A soccer field is a term used mostly in the United States to refer to a soccer stadium that is either purpose-built or fundamentally redesigned for soccer and whose primary purpose is to host soccer matches as opposed to a multi-functional stadium that can be used for many sports.
Soccer fields may also host other sports (such as rugby or cricket) and concerts, but they are primarily designed and constructed for soccer.
By continuing reading this article, you’ll discover when your favorite English team soccer field was founded, and what has changed since its inception.
Soccer And The Church
Several professional soccer teams had their origins in the church, in the spirit of muscular Christianity. Examples of this were Barnsley St. Peter’s, Christchurch (Bolton), Fulham St. Andrew’s, and St. Domingo’s (Everton), whereas others were started by cricket and rugby teams.
The Football League kicked off in 1888, but many British teams played at soccer fields with less than familiar names. In fact, the only venues to survive with the same clubs playing there are Deepdale and Turf Moor. A list of these soccer fields is clearly of some historical significance:
Original Football League Venues
|Accrington||Accrington Cricket Ground||1882-94|
|Aston Villa||Wellington Road, Perry Barr||1876-97|
|Blackburn Rovers||Leamington Street||1881-90|
|Bolton Wanderers||Pikes Lane (Deane Road)||1881-95|
|Burnley||Turf Moor (Calder Vale)||1883-|
|Derby County||The Racecourse Ground||1884-95|
|Everton||Anfield (then Liverpool)||1884-92|
|Notts County||Trent Bridge Cricket Ground||1883-1910|
|Preston North End||Deepdale (with museum)||1881-|
|Stoke (City)||Victoria Soccer field||1883-1997|
|West Bromwich||Stoney Lane||1885-1900|
Regarding the founding soccer clubs, there are several additional facts of interest. Blackburn played at Alexandra Meadows from 1878. An international was staged there against Wales in 1881 (the first away from the Oval). Leamington Street was also used for internationals in 1885 and 1887.
Prince Albert (Edward VII) watched part of a game at Turf Moor in 1886. Their record crowd of 54,775 was during a game against Huddersfield in 1924. The main feature of the soccer field was the Long Side, which rose to a high point in the northeast corner and was roofed in 1954.
County cricketers started Derby at the Racecourse soccer field, which had FA Cup games and an International. Derby Junction lost a semi-final to West Bromwich in 1887-88. They then moved to the Baseball Soccer field with its summer baseball tournaments and staged an International in 1911.
Notts County Soccer Fields
Everton, meanwhile, has played continually in Division One since 1888 (except for 1930-31 and 1951-54), whereas Notts County was established in 1862 and is, therefore, the oldest League club.
Like Nottingham Forest, they played at the Meadows Cricket Soccer field and reached the FA Cup semi-final in 1883, but lost 2-1 to the Old Etonians. Trent Bridge was laid out in 1838, and the club went there after Nottingham Forest (1880-82) departed. The main stand was on the Fox Road side. The soccer field struggled to hold 20,000 and had low attendances, although it staged semi-finals and an international, while the club reached the FA Cup Final in 1891 and 1894.
Preston North End
William Sudell was a cotton mill manager, and his efforts took Preston to the first double, while only Aston Villa emulated them in 1897. The west stand at Deepdale contained many supports and a Belfast roof, lasting from 1906-95, whereas the Fulwood end was built in 1921.
To the south of the country, old boys from Charterhouse established Stoke in 1868, and the main stand at the Victoria Soccer field was on Boothen Road. The club had to resign from the League in 1908 but reformed and joined Division Two in 1919. They stayed at the soccer field for over a hundred years, and after they went to the Britannia Stadium, only the grass outline remained.
West Bromwich Albion
West Bromwich first played at Dartmouth Park, Bunn’s Field, and Four Acres – the latter having a crowd of 16,393 for a Cup-tie against Blackburn. Their soccer field at Stoney Lane had a stand called Noah’s Ark, and the first game was against Third Lanark, but there were some small crowds. It was later a training soccer field and was covered by Albion Field Drive.
The Kop Soccer Fields
The English League was introduced in the northern climes in 1888, and the Scottish followed with eleven teams two years later. The first outright winner was Dumbarton in 1892. The League quickly became as important as the cup competition, and the clubs soon developed some significant and permanent soccer fields.
There were attempts to form a league in the south at this time. However, only Arsenal, Luton, Millwall, Swindon, and West Herts attended a meeting. As a result, the Gunners joined the Football League in 1893, whereas the Southern League was established the following year.
Meanwhile, the golden era of soccer field development was to follow, and sixty clubs opened new venues from 1890-1910. Many of these were to last for over one hundred years and thus had considerable significance to soccer history and the game’s development.
Arsenal Soccer Fields
Quite naturally, the history of soccer fields begins alphabetically with Arsenal. The side was formed in 1886, and Fred Beardsley, one of the founders, had played for Nottingham Forest – hence his old club provided some red shirts.
Initially, they had three venues in Plumstead and moved to the Manor Soccer field when they joined the League in 1893. The first sizeable banked terrace or Kop was built there in 1904, and this was the forerunner of many other such terraces around the country.
Indeed, further impressive soccer fields were built in the capital at Craven Cottage, Stamford Bridge, Highbury, and White Hart Lane. Still, these were not the only significant developments seen in the metropolis.
West Ham United
Thames Ironworks Football Club was formed in East London in 1895, and the driving force was Arnold Hills, the proprietor of a local shipyard. He then laid out the sizeable Memorial Soccer field on Springfield Road with a west stand and track in 1897, while the club joined the Southern League the following year.
However, the club fell out with Hills over professionalism, and he invited the (then) amateurs Clapton Orient to come there. As a result, they became West Ham United in 1900 and moved to Upton Park in 1904.
Queens Park Rangers
Queens Park Rangers were formed from a church side in 1886 and played in that area of London. They had several venues and should have been called ” the rovers.” Most of their soccer fields were local, but they moved west and played at the Park Royal Soccer field, Coronation Road, from 1907-15.
