Forget the Premier League, Champions League and Saudi Arabia; non-league football returns in earnest this weekend and we’ve picked out 13 grounds you must visit over the next nine months.
Regional leagues across the country are primed to begin after a long, and often wet, summer. The depth, breadth and dedication of the semi-professional game really sets England apart from the rest of the world and deserves to be cherished.
The joys of the non-league game are well-documented from cheap entry, pints in full view of the pitch and scores of happy dogs littering the touchline. Inject it into our veins.
And we’ve identified 13 grounds, from the South Coast to the North East, that are fully worth the pilgrimage in 2023-24.
Broadhurst Park (FC United of Manchester)
Come for the fan-built stadium with its impressive terracing and unique home chants, come for the quintessentially northern cuisine.
FC United of Manchester are playing in the Northern Premier League Premier Division and Broadhurst Park is easily accessible by the city’s tram network. A no-brainer.
Bombay sandwich – Balti pie and a samosa with mint and chilli sauce in a roll at FC United of Manchester (@FCUnitedMcr)
— Footy Scran (@FootyScran) May 11, 2023
The Pilot Field (Hastings United FC)
With a population of over 100,000, the town of Hastings should really be doing better than seventh-tier football.
While talks over a new ground continue to circulate, as they have for years, Pilot Field lives up to its reputation for old-school charm.
There is an ancient, cavernous main stand which, despite being unfortunately set back from the pitch, has enough elevation to offer a decent view.
And the rest of the ground is tucked away inside a beautiful grass verge, making this ground a true hidden gem. Get yourself down to an Isthmian League Premier Division match this term.
— The Chairman (@Chairman_KOTP) April 1, 2023
Coach and Horses Ground (Sheffield FC)
Sheffield FC are the oldest football club in the world. Anybody unaware of that after visiting the Coach and Horses Ground should seek immediate medical attention.
Formed in 1857, the Yorkshire club are very proud of its history and heritage at the ground they called ‘The Home of Football’. And why wouldn’t they be?
In truth, this isn’t the most picturesque arena and the club are looking to move closer to the centre of Sheffield.
But the sense of history makes this a spine-tingling venue for Northern Premier League Division One football.
Ground 215, Home of Football Stadium, Sheffield FC 1-0 Newport County. The World’s First Football Club, a ground I’ve wanted to do for a while and I mean…what a stadium name #futbology #groundhopping @sheffieldfc pic.twitter.com/QoVKOPGBAZ
— Andy Roberts (@AndyWBA96) July 14, 2023
The Old Spotted Dog Ground (Clapton CFC)
Clapton CFC are normally lumped in with Dulwich Hamlet and West Didsbury & Chorlton as left-leaning, quinoa-eating, Mundial worshippers – but they’ve also got a deceptively rich history that belies their current Eastern Counties League Division One South status.
The London club were the first English team to play in Europe, beating Belgium and Ajax back in the Victorian age.
And Clapton are capable of drawing four-figure crowds to The Old Spotted Dog Ground. If nothing else, it’s worth experiencing an atmosphere that’s strangely reminiscent of Glastonbury at a football match.
PHOTO | Clapton F.C, England pic.twitter.com/XDN1tM982g
— Antifa_Ultras (@ultras_antifaa) November 17, 2022
War Memorial Ground (Stourbridge FC)
Despite being a three-sided ground, Stourbridge’s War Memorial Ground is one of the most popular non-league away days in the country.
Situated alongside the majestic cricket pavilion building, the main stand runs two-thirds of the length of one side of the ground, while there is an old, large, classic terrace behind one goal.
The food selection is good, the clubhouse is a fair size and there are plenty of pubs along the nearby canals for pre-match refreshment.
Stourbridge will play in the Southern League Premier Division Central in 2023-24 and is a short trip away from Birmingham.
Sir Tom Cowie Millfield (Crook Town AFC)
Situated near Durham in the North East, Crook Town is home to a magnificent main stand and the tantalising ‘Black and Amber Burger’ that’s topped with black pudding, bacon and cheese. Damn.
The Black and Ambers currently play in the Northern League Division One, the 9th tier of English football, but this magnificent 1,500-capacity stadium is not one to be missed.
