The Championship is one of the most competitive leagues in the world and you are likely to see a good standard of match whichever ground you visit. Be it a relegation six-pointer, an automatic promotion push, or a play-off chasing battle, you are guaranteed to see a game that means something. But where are the best away days found? Which clubs are worth a visit for a little bit more than the football?
Bournemouth – Dean Court
There is an obvious place to start for away days and that is Dean Court. The stadium was renovated in 2001 when Bournemouth were struggling in the lower tiers of English football so it still holds that small club charm even with the top-of-the-table style football that is being played. Plans to redevelop the stadium have been put on hold and a new stadium has been announced. Whether or not these plans will ever be put into fruition remains to be seen but there is a chance that fans may not get too much longer to visit the unique attraction.
Dean Court itself was rebuilt in 2001 with a final stand added in 2013. The small nature of the stadium means that fans are close to the action and the atmosphere can be intense. Giant posters of players on the inside of stadium leave visitors in no doubt who the home team are and it can be an intimidating ace for visiting teams.
The main attraction for visitors, however, is the location with the stadium a mere ten minute drive away from the pier and plenty of bars. End of season games have a party feel to them with many fans dressing in attire that wouldn’t look out of place on the beach; If you have an away day in a sunny month, this is a must for any travelling fan.
Player to Watch
There is a plethora of players to watch down at Bournemouth. Josh King, David Brooks, and Lewis Cook all bring a good Premier League reputation with them but it is Dutch winger Arnaut Danjuma who has been the standout player so far. He has three goals and an assist to his name after starting only six games last season, and leads the team in goals, scoring frequency, and key passes per game.
Watford – Vicarage Road
Like Bournemouth, Watford are another side with plenty of Premier League pedigree so you can expect to see competitive games. The ground has good transport links with both overground and underground stations and, whilst the ground itself is not particularly special, it is a five minute walk from the town centre where you will find plenty of bars and restaurants. It also happens to be the only ground in the country where you are as likely to see a managerial sacking as you are a goal so you know you are getting value for money.
Watford have used the significant sums of money Premier League football brings to redevelop the stadium. he hospitality was voted best in England for the 2018/19 season and the Elton John stand – opened in the 2014/15 season – pays homage to one of the most important members of the clubs hierarchy in its history. Fans identify with the singer who has pumped a lot of his own money into the club as well as holding benefit concerts and you will not find another stand in the country with Grammy award winning lyrics splashed accross the side.
The nearby town centre has also been renovated recently. Fans can enjoy a number of popular restaurant and bar chains as well as having easy access to hotels and bed and breakfasts; it is not uncommon to see fans of teams from the north staying over in Watford either the night before or after a game at Wembley.
Player to Watch
Watford managed to keep hold of a lot of player this summer. Saar, Deeney, and Capoue were all linked to moves away but all remain at Vicarage road. They have lost Doucouré and Deulofeu, the latter of which is one of the most exciting players in the game on his day but have found inspiration in the form of Brazilian João Pedro. The 19 year old has four goals so far this season and is capable of some moments of magic as evidenced by his wonderful effort against Derby earlier this season.
Wycombe Wanderers – Adams Park
The setting for Adams Park is absolutely beautiful. The Buckinghamshire countryside make this a completely unique place to watch football. You are not going to find a pub within walking distance of the stadium but there are buses that run from High Wycombe and there are plenty of car parks around the stadium. If you are ideal away day is to grab a pint and a bite to eat opposite the ground and then stroll to your seat at five to three, this is not the ground for you. But if you are looking for a ground with a lot of character and are patient enough to travel to and from the town centre, this is an away-day worth checking out. You will almost certainly hear Adams Park described as a ‘proper ground’ and you will be treated to idyllic scenery in the Buckinghamshire countryside.
First opened in 1990, the ground has seen many redevelopments over the years and the capacity increased from 6,000 to 10,000 in 2005. The team shared the round with rugby union team London Wasps until 2014 when they moved to the Ricoh Arena – Coventry – perhaps in at because plans to build a new stadium for them and Wycombe were shelved in 2011. Sadly, Adams Park is rarely full with the highest crowd last season being a little over 8,500 in January of 2020; they will be desperate for fans to return so that they can start showcasing this wonderful location to fans of bigger clubs.
One of the charms of a smaller ground is the onsite bars. A lot of Premier League and Championship grounds may have concourses and drinking areas behind the stands but Adams Park has bars for home supporters, away supporters, ad home and away supporters on site meaning those not in a rush to get home can enjoy a drink while the initial rush dies down.
