Best Of The 92 Awards

Best Grounds Revealed

England prides itself on the magic of the 92 – the clubs that make up the world’s oldest football league.We are blessed with a myriad of stadiums to visit up and down the leagues. That’s before you delve into the non-league – but that’s a feature for another day! So we teamed up with our good friends at Football Weekends to ask you where your favourite current stadium is in the English league – The Best Of The 92. We also asked for your top choice of ground as an away fan, the best football catering on offer in the concourses, and the best town or city for an away day.We are delighted to report that you responded in force! We received 1,000s of votes and dozens and dozens of stadiums were nominated for the top prize. We were particularly keen to see what grounds caught the imagination – new builds or traditional grounds, big arenas or smaller venues. 

We’ve totted up the results and today we are pleased to confirm the top 10 most popular stadiums according to fans, the results of which are shown below. Will you agree with these choices, or is there somewhere that you feel should have been on the list? We will be revealing the winners of our survey on favourite away ground, best football catering and best away day, early in the New Year!

Everybody who took part in our survey was entered into a draw to win a gift cards and books! We have three gift cards to giveaway – one winner of £50, with two runner-up spots of £25. No matter who you voted for, if you completed the survey your name went into the hat. The winner of the £50 gift card was Daniel Davies who has chosen to spend it at US side Portland Timbers. Runners-up prizes go to John Rogers who will be heading to Leeds United’s club shop, while Matthew Rowell will spend his prize at Sutton United. And four prizes of the excellent Football Grounds: A Fans’ Guide book go to Andrew Stamp, Atholl Beattie, Mike Turner and Tom Burr. 

As Tottenham Hotspur are ground-sharing Wembley Stadium they were not included in the poll. With a new a White Hart Lane opening for next season, it will be interesting to see how fans rate it then.

Okay here we go, your top ten grounds in reverse order. 

10. Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday
Capacity: 34,854

Hillsborough Sheffield Wednesday

Many of England’s big stadiums have been completely overhauled as they move into the modern era, with precious little even dating back before 1992. Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough is a glorious exception to this rule. Hillsborough, of course, had to make the move to all-seater like everyone else after that awful day here nearly 30 years ago. But instead of razing stands to the ground and starting again they chose to tweak and adjust what they had. 

They were fortunate in some ways. The 1960s North Stand was ahead of its time when built, being the first in England to run the length of the pitch with a cantilever roof. Opposite is the large South Stand, complete with the famous Hillsborough clock on the roof. It originally dates from 1915 although it has been extensively modernised since then.The Spion Kop was the vast terrace where Wednesdayites gathered for decades, and although they’ve put seats on it now it’s still one of the biggest ends in Britain. Meanwhile, the Leppings Lane End, home to away fans, is also a sixties creation.

Now linked to the centre of Sheffield by tram, a trip to Hillsborough combined with the delights of the city is well up the list of many away days.It’s been a while since Sheffield Wednesday have been able to fill the Hillsborough stands on a regular basis – but when success comes, this grand old stadium will be rocking once more.

You said about Hillsborough:
It's a proper old-fashioned football stadium that oozes character and has an amazing atmosphere. Something which modern grounds just don't have – James Bagshaw
A good, old-fashioned ground with different stands in terms of height, age and quality. It might look a bit dated now, but it's still a great place to watch football – John Mulholland
Great atmosphere, great visually and you can feel the history when you go to the ground – Louis Massingham

9. Etihad Stadium, Manchester City
Capacity: 55,097

Etihad Stadium Manchester City

The rise and rise of Manchester City has meant the eyes of the footballing world have been largely focussed on what happens on the pitch. But for those who have paid a visit to the Etihad Stadium, their home has also won many friends. Originally built to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the arena was converted with a reasonable minimum of fuss to become the home of Manchester City. 

The years of toiling at Maine Road seem a world away when you walk up to the Etihad, the more familiar name for the City of Manchester Stadium. You’ll see the iconic roof design that stands above and separate to the concrete bowl, held up by cables attached to the dozen masts that surround the ground.

Famously, Barcelona is more than just a club – and the Etihad is more than just a stadium. It’s part of an 80-acre Etihad Campus incorporating training facilities plus the 7,000 capacity academy stadium that is home to the senior academy sides and the women’s team. The stadium and training facilities are linked by a 60-metre footbridge that spans a major road junction. It’s part of the SportCity campus that also features the national squash and cycling centres.

