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WHAT IS THE WORST STADIUM YOU HAVE EVER SEEN ARSENAL AT

It is meaningless drivel week (ie when people who were not born in specific countries and who don’t live there, and have never lived there, claim to “represent” said country.  A bit like me representing Costa Rica – spent a nice week there, but that’s about it.  On the other hand I can play a mean inside right).

So, I thought to myself,  let’s do some stuff of our own, miles away from the tripe.

I was going to cover Notts County, which is exploding into the most amazing story – but in fact wrote up part one of the latest exploits (if you have not read them you won’t believe them) here. There will be more later today.

Meanwhile, on this site, how about…

What is the worst stadium you have ever seen Arsenal play in? I choose this as the first in what I hope will be a long-running series stretching into the next century, because the story is that Arsenal’s first ever match was played on a bumpy pitch surrounded by an open sewer, into which the ball regularly dropped.  (I don’t cover that event in Making the Arsenal, but there are stories much stranger than that within the book – you really ought to have bought a copy by now).

I thought long and hard (well five minutes) and came up with these…

Luton: this is my all time nomination, and made all the worst because it was a Division I match there.  The gentleman’s convenience was at the back of the open terrace – and it like the terrace was open to the sky.  It was the sort of environment that gives a cess pit a bad name.

The terracing was not steep enough to allow one to stand and see – when our second goal went in I only knew we had scored because everyone jumped up and down.  There was definite pressure from behind – not enough crush barriers – indeed were there any?

Outside there were no proper indications of where one should go in (this was in the days when you just turned up and paid at the game) if one wanted to be at the away supporters end.   The streets around were narrow lanes I recall, and far from safe as the crowd came out at the end, and the whole thing had a taste of the Southern League about it.   I don’t think I could even find a way to buy a programme.

My other nomination is the old Northampton Town ground.  They have long since moved away to the outskirts (as clubs do) and I have seen Arsenal play a friendly there as well.   But the one at the old ground was again a league match.  Northampton had gone up from the 4th division to the 1st, and then went down again, but on the way they had done nothing to the ground.

It was a three sided affair – shared with the county cricket club (Sheffield Utd used to do that too) – and the terraces were bleak in the extreme.  On a main road with just an ordinary pavement and outside the police seemed to have no idea that the club had actually got into the first division and were surprised when a lot of Arsenal fans turned up to be tucked away down one (as always) open end.

As far as I can recall there were no toilet facilities at all – in fact there were not even facilities to find out if we were being crushed.  An awful and unsafe place.

Years later I went to Northampton and entered the press box – which turned out to be so narrow that all it could do would be to take a line of press men next to each other.  If the guy who had gone in first wanted to come out everyone else had to get up and walk out to let him out.   All the copy for the evening paper had to be passed down the line in an envelope to a kid with a motorbike who stood at the end.   What a way to nick someone else’s story!

What is frightening is that Northampton Town’s ground actually had a licence to play the match.  In fact, now I think of it, I don’t think they did.  Football ground licensing came in much later.  So presumably no one cared a toss, and they just pushed us all in.

In both grounds we were treated as animals – if we were daft enough to turn up, then we were clearly insane, and so should be treated as if we were in the Bedlam of the 18th century.   Such behaviour cannot be excused through the passage of time – I am writing about the latter part of the 20th century (although I can’t recall off hand what the years were in each case, as I have to dash off to work.  I’ll try and look it up later).  Those who allowed it are the ones who ought to have been locked up.

Anyway – that’s my starter.  Any thoughts?  I hope so, cos there ain’t no football on.  What’s the worst ground you have ever seen Arsenal play at?

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

21 comments to WHAT IS THE WORST STADIUM YOU HAVE EVER SEEN ARSENAL AT

  • Goonergetya

    There is a case for the Grove. Little atmosphere in ordinary games, very expensive tickets, very poor ticketing infrastructure and £4+ for a half time drink – If you want the drink then it will also cost you 15 minutes of match time. I live in Scotland so only get down for 3 games a season and love it but feel the club is somehow taking the Micky.