Player to Watch
You are not going to Wycombe to watch neat, free-flowing football. The team averages 132 passes per game – one fewer than Jordan Henderson managed for Liverpool against West Ham – as the team are under no illusions about what is required to stay in the division. Scott Kashket is probably the teams main hope of staying in the division and he leads the team in goals (three) and big chances missed (four). He only averages one shot per game and his numbers suggest he is not the main guy to lead the line but he is the main goal threat.
Bristol City – Ashton Gate
The Championship’s perennial seventh placed team play at the newly renovated Ashton Gate stadium and it is a great stadium for an away day. The ground has an open plan surrounding meaning fans can stand and have a drink and a bite to eat from one of the vendors outside and the transport links are good as multiple trams and busses running from the centre. Away from the football, Bristol sits in the heart of cider country and fans are never more than about a ten metre radius from a pint of Thatcher’s. The factory and shop is just outside Bristol and there is nothing more authentically Bristolian than a crisp glass of the stuff on a warm day. Bristol was voted the fourth best place for a night out in 2019 so those able to find a hotel (and there are many) may want to make a weekend of it.
In 2018 City were averaging an attendance of 20,000 leaving 7,000 seats unfilled. Neutrals should be able to easily get to a game if they want and experience the stadium that was redeveloped in 2016 but should they be unable to get to a game of football, there are plenty of opportunities to see the stadium. It has hosted a number of concerts and is shared by rugby team, Bristol Bears. Away fans should be able to get a ticket as up to 4,200 fans can be accommodate in the Ateyo Stand depending on the team. The stand has had the longest period of time since any development and it can be quite cramped behind it. This can be annoying if you want a half-time pie but add to the experience if you want a raucous sing-a-long at any point.
Player to Watch
Jamie Paterson has five goal involvements so far for the Robins and the midfielder is generally the player that makes them tick. Paterson is given a little more room to manoeuvre in a midfield three – there are four City midfielders with a better tackles per game ration than him but Paterson has more shots per game than his midfield colleagues (1.2) as well as being the team leader in successful dribbles per game (1.3) and key passes per game (2.3). City have been on a bit of a wobble after four wins in four at the start of the season but will fancy themselves to regain their form and finally make the play-offs.
Sheffield Wednesday – Hillsborough
When you see films from the eighties that depict the match-day experience, they generally depict fans with scarves of white and a primary colour, walking through a housing estate, and arriving at a stadium that appears out of thin air: Hillsborough is such a stadium. The ground will always be soaked in tragedy and, whilst this should never be forgotten, it often overshadows what a wonderful place it is to watch football. Development of the ground began in 1899 with redevelopment taking place in 2017 and future developments are planned. It is the biggest stadium in the Championship and a must-visit for any football fan.
Hillsborough is absolutely steeped in history. Built four years after the other team’s ground, Bramall Lane, the city has hosted 130 Steel City Derbies with 53 of them taking place at Hillsborough. It was also one of the stadiums used for the 1966 world cup where it hosted a quarter-final between Germany and Uruguay, and the Euro 96 where it was the ‘home’ stadium for reigning champions Denmark, who played all of their group games there. It remains one of England football’s most valued stadiums and was selected by the FA to hold games at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups had England’s proposals been successful.
Player to Watch
Barry Bannan has been Wednesday’s go to guy for a while now and he will be as important as anyone in the league considering the 12 point penalty incurred by Wednesday. The Scot averages nearly 13 passes more per game than Wednesday’s next best player and leads the team in key passes per game (1.6) and accurate long balls per game (5.6); he is the teams penalty taker and has scored 2/2 from the spot this season so, if you manage to catch a game, expect to see Bannan involved in some capacity.
Griffin Park was one of the best stadiums to visit with a pub on each corner. Brentford’s new stadium looks a little odd but could be worth a visit if they can get the same feel of the old one; Cardiff City Stadium offers all of the luxuries of a capital city at more affordable prices being located a stones throw away from the city centre; and the City Ground will always be a ground steeped in history after being home to Brian Clough’s all conquering Nottingham Forest for 18 years. There are many great stadiums up and down the country and, done right, an away day at any of them is well worth the trouble but for a neutral, you cannot go wrong with the stadiums mentioned above. All of them are worth visiting for a number of reasons – be it history, social aspects, or just the charm of the stadium itself.