There are very few things that are more architecturally impressive to me than a well-crafted football stadium – possibly the Eiffel Tower, but then again, that’d look much cooler with a neat 5-a-side pitch at the foot of it. I, like so many others, are obsessed with getting the ’92’ stadiums of the EFL and Premier League added to a tick-list of places we have been. I’m on about 56 at the point of writing.
Well, today we are talking about the Premier League. One of the biggest global brands, and arguably the biggest domestic competition on the planet, the English Premier League is home to some of THE greatest stadiums in Europe. Atmosphere in some places can’t be found too easily, but elsewhere, it’s in abundance. From the fortress of Turf Moor, to the more old-school Goodison Park, each ground has their unique aspects. As football continues to evolve, a trend of clubs leaving their historic grounds for flashy new, modern versions is becoming more and more apparent. Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United have both left their historic gems, whilst Everton are looking set to leave Goodison Park in the coming years. These historic stadiums are a staple of the English game.
So, with that all said and done, which five are the BEST stadiums in the Premier League?
5. Craven Cottage – Home of Fulham FC
Yes, you did read that right.
Starting at number five we have a slight wild card, but Fulham’s historic beaut has every right to be amongst the best Premier League grounds.
Sat carefully on the edge of the River Thames, Craven Cottage has become a staple of English football. Over the years, you’d be used to seeing Premier League football played here, as Fulham have been a regular in the top flight. Nowadays they seem to be a ‘league-bouncer’, but their stadium would always be near the top of the stadium charts.
Built up as a stadium originally in 1896, the ground has also gone through many motions of repair, refurbishment and redevelopment, in order to become the stadium it is today. If you’re looking for the proper original date that the cottage was there from, then you’d have to go back a bit further. Open your history books to 1780. The original cottage is said to have had many famous residents, including Queen Victoria herself, but its main use for a period was as part of Anne Boleyn’s hunting grounds. Over 100 years later, the local footballers rocked up after seeing the perfect place for a football pitch, and the rest is history. The first game at Craven Cottage took place in 1896, where Fulham matched up against Minerva FC in the Middlesex Senior Cup – obviously.
Craven Cottage has a fairly humble capacity. 25,700 supporters would make it a sell out. However, the club’s record attendance far surpasses that (predominantly down to the change from terracing to seats). In October 1938, 49,335 people rocked up to see a London derby of sorts. Fulham vs Millwall.
It’s not the biggest, but its history and charm make it a wonderful place to go and watch our beautiful game. The Johnny Haynes Stand is the oldest remaining stand in English professional football. The 1905 build is a beauty. Craven Cottage’s uniqueness does not stop there. The Pavilion is a marvel too. Off to the corner of the pitch sits the Pavilion which is used as the dressing room, as well as holding the friends and family of the players and officials for the game.
Craven Cottage is an incredible setting for football.
The Cottage is going through somewhat of a regeneration right now (2020), with the Riverside stand being rebuilt in a modern, tasteful way.
4. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – Home to Tottenham Hotspur
It’s a hop, a skip and a jump (a fairly sizeable jump) across London from Stevenage Road (Fulham) to High Road where the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium resides. The 2019 build is the headline of the project Spurs have been commencing over the past few years. The jewel in the crown for Daniel Levy has come at a huge £1 billion cost, but he’s received a large amount of credit for the stunningly modern stadium.
We can talk all day about the gadgets, gizmos and high-tech beauty of it but two pieces stand out to me. The retractable pitch is fascinating, and a brilliant way to help business and football. They can still host the NHL and other events, whilst not ruining the football turf. The largest single tiered stand in the country is another brilliant inclusion. Deemed as the home end, the South Stand can hold up to 17,500 spectators, and is designed in a way that maximises noise – yeah, like, an actual science-lead method for generating an even better atmosphere.
At a capacity of 62,303, the yet-to-be-named stadium reaches the upper echelons of European football stadiums. The ground’s first match was… some what underwhelming. The club hosted a few trial events first, meaning the legitimate first game at the stadium was a 3-1 win for Tottenham’s U18s, against Southampton U18s. More glamorously, the record attendance stands at 61,104. That was in December 2019 as Tottenham played host to rivals Chelsea.
The ‘asymmetric bowl’ might not have the history or legacy of Craven Cottage, but it’s a hugely impressive place to watch football. Speaking of legacy; the Spurs cockerel has traveled (sort of) from White Hart Lane. A doubled-sized but faithful replica was created and installed on top of the wondrous stadium.
3. Anfield – Home of Liverpool FC
Leaving the south of England, we are going to head to the north west, specifically, to Anfield Road.
