Pete Sixsmith‘s bulky but now gym-honed frame has graced just about every ground known to football. Here’s his response to a highly personal survey naming the Stadium of Light as the best you’ll find …
The Proprietor and Editor-in-Chief of this learned site directed me to a piece written by one Brian Sciaretta from Basking Ridge in New Joisey, in which he ranked the 20 Premier League stadiums according to his personal tastes.
I don’t know if Brian has visited them all or, indeed, any of them but his views are interesting, the more so because he puts The SoL at No 1.
He says it “is one of the best places to see a game in the world” and that “it is how large stadiums should be built for the future”. Very flattering and it supports my view that of all the new builds, the only one to come near to ours is Ashburton Grove, where we will surely take three points off the home team a week on Saturday.
Brian loses some credibility when he places the jigsaw puzzle aka as The Sports Direct Arena in third place and he also likes The Majdeski Stadium, which I don’t.
It’s a shame that he can’t go back in time and do a worst 10 grounds in English senior football – but I can and I will. So here we are:
The Dell. Many thought it was quaint and a one off. I thought it cramped and an absolute dump. The sight lines were awful, the facilities would have had a Neanderthal complaining and the vaunted atmosphere was artificial. Don’t think much of their new one either.
Plough Lane. I only went once, to see them play Hartlepool in the early 80s when they went up and down between Divisions 3 and 4. It was hemmed in by an electricity sub station and all you could hear over such noise as the tiny crowd was able to make was the crackle of the cables leading from the pylons. A truly awful place.
The Arena. They left Feethams, probably the cosiest ground in England, for this monstrosity built on the edge of town by an egocentric businessman from Shildon via Sunderland. It was cold, unwelcoming and never saw a crowd above 10,000 for a league game. Now that The New Quakers have decamped to Bishop Auckland, it squats like a huge toad, rusting and festering away. A Tesco on the site would be an improvement.
7 Swansea City
The Vetch Field. One visit here on a freezing cold November day in the early 80s to watch football in the greyest ground known to man. Strange floodlight pylons and a prison next door made it look like a kid had built it in his play time from nursery. The Liberty Stadium is a vast improvement on this dark and dingy hole.
6 Doncaster Rovers
Belle Vue. Burnt down by the potato magnate who owned the club, this was a ground in terminal decline in the 80s and 90s. Built exclusively of wood, the terracing behind one goal was a cage when we played there in the Third Division season. Over the road from the racecourse, whose stands put it to shame. You wouldn’t ask a horse to watch football here!
Stamford Bridge. Nowadays it is a tidy stadium, although Jupiter has more atmosphere. Years ago it had a dog track, a rickety stand in the corner and The Shed. There was minimal cover until they built the ugliest stand in the world in the 70s, a project that nearly bankrupted them. Unfortunately, Ken Bates came along with a vision and they are still here.
4 Bristol Rovers
Eastville. Another one where greyhounds took preference over footballers. It had some charm (flower beds in front of the stands) but the huge totalisator board made you think you were in a clock factory. And you got wet wherever you stood, because the greyhound company never fixed the holes in the roof. The nearby M32 was a better vantage point than the paddocks, where you had a good view of the players’ socks and the grass but nothing else.
Fratton Park. A true historical relic and unchanged since Nelson played Francis Drake at bowls – although I may have got a bit mixed up there (maybe we should ask a history/geography teacher, Pete – ed). Looks like this wreck of a ground could become the best in the Portsmouth and District League next season.
2 Oxford United
The Manor Ground. It had nine separate stands and, as a result, even less symmetry than The Sports Direct Arena. Built by a committee of partly sighted architects, it didn’t matter where you stood, you could hardly see anything – which accounts for our awful record there.
1 Crystal Palace
Selhurst Park. A place that I hope I will never, ever have to visit again. Impossible to find, almost as antiquated as Fratton Park with stands that offer a miserable view, while having to listen to the most pretentious bunch of supporters in the whole wide world. The kind of place where Newcastle should be made to play all their away games.