The latest in occasional series on the best non league football grounds in the country takes us to London courtesy of Louis Maughan from the East London groundhopping blog gotseats.co.uk
Louis’s piece joins an expanding list of submissions from our correspondents in Kent, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, Essex, Teesside and last time Sussex as we look to compile a list of some of the best venues to visit in the country.
Louis writes: The increasing demand, and cost, of land and property in the capital means that many traditional non-league grounds have been lost over the years. This has seen an increase in the number of teams sharing grounds and the arrival of the modern community stadium, equipped with a 3G pitch.
London non-league grounds are now a fascinating mix of the old and the new. Here are just a few of my favourites.
Coles Park, Haringey Borough
You might struggle to find a more up-and-coming non-league club in London than Haringey Borough. They recently enjoyed a live BBC First Round FA Cup tie against AFC Wimbledon as they made the ‘proper’ rounds of the famous competition for the first time ever. They’re also going well in their first season in the Bostik Premier Division.
The ground is unique (the only one on White Hart Lane), colourful and the club is welcoming. There is a strong community spirit around the fairly new plastic playing surface. You’ll often see manager Tom Loizu sweeping up on the touchline or helping behind the bar. You can sit up in the elevated stand with the powerfully voiced ‘Bell End’ supporters or get close to the action in the open sections.
More on Haringey Borough
The Old Spotted Dog, Clapton/Hackney Wick
The Old Spotted Dog is the oldest senior football ground in the capital. You enter via an auspicious alleyway signalled only via the Clapton FC sign and emerge into a treasure trove of a classic old non-league ground. It’s a little run down with plenty of sharp edges, but that’s just how we like it, isn’t it?
The ground is now sadly lacking the famous Clapton Ultras who, unhappy with the club’s management, have left, formed a new team and are reluctantly boycotting the old ground. I’d recommend looking up the latest on the situation before visiting. If you sympathise with their stance you can always go and see Hackney Wick instead.
The Wickers were founded by local community figure Bobby Kasanga who recently appeared on BT Sport. The step six club have a strong ethos of bringing on youngsters from the local community in their youth sides. They also provide educational workshops, mentoring and paths into employment.
More on Hackney Wick
Mile End Stadium, Tower Hamlets/Sporting Bengal United
Staying in East London, Essex Senior League rivals Tower Hamlets and Sporting Bengal United share the Mile End Stadium (pictured at the top of the page). The eagle-eyed of you will spot the running track. Yes, it’s a little off-putting and it does affect the view a little but the ground is in such a great setting.
The stadium is situated in the heart of the east end, in the shadow of Canary Wharf. It makes for some unique photo opportunities as the light fades and trains rush past the nearby tower blocks. Both clubs are also very welcoming. They cheerfully serve tea and snacks out of one of the storage rooms. There is a large main stand to compensate for the running track and you can also wander round to the far side to get closer to the two dugouts.
Harry Abrahams Stadium, Wingate & Finchley
Just off the North Circular is a gem of a football ground. You might not even realise it’s there but the home of Wingate & Finchley has a beautiful art-deco style main stand and the pitch always seems to be immaculate – tip of the hat to the groundsman. The Blues are enjoying their eighth season in the Bostik Premier Division and are currently managed by former Burnley and Reading player Glen Little.
The main stand is set back a little from the pitch but the rest of the ground is fairly tight meaning you can’t help but strike up a conversation with fellow fans, or the occasional groundhopper. The ground is also in a great setting in hilly North London with views of Alexandra Palace and the surrounding area.
More on Wingate & Finchley
St Pauls Stadium, Fisher FC
Another ground directly in the shadow of Canary Wharf and the Docklands. The former Conference (National League) side Fisher have been reborn in recent years following being wound up in 2009. In 2016 their brand new community stadium was completed and ‘the Fish’ moved in following years of sharing with Dulwich Hamlet.
The ground which is on the London Marathon route has a modern seating area and covered stand for the South London faithful, the rest is open and good fun for children. It’s an exceptionally welcoming club that’s well set up for a step five outfit and well worth a visit. It’s also a bus ride away from the trendy markets of Maltby Street and Borough.
More on Fisher FC
For more information on non league away days, from clubs you should visit to costs involved visit our Away Days section here. And if you would like to submit five grounds from your area then please email [email protected]
All photos in this article copyright and provided by Louis Maughan.