Queens Park Rangers developed this as a speculative venture, and it was built in a similar style to Ayresome Park, with a potential capacity of 60,000. The first game was against Millwall with a crowd of just 20,000. Rangers were champions of the Southern League in 1908 and 1912. However, the army took over the soccer field, and they moved to Loftus Road by 1917 – which was previously occupied by the amateur outfit Shepherd’s Bush F.C.
The White City Stadium was built nearby for the Olympic Games in 1908 and had a revival with athletics, greyhound racing, and speedway. Queens Park Rangers played there in 1931-33 and 1962-63, with a record attendance of 41,097 against Leeds United (1932). However, the latter was demolished for road improvements in 1984. Meanwhile, there was a considerable power base further north, and clubs developed large soccer fields with huge capacities.
Liverpool Football Club
Liverpool joined the Football League with Ironopolis, Newcastle United, Rotherham Town, and Arsenal in 1893 and became champions of Division Two. That year their Liverpool team was composed entirely of Scottish players.
The Kop was then developed in 1906, and the first game had a crowd of 32,000. One feature of the new Kop was a 50′ flagpole at the south end, the topmast of the S.S. Great Eastern. The Football League president John McKenna opened the re-roofed terrace with a capacity of 28,000 in 1928, and the record attendance was 61,905 for a Cup game against Wolves in 1952.
Birmingham City Soccer Fields
Small Heath Football Club was formed by some cricketers and played at Muntz Street, off Coventry Road, from 1877-1906. At the latter date, they became Birmingham F.C. and moved to a new venue on St. Andrew’s Street.
The club employed the little-known Harry Pumphrey to build a soccer field in the former brickworks, which had a large Kop reaching around to the Tilton Road end and a basic main stand on the east side. The terrace was the largest in the country with a capacity of 48,000, and the record crowd was 67,341 against Everton in 1939 (but it was replaced in 1994).
The Rugby League was established at the George Hotel, situated next to the regal Huddersfield Station, in 1895. It was called the Northern Union, and the local team played games at Fartown, which was also the venue for the two Cup semi-finals. Huddersfield Town, meanwhile, was formed in 1908, and since sharing was discouraged, they developed the Leeds Road soccer field.
Huddersfield Town was incredibly successful under Herbert Chapman in the 1920s, whereas the vast east terrace allowed a record crowd of 67,037 against Arsenal in the Cup in 1932. A new roof was added i-n 1955. However, the soccer field then declined, and the final game was played there in 1994.
Leeds United And Elland Road
Their near neighbors also had connections to the previous history. Elland Road was first used for rugby in 1878. Holbeck Rugby Club of the Northern Union purchased the venue in 1897, and local soccer first took place at the soccer field the following year.
Hunslet F.C. played their games in the south of Leeds, but they occupied Elland Road when Holbeck departed and formed Leeds City in 1904. They joined the League the following year. The pitch was turned end-on, and there was a main stand on the west side. In addition, a large bank was erected to the north and east, thus raising the capacity to about 45,000.
The soccer field was inadequate for large crowds in 1910/ 12, and the club went bankrupt and sought re-election with Gainsborough Trinity. Herbert Chapman had played there and took over as manager, and for a time, matters improved. But the club was then accused of making illegal payments. Indeed, John McKenna announced, “We will have no-nonsense. The football stable must be cleansed!”
Herbert Chapman denied any knowledge of wrong-doing. However, Leeds City was promptly expelled, and the club and its fittings sold off, while Port Vale took over their League fixtures during 1919-20.
There was a suggestion that the ailing Huddersfield Town might move to Elland Road. However, Leeds United was then formed, and due to a degree of guilt, the League committee elected them to Division Two in 1920.
The soccer field was improved that decade with new roofs on the Main and Elland Road stands, and the north Kop was increased to three times its former height. It joined the Lowfields Road terrace, and there was a (then) record crowd of 56,796 against Arsenal in 1932.
Wembley Of The North
Several clubs aspired to build a soccer field that might claim this accolade, and the most apparent contender was Maine Road, which opened soon after its namesake. Gorton Football Club was established in 1880 and became Ardwick on moving to Hyde Road in 1887. They were founder members of Division Two and were re-formed as Manchester City in 1894.
Facilities at Hyde Road were always basic with a railway line across one corner, and there was talk of moving to the nearby Belle Vue Athletic Soccer field, but they decided to stay and made basic improvements. Despite this, the main stand burnt down in 1920, and the lease expired in 1923. Thus they moved to a new site at Maine Road in south Manchester.
Charles Swain designed a stadium in a former clay pit on a grand scale, with a main stand on the west side and an enormous curving terrace with tunnels at each corner. McAlpine’s were the building contractors (as at Wembley), and it was the most prominent English club soccer field with a 90,000 capacity. The main feature was the vast Kippax terrace.
Indeed, it opened just after Wembley with a game against Sheffield United in front of 60,000. The record attendance for a club game of 84,569 was against Stoke in the Cup in 1934. Manchester United set the record for the League of 83,260 against Arsenal there in 1948.
Maine Road arrived after the main period of soccer field building, but it was the epitome of such aspirations. Meanwhile, the influence of Archibald Leitch in the North-East remained extensive, and he built Ayresome and Roker Parks. At the same time, the directors of Newcastle visited Celtic and Hampden before rebuilding their soccer field (a copy of Ayresome) in 1905.
All three soccer fields attained record attendance in the 1930s-40s. For example, Bramall Lane had a Kop at the Shoreham Street end and, despite a cricket pitch, achieved a record crowd of 68,287 during a Cup-tie against Leeds United in 1936. Meanwhile, the largest attendance at Hillsborough was 72,841 for a Cup game against Manchester City in 1934.
Several of the founder members also had stadiums of significant proportions. Indeed, West Bromwich Albion moved to the Hawthorns in 1900 and built banked terracing on the Handsworth side and at the Smethwick end. The record of 64,815 was for a Cup-tie against Arsenal in 1937.
