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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?

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  1. groundmaster

    February 6, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    back in 2001 there was a book coming out in germany named The great book of german football stadiums) with a list of all german grounds where 1st and 2nd league matches took place. since my childhood i was interested in football grounds and i endeavoured to see as much as possible later at the age of 20 as a groundhopper. from 2001 onwards, when i was a lucky owner of the above mentioned book, i began to visit and to spot all the grounds listed. it took more than a year to see them all (approx. 350), but it was easier than you might believe as i am a truck driver, so i could have numerous looks at stadiums while doing my job.
    some people could not understand the enthusiasm to spot grounds without watching a football match, but they seem to forget that thousends of people use to have looks at churches or cathedrals without attending a mass.

  2. Jorge Curioso

    November 12, 2009 at 6:07 am

    Truly enjoyed Loftus Road in 2002. Much more than Highbury or White Hart Lane. Even named a computer after it, subsequently.

  3. Michael

    November 11, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    American stadia older than 1960 is indeed a short list. Let’s see. Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium (construction began before 1960). That’s the list for baseball. Soldier Field (although extensively renovated), Lambeau Field, Candlestick Park. That’s the list for American football. Six stadiums older than 1960. We don’t like to keep our old stadiums around I guess.

  4. Matilda

    November 11, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Recently I was visiting back home in Chorley (just north of Manchester and Bolton), I flew into Manchester and took the train up to Chorley. Passed right by Eastlands and the Reebok. Both looked quite striking in the half rain, half sunlight weather. There’s something so calming sitting on a train, watching the world pass by and waiting for your home ground to sprout up

  5. RedMD

    November 11, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    The walk from the tube to the old Highbury was a nice one, just quaint flats and all sorts of vendors and supporters on matchday, really gave a communal feel. Havn’t been to the Emirates, but wonder if that’s all been maintained.

    • EJ

      December 28, 2010 at 8:36 pm

      No, it’s not maintained unfortunatelly

  6. coachie

    November 11, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Great post, Gaffer.
    Unfortunately, the U.S. does not preserve its legendary stadia. There are so few major sports venues still in use that predate the 1960s.

    In England, I quite enjoyed the short walk from the train to the New Den.

  7. The Gaffer

    November 11, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    I should add that I do the same things in the US. I always keep an eye out for the Meadowlands, Landshark Stadium and other US soccer-related cathedrals.

    The Gaffer

  8. RedMD

    November 11, 2009 at 11:58 am

    I remember taking a train from Manchester Piccadilly to Preston, you pass right by the Reebok stadium. So close in fact, I wondered why there wasn’t an actual stop for it. Otherwise, taking a train from Edinburgh to Glasgow is a nice one for stadium watching…the train leaves the west end of the city, so you get a nice close-up view of Murrayfield (I know its a rugby ground, but impressive looking just the same) and end up passing through Motherwell on the way…

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