Memories Of Football Ground Spotting In The UK
After viewing photographs in The Guardian last week about the greatest number of league grounds that can be seen on a single train trip in Great Britain, the feature got me thinking about my life growing up in Wales.
From as far back as I can remember, I always loved traveling. Maybe it was because my parents often drove me the 2.5 hours from South Wales to Mid Wales to visit my grandparents. Or maybe it was because my father was a lorry driver (aka truck driver) when I was still in primary school.
I often would travel with my father on some of his one-day trips to pick up and drop off his trailer. Living in a remote area of Wales, a trip to England was quite a thrill for me. We would often go to cities such as Birmingham, London and Wolverhampton or towns such as Hereford.
The trips were a memorable for several reasons but one of the big highlights for me was keeping an eye out to see if I could spot any football grounds. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, they were easy to spot. The floodlight pylons stood out from miles away. I don’t remember all of the grounds I saw as I was so young and it was so long ago, but the habit of looking for signs of football grounds still hasn’t left me.
Whenever I return to the UK either on business or pleasure, I still find myself scanning the horizons for any signs of football grounds. Several grounds stand out in my mind. Everything from Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground, which can be seen from the railway line that runs behind the stadium to Villa Park, which can be seen in the distance from the motorway that runs through Birmingham.
In London, Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park is easy to find near the center of the capital, while I always seem to notice Brentford’s ground either by train or when flying in to London.
Most of the stadiums these days are a lot harder to see from a distance because of the lack of floodlight pylons. But if you look hard enough on your travels through England and Wales, you may be fortunate to see one of the cathedral’s of British football.
For me, I probably take it to an extreme. I’ll seek out grounds of non-league clubs as I drive through tiny villages in Wales. And I’ve walked miles and miles through London until my legs were in agony to find the remains of Woolwich Arsenal’s Invicta Ground.
What about you? In your journeys to the British Isles, what are you memories of seeing football stadiums while traveling and are you like me where you can’t take your eyes off the buildings passing by as you hope to catch a glimpse of a ground?