As I write this, I am in Manchester, preparing for a game tonight in Wigan. And when I realized how close Wigan is to town, I thought, “How many other English soccer clubs are close to Manchester?”
The answer? A lot.
If you’re a typical American tourist, you will probably be spending much, if not most, of your English trip in and around London. And well you should; it’s an incredible city, and an incredible football city.
But allow me to briefly make a case for Manchester, in particular if you are building your trip around soccer games.
Manchester is a vibrant, entertaining city, one that is growing like gangbusters and attracting many young professionals; it’s like Seattle and Portland combined (and with the same weather). For outdoorsy folks, the Pennines and Peak District National Park are just outside town, and the Lake District is a couple hours’ drive away.
But let’s talk about soccer. Even I was astounded to realize how many Football League clubs are so close to town.
Right in town, obviously, are Manchester United and Manchester City. Liverpool is less than an hour by train, adding Liverpool and Everton to the Premier League possibilities. On Manchester’s Metrolink light rail system you can reach Bury, Rochdale and Oldham.
Within 90 minutes from Piccadilly Station by train, you can get to Huddersfield Town, Wigan, Bolton Wanderers, Macclesfield Town, Crewe, Barnsley, both Sheffield clubs, Burnley, Bradford City, Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End, and Stoke City. Even Derby County and the Nottingham clubs are around 90 minutes, but at that point you should just stay in Nottingham.
With any of those clubs playing a 3 p.m. game, you could have a leisurely morning in Manchester, hop on a train, catch the game, and be back for dinner. And honestly, in most of those cases, you’d have a lot more fun staying in Manchester anyway.