Anfield (Liverpool)

Oh dear. How not to visit a football ground. This was something of a disaster and becomes the first ground I’d actively tell people to stay away from.

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It started positively. Anfield itself is a ground steeped in history and a walk past the Shankly gates and the Hillsborough tribute was both touching and had me in the mood that this was a proper stadium.

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It had its theme park-esque “photo opportunity” points outside and an arguably crass Shankly statue too. Not crass for who it is, but more the Carlsberg logos plastered across the plinth. Nonetheless, there’s no denying the place is impressive. Then it got worse.

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I turned into the club car park for a quick snap of one of the stands and was almost immediately approached by a steward who emerged from nowhere to ask what I was doing.

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With my trip to Oldham still fresh in the memory, I confidently told him I was just taking a couple of quick snaps of the stand. I wasn’t expecting an invite inside like Boundary Park but I definitely didn’t forsee his response. “Not here you’re not. This is a private car park.”

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Despite the fact it was 10am on a Sunday morning and the area was absolutely deserted, I tried to tell him it was just a photo of the ground for a blog about football stadiums. “Take one of the main stand at the front then” came the utterly pointless retort.

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It was absolutely ridiculous from him, especially bearing in mind the said stand is entirely visible (albeit ugly) from everywhere else. And exactly the sort of crap attitude that even the likes of Old Trafford didn’t have. I can absolutely say it’s a massive temptation to shove the photos I did take in a bin and just show you a photo of “the main stand at the front” but why let a pointless prick like that win?

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So I’d like to give Anfield a nice write up and talk about its history and the club’s virtues and why you should visit. I won’t though. The humourless bunch of pricks. Go to Everton instead.

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West Lancashire College Stadium (Skelmersdale United)

It seems slightly remarkable that this stadium is only ten years old, although I’ve not seen many grounds at this level of that particular vintage.

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It’s hard to see much of it from the outside, which is a shame. There’s a big seated stand hugging the opposite touchline that looks frighteningly temporary, but certainly a good size. And most probably permanent, it’s just hard to really see.

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Behind one of the goals is another stand but I couldn’t tell if this was a terrace or more seating, but barring that there’s not a lot barring rubble and portakabins.

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Everything here looks a bit older than a decade, but bearing in mind this ground has also been home to Liverpool Ladies and also its sponsors, then I guess it’s safe to say it’s well-worn.

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One amusing note is at the front of the stadium, the sign welcoming visitors has clearly been painted over that many times to accommodate new sponsors that this time around they’ve just left the stadium name blank.

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A nice home anyway, certainly good to get another notch on the blog and only a few minutes off the motorway for anyone wanting a quick fix, so not to be sniffed at.

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Stamford Bridge (Chelsea)

I visited Stamford Bridge on a match day which probably helped, but like Old Trafford there’s an almost theme park feel to Chelsea’s home.

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A massive team mural that even grown ups were posing in front of was one of the first things to hit me as I stepped off the King’s Road and into what is more of a complex than a stadium.

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There’s only really a couple of sides of The Bridge that resemble a football ground. The rest is made up of hotels, restaurants and even a music venue “Under The Bridge” which still had room for people to come and see Lulu that week. Schalke at home was already sold out.

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There was the bonus of a sneaky glimpse of Stamford’s innards, so to speak. Regular readers of the blog will know that’s an added bonus and it’s hard to knock Chelsea for anything.

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Sure, it barely looks like a football ground from the outside, but they don’t pretend otherwise. This is an attempt to fit in with its salubrious Central London surroundings and it just about manages it. Even if they do have the ridiculous and un-football sounding “Tea Bar” too.

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It’d be nice for it to resemble a football ground and you can’t deny that on a non-match day it’s probably a bit of a boring visit (unless the interior is generally visible through the week) but you take each visit as it comes in this game, and I enjoyed it.

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Snowy St James’ Park (Alnwick Town)

We’ll keep this brief as St James’ has already been covered and very recently at that, but this seemed too good to keep to myself.

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I was at Alnwick’s 5-1 thumping of relegation rivals Brandon United last night and the game was a doubt due to heavy snowfall and a pretty much frozen pitch.

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We won’t concern ourselves with any of that nonsense here, but as it’s quite novel seeing football grounds covered in snow, I thought it best that I take a couple of snaps and share them.

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Sam Smith’s Park (Newcastle Benfield)

I’ve spent more time than I care to at Sam Smith’s Park this season, and I’m unable to fathom out why. Not only have Benfield played averagely at best, they also contain one of my least favourite football players ever.

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Paul Brayson, ex-Newcastle United and loads of others, is infuriating to watch. Languid would be a polite way to describe him, yet every time I’ve seen Benfield play he’s scored and I’ve enjoyed being at their ground.

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The stadium itself is small but homely. Once through the turnstile you’ll find two decent sized stands for this level, plus a covered standing area. Programmes sell out early if you’re there for a game but a simple tweet to the club later and I found one on my doorstep a day later free of charge. Nice.

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I did have the surreal sight on one of my first visits here of one of the home bench spending the entire game topless. And not in a good way. Sunning yourself during the match seems somehow disrespectful to the game, especially if you’ve got a really hairy back.

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Minus marks are also awarded for simply dumping old seats and other rubbish in a corner of the ground and fencing it off, rather than getting rid. Whilst it’s nice to have a nose at old parts of football grounds, even at this level I’m a fan of not ruining the magic.

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Thankfully these minus parts are won over by a massive banner advertising Martin’s Windows. I’ve never heard of them but after this bonkers bit of rhyming I’m almost tempted to pop along. Bang goes your mangoes indeed. It’s also right next to a railway line, which appeals to the train spotter in me; even if you can’t see them you can hear trains rolling past.

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I’ve very little advice to offer anyone visiting this ground. Although it’s tucked away location wise, it’s an old enough ground to have a bit of character to it, it’s showing its age but in a perfectly acceptable way.

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Not one for the tourists but if you’re after taking in a new ground to watch a match in it’s well worth the trip.

 

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