This story first appeared in the May 2016 edition of the Arsenal Magazine.
Photographer Stuart MacFarlane and blogger James Wilson address either side of this month's debate: Which is your favourite Premier League away ground? This article first featured in the May issue of Arsenal Magazine.
THIS MONTH’S DEBATE:
Which is your favourite Premier League away ground?
Chief club photographer at Arsenal Football Club
I really enjoy visiting Goodison Park, and the primary reason for that is that it reminds me of Highbury. It’s probably the last of the old grounds, Tottenham aside. The fans are just unbelievable.
They are so passionate, they scream for absolutely everything, even if it’s 100 per cent not Everton’s ball. The atmosphere is just fantastic and it’s like walking back in time at Everton, which I really like. Of the two Liverpool clubs, I feel as though you are treated better at Everton too. In general, the staff are very nice.
I can remember my first trip there as a photographer, in 1990. I always wanted to go to Everton, because in the 1980s they were such a great side. The ground hasn’t changed that much since then. On the side where the tunnel is, it’s still so much like Highbury.
In fact I think the same architect designed both stadiums. When I worked at Colorsport, you would see these old pictures of Everton from the 1950s and suff and when you went there it was exactly the same. You would see the blue and white panelling on the side and it was like taking a step back in time.
Goodison isn’t actually the best ground in the Premier League to work at, but you don’t mind that really. Highbury was similar, but people still used to love going there. The floodlights aren’t great and you’re quite far away from the pitch as a photographer.
You get stewards sitting in front of you at the end of each half but that doesn’t annoy me. I find at Everton you have to work a little bit harder to get a picture. I have a few standout memories at Goodison.
There was one game in 2009 when Robin van Persie scored a last-minute equaliser. I was standing between two stewards and was just about able to get a picture of it. Other goals spring to mind too, like Sylvain Wiltord’s winner there in 2002.
His shot took a massive deflection, looped over the goalkeeper and set up a 1-0 win. That was really good because it was like we were going back in time to a bit of ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’.
Arsenal season ticket holder, away game regular and contributor at www.legrove.co.uk
The Premier League is blessed with a veritable smorgasbord of stadia - from the city centre monolith of St James’ Park to the motorway-straddling Britannia (which unsurprisingly didn’t make the cut as my favourite away ground). As something of a traditionalist, I have always had a penchant for the ageing, rickety grounds that emanate history - Goodison and Villa Parks are high on the list.
As far as the new age stadia goes, I have found the fan experience at the Etihad to be better than most, however it is fairly charmless and mirroring the respective cities in which they are situ - it appears a poor cousin to the Emirates.
As a regular attendee of away games, my bank balance is highly appreciative of more localised trips - Selhurst Park, Stamford Bridge et al. As an Arsenal fan, irrespective of the convenient location, little can compare to the feeling of winning at White Hart Lane - be that a game or two titles.
My most visceral footballing memories tend to lead back to the home of our nearest (geographical) rivals - winning the league in 2004, any of Robert Pires’ goals, the 5-4 thriller in 2004/ 05 - even this year’s League Cup game will live long in the memory. Every great victory is of course tempered by the occasional blip - of which there have rather too many in recent years.
These are compartmentalised in the deepest, darkest recesses of my psyche and pale in comparison to the look of disdain and sadness on the faces of the home support as the Arsenal celebrate clinching a league title at the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road. The joy was also accelerated by some members of the home support believing Robbie Keane’s late penalty had prevented us claiming the title that day - only to be rivalled by “it’s 1-1 at Newcastle”.
The away fan experience entering the ground is in fact one of the worst I have experienced, often with a police escort in tow and looking out to a sea of frothing mouths and vitriol. The stadium is little more than a glorified tin-shed, the view from the away end is acceptable and to give credit where it’s due, the atmosphere is at fever pitch when the Arsenal are in town.
This is, however, all part of the north London derby and makes the feeling of winning at White Hart Lane unrivalled in terms of pure euphoria. Following your football team away from home can be a tough slog - long train journeys, disappointing results, bitter weather and even more bitter hangovers.
The reason I do it is for the memories shared with friends. It is White Hart Lane that has provided, and will continue to provide, my longest lasting memories of supporting Arsenal.
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