The Etihad Stadium may be much younger than many of England’s big grounds but it has already witnessed some great days – not least Sergio Aguero’s last gasp goal in 2012 that won City the Premier League title at the expense of archrivals Manchester United.

You said about the Etihad Stadium:

Interesting design with good public transport connections – Stephen Hodgson
New modern stadium that is different from the rest – Martin Jendro
View of pitch, atmosphere, east of access and exit – Steve Browett

8. AMEX Stadium, Brighton and Hove Albion
Capacity: 30,750

Amex Stadium Brighton

A visit to the AMEX Stadium at Brighton leads you to one conclusion. This may sound like we’re being sarcastic but we really aren’t - it’s true. You really get the impression that here is a stadium, and a football club, that puts the needs of the fans first.It is some distance from the centre of Brighton – we’re sure the chances of finding a decent patch of land for a new football stadium in the town centre was no doubt impossible. However, with a railway station right by the ground and free travel included with your matchday ticket, more common abroad but a rarity in the English game, it’s no hardship.

Once you’ve arrived, the stadium has the real WOW factor. This is not the biggest new ground, but it’s certainly no soulless bowl either. The sweeping wave-like curves of the big side stands fit in perfectly with the seaside location – as do the blue and white colours of the seats inside. Every one of the 30,000 seats, increased from 22,500 since opening, has a cracking view. Throw in matchday entertainment outside the turnstiles before the game, and bars that remain open afterwards so you can wait for the large crowds to disperse, and it’s clear the club thinks hard about the fan experience. That’s why it deservedly makes an appearance as one of just three new-builds in our Top Ten.

You said about the AMEX Stadium:
The design of the seating areas clearly and unusually put the spectator first. Comfortable seats, plenty of leg room and shallow steps – Colin Barrett
Comfortable seats, best pies, outside ground entertainment, setting, transport arrangements – John Handley
It has a lovely vibe around the ground and friendly fans. I also like how the stadium and complex is built into the surrounding countryside without spoiling the views – Dan Smith

7. Goodison Park, Everton
Capacity: 39,572

Goodison Park Everton

The Grand Old Lady, as Goodison Park is known, was England’s first major football ground and, 125 years on, it remains beloved by Evertonians and visitors alike.Of course the ground has been through several reincarnations over the decades but it still oozes history – not least the century old criss cross balcony that can still be seen on the Bullens Road Stand. The three tier Main Stand, built in 1971, was briefly the largest in the country. Goodison held more than 50,000 as recently as the mid 1980s but the requirements of turning all-seater have brought that figure down to just under 40,000 – still a remarkable figure considering just how hemmed in the ground is.

Spending much time in the shadow of their neighbours across Stanley Park, there is always a feeling at Everton that you are with the people’s club. Certainly the location, squeezed into the back-to-back terraces of Liverpool, enhance that perception. Inside the seats feel right on the pitch, while the old structures offer many the chance of an obstructing pillar as a throwback to a bygone age.
However time is ticking on the Grand Old Lady. There is little room for sentiment when it comes to the financial juggernaut of the Premier League, and Goodison is past its sell by date. Plans are starting to take shape for a new ground in Liverpool’s docks – so visit Goodison while you still have the chance. 

You said about Goodison Park:
Classic football ground, always a good atmosphere. Has a great "Feel good factor" on matchdays  - Billy Clark
Atmosphere and character, stands jammed on each other beside a church. Still huge and impressive even to this day. May it live on forever – Kristoffer Larsson
You can sense the history about the stadium. Its old and built on meaning you can see where it's been added to over the years – Robert Bury

6. Anfield, Liverpool
Capacity: 54,742

Anfield Liverpool

You can see it from miles around. Liverpool’s redeveloped main stand towers over the houses of Anfield. Opened in 2016, it holds 20,500 plus a staggering array of hospitality areas, and it one of the biggest single stands in Europe.In terms of capacity and executive areas, Liverpool are looking to make up ground on their London and Manchester rivals. When it comes to heritage and fame, it has never had anything to worry about.

