I just love planning trips to see soccer in England. And right now I’m planning a doozy for December 2015 and January 2016.
(This post is a little out of date — here are my 2017 plans and why the holidays are the best time to go see soccer in England)
Since people have been emailing me lately about planning their own English soccer trips, and since I have already offered some general trip-planning advice, I thought I would follow up with the details of my holiday-season trip planning.
The holidays are one of the best times to see soccer in England, because there are a lot of games all packed together in a short time frame. In this case, I will be in England from December 17 2015 to January 6 2016, a total of 19 nights, and I could potentially see 11 games!
So here is what I am planning, and how I go about it.
December 17 I arrive in London and stay with friends.
December 18 is a Friday, and I will either take a three-hour roundtrip train ride to Southend United, east of town, for an evening League One game against Bury, or head up to Birmingham for a Championship game between Birmingham City and Cardiff. All this depends on money and which tickets I can get. (If you don’t know what League One and the Championship are, read my guide to the leagues and cups of English football.)
If I wind up in Birmingham, which is the most likely, I will stay at a Holiday Inn right across from the station, which I’ll pay for with HI loyalty points; I get them from a credit card bonus. (Read more about how much English soccer trips can cost.) And I will go out for some killer balti; the curries are insane in Birmingham.
On Saturday December 19th, if I’m in London I will either:
- Make a day trip to Southampton (vs. Tottenham) in the Premier League or Brighton and Hove Albion (vs. Middlesborough) in the Championship — the latter being a top-of-the-table six-pointer. (Read here to learn what that means.)
- or stay in town and go see Brentford of the Championship play Huddersfield Town.
- and then on the 20th go up to Watford to see them play Liverpool.
- OR transfer to Bristol for a Saturday game against QPR and then on to Swansea for a Sunday the 20th game against West Ham.
Assuming I’m in Birmingham on the morning of the 19th, then I transfer to Manchester, get my usual AirBnB near the station, then go to Bolton to see my favorite team, Fulham. On December 20th, I stay in Manchester and make a day trip to either Sheffield to see Sheffield Wednesday (their actual name) host Wolverhampton or to Leeds to see them against Preston North End. I might decide to stay in either of those towns to check them out for my book.
Confused? Welcome to my world.
In any case, Monday December 21st is simple, because my London friends are paid Arsenal members (a way to get priority for tickets), and we’re going to be behind the goal, lower level, for Manchester City at Arsenal that night! Sorry to be crude, but I have a serious hard-on for that game. The reality of getting tickets to English soccer is that the big games are hard to get and/or expensive, so I am thrilled to see the top two teams in the Premier League go at it.
From the 22nd through Christmas, there are no games, so I may just chill in London, hit some stadium tours (like this one at Fulham), and go to the Football Association office to see if I can get some kind of media pass. Or I may swing out to the Cotswolds to scout a little for a hiking trip on the Cotswold Way I’m leading there for Embark Adventures in April. Christmas will be in London with friends.
The day after Christmas is Boxing Day, when everybody plays everywhere, and I have friends from Portland joining me for a day. Again depending on tickets, I’ll take them to one of three London clubs playing at home that day: Brentford vs. Brighton, Tottenham vs. Norwich, or Chelsea vs. Watford. And here is everything I’ve learned so far about buying tickets to English soccer.
After that, I will keep things simple here and just describe my Plan A:
- Sunday Dec. 27 take the train to Nottingham and see Nottingham Forest play Leeds.
- Monday Dec. 28 stay in Nottingham and make a day trip to either Burton, Chesterfield, or Barnsley (all League One).
- Tuesday Dec. 29 go to Leicester to see them play Manchester City — another serious hard-on game. I just got my ticket for that one — for about 90 pounds (maybe $150), which is insane but includes a membership for the season. And it’s a killer seat to a killer game. Yes!!!
- Wednesday Dec. 30 I might go nuts and head up to Sunderland, see some friends, watch them play Liverpool, and do some book work there and in Newcastle. Or I’ll do book work elsewhere. Or just head back to London and rest.
- Thursday is New Year’s Eve — London would seem to be a fun place to spend it!
- Friday Jan. 1 is a day trip to see Brighton and Hove Albion (great name) vs. Wolverhampton, or I stay in town to see QPR play Hull — though I’ve already seen a game at Loftus Road.
- Saturday Jan. 2, I either transfer to Liverpool to see Preston North End or I stay in London and go to Watford or West Ham — preferably the latter, since it’s their last season at Upton Park and I need to see them there when it isn’t wet, cold and hopeless, like the last time I went there.
- Sunday the 3rd, if I’m in Liverpool I go see Everton (though I’ve been there before). If I’m in London I will do all I can to see Crystal Palace play Chelsea. A London derby would be a lovely way to wrap up the trip! I’d be Feeling Glad All Over, in fact:
I will keep updating this as I start to buy tickets and get into more details, so I can describe my seat-selection system. Hint: I like to sit across from the visiting fans so I can get awesome videos like this one:
I will also talk about hotels, AirBnB, stadium tours, rail passes, tourist sites, the whole thing. My goal isn’t just to have myself a wonderful soccer trip to England, but to help you do the same thing, and/or entertain you along the way.