Doing The 92 - Visiting The Stadiums Of The English Football League
What Is The 92?
Football (or Soccer for my friends across the Atlantic) is a national institution here in the UK. Be it a group of middle-aged men from the local pub playing in a field on a Sunday morning through to the very top of the World famous Premier League, every week sees hundreds of thousands of organised matches taking place up and down the country.
At the top of these multiple echelons sits the Football League. Consisting of four divisions with teams being promoted and relegated between them at the end of the season, these 4 leagues represent the true professional level of the game. Whilst the make up of teams is forever changing, one thing always remains, the Football League will consist of 92 clubs.
Managing to visit as many of the 92 League club's grounds is a small badge of honour for many football fans. You will often see groups trying to raise money for charity by visiting all 92 in as short a time as possible or just genuine football fans hoping to watch a match all 92.
I personally don't see myself managing all 92 at any stage in my immediate future, but ticking off as many as I can is still something that is of interest for me, especially if I can take in a good match at the same time. This hub is my summary of those grounds I have been to and I would love to hear in the comments of those grounds you have visited and as I hopefully visit more, I'll update as I go! The one thing to note is I'm only counting grounds that I have watched football matches at. Some grounds like Villa Park or Hillsborough I have driven past numerous times but have never stepped foot inside so for me they don't count!
The introduction photo shows Wembley Stadium, the home of the England National Team and a ground I am fortunate to have visited several times.
I HAVE CURRENTLY BEEN TO 20 OF THE 92 LEAGUE CLUBS!
UPDATE 30 May 2016 - For the 2nd year in succession I failed to tick off any new grounds but hub has been updated for a lot of changes to leagues due to promotion/relegation.
UPDATE 12 Jul 2015 - Hub updated to account for latest promotions/relegation. Unfortunately I didn't manage to tick any new grounds off last season.
UPDATE: 26 Apr 2014 - Hub updated to account for promotions/relegation and thanks to Luton Town being promoted, I have moved up to 20!
UPDATE: 21 Apr 2014 - We were in South Wales for Easter and I took in a game at Newport County, a new one for the list!
Premier League - Currently I Have Been To 5/20 GroundsClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Premier League is one of the biggest leagues in the World and is home to some of the World's best players. At any time there are 20 teams in the league and these are the grounds that I have visited!
Arsenal (Emirate's Stadium) - This is the ground I have been to more than any other in the entire country. Why? I am a massive Arsenal fan and this is our home since 2006. Previously we played at Highbury, just a matter of yards from the site of this modern ground that seats over 60,000 people. Many people would bemoan the lack of history etc. that surrounds the Emirate's but for me it has been our home. I was only able to visit Highbury once as a kid due to a lack of money, being a student living miles away and the much smaller capacity making tickets scarce. My first game here was in September 2007 against Newcastle Utd and I lose count of how many times I have gone back since! The big picture above is one that I took on one of my many visits to this splendid location.
Burnley (Turf Moor) - I visited Burnley's Turf Moor a few years ago for an FA Cup match against Arsenal. The match sticks in my memory for a couple of reasons. Firstly have a text conversation with my brother as he also held a separate one with his girlfriend who was also at the game, albeit supporting Burnley and also how the ground is strange in the sense that 3 sides are nice and modern, yet the away end where I was sat seemed old and unloved.
Middlesbrough (The Riverside) - Another team from the North East that I was able to visit when I was studying in that region. The original date of the game was cancelled at late notice due to excessive snow but a few days later was able to head to the Riverside and tick this off my list.
Sunderland (Stadium Of Light) - As with Newcastle Utd, this is another ground I was able to visit whilst I was studying in the North East. Arsenal were playing at at stadium in a mid-week cup match so I took my opportunity to get a ticket and go. The ground is quite modern although my underlying memory of the night was getting lost trying to find my car after the match!
Watford (Vicarage Road) - Over the years I have been to Watford's Vicarage Road more than most other grounds for various reasons, both for football and also on several occasions to watch Saracens rugby union. Most of the games I have seen have been against Norwich with varying results but I did also once get seats just in front of the directors box thanks to winning a competition at a school fete.
