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.
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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
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