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Off The Cuff is back for another week, and in the first of a bumper three part edition, Ed Diggins looks at the five worst grounds to visit in the Premiership.
What makes a good football ground? For some it’s the padded seats, the sideline views and the prawn sandwiches. For others it’s the amount of noise that can be made and whether you can stand hassle free for 90 minutes.
In this week’s Off The Cuff, myself and fellow supporter Dave Rosbotham have compiled a review of the best and worst away grounds in the Premiership. We take a look at all 19 grounds and review the top 10 and the five worst based on a number of factors including how the fans are treated, facilities, accessibility, view from the away end, the locality and, of course, the beer.
Just to note, this is not just a review of the grounds as buildings and how they look. The Emirates and the City of Manchester Stadium are both magnificent structures, but there is more to a good ground than that. Wembley would be another classic example, great stadium, but crap footballing experience and atmosphere.
The five worst away grounds in the Premiership –
1. Goodison Park
Away End: Bullens Road Stand (upper and lower)
Quite possibly the worst away end in any ground in England. The restricted views in the Lower Bullens Stand are appalling and it is easy to see why this is dedicated to the away team. The seating is quite poor and tight (not that away fans sit anyway) and if you are at the back of the stand, you could be stuck behind one of the many pillars that obstruct your view. You also cannot see sections of the pitch if you are at the bar. Not really a place for away fans to drink by the ground. Lime Street is the main train station in Liverpool but is about a one hour walk to the ground so if you are getting the train, look for the Sandhills or Kirkdale stations which are the closest to the ground, with the former have regular shuttle buses to the ground. In and out job really, we do not have anything positive to say about the Goodison Park experience.
2. The Emirates Stadium
Away End: South East (lower tier)
Getting to the ground, like all in London really, is very easy. The closest tube station is Holloway Road on the Piccadilly line, though on match days this is quite often closed. Best option is the Arsenal tube station, which is about 5 minutes walk to the stadium area. Due to us meeting lads in the city afterwards, we got the train from Finsbury Park which took us into Kings Cross. The Drayton Arms is the pub for away fans and is located just outside the away end. It is a nice modern stadium but has a terrible atmosphere, probably the worst in the league. The end we have found is always full of executives, meaning the away atmosphere also suffers. Last season up to 1000 United fans were locked out for the first fifteen minutes of the Champions League semi final. Prices inside the ground are the highest in the league.
3. Stamford Bridge
Away End: South East corner of the Shed End, Upper and Lower
Allocation: Up to 3,000
One of the worst policed grounds I have been to, with away fans only getting entry at half time as they had no clue how to get a large crowd into the ground quick enough. Police panicked and sent in horses for some unknown reason. Tickets are expensive and drinking near the ground for away fans is not advised. We visited a few pubs in the city as there are plenty to chose from and then hopped on the underground out towards the stadium. The nearest tube station is Fulham Broadway which is on the District Line and then we got the train back in from West Brompton. Both of these stations are within 10 to 15 minutes walk from the ground.
4. Craven Cottage
Away End: Putney End Stand
Allocation: Officially 2,900, but can be up to 5900
This is down to opinion and personal choice. Last season’s two trips were both the best and worst trips of the seasons. The ground, which is as old as they come, is not for me but I am sure some fans will love it. The facilities are terrible in my opinion. Immediate accessibility is poor and the away stand looks like a prefab. Maybe they have just put a pre fabricated finish over the stands, but it looks like temporary seating. The sectioning arrangements are a bit strange as more often than not the entire stand is allocated to the away team. O fficially however, it is about sixty per cent away and forty percent neutral, which can be easily purchased online. The away pub, the Eight Bells, is a good one, and about 15 minutes walk from the ground. We also drank on Fulham High Street in The Kings Arms and O’Neill’s, which were full of away fans. Tickets are in the region of £50 so are up there with the most expensive in the league. The nearest tube station is Putney Bridge, which is on the District Line and is about 15 or 20 minutes walk across the Thames.
5. City of Manchester Stadium
Club: Manchester City
Away End: South Stand (one half, upper and lower)
Perhaps a little bit harsh to include this ground, but both of our first trips there this season ended up in a sour note. The segregation is not the best as home and away fans are literally inches from each other, something that most clubs have observed. Our trips saw the stewards panic with the crowd and we ended up missing the first 20 minutes, with some reds only getting in just before half time. The stadium itself is new and looks decent from the inside. It can carry a good atmosphere, but needs better planning and structure to the away end, as well as more stewarding. Getting there is easy enough, we just walked out from Manchester City centre, which took about 30 minutes. Unsurprisingly, all the pubs around the ground are City pubs and best avoided for away fans. The closest train station is Ashburys and the stadium is about a 15 minute walk away from here.
Tune in tomorrow when Ed reveals the first instalment of the best Premier League away grounds.