In addition to the grounds above, I also have to put in a special mention for Southampton and Leicester City. both of whom I visited their previous grounds, The Dell and Filbert Street, but as they no longer play there, it does leave gaps on my tick list!
The Championship - Currently I Have Been To 8/24 GroundsClick thumbnail to view full-size
The second tier of the English Football League is full of teams who have previously made it to the top table of the Premier League or hope to soon. The financial benefits are huge and this league can often be extremely close from top to bottom, often giving more exciting games.
Huddersfield Town (John Smith's Stadium) - My wife is originally from Huddersfield and her parents still live nearby. It is therefore probably not a surprise that I have been to this ground, if anything it is probably a surprise I haven't been more often (although we did go regularly to the cinema next door)! The ground is shared with the Huddersfield Giants rugby league team and so far has had at least three different names as sponsors come and go but it is a ground I am sure I will visit again many times, especially as my son grows.
Leeds Utd (Elland Road) - Leeds Utd are part of a group of teams probably best known overseas. Despite a tough last ten years where at times it looked like they may go out of business, in the past they were one of the biggest clubs in Europe and their home, Elland Road well known. This was a ground I had regularly driven past when my wife was a student in Leeds but it wasn't until 2010 that I went to a game there. On paper a game in League One between Leeds and MK Dons didn't seem to be the greatest game to take our Canadian family to, however it turned in to a cracker, with goals, fights and red cards. I did have to warn them the game isn't always that exciting. I have been back since for a typical mid-week cup match under the floodlights with a great atmosphere and where the photo above was taken.
Newcastle United (St James' Park) - I went to University in the North East of England and would often head over to Newcastle for nights out/shopping etc. However, I did only manage the one trip to St James' Park in my time there. This was to see a game between Newcastle and Norwich City on a weekday evening that I decided to attend at last minute. The views across Newcastle from the top of the stand I was in are amazing, however, you needed to be fit to walk all those stairs!
Norwich City (Carrow Road) - As you read through this hub you will start to see that several of the grounds that I have ticked off of my list were for Norwich City matches. The reason for this is that whilst I support Arsenal, several members of my family instead support the Canaries and I therefore hold a very soft spot. However, as Norwich is tucked away in a harder to reach part of the country, I have actually only been twice to their home. The first time was back in the 90's as a kid and the memory that sticks was of protests outside after the game against the then Chairman. Today it is almost unrecognisable there as I found when I went back for a game a couple of years ago, as the ground is much bigger, and the surrounding area completely re-developed.
QPR (Loftus Road) - Queen's Park Rangers home ground of Loftus Road is a dying breed of "traditional" grounds, settled in and amonsy the local terraced houses and was a ground not too far from where my grandparents lived. As with Charlton, on a few occasions there were Boxing Day matches against QPR so we walked over and took in the game.
Reading (Madejski Stadium) - Reading moved to the Madejski Stadium in 1998 after over a hundred years at their previous ground of Elm Park, a ground I actually managed to visit on the final ever competitive match there. I have only been to the Madejski once and it sticks in my mind. Less so for the result but more for the fact I had had a foot operation that day, and couldn't fit a shoe on. I had to walk across the massive gravel car park with just a sock on, only for my Dad to realise he had left his wallet in the car. I also remember it being awful to get away from in the car, something friends tell me hasn't changed!
Wigan Athletic (DW Stadium) - Wigan's DW is another that was called something different when I visited due to sponsor changes. I went for a cup game which was most memorable for a power cut knocking out the floodlights midway through the match. I just remember my brother texting me as he watched on TV. "Don't be afraid of the dark!"
Wolverhampton Wanderers (Molineux) - Wolves are a team who have had a spectacular fall from grace having been in the Premier League only a couple of years ago. My only visit was just before Christmas 1998 and I remember a great atmosphere at this ground that is a little out of place in League One today!
League 1 - Currently I Have Been To 5/24 GroundsClick thumbnail to view full-size
As you move in to the third tier of English football, you start to find some of the smaller towns and cities teams playing but there are still some teams who have fallen from past glories and in the past hosted the like of Manchester Utd and Arsenal.
