpool F.C.

21. Elland Road, Leeds United

22. The County Ground, Swindon Town

23. St. Andrew’s, Birmingham City

24. St. James’ Park, Exeter City

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