Their rivals Bolton moved to Burnden Park, a wasteland on Manchester Road, in 1895, and initially, the soccer field became a messy bog. There was a large terrace at the railway end, while the Burnden Stand with wooden planking (to the rear) was built in 1928.
The record attendance of 69,912 was for a Cup-tie against Manchester City in 1933. However, there was a disaster due to overcrowding just after the war, and the railway end was sold for a supermarket in 1985. Indeed, from that time, there was no railway and no end. Bolton moved to the new Reebok Stadium in 1997.
To the north, Blackburn Rovers went to Ewood Park in 1890 (which had an international soon after) and won the championship in 1912/ 14. As a result, they had crowds of 28,000 and won the FA Cup again in 1928. They had a record attendance of 61,783 during a Cup-tie against Bolton the following year. However, the new Ewood Park was quite unlike the old soccer field.
Several League clubs achieved records of over 50,000 on their sprawling terrace. Stoke (1937), Hull City (1949), Portsmouth (1949), Coventry City (1967), and Crystal Palace (1979).
Nottingham Forest and Notts County
Meanwhile, Nottingham Forest played at the City Soccer field by the river near Trent Bridge Cricket Soccer field from 1898. They hosted an international in 1909. However, few developments were until the east terrace, and Bridgford end was enlarged in the 1950s, resulting in a record of 49,946 for a Division One game against Manchester United in 1967.
Their rivals Notts County moved just opposite Meadow Lane in 1910 and floated an old stand across the River Trent. Their main stand had a barrel roof (like Preston North End), and a large Kop was raised at the north end. They had a golden era with Tommy Lawton, and the record of 47,310 was for a Cup quarter-final against York in 1955 – indeed, they reached the semi-final as a Third Division side.
Bradford City Soccer Field
Bradford City also had a large terrace at the Manningham end, and this was called Nunn’s Kop, after a city dignitary. The record attendance was 39,146 against Burnley during the Cup-winning season of 1911.
Blackpool Football Club
At Bloomfield Road in Blackpool, there was a large Kop at the north end of the soccer field, although the other three sides were restricted. The central railway was close to the stands, and Blackpool Tower and the seafront illuminations could be seen in the distance. The record crowd was 38,098 for a Division One game against Wolves in 1955.
Both teams were very successful at the time, and Blackpool with Stanley Matthews had just won the FA Cup, while Wolves with Stan Cullis as manager and Billy Wright as the captain had recently won the championship.
All soccer clubs have their record attendances; however, some are pretty remarkable. Doncaster Rovers played at Belle Vue by the racecourse from 1922, and large banking was erected on three sides. Thirty-seven thousand one hundred forty-nine attended a Division Three (North) game against Hull City in 1948 when the home side came third, and their opponents finished top. However, the banking was redundant in the 1990s, and the capacity was reduced to 6,500.
Likewise, Halifax Town was formed after a public meeting in 1911, and the Shay was developed in a natural hollow, once used as a council rubbish tip. The club moved there as founder members of Division Three (North) in 1921, and some large banking was raised on three sides. Speedway came there in 1948, determining the soccer field’s shape, whereas a crowd of 36,885 watched the fifth round Cup-tie against Tottenham Hotspurs in 1953.
Crystal Palace and Millwall set the old Fourth Division record of 37,774 at Selhurst Park on 31 March 1961 (Good Friday), a record unlikely to be beaten. However, little known Thames F.C. had the lowest League crowd (on a Saturday afternoon) of 469 against Luton Town in 1930.
Soccer Fields In Wales
Meanwhile, Wales had two large soccer fields, both being in one city. Cardiff Arms Park staged rugby from 1876, and a grandstand was erected in 1885. Hence Wales used it for soccer internationals from 1896-1910.
The Riverside C.C. played nearby and formed Cardiff City in 1899, and after a few trial games, turned professional at Ninian Park, Sloper Road in 1910. The soccer field was sited on a former rubbish tip, and Lord Ninian Crichton Stuart provided the funds. The main terrace on the east side was called the “Bob Bank,” since it (once) cost just a shilling to stand there.
The club joined Division Two with Leeds United in 1920, and just a year later, reached the top division. They were runners-up to Huddersfield in Division One during the 1923-24 season.
At this time, the championship was decided on goal average; however, Cardiff would have won on goal difference (having scored one more goal). Indeed, this was the only time there would have been a different outcome, and they were separated by a tiny 0.0241 of a goal.
Meanwhile, the club won the F.A. Cup in 1927, and there was a revival with average crowds of 38,000 in 1952-53. There was a club record of 57,800 for a First Division game against Arsenal that season. The Bob Bank was then extended, and a large roof erected, resulting in a record of 61,566 during an international against England in 1961.
However, in general, the days of the Kop were numbered, and only three old-style soccer fields were opened after the Second War, namely Boothferry Park (1946), Vale Park (1950), and Roots Hall (1955).
Hull City Venue
Although Hull City played at the “Circle,” Anlaby Road from 1906, Kingston Upon Hull was dominated by rugby, with the main stand backing onto the cricket soccer field. Meanwhile, they had an uncertain future at the venue. So they purchased Boothferry Park just west of the city in 1930.
The new soccer field was not ready for use until 1946, but there was soon a record crowd of 55,019 for a Cup-tie against Manchester United in 1949, and they were promoted that season, leading to average crowds of 37,000. However, both the club and its soccer field declined in the following years, and a supermarket replaced the north stand in 1982.
Port Vale Football Club
Port Vale was formed in a district of Burslem in c.1876 and went to the Recreation Soccer field, Hanley, in 1913. Due to severe debts, they sold it to the Corporation in 1943 and purchased Vale Park the following year. There were ambitious schemes to build a ”Wembley of the North,” but only the paddock and tunnel of the main stand were ever built, and the soccer field was opened with uncovered terracing on all four sides in 1950.
The first game was against Newport County in Division Three (South) in front of 30,042, while the soccer field was gradually improved with several different covers. Meanwhile, the record attendance was an estimated 50,000 for a fifth-round Cup-tie against Aston Villa in 1960.