  • Stu

    I think I would have to vote for Steuea Bucharest (apologies on the spelling folks!)….. Couple of years ago we played there in Champions League. The ground was run down as you might expect but before the game kicked off the whole row of seats behind me broke! They were all attached to a long metal bar and this proceeded to fall from the seat attachments – I don’t know if I am explaining this very well but suffice to say a certain Keith Edelman came down to inspect these seats and he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was very funny getting Keith to pose for a picture in front of this row of seats that had fallen away! All would be ok though because shortly after this the refreshment bar opened…… a table with paper cups and a bottle of local lemonade. I proceeded to go and see what refreshments were available….. a paper cup of lemonade and a paper cup full of SUNFLOWER SEEDS!!!! YOU WHAT???? SUNFLOWER SEEDS????????? Enough said eh! I have been to some lower league grounds with The Arsenal but I am a bit of a romantic when it comes to these grounds and I always look forward to away games at lower league opposition, especially when terraces are involved……

  • walter

    As I only went to one away game with the Arsenal it has to be the Liège game.
    As it was a stadium rebuild for the euro2000 one could expect a little bit of quality. Well I must say I was ashamed of the lack of respect for us and other awayfans. And to think we consider our selves as civilized people.
    But can tell you to put your bottom in a seat covered with birds sh*t is not a pleasant thought. It was to make you sick, as the young girl did like mentionned in my match report then.
    The fact that the dad was trying to get it cleaned up was on second thought rather ridiculous. It was like bringing a bucket of water to the sea. Well one could say there was one place cleaned in the away stand.
    And then to see the home fans sitting 10 meters further on a nice and cleaned stand. Totally disrespectfull.
    I think the last time they cleaned that part of the stadium was in 2000.
    If you think you have class and then treat your guest without respect, you dont have any class at all.

  • walter

    Also the fact that after the game the food and drink stand was closed was rather silly. After the screaming and shouting and singing we could with something to put down our throat. They could have made lots of money. Not only disrespectfull, also stupid. 😉

  • Paul C.

    The Old Den was a scary, scary place to go and see a match. It was miles away from the train station, through fields and back streets it seemed, and around every corner seemed to lurk neanderthal-looking Millwall fans that stared at you and you just knew that if there wasnt the policemen standing every 10 feet you’d be knifed to death in two seconds flat.

    I saw Arsenal-Millwall there in the late 80’s (Marwood scored the winner with a screamer) and I spent it in the Millwall end. This was due to a roundabout sequence of events that are of no importance. The fact was that when Marwood scored, I found myself biting my lip to keep from smiling, surrounded by masses of people who made it quite clear that as soon as the final whistle went, they were heading for the “spot” (wherever the heck that was, they all seemed to know it) where they were going to “do” the away fans. Suddenly I was quite glad I was in amongst the Millwall fans.

    The next day the national media had nothing about violence. I was relieved. Then I spoke to a friend of mine who had been in the away end and he related the horrors of being chased through New Cross streets, of knifings, of police not knowing what the heck was going on. By all accounts it was a nightmare for fans who wnet a certain way back to the train station.

    The Den was a horrible, horrible place.

  • lordgunner

    except the barnet opening friendly i never been to away arsenal match.but i ve been quiet a few match around europe and some of the worst are the old stadio Delle Alpi (juve),velodrome(Marseilles),louis II(Monaco),l0ndon road(peterborough)and 1 or 2 in eastern Europe.
    for me by far the best are in Germany,modern and fantastic ambiance . i ve gone to watch Dormund VS Schalke and Bayern vs kaiserlauntern,both match were brilliant with brilliant supporter,cheap beer :),cheap match ticket and good food unlike i ve to agree with Goonergetya the emirate where thanks god we can watch great football

  • Kieron

    There are a whole host of terrible stadiums that I’ve been to watching the Arsenal! Off the top of my head:

