TF Chronicles – The Premier League Grounds Part Two
Carrying on from Part One, myself and Dan carry on with our list of Premier League grounds. Listed below is part two of these stadiums and some of our favourite matches and memories from watching United play in them, along with the opposite end of the spectrum - some of our worst matches and memories from United games in these stadiums. Every United fan will have their own favourites and worst ones, but these are the ones that stand out for myself (@Sparkly_Devil1) and Dan (@luzhniki2008):-
11) Birmingham City – St Andrews
Birmingham City had their first season in the Premier League in 2002-03. United visited a very different stadium compared to their last league visit there in 1985-86 – 3 sides of the stadium had been rebuilt and it was a modern 30,000 stadium. Ticket allocations there have always been fair, however ticket prices charged when David Gold and David Sullivan were in charge were very high – over £40 per match. At the 2004-05 away game there United fans, led by Pete Boyle, led protests to boycott buying anything inside the stadium due to the ticket prices our fans were charged. When Carson Yeung took over the club prices were thankfully significantly reduced. Birmingham have been somewhat of a yo-yo team since 2002 and are currently out of the Premier League again.
Favourite match – United have had some good wins there. The 1st win there in 2002-03 was a great first visit in Premier League, where we won 1-0 with a Ruud van Nistelrooy goal. A great atmosphere on a cold winter’s night – the 1st of many freezing cold away trips there.
Worst match – fortunately United haven’t lost there – some matches have been frustrating draws though. Probably the most frustrating was season 2010-11. This game was an ice cold late December night game. United were leading 1-0, until Lee Bowyer got a highly controversial 89th minute late equaliser for Birmingham. After already seeing United blow leads at away games at Fulham and Everton so late on, it was further frustration for our fans that night.
12) Bradford City – Valley Parade
Bradford City spent 2 seasons in the Premier League – 1999-2000 and 2000-01 and these turned out to be 2 great away trips for United and our fans. The match in 1999-2000 was won 4-0, with a brilliant Paul Scholes goal. United returned there the following season to see a great 3-0 victory, including a goal by Luke Chadwick and a shocking mistake by Gary Walsh. At the time, Bradford owner Geoffrey Richmond was spending lots of the club’s money on players and also re-developing Valley Parade. By United’s 2nd visit, the stadium was nearly up to a 25,000 capacity and United were given an increased ticket allocation. Sadly for Bradford, they were relegated at the end of their 2nd Premier League season and really tough times were to follow. The club has faced huge financial problems ever since and Bradford are currently in League Two of English football – a long way from the Premiership.
13) Chelsea – Stamford Bridge
Stamford Bridge has changed a lot since the start of the Premier League. 3 sides of the ground have been completely re-developed and it is a modern stadium with a 41,000+ capacity. For 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons, United’s away fans paid £20 cash on the gate to stand on an open terrace with 6,000 other United fans – so different to how things are today with our 3,000 allocation in the seated Shed End. Chelsea are currently considering plans to move to a bigger stadium, with the current capacity at Stamford Bridge seen as too low by many people at the club.
Favourite match – for celebrations the 2006-07 match there in May 2007. United had reclaimed the Premier League title and it was a very happy mood for the United fans singing songs like ‘Chin Up Mourinho’ and ‘Mourinho are you listening, you better keep that trophy glistening, because we’re back in May to take it away, walking in a Fergie Wonderland.’ United fans enjoyed singing along to the song ‘Chelsea Dagger’ as it was played over the PA System too. The match itself was very different experience – after being given a guard of honour by the Chelsea players, a severely weakened United team took to the pitch. Included in the side that day were the likes of dong Fangzhou and Kieran Lee. the match itself was a 0-0 draw. In terms of matches, 1992-93 must stand out as it was the match in which Eric Cantona scored his 1st United goal in a 1-0 victory there just before Christmas.
Worst match – the shocking 5-0 defeat there in 1999-2000, in what would be Massimo Taibi’s farewell appearance for United.
14) Charlton Athletic – The Valley
When Charlton were promoted to the Premier League, it was United’s 1st league visit there since the 1950′s, so a very anticipated away trip. When Charlton played in the top flight between 1986 and 1990, Charlton’s Stadium was closed due to safety reasons and they groundshared with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. The Charlton fans deserve huge credit for bringing the club back to The Valley – without them it would never have happened. They even formed their own local political party – The Valley Party – to fight the local council who had refused plans to renovate the stadium. Since Charlton returned there in 1992, the stadium has been completely rebuilt on 3 sides of the ground and it is now an impressive 27,000+ capacity stadium. Charlton were relegated at the end of the 1998-99 season, but returned in season 2000-01 managed by their great boss Alan Curbishley, and remained in the Premier League until 2007.
Favourite match – United have an impressive record at The Valley and have not lost there in the Premier League, so no worst match – the 3-3 draw there in 1999-2000 was a great match. Instead of a favourite match, it should be the best United player there – Ruud van Nistelrooy who scored 5 goals there and always enjoyed celebrating with our fans, even though the Charlton stewards didn’t like this.
15) Crystal Palace – Selhurst Park
The United players, staff and fans must have been sick of the sight of this stadium in the 1980′s and 1990′s as they not only went there for away games against Palace, but also games against Wimbledon and Charlton when they played their home games too. In terms of games against Palace, it was clearly mixed fortunes against them. Palace have been in the Premier League for 1992-93, 1994-95, 1997-98 and 2004-05 seasons. Selhurst Park is definitely what can be described as a traditional old-style English football ground. The stands behind each goal were rebuilt in the 1990s though, as English grounds were made all seater.