The Main Stand may dominate the skyline but it’s the Kop that is truly synonymous with Liverpool and Anfield. It may no longer be terraced, but it is still a vast single tier of passionate home fans. You can hear You’ll Never Walk Alone sung at many stadiums around the globe, but this is its true home, and when the Kop belts it out with scarves aloft is a genuinely spine-tingling moment every time.
Those iconic times of the 60s, 70s and 80s, when Liverpool were without a doubt the greatest club side in Europe, live on in the newly-named Kenny Dalglish Stand and the Shankly Gates. More sobering, of course, is the Hillsborough Memorial, decorated in tribute to the 96 who died in that terrible disaster. 

Anfield is, in some respects, a no-frills stadium without the architectural quirks you may find elsewhere. However, it more than makes up for it in the tradition that makes this a very special club. A match here is more than just a game – it’s an occasion.

You said about Anfield:

The atmosphere and historic significance, the atmosphere under the lights is electric -  Russell Cox
The massive upgrade has improved accessibility and ensures a greater fan base while still keeping the stadium in the heart of the community – Gary Lloyd
When the Kop sings You’ll Never Walk Alone it’s a magical moment – Ben Barton

5. Villa Park, Aston Villa
Capacity: 42,785

Villa Park

Villa Park brings an element of grandeur to England’s second city. It has a classy appearance, perhaps unsurprisingly since it was once located in the grounds of Aston Hall stately home. And despite much of what you see around you there today being relatively new, it has a vintage feel about it. It’s a ground steeped in history.

All good stadiums impress you before you’ve stepped through the turnstiles and Villa Park ticks this box fully with the glorious entrance to the Holte End. The façade is actually newer than you may think, just a decade old, but it was based on the style of the ground’s old Trinity Road Stand so it feels very familiar. Many fans will remember the old Holte End, for a while the largest single terrace in England and famously split down the middle between rival fans on FA Cup semi-final day. Time was called on the giant terrace but in its place is a large two-tiered 13,500 capacity stand still housing Villa’s most vocal fans.The new Trinity Road Stand is so big the upper tiers stretch over the road alongside, while the North Stand and the Doug Ellis Stand are similar two-tier stands bedecked in the claret and blue colours of Aston Villa.

The stadium’s size, quality and central location made it the most popular FA Cup semi-final venue of them all, hosting a grand total of 55 before Wembley took over the gig. It’s also played host to rugby league, rugby union, numerous rock concerts and a religious gathering with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

You said about Villa Park:

The old vintage "proper" football ground look with a good atmosphere – Lee Collett
A combination of tradition and modernity, easily accessible and welcoming -  Mark Butler
The old yet brilliant décor of an historic stadium, huge stands and feel of a proper football stadium – Stephen Minney

4. Craven Cottage, Fulham
Capacity: 25,678

Fulham Craven Cottage

Muscling its way into a Premier League dominated top order comes a modest sized ground, home to a modest sized London club. Fulham may be playing in the Championship right now, but their traditional Craven Cottage ground continues to capture the hearts of all who visit it.The setting right next to the River Thames couldn’t be more picturesque – particularly when you include the walk through Bishop’s Park on the way from Putney Bridge tube station to the ground.But what really makes Craven Cottage different is the ‘Cottage’, or pavilion. Sited in the corner of the ground, it was built for changing rooms and facilities in the days before they were housed in stands. The players still run out from this corner, giving the management and coaching staff a long walk across the pitch to their dugouts – and an even longer walk back if they’ve played badly.

Alongside the cottage is the beautiful Stevenage Road Stand, now renamed the Johnny Haynes Stand. The facade outside is from a bygone age while inside it still retains the wooden seats that were once familiar in grounds up and down the country. At either end are the modern yet sympathetically added Hammersmith and Putney Ends, while the Riverside Stand runs along… well, you can guess. This is the final part of the ground that may yet be redeveloped, taking the capacity to somewhere near 30,000. A day at Fulham is one of football’s more gentile days out, but it’s clear that’s popular among many football fans.

You said about Craven Cottage:

Quality of the architecture and setting beside the River Thames – John Rogers
Old school proper football ground with character in a great location – Richard Geddes
It has plenty of character with the old cottage in the corner, in a great location and plenty of room for away fans to make an atmosphere – Henry Chard

3. Old Trafford, Manchester United
Capacity: 73,310

Old Trafford Manchester United

Massive club, awesome presence, gigantic stadium. Surely there was never any doubt that Old Trafford would appear towards the top end of our survey, and so it’s proved. Britain’s biggest club stadium is an awe-inspiring sight – the Theatre of Dreams built upon club success past and present. 

