the home of cult football
Or put another way, 10 sets of fans that are more likely to greet you with a hand shake than a firm thwack in the midriff. This is obviously based on our shared experiences, don't expect them to be too friendly if you like to sit in the home sections and celebrate an injury-time winner, scrambled home after deflecting off their defenders backside.
|1||Brentford||Our number one. At most grounds if a request came over the Tannoy for the home fans to clap the away fans for making the journey you'd expect jeers and a volley of abuse, but not at Griffin Park - they actually clapped. With a pub at every corner of the stadium (Royal Oak, Griffin, Princess Royal, New Inn), you can get a drink in each one and enjoy some cracking banter with the locals. The New Inn tends to be the 'away' pub, but we've been in all four and there were some great characters knocking around. Prepare for a soaking in the away end though - its an open terrace.|
|2||Norwich City||Going to the East Anglia area in general is like stepping back in time 40 years, back to a better England, where people are polite, considerate, and doff their caps at you. A place where rosy cheeked youngsters crunch on apples rather than pot noodles, and village life involves sitting on a bale of hay, chewing on a piece of straw, and watching the world go by. Its an image only strengthened by a trip to Carrow Road, where you almost expect the locals to start waving rattles and chanting "ra-ra-ra". The Norwich fans maybe incredibly friendly, but to be fair they've been turning up in their numbers for years now and really like to get behind their team. The ground, the staff, even the city itself, all seem geared up for a family day out. They even seem to do a better class of pies as well - forget simple meat and potato, here its chicken, mushroom and garlic; beef in red wine gravy; and lamb with foie gras. Probably. It may take forever to get to Norwich from anywhere else in the country, except possibly Ipswich, buts its worth a trip to meet some genuinely decent fans. For a pre-match bevvy try the Compleat Angler, we went in there on our last visit, top pub and only about 5 mins from the ground.|
|3||Notts County||You genuinely have to respect these fans. You just know that anyone brought up to support Notts County in the Nottingham area and who manages to stick with them has got to be a decent sort. The temptations to swap alliances to your main rivals, who've won the league, the bloody European Cup, twice, and who patronisingly view you as a little brother, their 'second favourite team', must be massive. Imagine being a Notts County fan at school - young, impressionable, and not wanting to stand-out, and yet everyone's laughing at you because you're the only one wearing the black and white kit, the one your dad insists is "character building". Well guess what ? He's right. Anyone who sticks with the Magpies through that is going to make a decent set of fans, a view only amplified by our trips to Meadow Lane. The Southbank and the Globe, 2 pubs on either side of Trent Bridge, are decent pubs where you can get a decent drink and snap before the match and always seems to have a good mix of home and away fans.|
|4||Tranmere Rovers||A trip to Birkenhead might not sound too appealing, but we've always found Tranmere away a surprisingly good day out. Maybe there's a similar factor at work to the Notts County one - they're a smallish team with two whopping great giants of football on their doorstep, but the fans who turn up week in, week out at Prenton Park are just as passionate as any Evertonians or Reds. The pubs close to the ground are always good for a laugh - with plenty of the legendary Scouse wit knocking around, and the chance of bumping into legendary Rovers fans' Half Man Half Biscuit.|
|5||Watford||During the mayhem of the 80's Watford stood alone, whereas every other club in the country was creating firms and crews, the only mob they were interested in was Murphy's Mob, the classic kids TV football drama of the time, filmed at the club's Vicarage Road ground. Actually, this isn't strictly true, Watford did have the infamous Brimson Brothers, an elite duo of battle-hardened hooligans who have somehow made a living from writing about all their rucks. Did they imagine it all ? Was it a dream ? Were they actually writing about incidents in the playground ? Maybe they could create a stage show, touring as 'the fire and Brimson Brothers'. Well, anyway, the brothers aside, every time we've been to Watford since the 80's its been a grand day out, with their fans being about as friendly as is possible without actually hugging or kissing.|
|6||Bournemouth||Hats off to the Cherries supporters - any set of fans that can tolerate the marauding gangs of opposing fans all down on a weekend jolly to their seaside town, must be pretty virtuous. They're probably used to it as an all year occurrence anyway, with stag do's and hen nights taking over the town every weekend. Whatever, they're a likeable set of fans, who have shown their devotion by creating strong supporters groups that have invested heavily in the club.|
|7||Crewe||Is there anything particularly bad that can be said about Crewe Alexandre ? The club, and its fans, seem to mirror Dario Gradi's teams... generally pleasant. There are a number of decent pubs between the ground and the town's famous railway station.|
|8||Charlton||In contrast to local rivals West Ham and Millwall, who both tend to attract their fair share of loonies, Charlton are very much a family club, with a great community feel to it and a strong supporter influence at high levels in the club. Addicks fans clearly love their club and manage to direct their efforts towards Charlton rather than becoming obsessed with rival fans, which is probably why the Valley has a good feel about it on match day rather than the disturbing undercurrents found at many London clubs. The Rose of Denmark pub is a good bet for a drink before the game, with a very relaxed attitude towards away supporters.|
|9||Bury||If you didn't know the Greater Manchester area and went on its media reputation you'd expect away-days to the area's football clubs to be about as easy-going as a Stephen King novel. But a trip to Bury should quickly dismiss this notion. We've been to Gigg Lane a few times and always found 'the Shakers' to be a good-humoured bunch, with plenty of footy chat to be had in the pubs around the ground, particularly those on the A56 and the roads leading off it. Good atmosphere inside the ground as well.|
|10||York City||Ok, so they're out of the main leagues now, but York deserves a mention, as it was always a fantastic away day. A friendly club with a decent set of fans, Bootham Crescent (or Kit Kat Crescent as its now called!) makes for a fine atmosphere with the Minstermen giving their team fine vocal backing. The York away day has the real bonus of the city itself - a top place, and with it being such a popular tourist destination there's a cracking selection of pubs and bars, with a really good mix of people. Basically, just imagine the complete opposite to an away day at Stoke City.|
To be honest we could have put a whole host of west country teams in there, the people down there are a bit like those in East Anglia - suspiciously friendly compared to some other parts of the country. Exeter, Torquay, Southampton, all good away days without a whiff of danger, but plenty of decent banter with the locals. Southampton are probably one of the friendliest of the bigger clubs we've come across.
Fulham could easily make our list too, a great day out in a really atmospheric ground, and as far as we know they're the only club to have a dedicated 'neutral' section of the ground - where both home and away fans can mix. Just imagine that at Millwall.
Finally, a friendly nod in the direction of Cheltenham and Wycombe Wanderers - whose fans are almost as pleasant as their settings.