Southend Football Club
Southend played at Roots Hall from 1906-16 and moved to the “Kursaal” on the seafront in 1919, then to the greyhound stadium in 1934. During this period, the original soccer field was lowered due to quarrying, but they returned to the new Roots Hall in 1955 and developed the soccer field over the next five years.
This was the last “old-style” League soccer field to be built, and the age of the terrace had come to an end; whereas a new era was ushered in with the opening of Glanford Park at Scunthorpe on 14 August 1988, followed by Bescot Stadium at Walsall just two years later.
Cricket Grounds Where Soccer Was Played
The sport of cricket developed long before soccer and had its origins in London in the 18th century. Its focus was the Noblemen and Gentlemen’s Club, who were involved in sport mainly for gambling.
They were based at Pall Mall and formed the London Cricket Club in 1722 and the Jockey Club in 1750, while they also arranged prize-fighting events. The former played their cricket at Kennington or White Conduit Fields and increasingly at the Artillery Soccer field in Finsbury, with huge stakes riding on matches against the parish and local county opposition.
During the Seven Years War, this came to a stop, fought between England and France over colonial trade in 1756-63, whereas the Artillery Soccer field became a place of ill-repute. Hambledon was then the center of cricket for the next twenty years, and they beat an all-England side in 1777.
Meanwhile, the gentlemen hoped to re-establish the game in London and formed the White Conduit Club, Islington, in the early 1780s. However, the venue was found to be inadequate. Hence they asked Thomas Lord (1755-1832), one of their players, to find a new rendezvous.
Marylebone Cricket Club
He initially obtained land at Dorset Square, Marylebone, in 1787, and the gentlemen formed the M.C.C. later that year, but they were forced to move to North Bank, Lisson Grove in 1810. The first regular contest between Eton and Harrow was then established.
A new site was found on the Eyre Estate at St. John’s Wood in 1814, and this became the famous Lord’s Cricket ground. There were annual games between the Gentlemen and Players from 1819, and a regular North v South contest took place in 1836-38, each year from 1849. The two regions also played against touring teams and the M.C.C., while William Clarke’s All England XI traversed the counties from 1846.
Robert A. Fitzgerald was the M.C.C. secretary in 1863-76 and arranged a cricket tour of North America in 1872. In addition, there was an unofficial County Championship from that time. Charles Alcock developed the game at the Oval with the first test against Australia in 1880.
However, there was a close correlation with soccer development, and the first official County Championship was started in 1890, with eight county teams taking part at first.
Meanwhile, emerging soccer teams required a venue, and many used cricket grounds, which seems a strange arrangement in modern times. The two sports were often in conflict right from the start.
County Cricket Grounds
A number played early games at the County Cricket grounds, and some examples are Brighton, Southampton, and Stoke, whereas Swindon moved to the County ground in 1896 and remains there today. Such sharing took place in Derby, Northampton, Nottingham, and Sheffield, whereas several clubs played at their local cricket grounds.
For instance, Leicester Fosse played some games at the Aylestone Road Cricket ground and moved to Filbert Street in 1891, whereas Reading went to Caversham Cricket ground in 1889. Still, their games were delayed. Spectators arrived by ferry. So they moved to Elm Park in 1896.
Watford And Bristol City
Watford Rovers started in 1881 and were invited to use the West Herts Sports Soccer field at Cassio Road in 1891. Still, a condition of the tenancy was that they became West Herts Football Club. The soccer field had a cricket pavilion and some basic banking, while a merger saw the name change to Watford F.C. in 1898. However, the soccer field was severely tested when 13,000 spectators watched a game against Luton, and they moved to Vicarage Road in 1922.
Bristol South End was established in 1894 and played at St. John’s Lane, Bedminster, although the venue was overlooked, and they became Bristol City in 1897. Their rivals, Bedminster, were formed in 1887 and played at Ashton Gate from 1896. Indeed, W.G. Grace played a county cricket match there, which was the venue for two early football internationals.
Both teams played in the Southern League from 1898 but merged in 1900 and were the third southern team to enter the league the next year – only Woolwich Arsenal (1893) and Luton Town (1897) preceded them. At first, they used both of the soccer fields, but only Ashton Gate from 1904.
Mansfield Town And Crewe
Greenhalgh C.C. played at Field Mill, Mansfield in 1840, and a soccer team was established there in 1861, making it one of the oldest football venues in the world. There was a complex story of the sport locally, but Mansfield Town Football Club began in the 1890s and moved to Field Mill by 1919. The cricket club left three years later. They won the Midland League in 1924, 25, 29, and were thus elected to Division Three (South) in 1931.
Another example was Crewe Alexandra Football Club started playing soccer at the Alexandra Recreation Soccer field, Nantwich Road, in 1877. This was the venue for a FA Cup semi-final between Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers in 1887, whereas the club was in the league from 1892-96 and moved to Gresty Road in 1906.
Rotherham Town played at Clifton Lane (cricket ground and racecourse) from 1882 and moved to Clifton Grove, where they played League football in 1893-96. A new team Rotherham F.C. was formed at the cricket ground. Rotherham County moved to Millmoor in 1907 and joined Division Two in 1919. However, they finished bottom of Division Three (North) in 1924-25, and the two teams merged to form United.
Several sides had their origins within cricket. Thus Leyton Orient came from the Glyn Cricket Club. Stockport County had links to Heaton Norris Cricket Club. Darlington was formed at the local grammar school in 1883 but played at Feethams: the home of Darlington C.C.
The latter club was a successful amateur side and played in the Cup from 1885, then in the Northern and North East League, and were founder members of Division Three (North) in 1921. The cricket pitch was next to the football soccer field for over a century and was the last surviving example of such an arrangement (they moved to a new stadium in 2003).
Hull City Soccer Fields
Hull City was formed in 1904 and joined the league the following year, then played at the “Circle,” Anlaby Road from 1906-46. They missed promotion to Division One by goal difference in 1909-10.
