Having visited nearly 80 grounds in Britain and abroad I have often been struck as to how influential the positioning of the away end can be in relation to the enjoyment of the match.
This is not because I’m particularly fussed about the view, though seeing the pitch is probably an advantage (depending on who you support), but because certain ‘visiting sections’ are far more conducive to creating a racket than others.
For example whilst bearing Wolves no malice as a club, the away end at Molineux – spread across the narrow lower tier of the Steve Bull Stand – is terrible with fans spread over the entire length of the pitch with no immediate roof to retain the noise, meaning it’s a trip no one outside of the Midlands relishes.
On the other hand whilst trips to Villa never set the pulse racing when the away fans were sat behind the goal, it has been transformed into a decent day out with the away end being moved to the side. Equally Portsmouth was much improved when they added the roof and not just because it always bucketed down when I went.
Whilst it’s not uniformly the case – you can make a fair din at Old Trafford despite none of the below applying – the best away ends are normally behind the goal, compact, with a low roof. Close proximity to some mouthy home fans and stewards that don’t spend the entire game trying to force you to sit are an added bonus.
At the back of the stand at grounds like Anfield, Goodison (although the end isn’t behind the goal) and Loftus Road you might not be able to see much of the action but you can certainly get behind your team and that’s preferable to a perfect view seated at The Reebok any day.
Unfortunately as more and more clubs look to relocate or renovate many of these quirks that make a good away end are being overlooked in favour of comfort and a decent view as the football authorities dream of a future where all grounds resemble the Emirates.
Hopefully it’ll never happen.
By Callum West