A constant argument between fans seems to be who has the best ground. Every side has an ace up its sleeve whether it’s a ‘traditional’ ground or a ground that has experienced ‘history’ and my favourite is ‘it’s better because it’s bigger’ I guess size DOES matter.
Here is my view on the best stadiums in the championship, having visited them all I will tell you my experiences of the grounds.
In reverse order;
Pride Park Stadium – Capacity: 33,597 – Opened: 1997.
The replacement for the iconic baseball ground was met with a lot of negativity and unfairly in my opinion. Whilst I agree nothing can replace the atmosphere and ‘feel’ of the baseball ground, as new stadiums go this is one of the best. The ground was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth the second and was planned to be one of the grounds used if England ever hosted the world cup, which is why the design allowed expansion. One of the most impressive things about the stadium is the acoustics in the ground, it means the noise can carry which makes for a good home and away atmosphere. The stadium has several monuments and old parts from the baseball ground. The most impressive monument is to Brian Clough and Peter Taylor both lifting the Division 1 title and with constant development around the stadium it will only get better in time. It has also hosted International games, including the England’s first team in a 4-0 win over Mexico in 2001 where Beckham and Sheringham both scored memorable free-kicks. Red Hot Chili Peppers picked the stadium as one of their venues for the Stadium Arcadium world tour.
Hillsborough – Capacity 39,732 – Opened: 1899
Sheffield Wednesday’s home for over 100 years has seen a lot of history. It incredibly once housed 72,841 people to watch a FA Cup fifth round match between Wednesday and Manchester City. The ground is a fantastic venue to visit; although a fair bit out from the city centre. You do have a lot of different methods of transportation, once there you will see a huge daunting clearly historic stadium. Hillsborough has had very little work done to it since it was used as an official venue for the UEFA Euro 1996 finals tournament. It was also used in the 1966 World Cup finals as a venue where it was recognised as holy ground by West Germany after winning their first group match 5-0 against Switzerland and again playing Uruguay in the quarter finals where they won 4-0 at Hillsborough. Spain and Argentina also saw wins on Sheffield Wednesday’s home turf. The stadium has been haunted with the memory of the ‘Hillsborough disaster’ where 96 Liverpool fans tragically lost their lives and 766 were injured. This will also be embodied into the history of the stadium, and around the world the disaster is perhaps more famous than the stadium.
The Amex – Capacity: 30,705 – Opened: 2011
The newest ground in the Championship has become fast known as one of the best stadiums around the country. I experienced the stadium for the first time this season and was took back by the size of their west stand, which is a 3 tiered stand that holds nearly 12,000 people on its own. The stadium has its own railway stop just outside the ground, which is easily accessed but parking at the stadium is quite expensive. The view and atmosphere for away fans is fantastic as is the food, seating arrangements and comfort. Brighton campaigned for years for a new stadium, and had to play over a decade at the Withdean Stadium which is an athletics ground holding a moderate 8,850. Brighton now get crowds of around 26,000 quite regularly and have clearly embraced their new home.
The City Ground – Capacity: 30,602 – Opened: 1898
The home of Nottingham Forest since 1898 is in the nicest location out of all the stadiums perhaps in England. On the bank of the River Trent and a stone’s throw away from local rivals Notts County this is a good shout for one of the best grounds not only in the division but the country. The ground is one of the best for away supporters within walking distance of the city centre and with plenty to do. The ground is probably due some sort of redevelopment and has been allowed to sit with not much work done to it at all in the recent decades, however, the owners have vouched to change that and invest some money into development of the ground. There have been plans for a new 50,000 seater stadium for Nottingham Forest to move to in the not too distant future but I think without the desperate need for expansion then it would be a shame to leave such a stadium in the history books.
Elland Road – Capacity: 39,460 – Opened: 1897
The oldest ground in the top 5 and it has seen quite a few big nights in its time. It has hosted England international fixtures and was also used in the Euro 96 finals tournament as an official venue. It has been home to Leeds United since 1919 having up to that pointed homed, now discontinued side Leeds City. The ground is currently in phase one of a five phase redevelopment plan put forward by former chairman Ken Bates, now under the ownership of GFH Capital this looks like it could be halted for the near future at least. Elland Road is perhaps one of the most multi-used stadiums in the country, having housed everything from U2 and Queen concerts to other sports and even films, either in its own right or a replacement for the old Wembley stadium. Elland road for an away supporter is fantastic, the ground is in a good location and the away fans are located in a good area of the ground where the view is fantastic apart from the odd bollard in the way of the view. The stadium is steeped in history, and has monuments to past greats around the ground which is a great to see a respect to tradition.
What is your favourite ground in the Championship, should your ground be there and if so, why?
image: © markusunger