A 4,000 seat main stand was built next to the cricket pitch in 1914, and covers were erected over the three terraces in the 1920s. There were several sports soccer fields in the area, but the venue was permanently restricted with poor access. The record attendance was 32,930 for a Cup-tie in 1930, part of a run that included a semi-final against Arsenal, while they returned to the impressive K.C. Stadium (built on the site) in 2003.
Bramall Lane, Sheffield
Meanwhile, after the demise of Bramall Lane in 1975, the last example of a shared venue was the County ground at Northampton. The cricket club laid out the site south of Abington Avenue in 1885, and a football club was formed in 1897, but always on non-preferential terms. For example, they were charged more rent than the cricketers and could not play any games there before September or after April.
However, they became professional and joined both Kettering Town and Wellingborough in the Southern League. Initially, the team changed in the pavilion, and attendances were just 4,000, while the main stand was built in 1907. Herbert Chapman returned as the manager, and they won the Southern League in 1909 and were founder members of the Third Division in 1920.
There were several plans to move but without success, and they joined the new Fourth Division in 1958. There was then a remarkable rise up the league, and they went from Division Four in 1961 to Division One in 1965. During their one season at the top, the average crowds were 18,000, and the record was 24,253 against Fulham. However, they then experienced one of the fastest slides and were back in Division Four by 1969.
Despite this, the cobblers reached the fifth round of the Cup in 1970 and played Manchester United at home, losing 8-2. Indeed, it was the one time that a stand was allowed on the cricket pitch. Northampton left the County ground, with its unusual wedge-shaped end terraces, and went to Sixfields in 1994. Thus the cricketers took sole charge after 97 years.
In the case of Sheffield, the cricket club was expelled, and at Northampton, the football club left, but it did not matter which, since the shared cricket-football venue was genuinely consigned to history.
Time To Make A Stand
The modern stadiums have heralded in a new era regarding both design and materials and contrast significantly with those that remain little changed. Indeed, the difference is often quite striking and is only rivaled by their progressive appellations and noms-de-plume.
Most soccer fields were named after a local feature in the past, but a very modern problem has infected football. The founders envisioned a game where the sport came first and money second and could not have imagined soccer fields being named after sponsors.
A degree of romance has been lost as Feethams, Gay Meadow, the Vetch Field, and many other historic “Parks” have been replaced by the Emirates, Liberty, Reebok, Ricoh, McAlpine Stadiums, etc.
There is no denying that these new stadiums have impressive credentials, but they represent a break with the past, a break that has more to do with modernity rather than just specific to soccer. Some criticize their off-the-shelf uniformity, although the same censure might be leveled at Archibald Leitch.
Meanwhile, in the early days, clubs used a variety of venues, and some were in Victorian pleasure parks, examples being the Lower Soccer fields, Crystal Palace, and Tower Soccer fields. These eclectic sideshows, grand events, dance halls, exotic gardens, and sporting venues.
Blackpool Soccer Fields
Blackpool was formed by old boys in 1887 and first played at Raikes Hall Park or the Royal Palace Gardens. This was a few minutes’ walk from the seafront, and Raikes Hotel looked out over the cricket-football pitch, near an ornamental lake and surrounded by a racecourse.
The hotel included an Indian lounge, ballroom, and theatre. Nearby were a camera obscura, monkey house, and fountains. The club also played at Whitegate or Stanley Park (another racecourse) and took part in the League from 1896-99 but lost their status with Darwen.
They then joined rivals South Shore to form a new team at Bloomfield Road in 1899 and re-entered the League the following year. However, their resurgence began poorly, and the first game was a record defeat of 10-1 against Small Heath during the 1900-01 season.
Several teams played their games at racecourses, and the one in Derby has already been discussed. Another significant example is Wrexham, where the first races were staged in 1807, but the meetings often became rowdy affairs; therefore, they were banned from 1858.
For several years the site was used just for cricket, but the races were then re-instated in 1872, and football was played from that time; thus, Wrexham (Olympic) was formed in 1884. Indeed, this makes the Racecourse Soccer field the only League venue as old as Deepdale and Turf Moor.
In the early years, the club’s activities were centered on the Turf Hotel, and the main stand was erected on Mold Road in 1902, the pitch being located across the racetrack. However, the racing ended in 1912, and when the club joined Division Three (North), they developed the soccer field. One unusual feature was the installation of a deck of seats from the local cinema on the Town End terrace from 1962-78. In contrast, the Yale Stand was added in 1972 to stage future internationals.
Other clubs such as Hartlepool and Millwall played with a backdrop of sailing ships in the docks. Indeed, there was a Zeppelin raid in Hartlepool in 1916, but the main stand at the Victoria Soccer field hit.
Milwall Football Club
Millwall Football Club was established on the Isle of Dogs in 1885 and played at East Ferry Road in 1890-1901, an oval arena capable of holding 15,000 – and they won the Southern League there. Indeed, their status was confirmed when they hosted both Preston North End and Sunderland.
They then went to North Greenwich on a former potato field and opened with a friendly against Aston Villa in 1901, the record being 11,000 against Tottenham that year, but they moved to New Cross in 1910.
However, the story might have been different since the unlikely named Willey Reveley proposed a grand scheme to straighten the Thames across the area in 1796. Unfortunately, the plan was dismissed as too expensive, and instead, the congestion problem was solved with some prominent new docks.
These were days unlike the present, and clubs had to be frugal in soccer field development. As a result, many would re-use existing stands or borrow those from other soccer fields.
For example, The Wellington Road roof went to Muntz Street in 1897; Noah’s Ark was taken to the Hawthorns in 1900; a Hyde Road stand was transferred to the Shay in 1923, and the Swan Passage stands went to Vale Park in 1950.
Moving Stands To New Soccer Fields
The stand was taken from Trent Bridge across the river to Meadow Lane, and the Tattoo Stands at Accrington and Swindon have already been discussed. In contrast, Mansfield purchased a stand from the recently closed Hurst Park Racecourse in 1959 and raised it in stages behind the old west stand (a similar method was used for Swindon’s main stand in 1971).
