Since the outlaw of standing areas English stadia have undergone huge changes. From the crumbling relics of the 1980s the Premier League now boasts some of the finest stadiums in the world.
The names Old Trafford, Anfield and Stamford Bridge all roll off the tongue but within these fine stadiums there is that one stand that best captures the fervour with which English fans follow their teams. This article takes a look at those stands that have helped English fans become revered for their passion and colour.
Obviously this list is not exhaustive and feel free to add your own ideas and memories from the stands you feel best capture the essence of English football’s passion.
THE KOP, ANFIELD
There are many Kop stands around the world, but when the name is mentioned people will inevitably think of the Anfield Kop. Those connected to Liverpool give it almost mystical powers, the “12th man” if you will. Its effect may not be that significant but when the Kop comes alive Anfield becomes a cauldron of sound. From the colossal flags to the singing of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, the Kop is the heart of Liverpool Football Club. Not to say the rest of the stadium lets their side down, but the Kop leads the charge in generating atmosphere. Should their new stadium ever get built they will find it difficult to recreate the noise and colour they now create on the Kop at Anfield. The benchmark when it comes to passion in England.
THE STRETFORD END, OLD TRAFFORD
Manchester United has changed completely during Alex Ferguson’s reign at the club, part of that change has been the stadium and the profile of fans that attend matches there. A sweep of the crowd now reveals a cosmopolitan audience but one place that has retained the traditional spirit of the club has been the Streford End. The new Old Trafford is a modern colliseum and the Stretford End is at the heart of an atmosphere that can be breathtaking when on form. Colour, noise and Mancunian wit, a cracking combination.
GWLADYS STREET END, GOODISON PARK
When it comes to atmosphere Liverpudlians are up there with the best. While their near neighbours have the Kop, the self styled ‘People’s Club’ have the Gwladys Street End. Goodison Park is not the shiniest of stadiums but ask anyone who has paid a visit and they will tell you the atmosphere is amongst the best in England. Those that frequent this stand have seen the glory days of the 80s and the not so great days, but their passion remains constant. The Gwladys Street faithful are part of what makes English fandom great.
THE HOLTE END, VILLA PARK
Birmingham and its surrounds care about their football and nowhere is this more evident than on the Holte End, the steep, banked structure that houses Aston Villa’s passionate fans. Villa are back on an upward curve now but even during the lean times the Holte End was a revered part of their stadium. Part of what made Villa Park such a brilliant FA Cup semi final venue, it is good to see the Holte End back to its bouncing, boisterous self.
THE NORTH BANK, HIGHBURY
Highbury was often derided for its lack of atmosphere but the North Bank is an important part of Premiership history. The North Bank housed Arsenal’s most vocal fans and was fortunate to see some legendary footballers play beneath its roof. Arsenal fans will remember when it was rebuilt in the ’90s, a period that gave rise to the bizarre wall complete with painted fans. A special stand for any Gooner and Arsenal have struggled to find that focus for their fanbase since the move to the Emirates Stadium.
Special mentions should also go to Stamford Bridge’s Shed, which will always evoke special memories for Chelsea fans of all ages. There is also a place for The Damned United, poor downtrodden Leeds. They may be gone from the Premiership but while in the top flight the Revie North Stand was the epitome of Northern passion.
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