One of the most famous stadiums in the entire world, Anfield is a real gem of a place. There are not too many stadiums that have a bigger legacy that Liverpool’s home, and it even came third in the ‘Football Ground Maps’ data for having the best atmosphere in England’s top flight.
Initially built in 1884, the history books show Anfield’s development throughout the years, including the more recent refurbishments and additions during the 2000s. The capacity of the ground has grown and grown, with it now sitting at 54’074. However, the record attendance is also much bigger than that. 61,905 spectators saw Liverpool face Wolverhampton Wanderers in February 1952.
If we look at the history, then Anfield’s involvement with Liverpool FC wasn’t immediate. Scouse rivals Everton owned the ground before moving to Goodison Park in the early 1890’s. The owner of Anfield decided to make a new club. He called it ‘Liverpool Football Club and Athletic Grounds Limited’ – a catchy name. Liverpool’s first game at Anfield was against the lesser-known Rotherham Town. An easy 7-1 win came for the home outfit.
The atmosphere created at the impressive stadium is revered across the world. The ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ chant/song is often described as spine-tingling and intimidating at the same time. The Liverpudlian version of New Zealand’s haka.
Anfield is also home to the longest consecutive league winning run in English top-flight history. 24 wins in a row across the 2018-19 and 2019-20 campaign. That’s very impressive stuff.
2. St James’ Park – Home of Newcastle United
Welcome to Barrack Road, Newcastle.
Newcastle United have been through a turgid time of it within the last decade. Mike Ashley’s ownership has driven the club into being one that bounces between the Championship and the lower ends of the Premier League, whilst also driving out one of the most prestigious managers in the world too – Rafa Benitez. St James’ Park has always been something the Toon Army can hold with immense pride though. One of the biggest stadiums in the English game, the capacity stands a 52,405, however it’s record attendance surpasses that. In 1930, 68,386 people watched a First Division match versus Chelsea.
There is history at St James’ Park too. The stadium-area was initially used by Newcastle Rangers in the late 1880’s, but when both Newcastle Rangers folded, and Newcastle West End FC merged with Newcastle East End FC, the newly coined ‘Newcastle United’ took over the stadium. Expansion and development has occurred over the years, but it’s not come without resistance; particularly from local residents. This has led to the unique sight that the asymmetrical stadium offers today. The giant main stand – the Milburn Stand – is extremely iconic.
Statues in football are present almost everywhere, but Newcastle have three of the best. Two legendary players and one legendary manager are casted on the site of the ground. Alan Shearer and Jackie Milburn won the hearts of the Newcastle faithful during their time on the pitch, but Bobby Robson’s expert managerial legacy is the reason behind his iconic statue.
If we are talking about atmosphere, then not many places have a better one than here. The home-end’s singing fans create a noise that is both intimidating to away fans and inspiring to their home players. On ‘Football Ground Maps” atmosphere data charts, St James’ Park rates first – 53,795 visitors voted an average of 4/5.
1. Old Trafford – Home of Manchester United
From the north east, back to the north west.
Manchester United’s infamous Old Trafford stadium is the megalodon of the stadium world.
O.T is arguably the most famous football stadium in the world, with a huge 74,140 capacity, it is easy to see why. The ground has gone through the successive developments and refurbishments that all/most do, however Old Trafford was hit with more than just generic decline. It endured some heavy wartime bombing, suffering significantly at the time. Approximately £24,000 was granted by the government to rebuild – a large amount for the time period. Manchester United were forced to play elsewhere for nearly 10 years. Since the early days of Newton Heath (the original name for Man United), Old Trafford has been an incredible site.
Its first ever game saw Man Utd take on rivals Liverpool. A unpredictable game ended 3-4 to the away side. Somehow Old Trafford’s record attendance does not even involve Manchester Utd. A 1939 tie between Wolves and Grimsby saw 76,962 people in the crowd.
Such is Old Trafford’s marvel, that it’s often used for other events. FA Cup semi-finals used to be hosted there, whilst SoccerAid, rugby and concerts still continue to use the mighty ground.
The stadium doesn’t necessarily sit on top of the atmosphere charts for ‘Football Ground Map’s, but when the home crowd get behind the Red Devils then Old Trafford rocks like few others in the world. O.T certainly has a legacy. It is revered as much as a building could be. Despite Man Utd’s recent years of awkward pain, away teams will always be particularly nervous when they enter the ‘Theatre of Dreams’. If anywhere is a ‘fortress’ then Old Trafford is the fitting owner of that title.
There we have my top 5 best Premier League stadiums. It is, of course, just my opinion. But we’d like to know what your opinion is. Are you a fan of a particular stadium more so than others? Have you had the best away-day at one of the grounds I’ve missed off this list. Should Craven Cottage be higher or lower on the list? Tweet us, or comment below to join the conversation.