Note: Obviously this trip is off now, but I’ll leave the post up as an example of the kind of trip one could plan — someday. I hope.
I will be making one more English soccer trip this spring, to visit several more clubs and finish off preparations for the 2020-21 edition of my guidebook.
Or I should say, I hope I am making one more trip. I hope the coronavirus doesn’t blow it up. I’m not personally concerned about catching it (as things stand right now) but of course if they cancel games and/or play them behind closed doors, I won’t go.
My Theme This Time: Stalking the League One Promotion Hopefuls
As of this writing, I have been to a game at every club currently in the Premier League and the Championship. I’ve been to 126 games at 69 different grounds around England and Wales. My goal is that when next year’s edition of The Groundhopper’s Guide to Soccer in England comes out, I will again have been to every place in the top two divisions.
Since I’ve been to all the current Championship clubs, that’s easy. Whoever gets promoted to the Premier League, I’ve been there. Same for whoever drops down to the Championship.
But what about the teams potentially coming up from League One? There are a few folks in there I’ve not been to. (Here, by the way, is a guide to all the leagues and cups of English football.)
The League One table as of today, March 5:
The two teams who finish above that first dotted line go up automatically. The four between the dotted lines go into the playoffs for the third promotion spot; yes, English soccer does has playoffs.
So, I’ve been to Coventry City — in their former ground. They are now ground-sharing with Birmingham City, where I’ve also been. Weird situation there. I’ve also been to Portsmouth, Wycombe Wanderers, Sunderland (a while back), Oxford United (where I had some really fun neighbors), Doncaster, Gillingham, and Burton Albion.
Glamour Cities, Here I Come!
That leaves Rotherham United, Fleetwood Town, Peterborough, and Ipswich Town that I’ve not been to in the top half of League One. So that’s where I’ll be focused on the next trip.
I’ve only got three weekends, though: April 18, April 25 and May 2. It happens that Rotherham host Doncaster, their rivals, on the 18th, so that’s goal #1. Rotherham is just outside Sheffield, and the following day Sheffield United hosts Wolverhampton. Some friends have hooked me up with seats at “Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane,” on the Kop no less.
Then again, the Blades are still in the FA Cup, so hell, they could be in the semis at Wembley that weekend. If they are, I sincerely hope they play on Sunday, so I could be in Rotherham Saturday and among the Blades Sunday.
So that’s the first weekend. The only midweek game that week is at Shrewsbury Town, so I’ll go there. I haven’t been there, either, and really, what kind of groundhopper are you if you skip a Tuesday night in Shrewsbury?
The following weekend my sister and her husband are scheduled to be in London, and they are trying to decide between Spurs-Arsenal and QPR-Millwall. No decision for me, but they may go for comfort over old-school authenticity.
The third weekend sees the final day of the Championship season on Saturday May 2; I will probably go back to Nottingham Forest, because several fans have told me my “(not really a) review” of their club needs updating since their fortunes have improved.
And then Sunday May 3 is the last day of League One. So I’ll take another look at the table and see where I need to go. I wish no harm to any club (outside of Seattle), but I mean, Fleetwood is a long way from London or Nottingham. So come on, Peterborough or Ipswich Town — maybe especially the latter, since it looks like Norwich is going down, and I want the East Anglian Derby back!