To celebrate my blog's tenth anniversary (7th June 2021), I've decided to pick ten categories and select ten choices for each category.
ONE: 10 BEST GROUNDS
1: HITCHIN TOWN - TOP FIELD
My top ground is Hitchin Town's Top Field ground and this is unlikely to change due to its uniqueness. I first visited in the summer of 2012 for Hitchin's 1-0 defeat to Luton Town in a friendly and then again in September 2015 as they beat Peterborough Sports 4-2 in an FA Cup replay. Plenty of the club's imposing yellow and green colours \re in evidence around the ground and as well as a classic old stand and large open terrace behind the goal, there is one and a half sides of unique wooden terracing too. There's also a decent club shop at the ground too.
2: HAYES - CHURCH ROAD
Sadly now gone and replaced by a newer ground on the site of Yeading's old ground, Church Road was a victim of being situated on valuable land and ageing stands. I first visited in April 1994 with my Dad, though this was a long time before I got properly into hopping and I was just seeing a local match with my Dad. There was terracing on three sides, including a large area of cover along the side and also an elevated stand, holding around 500. The highlight though was the club shop which had a huge range of old programmes, books, magazines and all sorts of other stuff, all at pocket money prices. Even with my 14-year-old's pocket money, I was able to get a couple of boxes of stuff. I paid further visits, including the last ever game against Gateshead in 2011.
3: IPSWICH WANDERERS - HUMBER DOUCY LANE
I visited here in September 2014 on a groundhoppers day and it was easily my favourite of the grounds that day. There was plenty of vintage signage and the whole ground was painted in the club colours of blue. A large amount of the ground is covered too, quite rare for this level and all homemade too. The only bad point is that it is a bit out of the town centre which is worth a visit.
4: STAVELEY MINERS WELFARE - INKERSALL ROAD
My visit to Staveley came in August 2014 for an FA Cup game against Worksop Town. The NCEL was then and probably still is, my favourite league to visit. The game was on a Friday night, another big bonus for me. The ground is pretty well situated, not far from the centre. It's another ground with plenty of colour, the blue and white stripes in evidence all over the ground. The club shop, bar and tea bar are also excellent, giving you ample opportunity to support the club financially and get something decent in return.
5: MELKSHAM TOWN - THE CONIGRE
Another ground that has sadly now gone, I visited here in November 2013 as they were one of the few clubs to play on a Monday night. It was a bit of a last-minute dash as other options were off due to the weather, but I'm glad it ended up like it did. First impressions were great, just £4 entry including programme. The bar was also very good. The ground itself has a long area of cover behind one goal with the club name spelt out. There was also a seated stand and plenty of colour around the ground too.
6: GRESLEY - THE MOAT GROUND
I visited here in April 2015 for a midweek game against Chasetown. Sadly the epically named mascot 'Elvis Gresley' was not in attendance but it was still a great ground to visit with no two parts of the ground the same and plenty of colour. There's also a decent club shop with a good selection of old programmes and books.
7: ST ALBANS CITY - CLARENCE PARK
Tickets are fairly expensive for this ground, at least for the level, but it's still well worth a visit. The ground is right near the town and a few minutes away is a brilliant pub called the Mermaid which has a great selection of ciders. I first visited in 1999 for a testimonial game against West Ham and bided my time before a revisit for an FA Cup game against Carlile United in 2016. It is situated in a pleasant park which seems a world away from the town. There's plenty of terracing and a decent amount of cover too.
8: SWANSEA CITY - VETCH FIELD
The former ground of Swansea City was not in the most salubrious area, being situated smack bang near the local prison. The fans had a bit of a reputation too, glaring menacingly out of the local pub window at any away fan that dared to walk past. But it was a classic old ground, the best stand being behind the goal opposite the away end. It was a kind of two-tier structure but with the seated portion was up really high from which the view must have been great. It also featured a strange floodlight which added to the character.
9: KINGS LYNN TOWN - THE WALKS
I visited here in 2013 when they were in the NPL Premier and the tickets were above the average price then. Nowadays they have risen three divisions to the National League and the prices are now even more ludicrous with seating at £25 and terracing at £22 with no concessions. They also charged £15 for a standard programme for their debut game in the National League. But let that not take away from a great ground, a large elevated seated stand on one side with a pitch length covered terrace on the other. It's also brilliantly located close to the town which makes for a great day out.
10: LIVERPOOL - ANFIELD
Not as classic as it was now that it has been modernised, but this place still oozes history and atmosphere. It also has all the benefits of a modern ground with good facilities, but it still retains a lot of charm. I visited in 2013 for a Europa League game against Zenit St Petersberg and even then, the atmosphere was electric under the lights. Sadly, despite Liverpool's 3-1 win on the night, they went out on away goals. There were loads of nice touches including DJ George Sephton who has been the Liverpool matchday announcer since 1971 and with his distinctive voice and policy of playing music from local bands, his presence really adds to the matchday experience. I was disappointed to lose all my photos for the night thanks to a phone crash.
And just a brief bit on the grounds I have enjoyed the least. I was going to include a list of 10 but I fell someway short. The worst ground I have been to is Riverside's Queen's Park. I've visited a few fields during my time hopping - that is a ground without either a rail around the pitch or a stand. The worst of these was the first in my records, visited during the 2014 United Counties League and Peterborough & District Hop, organised by the excellent Groundhop UK. Unlike some fields which have some sort of enclosed feeling by being the sole pitch at the venue or thanks to natural scenery, this was one of many pitches at the complex which backed onto a housing estate. It rained too, which didn't help my mood.
It's another Groundhop UK hop that provides me with my second least favourite ground, another field, but this time with bags of character and lovely scenery. However, Felinfach on the 2015 Welsh Hop was a bit of a pain to watch a game on with its 'humped' pitch - meaning that you could stand on one touchline and only see the top half of the players on the other side. The club were excellent hosts and made a delicious cowl, but it made watching the game a bit of a pain. The final ground worthy of mention was West Ham's London Stadium, with its huge gap between the pitch and the stands and then gaps in between the upper tier and lower tier. I went to the opening game there and it just felt a completely soulless place without the intimacy of their former Boleyn Ground home.
10: TOOTING & MITCHAM - SANDY LANE
Saturday 7th April 2001
Tooting & Mitcham 3-3 Leyton Pennant
Isthmian League D2
Another classic London ground that I didn't visit, this was another one that would have meant a great day out in London. The match that I've selected was the day before I went to see Wycombe Wanderers v Liverpool in the FA Cup Semi-Final. Again, it was well before I started groundhopping but I've selected it for the sheer amount of goals in the game in a season that saw Tooting & Mitcham crowned champions. I've since visited the new stadium on a couple of occasions and it is a more than worthy replacement.