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Around the Grounds: Goodison Park

Opened: 1892

Capacity: 39, 572

Other Names: N/A

Cheapest Season Ticket Price: £485

Pie: £3.30

Goodison Park is synonymous with Premier League football. In fact, since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, Everton’s stadium has only seen Premier League football, bar cup competitions obviously.

The stadium itself is famous for its closeness to the pitch and raucous atmosphere in the big games, although truth be told the noise levels have dropped in recent years due to yoyo performances on the pitch from the players. Everton being a regular top 6 club appears to be a bit far fetched now, especially with the emergence of the new ‘Big 6’ and other high performing clubs such as Wolves and Watford, but the hope amongst Evertonians will certainly be that Marco Silva can re-establish the Toffees as a top 7 club.

Goodison Park has always been one of the top grounds in England since it was first built in 1892, and it has only ever hosted Everton Football Club. But there is more reason for Everton to be proud of their stadium- it is the ground that has hosted the most top division fixtures ever in England, with the Toffees only spending 4 seasons outside of the country’s top division.

The initial construction of the stadium was interestingly shrouded in political controversy. At the time, Everton FC had board members from both the Liberal party and the Conservatives and they really couldn’t come to agreement on the future of the club or the stadium. Nonetheless, a plan was agreed for the current site and the project to build England’s first advanced football ground began. 12,000 turned out to witness the opening of the stadium and normally with a stadium opening you get a big football match against Real Madrid or another European giant, but no, not Everton. The club’s hierarchy instead hosted an athletics meet in the new football stadium with music and fireworks to close off the day- strange. The initial cost of the stadium added up £3000 which in today’s money was upwards of £300,000 but due to Everton’s financial strength back then, this caused no problem to the club. (They were actually the richest club in England)

The first game Goodison Park ever hosted was a 4-2 win against Bolton in September 1892 and just one year later, the Toffees made it to the FA Cup Final and the year after that, Everton’s stadium was chosen to host the FA Cup Final between Notts County and Bolton in which the World’s oldest club came out on top.

In 1892 Goodison Park was built as a three-sided stadium, with one side of the ground an embankment so well shaped that apparently everyone could see the pitch. Each stand was covered and the ground regularly had gate receipts of 30,000 people. In fact, for the 1894 Cup Final, 37,000 turned out.

1907 was the year when Goodison Park started to slightly resemble to Goodison Park we see today, and of course, the famous football ground Archibald Leitch was involved. He designed the double-decker stand at the Park End which really took the English football leagues by storm due to the utter size of it compared with its competitors and then, to add to the dominance of Goodison Park in terms of grandeur, Leitch added the double decker Main Stand as well.

Fast forward a few years and Goodison Park went down in English football’s history books again, being the first stadium to ever be visited by a ruling monarch. George V and Queen Mary were the visitors, paying a stately visit to see school children within the confines of the ground. Royal visits to Everton’s huge arena did not stop there. In 1938, George VI and Queen Elizabeth paid a visit to see the unveiling of the famous Gwladys Street Stand. As a result, Everton’s Goodison Park became England’s first stadium to be surrounded by four double-tiered stands. Funnily enough, the completion of this new massive stand was actually delayed because one old man refused to move out of his home which was to be demolished for the stadium expansion.

The club then, like very other English club, experienced turmoil throughout the WWII years and the Gwladys Street Stand was actually directly hit by a bomb during that period. That obviously was fixed as part of a War Commission Scheme which dealt with buildings damaged in the war and Goodison Park rose from the dust to make history in English football once again, becoming the first ground to have undersoil heating. The club installed long lines of electrical cables beneath the pitch to produce heat which would then melt the frost above. However, the system actually worked too well and the grass couldn’t actually take in all the water being melted into it. Subsequently the club had to relay the whole turf and improve the drainage in 1960 just because of the high-performing undersoil heating.

The structure of the ground you see today is much the same as it was back in the 1950s apart from the Park End which was completely demolished and rebuilt in 1994. That shows you just how historic and ground breaking the stadium has been throughout its time.

Currently 39, 572 fans can cram into the arena but there have been plans to build a new stadium for the Toffees since the early 2000s. Fortunately, or unfortunately if you are a member of the Everton board all plans to relocate the club have been strongly rejected by local councils, fans and finance. Bill Kenwright had even planned to move into a new stadium as early as the 2005/06 season but lack of funds restricted him then.

There is no doubt that no football fan wants to see Goodison Park condemned to housing or to demolition. It holds countless records and has been a fixture in England’s first division since its initial construction in 1892. Whether that will stop Everton from taking their football to another level we cannot be sure, but lets hope Goodison Park stays in the Premier League for much longer.





Dan Stokes

22-year-old Modern Languages Graduate and Arsenal fan from the University of Southampton.

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