Best Stadiums to Be an Away Fan In
This article profiles some of the best stadiums for away fans.
In compiling this list, I have tried as much as possible to bring my own experience to the table. Thus, I tend to include and focus on grounds that I have visited as an away fan and cities where I can personally vouch for the "away-day" experience.
Needless to say, Hartlepool didn’t make the list!
In compiling this list, I have considered three key aspects: atmosphere, aesthetic quality and surrounding area. The last of these isn’t strictly linked to the stadium itself, but anyone who has even had a casual desire to follow their team on their travels will understand the importance of a host city, connections and the immediate area around the ground.
Please comment below and share your experiences of the stadiums listed and let me know which arenas you recommend I visit as a priority.
St James' Park: Newcastle United
The 52,000 all-seater St James’ Park lives up to the cliche, “A Cathedral of Football.”
Newcastle is a city that knows how to treat its football with reverence and deep-rooted affection.
This is encapsulated in its stadium, a work of art, and a perfect example of a stadium truly feeling like the heart of a city.
The stadium is at a high point, with windy roads, lined with taverns and echoing with passion, working up to a truly spectacular landmark.
Years of frustrated expansion plans have led to an unbalanced stadium, but this is to the advantage of the away fan. Positioned high above the home contingent, you not only have a bird’s eye view of the locals’ habitudes and famous, twisting passions, but should things on the pitch not go to plan, you can look out over the city and the world beyond SJP.
Two of my favourite-ever live football experiences were at the Magpies’ home ground.
I was fortunate enough to be in attendance when a very sick and teary-eyed Sir Bobby Robson made an appearance before an equally emotional home crowd at half-time during a clash with Middlesbrough. It was the final time the former Newcastle manager was to visit his beloved stadium.
Robson’s captain, Jermaine Jenas, played for both Newcastle and Tottenham and endured his struggles with both clubs. During one clash between the pair, both sets of supporters joined in, singing away and lamenting Jenas’s frailties.
It was an example of the humour and wit that can transcend the visceral animosity so often present among supporters.
Craven Cottage: Fulham
There’s a reason why Fulham’s Craven Cottage has such an outstanding reputation among football fans.
The stadium enjoys both a wonderful central-London location and is also incredibly characterful and atmospheric.
One can take or leave their "family club" identity and their own, limited, travelling support, but to head to Craven Cottage is to witness football as it once was.
Enjoy the asymmetrical beauty, appreciate the majestic red brick exterior and pay homage to the Johnny Haynes statue…even if it may be slightly outshone by Fulham’s other “hero.”
Celtic Park: Celtic
For emotion and pure passion, there are few better stadiums than the 60,832-seater Celtic Park.
As was demonstrated for the world to see in last year’s unforgettable Champions League clash against Barcelona, Glasgow has an immense and unrelenting thirst for football.
Against the European giants, the support of Celtic fans was exceptional, with a tsunami of noise and clamour greeting every positive action by the Hoops. The euphoria built to a delirious crescendo in time for the final whistle, with victory guaranteed; even away fans had to marvel at the sheer power of the home support.
Battle against them all you like, you shan’t win.
Bloomfield Road: Blackpool
Bloomfield Road may have been modernised and upgraded in recent times, but the away stand still retains its character and rustic charm. The home fans are likely to greet you with a wave and a smile rather than a scowl and a spit, while the stadium offers a buoyant atmosphere.
Obviously, the key appeal of Blackpool is the town itself. The Pleasure Beach, complete with attractions aplenty, the Tower, the pier and the wide selection of eateries provide the perfect setting for a very complete away-day experience.
Make sure you pack your trunks.
It may not be the most fashionable or most glamorous venue, but Wolves’ Molineux home manages to combine old-fashioned charm with a modern touch.
The stadium has not resisted development and has undergone several major face-lifts—notably in the early 1990s.
Through all of this, the ground has retained its character and its uniqueness. The football on show may be close to drudgery these days, but squint and you can almost feel the spirit of the side’s 1950s superstars seeping through the woodwork.
West Bromwich Albion’s Hawthorns home is another example of a stadium that has retained its character despite modern revisions.
Millennium Stadium: Wales
The 74,500-seater national stadium of Wales is a grand, regal structure that is (and has been) a perfect backdrop to both national football and rugby sides as well as major domestic cup matches.
The fact that it is the largest stadium in the world with a retractable roof adds to the novelty and the quirkiness of the occasion, but crucially, the stadium manages to be large and spacious while still cultivating an intense atmosphere.
Finally, the stadium’s location, in the Welsh capital of Cardiff, provides the perfect trappings for furnishing the away-day experience. The stadium is close to numerous eateries, is local to museums and parks and is also easily accessible from the train station.
It has all the makings of an excellent away trip.
White Hart Lane: Tottenham Hotspur
The nearest tube station, Seven Sisters, may be a fair old walk, and the queues to escape the locality are often the last thing one wants after an away defeat to Spurs, but it’s hard to deny White Hart Lane a spot on this list.
The ground is an English classic, and while the 36,000 gate is a limiting factor for Tottenham, a move to a larger venue, albeit one nearby, would surely result in a reduced atmosphere for Lilywhites home games.
Currently, WHL is small enough to be cosy but large enough to be imposing. The fans are loud enough to generate a terrific atmosphere but not too loud as to be overly hostile.
Just don’t ask for a packet of crisps at the nearby Bell and Hare—you may be disappointed.
Westfalenstadion/Signa Iduna Park: Borussia Dortmund
German football is rightly commended, if not revered, for its match-day experience. Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion may well be the pick of the bunch.
Here, one can witness firsthand the breathtaking spectacle of Dortmund’s famous south stand and the “Yellow Wall” of fan support. One can enjoy a football game standing up—now a pleasure merely reserved to the memories of supporters in England—and the atmosphere is truly pulsating.
Arrive early enough to enjoy the spectacular barbeque to be found outside the ground.