Indeed, the practice of re-using stands continued into recent times, and when Chester left Sealand Road for the Deva Stadium, the main stand’s roof was re-erected at the Hamil Road end of Vale Park.
There were many oddities, and Brentford had to clear out an orchard to establish Griffin Park in 1904, while Southampton played at Avenue Road with a footpath across the pitch. Indeed, The Dell was not much better, and a swampy stream inundated the soccer field when they arrived in 1898.
Brighton And Hove Albion
Their neighbors Brighton had a different problem, and a director John Clark lived at Goldstone House near the Hove Football Club’s home. The latter established a soccer field nearby in 1901, and Albion came there the following year, but there was a large druid stone on the site, and this was removed (to a nearby park) when the Goldstone Soccer field was prepared.
Gay Meadow, Shrewsbury was a historical pleasure site long before the arrival of football in 1910 but was situated next to the River Severn and became flooded on several occasions. Indeed, one supporter Fred Davies retrieved balls from the river in his coracle, charging only a small fee!
There were several stands of strangely rural nature, and these included the “Rabbit Hutch” at Fulham, the “Chicken Run” at West Ham, and the “Cowshed” (with the Big Bank attached) in Exeter.
Meanwhile, Singers Football Club was transformed into Coventry City in 1898 and went to Highfield Road. The Kop had the “Crows Nest” at the rear, whereas a roof taken from Twickenham was erected over the west terrace in 1927-67, and the “Sky Blue” period occurred in the 1960s.
Bristol City High Aspirations
Another case was Bristol City, who had high aspirations and beat Manchester United to the Division Two title in 1905-06 and were runners up in the League the following year. They also played Manchester United in the Cup Final at the Crystal Palace in front of 71,401 spectators in 1909.
With such success in mind, they erected a cover at the Winterstoke End in 1928, which was notable for its great length. It extended way beyond the corner flags, and they planned to turn the soccer field on its axis, but the side was relegated in 1932, which never took place.
However, the most spectacular venue was in Norwich, and some local teachers started the team in 1902. Initially, they played at Newmarket Road and joined the Southern League in 1905, but the site became inadequate, and they moved to a location with even more significant deficiencies.
“The Nest” at Rosary Road was laid out in an old chalk pit. There were no other soccer fields quite like it. The pitch was up against a 30-foot cliff at the east end, and the houses of Rosary Road were close to the goal at the other end. The Newmarket Road stand was placed on the north side, and a cover called the Chicken Run located just opposite.
In addition, the venue was overshadowed by a timber yard, tin works, gas works, and St. Matthew’s Church, while the ball often bounced off the cliff face back onto the pitch. Indeed, it was a precarious situation, and people watched from the top. Thus there was a near disaster in 1922.
Despite this, a fantastic record crowd of 25,037 for a Cup-tie against Sheffield Wednesday in 1935, but a corner of the pitch collapsed into the old workings soon after, and they went to Carrow Road later that year. George VI then watched a Division Two game against Millwall at the new soccer field in 1938.
Southend Football Club
Clubs would go to any length to prepare new soccer fields, and in the case of Southend Football Club, the terrace was, “One that I made earlier.” As stated, the club had two stints at Roots Hall (once an 18th-century house), and they joined Division Three in 1920 then returned to the soccer field in 1955. Indeed, Sid Broom built the south terrace “stone by stone,” as money allowed, over the next five years.
There was a record attendance of 31,090 for a Cup game against Liverpool in 1979. Unfortunately, the much-labored-over terrace was sold to a property developer in 1988. Indeed, it was demolished in just a matter of days!
Closest Soccer Fields In England
Regarding the closest League soccer fields, the honor goes to Nottingham since the City Ground and Meadow Lane faces one another across the River Trent. However, some other venues are even closer, such as the soccer fields in Dundee, while the undoubted winner is The Firs of St.
Leonard’s looks down on the extensive Pilot Field of Hastings Football Club.
The Club With The Most Soccer Fields
Queens Park Rangers have played at the most number of soccer fields with 13 venues and 17 changes. Four of these were in the Kensal Green area, including Kilburn Cricket Soccer field. At the same time, they played at the substantial Kensal Rise Athletic Soccer field on two occasions in 1896-1904, then went to Park Royal, Stamford Bridge, Loftus Road, and White City. The athletic soccer field was closed in the 1920s, and Liddell Gardens were built on the site but were named after a landowner and not the famous runner.
Soccer Field And Stadium Designers
Meanwhile, Archibald Leitch was not the only innovative soccer field designer, and when Arsenal achieved unparalleled success in the 1930s, they looked to develop Highbury. Initially, they employed Claude Waterlow Ferrier, an architect who studied in Paris and an exponent of the Art Deco style; however, his first contribution was to extend the end terraces in 1931.
He then turned his attention to the west side, opposite to Archibald Leitch’s multispan main stand, and produced a soccer field-breaking design with a bold white facade, straight linear lines, club motifs, and an upper tier of seating for 4,100 over a large terrace – at the cost of just £ 50,000.
The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) opened the stand on 10 December 1932, and Arsenal won the title soon afterward, while Ferrier also designed a cover over the North Bank. The record attendance then followed in 1935 (later re-roofed by Binnie).
There were further Cup and League successes; however, Archibald Leitch’s stand was expensive to maintain and was removed in 1936. William Binnie then designed a replacement that mirrored Ferrier’s stand and had 4,000 seats on its two tiers and a small paddock-terrace to the front.
However, the most significant feature was a bold facade in Avenell Road with vertical and horizontal lines, and the club name, and a gun carriage motif at the center. There was also a marble entrance hall with the bust of Herbert Chapman, although the cost was a substantial £130,000. No other stands could compare at the time, and they were the apex of soccer field design in the early years of the Football League.
Meanwhile, there is one other significant development to consider, and this was the introduction of the cantilevered stand. Such stands had been constructed at racecourses and on the Continent in the 1930s, but they were yet seen at British football soccer fields.
