I’m Ryan, an 18 year old who travels to various football grounds around the UK and then writes about his experience on his visit to the game. Target: 100 Grounds - Visited: 82 Grounds | Doing The 92 - Visited: 9 | Every ground within the M25 - Visited: 50
Competition: Southern Counties East League Premier Attendance: 126
As a groundhopper, it is good to keep a list of the grounds that you most want to visit and I myself have a top 20 list for grounds in `The 92` and non-league grounds that I want to visit and one of the grounds on that list that I want to visit is the Croydon Sports Arena which is home to Croydon FC. One of the reasons why I want to visit Croydon FC is because they are only 6 miles away from where I live and it is one of the grounds within the M25 that I need to visit. Groundhopping has been very limited this month because there hasn't been many games that I can go to and I've only been able to visit one new ground so far this month and that was Brisbane Road.
There is one team that I really need to visit and that team is Dorking Wanderers and there has been a few chances for me to go to there but they have been on Tuesday night and I don't really fancy going there by myself as my dad is working most Tuesday's at this time of year and I don't really want to pay £10 for the train, so I have been putting off Dorking Wanderers and I am going to try and go there in January at some point if I can, if not then I will be going when they move into their new ground.
Anyway back to Croydon FC, I have wanted to go there for the past year or so seeing as they are one of the local grounds that I need to tick off and because the ground is very easy to get to from my house. Since this season started, I have tried to find a day when Sutton aren't playing/playing a game I can't go to and Croydon FC are home but these games have been hard to find and whilst looking on some forums a few weeks ago, I had finally found a fixture that had a day where Croydon FC were home an Sutton was playing away and I couldn't go and that was on the 30th December and Croydon were playing same town rivals A.F.C. Croydon Athletic.
This game seemed ideal for me to go because it is a local derby between both of the Croydon clubs and it should help make the attendance slightly larger because it's a local derby and Croydon FC only average around 50 people for home games and the local derby could maybe increase this attendance to over 100 on the day. The fact that they were playing A.F.C. Croydon Athletic also made the game seem even more ideal because I have been to watch A.F.C. Croydon Athletic twice and I have really enjoyed both my visits there and it would make the game more interesting. If you do want to read my blog on my trip to A.F.C. Croydon Athletic then click here.
The week running up to the game was very festive because it is Christmas and obviously me being busy on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day helped pass the time and I myself had a very good Christmas with my main present being a trip to New York in February! Boxing Day was spent at Imperial Fields to watch Tooting and Mitcham lose 3-1 to Dulwich Hamlet and I myself was cheering on Dulwich Hamlet as I have a soft spot for them. The few days before the game was mainly spent at home with the family and watching Christmas films and Harry Potter of course!
The day before the game was spent mainly watching `The Big Bang Theory` as I needed to catch up on a few episodes and that ended up turning into 4 hours non stop of watching it, but anyway it helped passed the time. Towards the end of the day, I started to watch some highlights of previous Croydon FC games so I knew what kind of thing to expect and I also managed to look up on some of the history of Croydon FC so I know a bit more about them.
Croydon F.C. were founded in 1953 as Croydon Amateurs and the club's nickname is 'The Trams' and they currently play their home games at the Croydon Sports Arena which has a capacity of 8,000 and there are 388 seats. Croydon Amateurs started out in the Surrey Senior League and ended up playing in that league for 10 years before joining the Spartan League in 1963 and the club managed to be champions in their first season in the league. In 1964, the club joined the Athenian League Division Two and won the league in the 1965/66 season on goal average and were promoted to Division One of the Athenian League. Between 1970 and 1972, Croydon Amateurs achieved two promotions and were promoted to the Athenian Premier and in 1973, the club was renamed Croydon FC.
In the 1974/75 season, the club changed to the Isthmian League Division Two and were promoted the following season to the Isthmian League Division One (which would soon be changed to the Isthmian Premier). In 1989, the club were relegated to the Division One and in 1994, the club was relegated to the Division Two. In the 1995/96 season, they were promoted back to the Division One and in the 1999/00 season, they were promoted to the Isthmian Premier. Between 2002 and 2005, the club were relegated twice and in 2006, they joined the Kent Premier (even though the club is in London) and in 2009, the club joined the Combined Counties Premier and in 2014, they re-joined the Kent League which is now the Southern Counties East League.
I woke up at 8:30am feeling very tired because I didn't sleep well during the night and I really fancied staying in bed all day but there was no time to be tired today as I am finally off to the Croydon Sports Arena. After waking up, I had a quick wash and then went to my local shop to get some bits and bobs that we needed for New Years Eve and then I got a little distracted as my family were watching `Only Fools and Horses` and I ended up watching that for a good two hours and then I made myself some lunch which was just some ham sandwiches and then I watched some more highlights of Croydon FC before leaving my house at 1:15pm.
