Football Ground Poems

Over half a century, I have been slowly working my way around the football grounds of England and Wales.To date I have visted some sixty odd current grounds with another dozen or so which have been left behind as their clubs have moved on. During that time many clubs have moved homes. With some exceptions the new grounds lack the character, and inevitably the history, of their forebears. In this sequence, which I shall add to, I intend to try to capture the essence of some of those sixty odd grounds.

The Clock End Highbury

Highbury
Grandiose with marble halls
Too good for Woolwich
More at home with Herbert Chapman
Than the flowing locks of Charlie George
The Clock End offered the best vantage point
Of the Metropolitan Police band
Who never played a flat note

Stamford Bridge
The Kings Road drew the bright young things
When Charlie Cooke was running rings
The Shed sat awkwardly, only partially sheltering
Phalanxes of shaven heads, as shiny
As the medals on the Pensioners in the East Stand
Around, the greyhound lanes, faded
Under floodlight glare

The Boleyn Ground

Echoing to the sound of Bow Bells and Bubbles
The East End of Commercial Rd and Mile End
Congregated in defiant solidarity
At the feet of Bobby Moore
When the ICF ruled
Before the IMF usurped it
From the North Bank to Deutche Bank.
Where Hurst and Peters saluted the Chicken Run
Humble graduates of the first football academy

Goodison Park

Home to the School of Science
And the dyslexic nightmare
Of the Gwladys Street End
The sound of the neighbours
Can always be heard
Across Stanley Park
St Luke’s lifts the spirits
As Howard Kendal once did
Since whose time the Toffee’s
Have come unstuck

Anfield

Erstwhile home to Everton
Shankly casts a bigger shadow
Than the Kop
The Scouse for Borussia Monchengladbach
Is unknown
Yet the name is part of the foundations
And the turf still dips under the weight
Of defeated Spanish and Italian feet
Five times

The Hawthorns

The Brummie Rd End still dominates
Where Bomber Brown banged ‘em in
To a tune spun by the Three Degrees
All colours of The Rainbow
A lofty perch unmatched
Astle’s England miss is forgiven
For services rendered

Craven Cottage

The Riverside End offered the perfect view
Of the boat race
Sedate streets lead to genteel raucousness
The Cottage squats awkwardly
Quaint pavilion
At the other end of the Kings road
Johnny Haynes stands in statuesque splendour
Whilst imposters Beat It.

Elland Road

Still stalked by Ray Tinkler’s unheard whistle
Now a mausoleum to folklore
The once defiant hordes
Of Yorkshires Republican Army
Mourn from the Gelderd End
Citadel of the faithful
Where Southampton had feet of clay
Destroyed by Revie’s gods

Vale Park

Once to be the Wembley of the North
Now the finest in Burslem, one in six
Sproson’s efforts still linger
The Railway stand glowers
Behind which there was no railway
A testament to what might have been
To what a marl pit might have created

The DW Stadium

Host to a sport which is out of its League
Appreciated by few
Dragged to impossible heights by one man
The road to Wigan Pier ends in disappointment
Its functional sides contrast
With Springfield Park’s trotting hooves
And cycle track

Turf Moor

Perched on the hill
The latticed street pattern is etched
Adopted child of butcher and barbers’ son
Bob Lord’s claret and blue blood
Pumps through proud Lancastrian heritage
Hailed by the Longside,
Leighton James’ runs roared on

The Valley

Now the only team in Woolwich
Nestling in a capacious bowl
In which The Who played “Substitute”
Silent for seven years
The Covered End since reborn
Legacy of Jimmy’s Seed
In South London’s roots

The Baseball Ground

Its curtilage distorted by an alien game
Its name synonymous with Clough
Usurper to Longson’s fiefdom
The multi-tier stands crouch
Almost toppling in
Chants billowing from the Popside
And Ossie Road Ends
Forged on Vulcan’s anvil

Old Trafford

Monument to excess and tradition
The megastore spews out profits
But the Munich clock tells the time
When George was Best in front of the Streford End
Which always did have seats at the back
Flat pack stands link in awkward symmetry
Ill fitting galleries to the masses,
Who throng outside Macari’s Chippy
And suits devouring prawns
Yet all feast on what is laid before them

St Andrews

The Main stand sits awkwardly
Dwarfed by shiny imposters
With familiar names, but unfamiliar seats
Home to denizens of dark alleys and dingy pubs
With passion not manufactured, but bursting
Pledged steadfast till the end of the road
Zulu cries salute modern heroes from the Kop
Cup custodians after a century