Photograph of the Sir Tom Cowie Millfield – Home of Crook Town AFC pic.twitter.com/puVmj05oqv
— FootballRetroPlus (@robertmdaws) December 25, 2020
Butcher’s Arms Ground (Droylsden FC)
After being ravaged by COVID, leaving the club unable to field a side for two seasons, Droylsden are back in the North West Counties Division One North for 2023-24.
Much like Bury, another ravaged Manchester club returning to their spiritual home of Gigg Lane this season, a trip to the Butcher’s Arms Ground is a must to reaffirm the art of appreciating what you have before it’s taken away.
Droylsden FC returned home to their wonderfully named Butcher's Arms ground for the first time in three years on Saturday.
A remarkable statement of solidarity and a decent backdrop.
— Terrace Edition (@TerraceEdition) July 11, 2023
Penlee Park (Penzance AFC)
If you fancy a trek across desolate terrain to a remote location untouched by civilisation (only kidding) for your Futbology tick, then Penzance AFC is the away day for you.
Located in deepest Cornwall, five and half hours from London by train, Penzance is more traditionally known for its rugby but Penlee Park doesn’t disappoint with its picturesque gate, art-deco design and drool-worthy selection of local ciders.
Penzance AFC a great ground pic.twitter.com/ejC4rK1wJv
— edward (@ed477777) August 25, 2021
Beveree Stadium (Hampton & Richmond Borough FC)
A stone’s throw from the River Thames in the leafy hamlet of Hampton, the Beveree Stadium is a patchwork stadium consisting of a small seating area behind the goal, terracing by the entrance and railings where you can almost smell what the players had for breakfast.
It’s one of London’s premier non-league venues, befitting of National League South football. And, whisper it quietly, probably an infinitely better match-day experience than Wembley.
Tuesday 18th January 19:45ko
Match 132 of 2021/22
🏟 The Cleo Saul Beveree Stadium@HRBFC 2@braintreetownfc 4@TheVanaramaNL South #groundhopping #Kizzyscornerpics #COYBeavers 🦫 #HRBFC #COYI #Iron #Vanarama pic.twitter.com/WGpxZoy3os
— Kiz (@Kizzyetrance) January 18, 2022
Wellesley Recreation Ground (Great Yarmouth Town FC)
The main selling point at the Wellesley Recreation Ground is the oldest surviving grandstand in English football.
Built in 1892, the aesthetically brilliant structure currently holds Grade 2 Listed status and acts as a magnet drawing groundhoppers towards the Norfolk seaside resort. It’s probably the single-most photographed venue in non-league football.
The side finished 13th in the Eastern Counties League Division One North last season and will be hoping for better this term.
The oldest stand in world football (1892) freshly painted for the new season 🧡🖤 pic.twitter.com/jjmMXKrhyK
— Great Yarmouth Town FC (@The_Bloaters) July 24, 2023
Causeway Lane (Matlock Town FC)
Matlock Town shares Causeway Lane with the local cricket club, meaning you get a titillating view of the pitch from wherever you sit or stand.
Surrounded by the local Derbyshire countryside and rolling hills, this is an alternative experience to the likes of Old Trafford and Anfield – but no less life-affirming.
Silverlands (Buxton FC)
Buxton is a famous ancient spa town in the Peak District and the local football side play at the highest ground in the country.
While the altitude isn’t quite at the levels of Mexico City, Silverlands stands at 310 metres (1,020 ft) above sea level and has been home to Buxton FC since the 1880s.
It’s a cracking venue for National League North football and is fully endorsed by good boys and girls across the country.
— nonleaguedogs (@nonleaguedogs) January 2, 2023
Oldends Lane (Stonehouse Town FC)
A large crowd of 5,500 gathered in September 1951 when the FA Cup brought Gloucester City to Stonehouse. The ground is essentially the same now, except for a few coats of paint, as it was when it was opened by former Wolves and England captain Billy Wright in August 1949.
The ground has a magnificent seated stand on one side and a large covered stand on top of a grass bank at the car park end of the ground.
Any visitors for Hellenic League Division One fixtures this season will be stepping back to a golden age of English football.
Sunday 17 April 2022
Oldends Lane, Stonehouse
Hellenic League Division One
Stonehouse Town 4-1 Moreton Rangers
Att: 348 | £5 | 24pp prog (£2) pic.twitter.com/cUD0Zm0xhY
— Paul Groundtastic (@paul_gtastic) April 17, 2022