London – a City of Football Fields
04 August, 2015
In England, football culture is a world apart. Match days become a liturgy in which fans turn soccer players, the pitch and the ball into their own holy trinity. Football fever has London as its holy city, and its numerous stadiums as endearing temples of goal worship. The city boasts five teams in the Premier League, a list of companies added to a sizeable bunch of historic clubs. Here, then, are the 10 best stadiums in London.
10. Leyton Orient FC
Stadium: Brisbane Road. District: Leyton
While lacking a prize-winning record, and although having spent several seasons drifting in the Football League Two, Leyton Orient FC is one of London’s most endearing teams, as is their stadium. Inaugurated in 1937,Brisbane Road breathes everything one would expect from a historic British field – terraces, throaty songs and a sour smell of warm beer.
9. Queens Park Rangers FC
Stadium: Loftus Road Stadium. District: Shepherd’s Bush
While the West Endstands for an upmarket London, Queens Park Rangers FC encapsulates its glamorous side in football. Once the seat ofShepherd’s Bush FC (the club closed down in 1915), since 1917Loftus Road has been the home of The Hoops. Another iconic shoebox exuding footballing legend from its four grandstands, which its owners are unfortunately thinking of retiring.
8. Millwall FC
Stadium: The Den. District: South Bermondsey
Their football fans are known to be among Britain’s most belligerent, to which the followers of Millwall FC reply with their chant: “No one like us, we don’t care”. Founded in 1885 by a group of stevedores, from 1910 to 1933 Millwall played at a stadium known asThe Den.It was then demolished to make way forThe New Den,the first stadium to be built after the Hillsborough tragedy. It was also the home ground for the fictitious club,Harchester United,the fortunes of which were the plot of a television series,Dream Team,broadcast by the Sky channel from 1997 to 2007.
7. Tottenham Hotspurs FC
Stadium: White Heart Lane. District: Tottenham
Founded in 1882, Tottenham Hotspurs FC set up atWhite Hart Lane in 1899. Until 1972, it was one of the few stadiums that lacked advertising signage installations, after which it also succumbed to football marketing. Eternally vying for the hegemony of North London football with their eternal rivals, Arsenal, Spurs couldn’t keep turning down the prospect of extra revenues from advertising. Despite the charm of their home ground, the development plans of the Lilywhites, as the Spurs’ fans are known, involves building a new stadium alongside the existing one
6. Fulham FC
Stadium: Craven Cottage. District: Fulham
Fulham FC have always had a soft spot for their stadium, while berating the ground of their rivals, Chelsea, with whom they have kept up one of the staunchest rivalries in London football. Built in 1866,Craven Cottage is one of the most historic and architecturally beautiful grounds in English football. In front of the main entrance to the stadium is a statue of…Michael Jackson, a personal tribute to the King of Pop from his friend, the club’s chairman,Mohamed Al-Fayed.
5. Chelsea FC
Stadium: Stamford Bridge. District: Fulham
Stamford Bridgewas originally earmarked to be Fulham FC’snew ground, after having been based since 1866 at Craven Cottage just opposite. When the latter refused to move, another occupant of the premises had to be sought. Eventually, the London Athletics Club was founded for the purpose, and in 1905 it was renamed Chelsea FC. Located at the Shed End of the pitch is theChelsea Centenary Museum,surely one of the most interesting football museums in London.
4. West Ham United FC
Stadium: Upton Park. District: Upton Park
Thames Ironworks FCemerged in 1895, later to be calledWest Ham United FC, the team of the shipyards’ ironworkers. West Ham’s social legacy has led their fans, the “hammers”, to stake their claim as representatives of the East London working-class spirit. They dispute this class pride with their archrivals, Millwall. Their cockney essence comes to the fore on match days atUpton Park,West Ham United’s home ground since 1904. The Upton Park team is nicknamedThe Academy of Football,on account of its excellent work with homegrown talent, among other things. Sadly, as of the 2016–2017 season, West Ham will move to theLondon Olympic Stadium.
3. Arsenal FC
Stadium: The Emirates Stadium. District: Holloway
Unveiled in the summer of 2006, the Emirates Stadiumis one of the most striking colosseums in the world. Even so, Arsenal FC will always be associated with its old home ground,Highbury.After the club moved from these premises, Highbury has been reconverted into luxury apartments. The original facade of the stadium has been preserved intact, while the rectangular pitch has been turned into a green square. The flats are located on the site of the former main stands.
2. The Football Association
Stadium: Wembley. District: Wembley
Wembley stadium, crowned by its emblematic twin towers, opened on 28 April 1923. That same evening it hosted the FA Cup Final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United. From then on it has become, as Pelé once declared, “…the cathedral of football. It is the capital of football and it is the heart of football.” Demolished in 2003, the new Wembley was erected on the same site and, while it is no longer the original ground, it is still regarded astheSTADIUM.
1. Brentford FC
Stadium: Griffin Park. District: Brentford
Founded in 1889, in its one-hundred-year history,Brentford FChasn’t played a single season in the top flight. This modest record has not prevented The Bees, as the fans of this West London club are known, from topping this chart. Why is this so? Because, not only doesGriffin Parkevoke everything one could imagine when picturing an English football ground – it also has the unique claim to being the only football stadium in Britain (and, probably, the world) that has a pub in each of its four corners. It wins the number 1 spot, hands down!
Whether you like football or not, a tour of these veritable sports cathedrals is worth the trip to London. Check out our flights here.
Text by Oriol Rodríguez
04 August, 2015