Have you ever wondered why Everton's stadium, home of the Toffees, is called Goodison Park? Do you know why Manchester United had to move out of Old Trafford and where they went to? Why does Newcastle United’s St James’ Park have a stand called the Gallowgate end?
In this feature, we list 5 of the most intriguing and famous ground names and their reasons behind them.
#1 Manchester United – Old Trafford, Capacity – 75,643
Old Trafford perhaps unsurprisingly, is named as such, as it is built in an area of the same name – Old Trafford in Greater Manchester, England.
United’s ground can hold 75,643 people. This makes it the second-largest football ground in the United Kingdom behind Wembley stadium. It is also only half a mile from Old Trafford Cricket Ground, home of Lancashire Cricket Club.
Archibald Leitch a well respected Football ground architect, who had also designed Stamford Bridge (Chelsea’s ground), Ibrox (Glasgow Rangers), Celtic Park (Glasgow Celtic) and Craven Cottage (Fulham FC) among others, was hired to design and build the stadium.
Before 1902, United were called Newton Heath and played at grounds in Clayton known as North Road and Bank Street. They were almost declared bankrupt but were saved by a man named John Henry Davies, who then renamed them Manchester United. Also, as chairman, he decided that they needed a ground more befitting of First Division and FA Cup winners and set about finding a site for a new stadium.
Once he’d found a patch of land near the Bridgewater canal in Old Trafford, he contributed money in order to build it. Construction was completed and it has been United’s home since 1910.
Did you know?
A little-known fact about Old Trafford is that it was actually Sir Bobby Charlton that nicknamed it “The Theatre of Dreams” a name synonymous with the stadium today.
Between 1941 and 1949 the club ground was shared with their fierce local rivals Manchester City at Maine Road, due to Old Trafford being damaged by bombs during the Second World War.
#2 Everton - Goodison Park – Capacity 39,572
Perhaps one of the most intriguing stories comes from Everton’s ground ‘Goodison Park’. Believe it or not, it is named after a Yorkshire civil engineer who had a particular expertise in planning trenches for sewage pipes!
He was called George William Goodison who, back in the 1860’s, had a road named after him.
The tale was actually told in a local football team’s match programme, Bootle FC (based in Liverpool) and details his early life and exploits.
Basically, George was born in 1846 in Holbeck, Leeds, and as a young boy, went to study at the Mechanics Institute based in Yorkshire.
When he was 15, (in 1861) he relocated to a place in Great Crosby (in Liverpool) called Kershaw Terrace with a gentleman called Alfred Taylor and his family. A man with a keen eye, George Goodison surveyed some land that had originally been a flower and vegetable nursery owned by the local council, who were planning to use the site as land for housing and wanted to ensure sufficient sewage systems would be in place.
George did this so successfully that the main road that was at the centre of the development was named Goodison Road after him.
In 1892 as the new stadium for Everton FC was being constructed, the football club’s owners decided to call it after the road it was being built on and Goodison Park was born, ensuring George William Goodison’s name was passed into sporting folklore!
#3 Chelsea – Stamford Bridge – Capacity 41,663
'Stamford Bridge' is considered to be a derivative of 'Samfordesbrigge' meaning 'the bridge at the sandy ford'. One of the tributaries of the Thames River is Stanford Creek. Some old 18th Century maps reveal that this creek used to run on the route of the current railway line at the back of Stamford Bridge’s East Stand.
Higher up this stream’s tributary is an area still known as ‘Counter’s Creek’. This Creek had 2 bridges, Stanbridge – now known as Stanley Bridge – on Kings Road and Stamford Bridge which is based on the Fulham Road.
The Stadium which bears it’s name was opened in 1877. Originally this was meant as a home for a football club known as London Athletic and up until 1904 this was the case. However, brothers Gus and Joseph Mears acquired the lease and had a vision to stage high-profile and professional football matches at Stamford Bridge.
Their original plan was to house Fulham FC at the ground, but their offer was turned down by its owners due to financial constraints.
The brothers then decided a more radical plan was necessary and founded their own football club, Chelsea FC, to ensure the ground was occupied and became direct rivals to Fulham FC. It has been the home of the Blues ever since.
#4 Southampton – St Mary’s – Capacity 32,505
The Saint’s as they are called, have only been in their new stadium a relatively short time, compared with others on this list. However, the reason for their move and also the stadium name is no less intriguing.
Back in the 80’s when Southampton were challenging for the First Division title on several occasions (runners-up in 1984) The club’s owners were keen to look at other options to allow an increase in capacity.
The location of their previous stadium, ‘The Dell’ made it difficult to look at expanding any areas of the ground and so a new location was sought. Coupled with this, the Taylor report that was released in 1990, in response to the Hillsborough Disaster, required all First and Second Division sides to ensure that their grounds were converted to all-seater stadiums by August 1994.
The owners of the Dell duly obliged and the new Dell, an all-seater stadium, was completed in 1993. The trouble was that this made the capacity just 15,000.
The local City Council offered the club a disused gasworks site with which to begin work on a new stadium. With it only being a short journey away from the Dell and still in the heart of Southampton, the club agreed and work was started.
Not only was this move seen as a new and exciting opportunity, it was also seen as the club returning ‘home’. Originally, Southampton FC was formed by members of the local St. Mary’s Church (called St Mary’s Church Young Men’s association, but eventually changed to Southampton FC.)
The club duly named the stadium ‘St Mary’s’ and moved into their new home at the start of the 2001 season.
#5 Newcastle United – St. James’ Park – Capacity 52,405
St James’ Park is one of the iconic grounds of the North East of England. The ground was originally the home of three clubs – Newcastle Rangers, Newcastle West End and lastly, Newcastle East End. The East End club changed their name to Newcastle United while they were in residence in 1892.
During those Victorian years in North East England, S. James’ Park was simply a patch of land primarily meant for grazing farm animals on. It also had a huge slope from one end to the other (a drop of 18 feet) that made playing football from the North to the South goal extremely challenging!
The local butchers were also allowed to walk their livestock on the ‘pitch’ before they were led away to the abattoir.
The references to blood and gore don’t end there. Did you know that the reason one side of the stadium is called the Gallowgate end, is that St James’ Park is extremely close to the spot of the City’s execution gallows. The final documented hanging took place there in 1844. Barely 40 years before Newcastle Rangers started playing on the park.
Fortunately for the Geordie club, the park land has been subsequently built on and expanded many times into the magnificent stadium that we see today.