Favourite match – the vital 2-0 victory there during the 1st Premier League title winning season of 1992-93. Goals by Ince and Hughes put United only 2 points away from the title, as title rivals Aston Villa lost that night. Big celebrations for the players and fans there that night and the thousands more watching at Old Trafford on a TV relay as Sky Sports were not showing the match live on TV. Villa lost their next match and United, who were to play the following night at home to Blackburn, were crowned champions.
Worst match – 1994-95 – a very dark night for United fans everywhere. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, but that is not what it was remembered for. Eric Cantona was sent off for a foul on Richard Shaw who had been provoking him. As Cantona walked along the touchline, Cantona received extreme abuse from Palace fan Matthew Simmons and Eric, who could take no more, reacted with the now infamous kung fu kick on him.
16) Coventry City – Highfield Road
Coventry were in the Premier League from 1992 until 2001 when they were relegated and they have not returned since. Coventry left Highfield Road in the summer of 2005, moving to the newly built Ricoh Arena on the outskirts of Coventry. Highfield Road held 23,500 following its redevelopment in the 1990′s, but the lack of commercial revenue and lack of parking space were seen as insufficient for the club. The Ricoh Arena, where United have yet to play, by comparison has a capacity of over 32,000 and is on a site with a hotel, casino and significant retail space. A further illustration of the ways in which football clubs look at raising money. Highfield Road was demolished and houses built there. United fans used to like Coventry as an away trip – a decent allocation of tickets, with a decent view along the side of the pitch. In addition, there was a pub right next to the away section called The Sky Blue Tavern. United players were often seen in the away section – Roy Keane on several occasions, Phil Neville with his family and David Beckham.
Favourite match – most dramatic has to be in 1994-95 during United’s title run-in. A great game which United won 3-2 in the end, with Andy Cole getting 2 goals. For a total red invasion and also a vital win – the 1992-93 win there during the title run-in also stands out. United won 1-0 with a Denis Irwin goal and there were over 12,000 United fans in the stadium.
Worst match – the 3-2 defeat there in the 1997-98 season. The game took place between Christmas and New Year and was a blow to our title hopes that season.
17) Derby County – The Baseball Ground
United only played here once in the Premier League – 1996-97. A 1-1 draw in September, with a great goal by David Beckham who was really starting to develop his playing career at United at that time. By then, The Baseball Ground was really showing it’s age. To comply with the all seater rules, seats had been bolted onto what was terracing in the United section behind the goal. Amongst the United fans in the away section that night was Roy Keane, who was kept entertained by our fans singing lots of songs about him. The stadium capacity as a result of the end of terraces had fallen to just over 18,000 and all 4 sides needed rebuilding. The club saw it as more effective to move to a new stadium rather than re-develop the Baseball Ground.
18) Derby County – Pride Park
This brand new stadium was opened for the 1997-98 season, and United fans visiting there early in that season would have noticed how very similar it looked to Middlesbrough’s new Riverside Stadium which had opened only 2 years earlier. Facilities were far better for supporters and there was far more commercial revenue available there, but the stadium lacked the history or unique character of The Baseball Ground. The capacity of Pride Park is just over 33,000. Derby were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2001-02 season, returning just once for the 2007-08 season. United also played there twice in early 2009 in the FA Cup and League Cup.
Favourite match – The 3-0 victory there in 2000-01 – our best performance in that Stadium. That day is also remembered by fans there for lots of trouble both inside and outside the ground. A section of United fans even started the chant ‘Derby sing, I don’t know why, ‘cos after the match they’re gonna die!’
Worst match – The 2-2 draw there in 2001-02. With United leading the match, a male streaker appeared on the pitch from the United away section. This streaker was on the pitch for ages as no steward was prepared to confront him and even swung on the goalposts and tried to kiss Fabien Barthez on the head. It was funny at the time, but not when play was re-started as United, who had lost their concentration conceded a quick equaliser to Derby. Probably the only time in history that a streaker has cost United a goal.
19) Everton – Goodison Park
With the exception of the Park End Stand behind one of the goals and putting seats directly in place of terraces in the 3 other sides of the stadium, Goodison Park has been virtually unchanged for decades. Since 1993, United fans have always been given around 3000 tickets in the Bullens Road Stand. It remains a very traditional type of away trip for our fans. There have been some great results there during the Premier League years for us. Goodison currently holds around 40,000 people and there is little that can be done to increase capacity there. The club has had plans to locate to Kings Dock in the city centre and then to a site in Kirby on the outskirts of Liverpool, but neither of these went ahead. Suggestions have been made by people that they could groundshare with Liverpool in a huge Stanley Park Stadium, but that would be massively unpopular with fans of both clubs. For the forseeable future Everton will remain at Goodison.
Favourite matches – 2 games have to share this. For atmosphere and celebration, it has to be the final match of the 2002-03 season when United were presented with the Premier League trophy there. This turned out to be David Beckham’s final league game for United, but it was John O’Shea who received the most songs that day. O’Shea had a brilliant breakthrough season at left back and his song ‘When Johnny goes marching down the wing…’ became a huge crowd favourite at the time. Even the players joined in with it during the trophy celebrations. The best actual match there has to be our 2006-07 comeback victory there at the end of April. United won 4-2 with an own goal off Phil Neville, an O’Shea goal, a Rooney goal with a brilliant celebration in front of the Everton fans and a cracker from Chris Eagles. That result helped United clinch their 1st league title for 4 years.
Worst match – United haven’t lost many games at Goodison in the Premier League, so the ones we have lost are remembered. 2004-05′s 1-0 defeat near the end of the season wasn’t a good night. United were not going to win the league by then and the performance was not good. In addition Paul Scholes and Gary Neville were both sent off that night too.