I do love planning to watch soccer games in England. And while nobody else may care, I thought I would share what I know of my next trip — somewhat to work it out, somewhat to (yes) brag, and somewhat to show what kind of soccer trip to England one can put together.
This is also to point out why the holidays are one of the best times to see soccer in England.
So I will leave Portland on Boxing Day, which is to say I will be missing hundreds of games that day in the UK. Can’t be helped; I live being home for Christmas.
As always happens, some of those Boxing Day games get moved for television, and these couldn’t have broken better for me. Over the holidays, the authorities like to reduce travel time for fans, so you get lots of local rivalries — in this case, two of them close to where I stay with friends in South London.
- December 27: Arrive and chill in London
- December 28: Crystal Palace v Arsenal in the Premier League
- December 29: Millwall v Queens Park Rangers, another proper Championship London Derby.
- December 30: Day trip to Cambridge to see the town and catch Cambridge United v Crewe Alexandra in League Two.
- December 31; I might go to Spurs v West Ham, just because I haven’t been to a Spurs game at Wembley. I did see England v Scotland there once.
January 1 is another “everybody plays” day like Boxing Day, and again some of the games get moved. I will probably stick to the London area that day, seeing either Barnet (where I whiffed on a game once before) or Luton Town, both in League Two. I need to get to all the London clubs for the book. Or maybe Charlton v Gillingham in League One, which is a more appealing game, even though I’ve been to Charlton before.
I could also go up to Leeds or Preston on New Years Day, but I plan to be in London on the 2nd for Fulham v Ipswich Town, so I’ll probably stay south the whole time.
And them I am finally off — no games — on Wednesday and Thursday, January 3 and 4. I shall chill in London.
That next weekend is the magical Third Round of the FA Cup, when the Premier League and Championship clubs enter the competition and often get matched up against some “minnow” that has survived the earlier rounds. This is what they call “the magic of the FA Cup,” and even though most Brits think it is fading as the bigger clubs blow off the Cup, I still think it’s wonderful.
Thing is, I won’t know who is playing whom or where until at least December 4, when they have the draw after the Second Round is played that weekend. So for now, all I know is Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday will be somewhere in the FA Cup.
Then we have Tuesday and Wednesday, January 8 and 9, when the first leg of the semifinals of the League Cup will happen; but we won’t know those matchups until about December 21, when the quarters are finished.
January 10 and 11, near as I can tell, there are no games whatsoever. Two more nights off, with my location probably determined by the League Cup semis.
Friday, January 12 is the big one, when I try to get into the return leg of the Steel City Derby, Sheffield Wednesday away to Sheffield United. I saw the first one of these in September, and it was a classic. A video I took of the crucial moment in that also resulted in my hearing from a whole lot of United fans, and I am hoping (as well as posting and Tweeting and everything else) that somebody there can get me a ticket.
On Saturday the 13th, I will head up to Middlesbrough to see them play Fulham, my somewhat adopted team. I could also go to Hull, and would rather as a tourist, but I don’t see any way Hull get promoted to the Premier League for next season, while Boro is right up there in the mix. So north and east it is.
Sunday the 14th I relax in Middlesbrough and take a train back to London. Overnight with my friends, and on the 15th it’s Iceland Air to Portland, via Reykjavik and Seattle. Whew.
So, to recap, if I go to all those possible games, I would be in England 19 nights and see 13 games! If you lop off arrival night and pre-departure night, it’s 13 games in a 17-day stretch. I can’t tell if I should be proud or worried about myself.