Charlton Athletic (The Valley) - One tradition in English Football is the Boxing Day match. Generally the fixture planners are quite kind and try to minimise travel the day after Christmas but for Norwich City, this often still means a trip to London. For much of my child hood my grandparents lived in London so it became our tradition to head to the Norwich game before heading to my grandparents for dinner. On a couple of occasions this saw us head to The Valley, so called because it sits in a valley and you actually enter the ground at the top of the stands and walk down.
MK Dons (stadium:MK) - Milton Keynes Dons are actually the closest team to where I grew up, but I have only ever visited their stadium as an away fan. The reason for this is the club only came in to being in it's current form in 2004 after Wimbledon moved out of London. At first they played at the National Hockey Stadium (and I did watch a game there) but moved to their purpose built home in 2007 and I have sat in the away end several times since.
Northampton Town (Sixfields) - As mentioned above, Northampton currently share their ground with Coventry City but I did watch a game here several years back when Norwich were surprisingly knocked out of a cup competition. My one memory is those who didn't want to pay for a ticket, watching from a nearby hill.
Peterborough Utd (London Road) - I actually don't live too far from Peterborough today but have only been the once and to be honest the ground and game (it was a pre-season friendly match) don't really live in the memory!
Swindon Town (County Ground) - Back in the mid to late 90s when I used to go to several Norwich games, Swindon was a ground we visited a couple of times. We were fortunate each time as the weather was sunny but I do dread ever going there on a wet day as the away end is completely uncovered. I do also remember meeting several of the first team squad after the game as we waited for autographs.
Oxford Utd have long since left the Manor Ground which was a compact little stadium that I visited a couple of times in the 90s.
League Two - Currently I Have Been To 2/24 GroundsClick thumbnail to view full-size
The lowest echelons of the football league often see some of the most hardcore fans in the country. You have to be committed to stand amongst small crowds on a cold evening watching a much lower standard. However, the games can still be great to watch and I do hope to knock a couple more of this league going forward.
Luton Town (Kenilworth Road) - The first ever football match I visited was England v Brazil at Wembley but the first ground I ever knocked off the 92 was Kenilworth Road. Luton were once in the top league but suffered a lot of money issues and plummeted through the leagues, dropping out the 92 in 2009 before finally returning in the summer of 2014. I have subsequently been to the ground while they were non-league and have even played on the pitch!
Newport County (Rodney Parade) - Before my son was born in 2012, I was going to football matches 2-3 times a month (mostly to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium). However, on his birth I made a conscious choice to dial down my attendance a little for both time and money reasons. However, two years later and with two kids now in tow I was starting to get “withdrawal symptoms” having only been to two games and one of those was my local non-league team. Newport County were one of the newest members of the English Football League (despite hailing from a Welsh city) and my Father in Law was always checking out for their results on a Saturday afternoon. When I found that they were playing at home over the Easter weekend when we would be in South Wales for his 60th Birthday I put forward the suggestion and sure enough on Easter Monday I found myself ticking off another of the 92 as we watched them play Burton Albion at their Rodney Parade ground.
Doncaster Rovers no longer play at Belle Vue that I stood on the terraces of on a cold night.
Beyond The League
The main purpose of this hub was to discuss the 92 Football League clubs but there are a few other non-league and foreign grounds I have visited over the years:
Histon Town (Glass World Stadium)
St Neots Town (Rowley Park)
Hamburg (Imtech Arena)
How Many Of The 92 Have You Done?
How many of the 92 English Football League grounds have you visited?
Some Doing The 92 Links
Doing The 92 Is a popular subject amongst hardcore football fans, here are a few links to those who have websites just for this!
Photos Of Other Football Grounds I Have VisitedClick thumbnail to view full-size
Thank you ever so much for reading through my hub, I hope you have enjoyed it. As you can probably tell football is a passion of mine but if you share this passion, I would love to hear about which grounds you have visited and which you want to go to. Which is your favourite and which do you really dislike?