Ground Number 132
First visit – Bristol Rovers v Grimsby (14/15 Vanarama Premier Division Play-Off Final)
Not a bad little ground to have a look at for possibly the last game of the season! The biggest contrast possible from my other new ground this week at Lostock Gralam. Having never been to the stadium before the redevelopment, I have nothing to compare it with, but I was impressed with Wembley.
One feature from the original ground which I am very pleased has been retained is Wembley Way, although the name has been tampered with, now officially known as Olympic Way. I think this might be a bit like the Sports Direct naming rights of St James’ Park, where no-one ever uses the new name though. It is a special sight to see thousands of fans heading along this walkway to the stadium, it must be even more impressive when it is a full house. The elevated walkway all around the ground is also a good space to allow all the fans to mill around and helps create a bit of an atmosphere.
These modern grounds are a bit more difficult to describe than some of the characterful non-league grounds which have a range of odd features, and Wembley is no different. The concourse area is pretty nondescript as most are, although there is a good range of places to buy food and merchandise. It could be improved with a few images of great English football moments or something similar to make it stand out.
The moment when you walk up the steps and first emerge out to see the inside of the stadium is impressive, the scale of the place is most noticeable, especially for someone who is more used to 6,000 capacity grounds. We were seated on the third row, almost right on the half-way line, excellent seats considering what we paid for them. It did look a pretty long way to some of the Bristol fans sat right at the back of the third tier, but I am assured that even from up in the gods the views are decent.
Once you get over the size of the stadium, there is not a lot of great architecture to grab the attention, but it does seem like a more interesting build than some of these flat-pack efforts. The seats were also much larger than most football grounds, not quite Lancashire CC proportions, but a good effort considering there are 90,000 of them.
All in all a great venue, which seems to be efficiently managed and not too over sanitized. Shame it had to be constructed in London, when arguably a specialist site in the Midlands, where more effective and sustainable transport links and a much cheaper build could have been provided. Now it’s here though, will hopefully be making some trips back when my team has made it to a final.