Turf Moor

Upon approach, the town is line sketched
Perched on the hillside
Peeping through the moor ‘s mist
Of humble mill stock, a club once ruled by a Lord
The Longside still pines for Leighton James
Feet still ache from the Long March to Blackburn
The ticket office feels like an aunt’s front room
Perhaps it was, once

Eastlands

At night it sparkles, a gigantic Christmas bauble
Stars shine above and within
A football stud now replaces the athlete’s spike
A bowl of seats now replaces the brooding Kippax
Big Mal watches on approvingly
Eyes half hidden by fedora brim
Yet illuminated by Havanah glow
Gentleman Joe smiles
Sir Alex asks if they could tone down the noise

Baseball Ground

Not just two games in one
But two grounds in one
Layered one on the other
Reverberating the Popside roar
And the stamp of Ossie Stand feet
On wooden slatted floorboards
Ringside to Franny and Norman
Defined by brown mud
And a green top
An odd couple

St James’s Park

Never to be found in Devon
It squats, a citadel, towering over all
A beacon for miles around, and beyond
The Leazes and Gallowgate still wait in hope
Spirits lifted by Wor Jackie and SuperMac
One club, one city, one Geordie nation
As one

The Stadium of Light

A name borrowed from Portugal
A site reclaimed from a pit
Within earshot of the Roker Roar
Montgomerie’s save ,
Saved in Mackem folklore,forever
And in the Directors box a peg remains unused
Waiting for Bob Stokoe’s hat

The City Ground

Revels in the assonance of the Trent End
The mazy runs of Storey- Moore and Collymore
A place where being Robin Hood,
King John or the Sherrif, is not enough
For no-one can usurp the irascible Brian Clough
Or two European Cups

The Vetch Field

Was never quiet finished
With awkward stands and displaced floodlights
Rumours around the Tafia abound
The North Bank stretched the Jack faithful
Along the touchline for the Toshack clap
From the back you could see Swansea Bay
From the Prison you could see the Vetch

White Hart Lane

Seven Sisters was always further away than anticipated
The Shelf noisier than you might expect
The Park Lane, not THAT Park Lane.
On the roof the Cockerel has had little to crow about
Since the double days of Billy Nick
Yet the football and stands offer a certain style
A confidence as assured as a Hoddle pass

Old Trafford

The seats at the back of the Stretford End are often forgotten
Screened under a low roof, but part of the raucous roar for
Edwards Charlton, Best and Law.
The pride of all Europe, the cock of the north
Still rule here under Sir Alex’s fiefdom
In Mancunian foklore
King Cantona still holds court
Amongst Salford’s finest
The approach is still the Sir Matt Busby way

Kenilworth Road

Sits uncomfortably in streets that don’t care
The smiles of Haslam and Morecambe as faded
As memories of Wembley glory
Flat caps and top hats
The Oak Road sings unfamiliar songs now
Whilst the Bobbers Stand defiantly resists modernity
David Pleat did the double, but never danced here

Hillsborough

Doomed to be immortalised by disaster
The Leppings Lane squats, uncomfortably
At one end, a tombstone to the ninety six
A grand history and tradition sullied by a stain
That cannot easily be erased
As Kay and Swan haunt a more distant past.
But the stands still sweep gloriously against
A steep backdrop, dreaming of better days

The Abbey Stadium

An awkward club, an awkward ground
In awkward surrounds
Leivers Beck and Dublin are the Trinity here
Greenhalgh is still glimpsed, blonde mane,
Shoulder dipping, pre-shot
Cellery may arch pitchwards from the Allotments
The Corona end bubbles and bursts,
Never first, but once a good second

Elland Road

Still stalked by Ray Tinkler’s unheard whistle
Home to the champions of Europe who never were
Of Revie’s niggardly glory,and Cloughs implosion
The Gelderd End struts regardless imploring all
To be marching on together
Folly like, the East Stand looms
As absurd in its modernity, as the Scratching Shed was primitive
Yorkshire waits for twenty seven uninterrupted passes
Once more

The Den

Railway arches cast menacing shadows
Terraced houses and streets chafe
In south east London claustrophobia
A smoggy chill gripped the air
As you approached the lions lair
Where Cripps, Kitchener and F Troop ruled
The manor in unruly manner
The ground seemingly closed as often as it was open.
You heard it on their lips, you sensed it in the name
There never was a visit, like a visit to Cold Blow Lane

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