Over the past week, football fans have finally made their returns to grounds – and it’s fair to say that it’s been quite exciting for us here at FanHub.
Though the numbers have been small, and it’s been far from normality experience-wise, progress is progress. But with the UK having delivered its first vaccines this morning, things can only get better from here.
Away days are one of the most important aspects of football. The friends, the journeys, the memories – I could go on. And with it hopefully now being just a matter of months until their return, it’s time to start getting excited again and thinking of which grounds you’re most looking forward to ticking off with your club.
So, which are the best away days in League One? Are there any that have stood out for you? Any that you look for as soon as the fixture list is released? Here’s a top five I’ve put together having visited almost every ground in the third tier.
5th – Accrington Stanley
Easily the most underrated within the entire EFL and more than worthy of a top five place.
It’s a far cry from the 20,000+ seater stadiums of MK Dons, Sunderland, and Portsmouth – but that’s what makes it so good. Accrington away is a proper traditional day out with great pubs, great people, and an open-air terrace.
Accrington as a town is easily accessible from a handful of larger places in Lancashire by rail and bus. The ground is situated an easy walk from the centre with a number of pubs, takeaways, and shops along the way.
‘The Railway’ – as you’d expect, situated right next to the station – is a fantastic little local pub serving a wide range of drinks at very reasonable prices. The staff are welcoming of away fans, provided they respect the locals and aren’t too loud.
Accrington’s terrace is, well, fantastic. Just shy of 2,000 travelling fans can be accommodated behind the goal making for a great atmosphere among larger followings. The bar behind the stand is cheap and easily accessible, perfect for when your side are 2-0 down at half-time.
Certainly worth a visit if you never have before – though with Stanley’s current form rocketing them up the table, who knows what division they’ll be in next season!
4th – Bristol Rovers
Having a lot of family that support Rovers, I’m probably a bit bias with this one. Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic day out and one of the best in the division.
Bristol is a great city with plenty to do and see, even if it can be a bit pricey. The ground isn’t too far from a selection of decent pubs and bars; it is, however, a long journey from any of the train stations and may require a taxi if you’re not keen on walking.
For the traditionalist, the Mem’s away end is fantastic – an open terrace with a great view of the pitch. Owing to there being no concourse, however, the club are unable to serve alcoholic drinks to away fans. Be aware as well that it can take a lap or two to find owing to a lack of signage.
A mixture of a great city and a great ground make Rovers a fantastic day out, and it gets a big thumbs up from us here.
3rd – Sunderland
Any away day in the North East tends to be one of the best, and Sunderland is of no exception to that rule.
A lot of away fans will often have to travel into Newcastle to get to Sunderland and, as such, will spend their pre-match there. There are plenty of pubs, restaurants and parks to spend a few hours in and the locals are, as everyone says, incredibly friendly. I can also tell you now, wearing the shirt of whoever the Black Cats are playing that afternoon will get you a fair few free drinks in Toon.
Sunderland is then about 25 minutes away on the metro. The Stadium of Light, whilst not having the character of some of the other grounds, is still breath-taking for this level – hence us rating it as the best in the division a few weeks ago. The many flights of stairs up to the away end are iconic; there’s a bar halfway up for those that may need a breather and a refreshment.
The walk back to the train/metro station after the game is incredible. I’ve never been in a crowd with so many football fans, traipsing over the bridge and back into town – though it’s not so great if your team have just lost, as was the case for me! From there, it’s easy to get a last bite to eat before heading back home.
It certainly has that ‘Premier League’ feel to it that is seldom experienced at this level, making Sunderland one of the most popular in the division – and rightfully so, in my eyes.
2nd – Rochdale
As a student at Manchester, I’m again probably a bit bias with this one – but anything even remotely close to the best city in England is going to be a great day out.
The city centre is crammed with pubs and bars to match any taste, a host of both chain and independent establishments being dotted around the infamous Piccadilly Gardens. The National Football Museum is also a brief walk from all main train stations and pre-booked entrance is just £10.50.
Rochdale itself is a short journey from the centre of Manchester, accessible via both tram and local railway links. The ground is a fair way from both stations but is certainly still walkable. Both Uber and local taxi services are available, the latter of which a far better option to support small, local businesses.
The best bit about Rochdale, though? The legendary chippy behind the away end. Many an away fan has aided their pre-match hydration with fish, chips and curry sauce from one of the most recognised food outlets in league football.
A big thumbs up to one of the most underrated away days in the UK.
1st – Blackpool (and Fleetwood Town)
Coming in at first on my list, though, is Blackpool and Fleetwood combined into one.
Blackpool is widely recognised as one of the best and most cherished days out in the country; it’s clear to see why. The seaside town is packed with pubs, arcades, and other things to do pre-match.
The Manchester, a bar/club on the seafront operating most hours of the day, is just a short walk from the ground and provides an excellent final pitstop before entering Bloomfield Road. Inside, refreshments and food are both available at fair prices inside a spacious, welcoming concourse that can hold hundreds of travelling fans.
At the other end of the coast, Fleetwood’s ground is perhaps not as well-placed as their near neighbours, but its open terrace gives it that great non-league, lower tier feel. Just over 600 fans can be accommodated behind the goal, making for a great atmosphere among larger followings.
It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but on a warm, summer’s day, there’s nowhere better. Even when the weather isn’t so great, there are fewer places better to spend a lunchtime than in Blackpool’s pubs along the seafront.
There are a handful of others always worth a shout.
Milton Keynes can be a good trip if taking a larger following. Plymouth is by no means the most exciting, nor glamorous, but it can be great if spending the weekend down there.
Charlton is another that narrowly missed the list. London aways are a bit like marmite – some hate them, some love them. Interested to know what you think!
But are there any others you would add to this list? Is your League One club a great away day?
Make sure to drop us a message in the comments below, or tweet us over on @FanHub_Football!