Everton fans voted yesterday to move away from their ancestral home at Goodison Park to a new ground in Kirkby.
Goodison was one of the very first big, recognisably modern football grounds in the world. It was on a large scale from the beginning. Here it is on 27th September 1902 (click to enlarge):
I’m all in favour of Britain having the best, most modern grounds in the world – being old enough to remember when we were being put to shame by the likes of the Bernebeu – but this constant loss of famous stadia is starting to bring to mind Larkin’s “..and that will be England gone.”
There is nothing eternal about football’s current gold rush or indeed crowd popularity. Once again, I’m old enough to remember times when the annual attendances went down year-on-year and football seemed in terminal decline. Will we wake up at the end of the boom in a few years’ time and find ourselves in a football world full of Eustons – and no Paddingtons or St Pancrases?
Perhaps, perhaps not. Goodison itself was built during one of England’s least nostalgia-prone periods (the 1890s enthusiasm for clearing away the old eventually inspired the creation of the National Trust: the damage to London alone in that one decade can still shock). Then, as now, it was all about money and keeping up with the Joneses. Yet what resulted lasted for more than a century.
Old Trafford was built about ten years after Goodison, and was initially designed to hold 100,000 spectators before costs accelerated and reduced the capacity to 70,000. It holds rather more than that now, in far greater comfort. The new Arsenal stadium is larger than its predecessor by a factor of two, and anyone who has been there or seen it from a Kings Cross train must admit that they’ve replaced a gem with a beauty. But the new Liverpool stadium design looks like a bubble-pack.