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The EPL Match Day Experience Part 1 – Home Sweet Home


One of the amazing things about the Premier League today is thanks to advancements in technology and its rapid growth in worldwide popularity a match can be enjoyed not just by the 40,000+ people in the stadium, but millions across the world in pubs, clubs and front rooms.

Whether it is in the middle of the night, early in the morning, tea-time or lunchtime, It doesn’t seem to matter, devoted fans of EPL clubs will make sure they catch all the action, be it via dodgy internet feed, cable TV, their local pub, or the ground itself.

Because of that each fans’ match day experience varies greatly yet contains the same elements of anticipation, excitement and superstition. I am lucky enough to have been on both sides of the match day fence. I currently live close enough to my favourite side to have a season ticket, giving me ample practice to perfect my pre-match routines. Yet I have also lived on the other side of the world, meaning the internet and TV has had to fulfil my Premier League void.

In the first of a three part series I thought I would describe my thoughts and feelings during the course of a home match day and the bizarre idiosyncrasies that may seem strange to outsiders, but to a football fan seem perfectly normal. Feel free to share your thoughts below.

1)    The morning
A quick scour of the internet to read any story related to my team. Match previews, injury news, transfer rumours –  all to help you get ‘up’ for the game. I will put Sky Sports News on, waiting for the preview of my match. It usually only lasts about 35 seconds but it is all part of the vital preparation.

2) The journey
If it is a three o’clock kick-off, increasingly rare nowadays, I will always strive to get the same time train to the ground. It allows me to watch the first throws of Soccer Saturday before I leave the house, yet get to the pub in time to check out the early kick off. I meet up with my mates, discuss what was floating around the internet that morning, predictions, thoughts and guessing of the line-up.

3) Around the ground
Ah the magic of the stadium. A quick walk from the pub and you are quickly confronted by the sights and sounds that can only be a football ground. Granted you get a whiff of horse crap and cigarettes ( I’m a non-smoker sorry), but combined with the sounds and smell of onions sizzling on the burger stall, the bawls of the badge sellers, the excited chitter-chatter enveloping the gathering masses, or the clicker-clacker of the turn stiles, it forms an intoxicating cocktail of expectation and excitement. My mate will buy a programme from the same stallholder, I always used to oblige but I usually opt for a cheaper fanzine now – if I have any change from my beer money (it is a recession after all!)

4) We’re in
Most fans have their preferred area of the ground. Mine has always been the ‘home’ end behind the goal. It was where I was taken as a kid and although it may not have the best view of the pitch, it is generally the best for atmosphere, which I feel is just as important.
Whether you have been to 100 games or one there is something special and spine tingling about the walk up the steps from the concourse towards your seat. You make the walk, hearing the chants from the fans already ensconced in their usual positions, the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, you reach the top step and take a second just to survey all that is before you – your home for the next 90 minutes.
As I usually get into the ground just before kick-off (I’m not a fan of the over-priced watery beer found inside the grounds!) I don’t have much time to get to my seat before the team comes out.

5) The match
The referee and linesman are the first you see emerge from the tunnel and you know that just behind are the teams. The ground rises as one, the cheers go up and your side take its first steps onto the field. Nowadays, of course, the team has to line up for the fair play handshake (In my opinion typical FIFA nonsense). I always preferred it when the players ran out onto the pitch. To walk on and line up nice and politely is like tethering a wild beast. The players are ready to go but they can’t be unleashed, yet.
The usual chants go up, cycling through your best players, they respond with a clap towards the fans, which is warmly reciprocated. The captain goes for the coin toss, fingers crossed we are kicking to our end second half, yes, they are not swapping, always a good sign, come on boys we can win this one!

6) Goal
I don’t know about you but whenever my team concedes a goal I have to look over to the opposing fans. There is something fascinating watching thousands of bodies gyrating in unison, arms waving in a million directions, some forming rather rude hand gestures towards where I’m sat. It is an example of the power of football, that one incident can make so may people go so crazy.
What if my side scores? Well, I’m sorry, I am not responsible for my actions. That old guy in front of me? hugged him. The two lads to my left? Hugged them. My mates to my right? Hugged them and shouted ‘yeeessss get in’ several times.
You feel so invigorated; it should also be billed as the ultimate hangover cure. I have attended many matches after a heavy night and felt like falling asleep in my seat. But when my team scores, the fog lifts, my head eases and the nausea evaporates from my stomach.

7) Last minute
You gotta love last minute winners. That unexpected point,  that win snatched at the death with no time for a comeback. The supporter’s flailing arms pulsate a little bit quicker when it’s in the 90th minute. Conversely conceding a goal in the last seconds makes you sick. Seconds before you are mentally visualising the win, the match reports after the game and your celebrations for the evening.
Then, all of a sudden, their man breaks free in the box, the fans take a collective breath, the shot is goal bound, you hear the screams, and then the stunned silence, just for a second, as both sets of fans contemplate what has just happened.
After that ‘decompression zone’ is over all you can hear are the opposition fans going crazy while seats are slammed in frustration around you.