It was no surprise that the first innovation came in Scunthorpe, which had long been associated with the iron and steel industry. The local team Scunthorpe United was formed in 1899 and played at the Old Showgrounds in the Midland League from 1912-50, being champions on two occasions.
There were small stands on each side of the pitch, and a cover at the Fox Street end, while Grimsby played there in the war as their Blundell Park soccer field was by the docks. The club then joined Division Three (North) with Shrewsbury Town, increasing by two in 1950.
The soccer field was improved, and a terrace at the Doncaster Road end was covered in 1954, then they were champions in 1957-58. However, the east stand burnt down soon after and was replaced with the first cantilevered stand at a British football soccer field.
It was 100 yards long with bench seats for 2,200 and faced the main stand, while it was opened on 23 August 1958. Unfortunately, the soccer field was closed thirty years later, and attempts to move it to the new venue proved impractical. Glanford Park had columns to support the roof on three sides.
The second cantilevered stand was erected at Hillsborough on the west side but completely different. Again, there were seats for 10,000 spectators, and Sir Stanley Rous opened it on 23 August 1961. Indeed, with the demise of the Old Showgrounds, it is now the oldest of its type at a soccer field in the country.
International Soccer Fields
Almost every aspect of soccer was inaugurated in England. The first international (unofficial) was played at the Oval in 1870. Such games soon attracted large crowds, especially in Scotland, and the Corinthians Football Club was formed in 1882 with the sole aim of competing in these contests. The home internationals were started two years later.
Several famous venues were used for these initial games, including the Oval (1873-89), the Crystal Palace (1897-1909), the West of Scotland Cricket Ground (1872-76), the first and second Hampden Parks (1878-90), Celtic and Rangers Football Clubs (1892-1904), the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham (from 1877), and Solitude, Belfast (from 1890).
Meanwhile, the newly emerging clubs had new soccer fields which provided some other venues: Alexandra Meadows (1881), Bramall Lane (1883/87), Leamington Street (1885/87), Nantwich Road (1888), Anfield (1889), and the Victoria Soccer field (1889/93). There were also some less familiar choices, such as the Aigburth Cricket Soccer field in south Liverpool in 1883 and Whalley Range in Manchester in 1885.
Games were then played at League (or Southern League) venues, but Charles Alcock arranged the Richmond Athletic Ground in 1893, and the Queen’s Club, West Kensington, was used in 1895. The Corinthians played at the latter and fielded the entire England side in 1894 / 95 (hence the choice), whereas the Oxford v Cambridge varsity match was at the Oval in 1873-87 and the Queen’s Club until at least 1903.
England was the most successful of the home nations in the 1890s. At the same time, Upton Park, an amateur side (who played in the first F.A. Cup), represented the country in unofficial Olympic tournaments at Athens in 1896 and Paris in 1900 – winning both of them. However, Galt Football Club, which represented Canada, won at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904.
F.I.F.A., the organization of international football, was formed in Paris at the latter date. The initial members were Belgium, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Initially, the English Football Association did not join, and there was an amateur-professional split in 1906; however, they soon became a member and were then prominent in its affairs.
Meanwhile, Mount Vesuvius erupted in this period. Thus the Olympics transferred from Rome to London in 1908. By then, soccer had become an official sport at the Olympic games, and Great Britain beat Denmark 2-0 at the White City to take the gold medal. Indeed, the marathon distance was altered from 24.8 to 26 miles (to reach Windsor), and 385 yards were added to arrive at the Royal box!
The first overseas football tour was to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in June 1908. This included fixtures in Budapest, Prague, and Vienna, while there was another tour to that country the following year; however, these were the only games on the Continent before the war.
Indeed, there was a further success when Great Britain beat Denmark 4-2 in Stockholm to win gold again in 1912, and the Netherlands took the bronze on each occasion. However, there were new “world champions” at the following three Olympics – Belgium won by forfeit over Spain at Antwerp in 1920, while Uruguay won at Paris in 1924 and Amsterdam in 1928.
F.I.F.A. discussed a World Cup from the start, but the F.A. had several disputes with the body in Zurich and withdrew in 1918-22 and again in 1928. As a result, the England team was superior to continental opposition on foreign tours until the 1920s. Still, there was little chance to test if this apparent superiority could hold on the world stage due to the rift.
Uruguay agreed to host the inaugural contest in 1930 after their Olympic successes and won the World Cup that year, while Italy won the next two competitions before the war.
England then had significant setbacks and lost 2-0 to Ireland at Wembley in 1949 and had further problems in their first World Cup in 1950. The side included players such as Tom Finney, Wilf Mannion, Stan Mortensen, and Billy Wright, but they lost 1-0 to the U.S.A. (semi-finalists in 1930), which ended any hopes they had the competition.
After the Second War, there was a ‘golden era’ for English clubs; however, the national side was under increasing scrutiny. This was confirmed with a notorious 6-3 thrashing by Hungary at Wembley in 1953.
Uruguay won the World Cup again, and it was then dominated by Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Italy. However, England continued to be prominent, and Sir Stanley Rous, F.A. secretary, was F.I.F.A. president in 1961-74. For a time, the country was not the undisputed champions of the world, but this was all put right in 1966, and this one moment alone epitomized the aspirations of the founders of soccer.
