So Matlock Town scooped the prestigious honor of the best new ground visited in 2014 but which one of the 21 new grounds we visited was the worst. Being the worst is very subjective of course – one man’s Wembley will be another man’s Mill Road, Aveley. So if your club’s ground is on the list, don’t take offence. We understand the efforts that go into trying to keep a ground maintained but…..
Last year we didn’t honour this category but this year we’ve been to a few places that kicked us back into action. Without further ado…
3rd Place – Tallaght Stadium, Shamrock Rovers
Despite the League of Ireland playing a summer league, there is only one season in South West Dublin – winter. With only two stands the wind whips all around the ground whatever the day, whatever the hour. The ground is located on the fringes of the city, meaning that the highlights of Temple Bar are a good 45 minute tram ride away. You’re OK if you fancy a pre-match stop in Tescos though. The advantage of no stands behind the goal means that you can buy and eat your hot chips and not miss a minute of the action. The history of the club’s search for their own home is well documented but sitting freezing on a cold wooden seat in October may have tainted my view.
2nd Place – Skonto Stadion, Riga Latvia
National stadiums fall into two catagories. Those designed to wow, with innovation and supporter experience at their hearts. These are your Wembley’s, your Parken stadium in Copenhagen and the new Stockholms Arena. Then there are those that fall into the “must do better catagory”. Welcome to Riga. The city itself is awesome. Medieval, historic city centre full of great little bars, superb restaurants and lively nightlife. Then there is the football ground. You can’t even call it three sided these days – one end is completely missing, the opposite end has a strange large domed-shaped structure in. Think of Bloomfield Road, Blackpool, when it was half finished and then spray the remaining stands with shale. It stays off bottom place because the beer is brilliant and cheap.
1st Place – South Kesteven Stadium, Grantham Town
I have a real problem with athletics grounds doubling up as football grounds. It always seems that when I watch games in such places, the matches are quite frankly, rubbish. Without any ball boys, the play is constantly broken up by players having to run miles to retrieve the ball. Grantham’s ground looks like someone has simply stuck a two-tier structure on the edge of a school athletics track. With crowds struggling to break the two hundred mark, match days aren’t filled with crackling atmosphere. Inside the main stand the welcome is warm and hospitable but venture outside and be prepared to be blown away by the winds whipping in from the Urals.
Next up on the Third Day of Christmas – The best football book of the year!