Recently, I read an article about Nantwich Town of the Northern Premier League. A photo of their neat main stand drew me in, to the point where I found myself thinking, “I wouldn’t mind going there to watch a match”. In itself, this is a fairly unspectacular anecdote, were it not for the epiphany it inadvertently gave me.
Nantwich Town are one of several thousand clubs in Great Britain who, given the opportunity, I could visit in order to experience the sights and sounds of a new football ground. But on paper at least, the choice is as arbitrary as hundreds of others.
As a slavish follower of Wingate & Finchley FC in the Isthmian League, opportunities to indulge in random ground visits are rare. Even if I were a dedicated traveller, there would never be enough time to visit the several thousand grounds that constitute our football landscape.
As such, one sometimes has to be more selective. And here is where the epiphany kicked in. What if there was a bucket list, a holy grail if you like, of the top 100 British grounds to visit before you die? Who would be on it? Why would they be on it? And then it occurred to me: why not find out and write a book about it?
Where to start?
The problem is, where do you start with something so vast? It would be pointless for me to draw solely on my own experiences as I have only visited around 90 grounds, some of which have been positively awful. Besides which, basing something so subjective on the basis of one person’s opinion is riddled with folly.
No, the correct thing, indeed the only thing, is to throw the matter open to a public vote. During my years following football, I have had the privilege to meet a diverse spectrum of fans and aficionados, from season ticket holders in the Premier League through to non-league groundhoppers.
Hopefully, this will provide a wide-ranging selection of responses; whilst there is much to be said for grand old stadiums with electrically charged atmospheres, there is equal merit in the tumbledown ground set at the foot of a mountain range. It is this eclectic mix of venues that makes our football heritage so rich and rewarding, something the book will ultimately aim to capture in all its glory.
So this is very much where I hand over to you, the person reading this blog. In an attempt to try and bring this altogether, I am asking fans to nominate up to five of their favourite grounds visited. They do not need to be submitted in order of preference, as each ground submitted will receive one vote.
However, each vote should be accompanied by a brief explanation. Not only does this give the nomination credibility, but it allows the book to quote those (assuming permissions is given!) who have actually visited the grounds.
You can nominate any existing ground at any level of the football pyramid in England, Wales or Scotland. In terms of individual selection criteria, this is fairly open. It could be anything from architecture, location, atmosphere, historical significance, the warmth of welcome or quality of food. Selections that are too partisan should probably be avoided. For example, “because they’re my club” or “because we won the league there” don’t really constitute solid enough justification for entry.
Closing date for entries will be December 1st 2013. After this point, I will tally up the entries, and then set about visiting the top 100 grounds with my camera and notebook as nominated by you good people. The final format of the book is yet to be decided, but I will aim to provide colour photos, directions, a brief history and a personal review for each ground that makes the final cut.
As a footnote, I should stress that no such list will ever be definitive. If you poll two different sample pools at two different points in time you are likely to get two different outcomes. But then this isn’t a referendum on the laws of the game or a thesis on financial governance. First and foremost, this is supposed to be a bit of fun. And if it introduces fans to grounds or clubs they were hitherto unaware of, it can only be a good thing.
The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed on this blog are those of the author – they don’t necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to the FSF. Have your say below and play nice…
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