8 ) Post-match
I doubt it would come as a surprise to you that my post match ritual is totally dependent on the result. A win, we celebrate. A few beers at the pub by the ground, discussing the game, checking the other results on Soccer Saturday and causally watching the late game on Sky. Then home and a night built around Match Of The day. I read the match reports on Teletext  (both ITV and BBC, just to get the full picture you know?) check out Sky Sports News, and scour the internet yet again. Then, confirm what time MOTD is on, ensure you can watch it, and get ready to curse Gary Lineker when it turns out your team are on last…again.
Lose and it is like the match never happened. A quick pint perhaps to digest the score, have a whinge, blame the ref etc… I will check the other results just to assess the damage. But other than that football is off for the rest of the day. Does the girlfriend fancy a meal out? Of course! Anything to avoid being near a television come 10.30 when Alan Hansen appears and slags off our defence.

The pain eases slightly come the Sunday, Icould perhaps dare to watchTV again, or read a paper, still cursing the goal that was blatantly offside.

Come the Monday I am ready to move on. I check the fixture list. Whose next? Easy, we will have them. Can’t wait.

And I prepare to do it all over again.

Do you have your own match day experiences? Those lucky pants? That sight, sound or smell that’s sums up your day at the match? Feel free to let me know you thoughts and comments below.

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  1. Matilda

    July 20, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I live in the States, but come over to England every Christmas to visit my grandmother. She lives about a half hour from the Reebok, which is perfect. As my grandmother has not received any technology that was developed after 1979, I can’t scour the internet. I do however have a large English breakfast forced upon me, whilst reading the Guardian sport section and having a cup of tea. I then move to the living room with my father and second cup of tea to watch Sky Sports News. Lunchtime comes around and my father grandmother and I sit around the kitchen table eating warmed up leftovers and discussing and analyzing Bolton’s chances for the day (usually poor). Around 1:45 (for a 3:00 kick off), we get into the car and begin our drive to the Reebok (with, of course, enough time to stop by the pub on the way). We get to the Reebok at around 2:45, have a pre-match beer and/or hot chocolate. We find our seats with 5 minutes to kickoff. I briefly dance to the horrid music being piped through the speakers, thoroughly embarrassing my father. Then the teams, the officials, and Lofty the Lion (the Reebok’s ridiculous mascot) walk out to cheers and songs. What follows is roughly 90 minutes of singing cheering and cursing, with a break in the middle for more watered down beer and/or hot chocolate. Walking out of the grounds surrounded by jovial fellow Wanderers (I’ve never seen Bolton lose at home, I did however see their 3-0 trouncing at Anfield last Christmas), strains of songs drifting up and down the stairwell. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about my trips to England and I frequently find the words “We are the one and only Wanderers!” coursing through my brain.

  2. Bornamaa Lammiif

    July 18, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Always I fEEL HAPPINESS because of yuo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. IanCransonsKnees

    July 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    One last post for all the lads around the globe if you want to understand what an away day can be like follow this link to see a clip from our day out at Arsenal last season. Lost 5-0 and still went for it!

    This gives you an idea of what it’s all about.

  4. IanCransonsKnees

    July 17, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Omar these are some useful websites to give you idea of all of English football and not just the Premier League. It is much more ingrained across society than just the twenty clubs in the top flight.

    As someone who follows Stoke and experienced the Premier League for the first time believe me it can be oversold. Don’t get me wrong the home games at our place were intense but some of the away matches were disappointing. Villa, Everton and Liverpool were unexpectedly poor atmospheres. Spurs (despite being 3-0 down in twenty minutes) and Pompey were okay and what I’d expect. Arsenal are notoriously silent.

    I appreciate that a match against Stoke for the established teams fans isn’t much to shout about but sometimes it got embarassing.

    Have a look at the link to The Oatcacke and introduce yourself. We’ve picked up a few blue collar fans in the states thanks to our performance last year.


  5. Mike

    July 17, 2009 at 10:21 am

    I can relate to much of this article. I used to attend matches at the old Highbury stadium in the 80’s through to 2001. I had my ritual too. I loved the whole atmosphere at the ground, especially when it was standing on the old north bank.

    The smells of hot dogs and burgers wafting in the air, program sellers and spurs being chased by Arsenal fans outside the ground prior to kick off. For 90 minutes it is a great feeling to be linked with thousands of like minded people who share the love for your team. Just like any family you shout at each other or strongly disagree when someone says something you don’t agree with about one of our players. However, when our team wins, it’s all forgotten.

    I used to get to Highbury about 30 minutes before kick off. I would always get off at Highbury & Islington station and walk to the ground from there. I became convinced that by doing this Arsenal would surely win. It worked for quite a while, but then we lost a match and had to rethink that strategy. I agree with you about winning or losing really does make or break your day. Like you, I watch all the coverage of a victory and read as many reports as possible. Lose and it’s a differenT story. I sulk and refuse to do any of the above.

    There’s nothing like attending a match in person. TV coverage is great, but is second best. I miss it a lot but look forward to doing it all over again when I return to England.

  6. Omar

    July 17, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Tom, as someone (from the US) preparing to make their first trip across the pond to catch an EPL match, I really appreciate trhis. Looking forward to the remainder of the articles in the series. Does anyone know of any other sites where I can find more info about the matchday experience and general advice on attending an EPL match? Surprisingly, there appears to be a dearth of information on this on the internet.

    • The Gaffer

      July 17, 2009 at 10:41 am

      Hi Omar, I can’t remember if I showed you this before, but check out my eBook guide about traveling to the UK to see Premier League matches at

      The Gaffer

      • Omar

        July 17, 2009 at 10:58 am

        Gaff –

        I have read this book and found it very helpful. I am eagerly awaiting for the release of the updated version! Also, I am very surprised that there seems to be so little information on the internet about attending a Prem match!

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