The bus was 10 minutes and seeing as I only have to get on the bus for one stop, I decided to walk to the tram stop and I was originally planning to get the tram at 1:35pm but I was quite early so I decided to get the 1:20pm tram and I just arrived at Phipps Bridge tram stop just as the tram was arriving which was quite handy. I then put on my headphones and listened to music whilst going through my social media and soon enough I found myself in Croydon itself and by now, the tram had gotten quite busy. After being on the tram for a good 25 minutes, I finally arrived at Arena tram stop and then I walked up to the Croydon Sports Arena which is only a 2 minute walk from the tram stop.
I then spotted my two friends Jason and Dave (also known as JD Groundhoppers) whilst walking up to the clubhouse and then we went inside and Jason and Dave both got a tea which the club kindly gave them on the house and I myself had three bottles of water on me and wasn't feeling that thirsty so no drink for me! We then told the staff that we were groundhoppers and then one of facility staff members showed us the board room and told us how Croydon FC are trying to expand their fanbase and are in financial trouble and this made me decide that after this trip, I will definitely come back.
After kindly being showed the board room and being told about Croydon FC and the struggle they are in at the moment, we walked round to the turnstiles and today's entry fee was £7 for me (adult admission), £2 for a programme and £1 for a 50/50 draw so £10 which is very reasonable. We then looked at our number for the 50/50 draw and we had all gotten a number between 50-70 and we said to eachother "I hope we don't have to wait that long to see a goal!". We then walked round to the tea hut and Jason and Dave got some drinks and something to eat and I walked round the ground to take some pictures.
Croydon Sports Arena has a total capacity of 8,000 and there are 388 seats. The ground is very open due to it being an athletics ground but there is a lot of features which makes it feel more like a football ground such as a reasonably sized main stand on one side and on the other side of the pitch are three covered terraces which I really like and makes the ground unique. The fact of the ground being an athletics track also helps increase the capacity to 8,000 otherwise the ground would have a capacity of around 2,500!
I really like the Croydon Sports Arena for some reason which is quite odd because I am generally not a big fan of football grounds with an athletics track but I really like this one and when I went to Chelmsford City FC, I didn't really like their ground as it has an athletics track but for this much smaller ground, I seem to prefer it and it didn't really make me feel like I was at an athletics ground because there was a true buzz of football around the place.
Anyway, back to the pre-match build up, after I took some pictures of the ground, I walked back round to the tea hut and I decided to have a cheeseburger and a BBQ rib burger seeing as together, it only cost £5 and I wasn't very appealed when I saw that the burgers were out of a packet and were being microwaved but I was proven wrong because they tasted really nice and I have to say, the food was better than it is at some other grounds I've been to and it surprised me because I generally don't like microwaved food but for some reason, I really liked the two burgers!
The teams then came out and I took some pictures to add to my collection and we then walked round to the covered terraces on the opposite side of the ground as we didn't really fancy standing miles away from the goal and not being able to see the game. We found a spot roughly in the line of the middle of the pitch and then Jason put up his JD Groundhoppers flag which I previously owned and he purchased it off me for £15.
Back to the game and Croydon FC seemed to look like a very good side and you could see why they were a few places above AFC Croydon and Croydon's luck came in the 15th minute as they took the lead and there was a somewhat roar from inside the ground and that meant all of our 50/50 tickets were out but we only had to wait 15 minutes for a goal which is quite good! After going 1-0 down, AFC Croydon seemed to react and was keeping the Croydon FC goalkeeper busy and he managed to pull off a few saves but AFC Croydon came to level terms in the 35th minute and it was 1-1. Croydon FC were then awarded a penalty but the AFC Croydon goalkeeper was on hand to keep it at 1-1. Both teams had chances to take the lead before half time and in the 45th minute, AFC Croydon were awarded a penalty and scored and at half time, it was Croydon FC 1-2 AFC Croydon Athletic.
Half time and AFC Croydon were winning in the local derby and we walked round to the tea hut and it looked like they didn't have any hot chocolate on the menu so no drink for me, but I had my water on me so I didn't really need a drink. Dave and Jason got a tea and then we went and sat up in the main stand and checked all of our social media. Sutton were losing 1-0 away to Macclesfield which did annoy me a lot but it is a top of the table clash so it will be a tight game!
The teams came back out and there was a roar from the 100 or so people within the ground and the second half kicked off and Croydon FC didn't look very confident on the ball but they were creating a few chances but AFC Croydon were creating more and they were unlucky not to score another two goals. There was a incident between a set of players from each side and it caused the number 9 for Croydon FC to be sent off and this gave AFC Croydon the chance to finish the game off and they did do just that because they scored again in the 75th minute and that pretty much put the game to bed. There was another incident between both sets of players and you could sense the rivalry between both sides and there were a few more chances but the game finished Croydon FC 1-3 AFC Croydon Athletic.
I said goodbye to Dave and Jason whilst walking out of the ground and then got straight on a tram but it was going to West Croydon so I changed at Sandilands and then got on a tram going towards Wimbledon and then stayed on until Phipps Bridge and then missed the bus so I had to walk home but that only takes 10 minutes which is fine and I got home at 5:40pm. I really enjoyed my trip to the Croydon Sports Arena because I was welcomed and saw a great game of football all for £15! I would highly recommend going there because you won't regret it!