It may be difficult to recall now, but back in the 90s there were times when Old Trafford held a mere 30,000 or 40,000 as it adjusted to the new area of all-seater stadiums. That was a mere temporary blip – once Manchester United confirmed themselves as a dominant force in English and European football once more there was little doubt a stadium to match their ambition would follow.

The result is there to see, with three gigantic stands reaching to the Manchester skyline, with the older main ‘Sir Alex Ferguson’ Stand left in their shadow. There have been plans, on and off, to redevelop this fourth side. It would mean going over a railway line, but the rewards would be an eye watering 90,000 capacity to rival Wembley, with matchday hospitality and commercial opportunities to match.
One reader suggested that any team’s game at Old Trafford is like a cup final and that statement is absolutely true. It’s still the one many fans look out for when planning their away trips, while for any lower or non-league club a cup tie there is the stuff dreams are made of.

There’s little doubt the global brand that is Manchester United attracts a number of overseas visitors, and it has famously, or infamously, become the defacto home of the ‘half and half’ scarf. But to pretend that Old Trafford is full of tourists and plastic fans is a lazy stereotype. The club is firmly Mancunian, and the large number of fans clasping a beer can outside on a matchday is in stark, and real, contrast to the prawn sandwich brigade label it sometimes gets.

Much in demand, the ground has hosted 1966 World Cup and 1996 Euro matches, a Champions League final and of course rugby league’s Super League Grand Final. Describing Old Trafford as beautiful may be pushing it. But it’s certainly eye-catching, dramatic and vast, and will have fans praying for a fixture there for years to come.

You said about Old Trafford:
Its size, scale and architecture are incredible, even though the stadium has been extended several times in recent years – James Prentice
Big game experience. It is most teams’ cup final, whenever they get the chance to play there. – Steven Doig
Easy to get to by public transport, City centre a short tram ride away so a good day out – Nigel Evans
The sheer spectacle of a football match at this stadium is an awesome experience – Matt Whitham

2. St James’ Park, Newcastle United
Capacity: 52,404

St James Park Newcastle United

It looms above the city, like a modern-day fortress on top of the hill. Few stadiums can be so embedded and entwined in the heart and soul of a city they serve, as is the case of St James’ Park in Newcastle. For home fans a match at the stadium is the embodiment of what it means to be a Geordie football fan. For visitors, often arriving in the North East after a long journey, it’s a sight for sore eyes and a reminder that the time and effort was all worthwhile.

St James’ Park, in the centre of the city, has been Newcastle’s home for 125 years. Of course the appearance has dramatically changed over that time with the ground receiving almost an entire makeover during the Premier League years – only the East Stand from the 1970s remains.  You know from TV pictures that the stadium can have a slightly lopsided appearance from the air with two giant stands, the Leazes End and the Milburn Stand dwarfing the others, but it’s still a surprise to see just how vast they are when you see them up close for the first time.  From the upper tier you can have excellent views of the city on a clear day. However the lower tier is one continuous ring of seats to bring some continuity to the appearance.

Perhaps the outstanding feature of St James’ is the people who fill it. You don’t say it too loudly in those parts but it’s a long time since they won any major trophy, let alone the title. Despite this, and the trials and tribulations that seem to surround the club, St James’ Park is pretty much full every week, and even a drop into the Championship couldn’t prevent average crowds of 50,000, a post-war record in England. The Gallowgate End, the spiritual home of the Toon Army, will roar on the black and white faithful through good times and bad. A pilgrimage to this corner of England, mixed with the chance to enjoy the lively delights of Newcastle city centre, can’t be passed up.

