I was bought up a dyed in the wool Manchester City fan, through thick and thin, from relegations to centurions, however, I also consider myself a Curzon Ashton fan, and have family ties to Sunderland AFC and Scunthorpe United. I have had a lot of ELF and non-league away days.
The main joys of the leagues are the eccentricities of the places and the grounds you visit. Luton, walking through a terraced house to get to the away end. Yorks bathroom facilities overlooking peoples gardens, the Stadium of light and its sweetshop-cum-nightclub as you walk from town to the ground, and so many more.
I have lost so many hours to researching the likes of North Ferriby, Grimsby and Morecambe. I have got inordinately lost trying to find Bower Fold. “I know all of Tameside like the back of my hand” I once proudly proclaimed. It turned out I do not.
I’ve said it before and I will reiterate, you will go to so many more interesting places once you drop out of the Premier League. I don’t want to spend £60 on a Pendolino to go to watch Chelsea. I will however happily wonder “where on earth is this place” looking at a teams name, and waste close to an entire weekend traipsing over there, probably with a slight existential crisis stuck in motorway traffic along the way. Don’t add up how much you spend on petrol and trains on these excursions. You could probably book yourself an all-inclusive break somewhere significantly more desirable than Nottingham.
You can have some great days out without leaving the home comforts of the Greater Manchester area too. Broadhurst park has a remarkable atmosphere for football of that level, attracting thousands to every game, and singing the whole game through. Stockport County, as you would expect from a team with their history, have a huge ground, tucked away down a terraced street, and adverts in the toilets stating if you buy a funeral with a local provider you get a free county shirt.
Salford City, perched on the top of a hill in Kersal with its sloping pitch and rapid development is worth going to now before they inevitably need to relocate. Oldham’s ground remains quite literally the coldest place I have ever been to, and Macclesfield’s ground (stretching the boundaries of Greater Manchester here, but it’s about a tenner on the train) is as old as time and utter beauty.
Sure you don’t have Aguero playing for Bury and Rashford kicking about for Altrincham, but there is a charm of following your team away in the leagues and National League, you might find yourself wondering if you will die of exposure stuck in stationary traffic on the A1 but also you will see the same die-hard faces every week, you’ll go to some hilariously cheap pubs, you’ll get unforgivably lost in Middlesborough, and go to a lot of seaside towns.
Make a resolution to go to a game or two away this season, you won’t regret it.