F.A. Cup Finals 1872-1939
|1874||Oxford Univ||R Engineers||2-0||2,000|
|1875||R Engineers||Old Etonians||1-1, 2-0||3,000|
|1876||Wanderers||Old Etonians||1-1, 3-0||1,000|
|1879||Old Etonians||Clapham Rov||1-0||5,000|
|1880||Clapham Rov||Oxford Univ||1-0||6,000|
|1882||Old Etonians||Blackburn R||1-0||6,500|
|1884||Blackburn R||Queen’s Park||2-1||14,000|
|1885||Blackburn R||Queen’s Park||2-0||12,500|
|1886||Blackburn R||West Brom||0-0, 2-0||15,000|
|1887||Aston Villa||West Brom||2-0||15,500|
|1888||West Brom||Preston NE||2-1||19,000|
|1891||Blackburn R||Notts County||3-1||23,000|
|1892||West Brom||Aston Villa||3-0||32,810|
|1894||Nott s County||Bolton Wand||4-1||37,000|
|1895||Aston Villa||West Brom||1-0||42,560|
|1898||Nottingham F||Derby County||3-1||62,017|
|1899||Sheffield U||Derby County||4-1||73,833|
|1901||Tottenham H||Sheffield U||2-2, 3-1||114,815|
|1902||Sheffield U||Southampton||1-1, 2-1||76,914|
|1904||Man City||Bolton Wand||1-0||61,374|
|1905||Aston Villa||Newcastle U||2-0||101,117|
|1909||Man United||Bristol City||1-0||71,401|
|1910||Newcastle U||Barnsley||1-1, 2-0||77,747|
|1911||Bradford City||Newcastle U||0-0, 1-0||69,098|
|1912||Barnsley||\Vest Brom||0-0, 1-0||54,556|
|1923||Bolton W||West Ham U||2-0||126,047|
|1924||Newcastle U||Aston Villa||2-0||91,695|
|1925||Sheffield U||Cardiff City||1-0||91,763|
|1926||Bolton W||Man City||1-0||91,447|
|1935||Sheffield W||West Brom||4-2||93,204|
Soccer Fields Opening Dates
|1860||Sandygate – Hallam|
|1870||York Road – Maidenhead|
|1874||Drill Field – Northwich Victoria|
|1881||Deepdale – Preston North End|
|1883||Turf Moor – Burnley|
|Feethams – Darlington|
|Victoria Ground – Stoke City|
|1884||Racecourse Ground – Wrexham|
|1885||Gigg Lane – Bury|
|1887||Saltergate – Chesterfield|
|1888||Oakwell – Barnsley|
|1889||Bramall Lane – Sheffield United|
|Molineux – Wolverhampton W|
|1890||Ewood Park – Blackburn Rovers|
|Aggborough -Kidderminster H|
|1891||Filbert Street – Leicester City|
|1892||Goodison Park -Everton|
|Anfield – Liverpool|
|St James’s Park – Newcastle United|
|1893||Priestfield Stadium – Gillingham|
|1894||St James’s Park – Exeter City|
|1895||Burnden Park – Bolton Wanderers|
|Baseball Ground – Derby County
Sincil Bank – Lincoln City
|Loakes Park – Wycombe Wanderers|
|Old Showground – Scunthorpe United|
|1896||Craven Cottage – Fulham|
|Elm Park – Reading|
|County Ground – Swindon|
|Fellows Park – Walsall|
|1897||Villa Park – Aston Villa|
|Eastville – Bristol Rovers|
|County Ground – Northampton|
|1898||City Ground – Nottingham Forest|
|The Dell – Southampton|
|Roker Park – Sunderland|
|1899||Bloomfield Road – Blackpool|
|Highfield Road – Coventry City|
|Blundell Park – Grimsby Town|
|Fratton Park – Portsmouth|
|Hillsborough – Sheffield Wednesday|
|White Hart Lane – Tottenham Hotspurs|
|1900||The Hawthorns – West Bromwich|
|1902||Edgeley Park – Stockport County|
|Goldstone Ground – Brighton & Hove|
|1903||Valley Parade – Bradford City|
|Ayresome Park – Middlesborough|
|Home Park – Plymouth Argyle|
|1904||Griffin Park – Brentford|
|Ashton Gate – Bristol City|
|Upton Park – West Ham United|
|Rose Stadium – Macclesfield Town|
|1905||Stamford Bridge – Chelsea|
|Kenilworth Road – Luton Town|
|1906||St. Andrew’s – Birmingham City|
|Sealand Road – Chester City|
|Greasty Road – Crewe Alexandra|
|Boundary Park – Oldham Athletic|
|1907||Underhill – Barnet|
|Portman Road – Ipswich Town|
|Spotland – Rochdale|
|Millmoor – Rotherham United|
|Leeds Road – Huddersfield Town|
|1909||Brunton Park – Carlisle United|
|Layer Road – Colchester United|
|1910||Dean Court – Bournemouth|
|Ninian Park – Cardiff City|
|Victoria Ground – Hartlepool United|
|Old Trafford – Manchester United|
|The Den – Milwall|
|Meadow Lane – Notts County|
|Gay Meadow – Shrewsbury Town|
|Plainmoor – Torquay United|
|1912||Vetch Field – Swansea City|
|Prenton Park – Tranmere Rovers|
|Plough Lane – Wimbledon|
|1913||Highury – Arsenal|
|1917||Loftus Road – Queens Park Rangers|
|1919||The Valley – Charlton Athletic|
|Elland Road – Leeds United|
|Mill – Mansfield Town|
|1920||Springfield Park – Wigan Athletic|
|Huish Park – Yeovil Town|
|1921||The Shay – Halifax Town|
|Christie Park – Morecambe|
|1922||Vicarage Road – Watford|
|Belle Vue – Doncaster Rovers|
|1923||Maine Road – Manchester City|
|1924||Selhurst Park – Crystal Palace|
|1925||Manor Ground – Oxford United|
|1926||Recreation Ground – Aldershot Town|
|1932||Abbey Stadium – Cambridge United|
|Whaddon Road – – Cheltenham Town|
|Bootham Crescent – York City|
|1934||London Road – Peterborough United|
|York Street – Boston United|
|1935||Carrow Road – Norwich city|
|1937||Brisbane Road – Leyton Orient|
|1946||Boothferry Park – Hull city|
|1950||Vale Park – Port Vale|
|Roots Hall – Southend United|
|1955||Victoria Road – Dagenham Redbridge|
|1958||Eton Park – Burton Albion|
|1970||Crown Ground – Accrington Stanley|
|1976||Broadhall Way – Stevenage Borough|
|1994||Nene Park – Rushden Diamonds|
Main Image: Wanderu