You said about St James' Park

Passionate fans generating a fantastic atmosphere in a great looking stadium – Thomas Inglis
Great setting in the city, imposing structure. Modern enough without being soulless – David White
Traditional ground but sensibly modernised with great views from the top of the stands – Mike Jackson
Looks fantastic with two halves of the stadium being very different in height. This adds to its character – John Scott

1. Emirates Stadium, Arsenal
Capacity: 60, 432

Emirates Stadium Arsenal

Many tears were shed when the curtain finally came down on Arsenal’s beloved Highbury, a stadium that was an architectural gem adored by home and away fans alike. The new home, barely a long goal kick away, would have a lot to live up to. Well, according to the readers of Football Weekends and visitors to footballfanguide.com, it has risen to the challenge, and then some. It was the clear winner of our 2017 Best of the 92 survey.

So what’s captured the imagination? There’s at least one quite revealing reason. Although there’s a nostalgic delight of open, crumbling terraces and basic facilities among many supporters, it’s clear that actually we do like our creature comforts. And two words cropped up again and again in your explanations as to why you loved the Emirates – ‘comfortable seats’. Yes, you heard it right; if we have to sit down to watch football then the cushioned seats at Arsenal fit the bill. There’s not a cold, hard plastic bucket seat in sight, and the legroom’s decent too. Quality is the buzzword at the Emirates and that’s what has set it apart from the rest in the opinion of fans.

The wide sweeping curves of the Emirates roof and upper tier, similar to those seen at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, give the arena an open, continental feel, a world away from the traditionally hemmed in grounds of London. Views from all parts, be they lower tier, club level or upper tier, are exceptional and the playing surface always appears immaculate.There’s no doubt this is Arsenal’s ground. From the giant player murals that dominate the sides of the ground, seen by thousands travelling alongside on the busy East Coast rail line, to the images and descriptions of their many famous players adorning the walls of the stadium, this is Arsenal. And if you weren’t sure about the name, the concrete letters on one major gateway offer a slightly brutalist clue too.

Arsenal were blessed that they were able to build just a short distance away from their Highbury base, and weren’t forced to relocate miles away. So the modern style of the Emirates – sandwiched in between two railway lines – is surrounded by the residential streets, pubs, and underground station that have always played an integral part in Arsenal’s matchday history. It’s certainly the biggest new-build league ground in the country (although Spurs may beat that next season) and that size and scale undoubtedly adds to the wow factor for fans paying a visit.  The Emirates has run at virtual capacity for all league and major cup games since opening. It’s certainly a must-visit for many of our readers.

You said about the Emirates:
Best looking stadium, best view from all four sides of the ground, as well as the one with the best legroom – Martyn Greep
Quality facilities, lovely comfortable seats and always one of the best playing surfaces in the country – Iain Skelton
Lovely ground, great atmosphere, well located, very accessible, good views from every seat in the stadium – Christopher Cox
Inside and outside its fantastic. Love the statues and the displays it’s what I would like Wembley to be like – Peter Crump

The Leagues Best Grounds:

Championship 
1. Craven Cottage Fulham
2. Villa Park Aston Villa
3. Hillsborough Sheffield Wednesday 

We’ve already seen the best the Championship has to offer as the top three made the top 10. Let’s give an honourable mention to Brentford’s Griffin Park, which was just edged out of the Championship top three, and was 11th in the overall table.

League One  
1. Valley Parade - Bradford City
2. Stadium MK - MK Dons
3. Fratton Park - Portsmouth

Valley Parade Bradford City

Bradford’s Valley Parade – also titled the Northern Commercials Stadium – will have been on many fans’ radar after the club’s journeys through the divisions this Millennium. Expanded for City’s time in the Premier League, generous ticket pricing ensures there’s a good attendance and atmosphere.

MK Dons may polarise opinion but there’s widespread admiration for their modern stadium with spectator facilities on a par with the best in the Premier League. Portsmouth’s Fratton Park is of course a delightful throwback to another era, hopelessly outdated yet thoroughly charming.

League Two 
1. St James’ Park -, Exeter City
2. Kenilworth Road-  Luton Town
3. Brunton Park- Carlisle United

St James Park Exeter City

Football Weekends fans love their old style terraces and that certainly helped Exeter’s St James’ Park top the poll in League Two and clearly makes the journey into the west country worthwhile.

Luton’s Kenilworth Road is surely the most cramped stadium in the league. Hemmed in on all four sides, the fans are on top of the action and the fact it’s usually packed helps create a great atmosphere.

Brunton Park may be geographically a footballing outpost but the trip to Carlisle is worth it for many, a proper old-style ground with plenty of character.

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