The away day experience is one of the very best parts of following your own football team. Although your alarm may be set for times of the day that, frankly, should never be seen, before you cram onto coaches or overpriced trains, the whole experience, regardless of result, is still one you’ll always remember.
Luckily with the Britain being of modest size, no trip (except for Carlisle to Plymouth, maybe) is too great, allowing fans to get a real feel for the beautiful game in all areas. Scotts Menswear have published results of a survey on the very best ‘away days’ around, assessing all of the characteristics and important factors in the whole experience…
With the results of the BBC’s recent Price of Football study, the importance of the often-overlooked pie has really been brought to the fore. On a cold winter afternoon, the crumbling pastry and piping hot filling make for the ideal snack in the stands, with a burger or, dare I say it, hot dog, not even close to matching the age old football fans’ friend.
Wigan top the pile when it comes to pies, although Kidderminster, pricey as they are, are also known for their gourmet efforts.
So long as trains and busses are on time, the pre-match pint around the ground is a vital part of the whole match day experience. It may be tough to find a pub without hostile home fans, but it’s always possible to duck into a nice little ‘boozer’ for a bevvy before kick-off.
The northern half of the country tends to dominate the list, with the cost lower and selection of lagers and ales available greater. Perfect. Brighton get a mention, with the seaside setting good for a cheeky tipple.
While much of the ‘away day’ experience takes place out of the stadium, the ground itself always plays a big part. The days of old in which away fans were in roof-less terraces being battered by the elements are becoming a distant memory – albeit they are still a problem at some settings – with modern stadia now spacious and comfortable.
2. Man U
It’s little surprise that the county’s most expensive stadium come out on top, with Arsenal’s Emirates effort possessing padded seats, leg room and spectacular views. Manchester United’s Old Trafford also gets a mention, while the North East caters well for travellers at St James’ Park.
While legendary ground such as Anfield and Old Trafford are often famed for atmosphere, it’s actually some of the smaller and intimate stadia that dominate this category.
1. Crystal Palace
3. Stoke City
Crystal Palace come out on top with the Holmsdale Fanatics having brought an almost continental feel to South London with drums, flags and flares building a great atmosphere at Selhurst Park. Stoke’s Britannia Stadium with it’s open corners also gets a mention, while north or the border Rangers are known for building a good feel on match day.
It may be a bit cliché to suggest that all scousers are shell suit-wearing, permed, 80s throwbacks, but they have topped this list for the worst dressed footy followers.
And finally, all things considered, Wembley comes out as the overall best ‘away day’. The national stadium has the added advantage of the romance of cup and play-offs games, which can be the very building blocks for some of the best football trips around. The towers may be no more, but the new ground’s iconic arch and top-notch atmosphere make it the king.
2. Man U
7. Man City
Manchester United come in a respectable second, while Tottenham’s White Hart Lane sneaks in at third.