    Bradford = only about 5 rows behind the goal of a run down ground
    The old Wembley = Shallow incline in a terrace miles away from the pitch. Difficult (crowded) travel too.
    Villa Park = crowded away end, poor facilities, horrible area (Aston) and idiotic fans
    Old Trafford = very cramped seats in away end (home fans have much more room)
    Plough Lane = “this way for the away pen”
    Portsmouth = open away end, tea bar is a caravan and toilets are portaloos, stand in the rain for entire game!
    The old Stamford Bridge = cars parked inside the stadium. Inside!
    And I really don’t like all those new, generic, one-tier stadiums with no character (Sunderland, ‘Boro, Derby, Leicester’s new ground, Southampton etc.)

    And some of my favourites, since we’re on the subject:

    Anfield, Millennium Stadium, Bernabau, St James’ Park before they moved away fans into the heavans (shame about the fans – never really feel safe there)

  • 26may1989

    Worst: the old Stamford Bridge, the old Den (full of psycho nut jobs living in the worst part of London), the old Wembley and the current Old Trafford (a boring, lopsided hole). Brisbane Road is also crap, but in a more charismatic way.

    Best: Schalke (though we lost 3-0), Craven Cottage, Loftus Road, Stade de France and Anfield. I also enjoy going to WHL (but I’ll be in a minority of one on that!) and Goodison.

  • Ronan

    Hands down, White Hart Lane. A fookin’ kip, ha ha!

  • stuartlondon

    Only been to one League away match, at Citeh’s Eastlands stadium. Sat with the home fans. Not a good idea, really. Tiny seats and no legroom. Fans never stopped moaning about Citeh’s performance, even when they were winning. Threatening looks when I booed Adebayor and involuntarily lept to my feet when we scored.

  • Ian B

    Swansea City. Visited there in the 80s. After entering through the turnstiles we had to walk through urine as the toilets had over flowed. Another team that had made there way up from the lower divisions and unable to cope with the number of Arsenal fans.

  • rasta_cactus

    The N13 Toilet obviously.. Shite heart lane.. Something to do with the 150 million quids worth of manure they they insisted on spreading over the pitch over the last 16 months..lol

  • eduardo

    plough lane, a non league ground unprepared for top flight football

  • LRV

    Quite a few are no good, but the DEN quite literally murdered sleep to never sleep no more.

  • Pete the First

    As mentioned before Stamford Bridge in the 80s, The Bates Motel. Metal detectors on the way in; terrace 1/2 a mile from the pitch; lack of toilets meaning the tube line behind was used as an impromtu urinal (I don’t recall anyone connecting with the live track); the pick & mix tables at half time; celery?

    Or Barnsley if you fancy being ankle deep in p!ss at half time.

  • walter

    It looks like we have been spoilt at our home ground(s). 😉

  • Abhishek

    Just like the achievements of Arsene Wenger. Unfortunately never been to any Arsenal matches just hoping to seem them in real for once atleast.

  • Jonny

    Shite Hart Lane is pretty bad, I once went during a downpour and it leaked so badly I nearly had to move. Though I was under cover the rain all coalesced into enourmous, fat drops which fell from the underside of the stand’s roof. Every 20 seconds a drop the size of a golf ball would land on my head or shoulder soaking all around me in a metre radius. My neighbour’s were to busy screaming disgraceful obscenities at Sol to care about it.

    What about favourites? I went to Craven Cottage this year for the first time and really, really loved it.

  • steww

    Ashton Gate. No question. Worst team worst ground in the world.

  • GodWoreTen

    Steww – while I have to agree the away end at Ashton Gate is pretty poor, are you a Gashead (supporter of Bristol Rovers for the uninitiated) in disguise? Anyway I once saw the Rolling Stones there, and more recently the Who, so my memories of the place are fine!

  • GodWoreTen

    Is it just me, or do we seem to have stayed on BST here?