All posts by Paula Sanchez-Sanchez

‘The athlete’s desire is vital – they need to be 100% into it’

Fitness trainers are among sport’s unsung heroes. They are an intrinsic to those parts of athletes lives which we as spectators never see – the hard work, exhausting routines, strict diet plans and personal sacrifices which keep them in peak condition.

This is especially true for those who do not play in teams, Their personal trainers offer them not just fitness expertise but vital personal support in their darkest moments after losses or injuries or lack of motivation.

Andreu Marco Navarro is a fitness trainer who, since he finished studying sports science in 2016, has worked with riders in many elite motorcycling competitions including KTM, M3 riders, MotoGP Moto2.

As a young boy, he had an early introduction to sport. “My interest started from a very young age. Almost as soon as I started walking, my parents pointed me and my brother towards football, cycling and swimming.

As I grew up, I focused more on football, then I decided to study the career of sports science and I saw that it could bring me many things, both personally and professionally.

“I then had the opportunity to work with a football team, and that opened up a new world for me. I learned things that you can only learn when you are practising and seeing them with your own eyes.”

The 26-year-old from Valencia soon had a very clear ideas on what he wanted to do with his life. The idea of ​​being a fitness trainer quickly emerged. In the fields of management, education and performance, my goal is to be one of the best trainers and to dedicate myself fully to this aim.”

Of course, many athletes at the highest levels in their sports are extremely well paid and can afford to invest in their fitness, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their trainers earn big money.

Navarro says: “I wish I could dedicate my whole life to being a physical trainer, but it is very difficult to live from it since it is not well paid. It is also very difficult to find high-level athletes who stay with you for many years.”

That is why he is currently doing for a second degree in education. “I work every day of the week and even on the weekends, but my afternoons are dedicated to work, while in the morning I go to university to study to be a teacher.

“I see it as something that, further into future, can be quite good since being a teacher is something that I also carry in my blood as my mother is also one. So, I love my job as a trainer, but in my spare time I study.”


Navarro often works with motorcycle racers when their personal trainers are not available, and has built up close relationships with several stars. “Even sometimes when they are on vacation they call me and ask for specific sessions or exercises. Thankfully, they know me and trust me.

“[MotoGP racer] Jorge Martin, for example, is close to me. I know more or less what’s best for him and what he likes, so I tailor my sessions especially for him.

“All you have to do is look at what the athlete needs and what suits them best. You also need to know if they want you to work on their strength, endurance, to prevent injury or if they are returning from having one.

“Every athlete needs a qualified person to plan their workouts, and I am totally against those ‘trainers’ who do this job without having any valid qualifications. You need more than a few hours of training or workshops to do it properly, so what those people are really doing is deceiving the athlete.

“Athletes need a good fitness trainer who is 100% with them, but most important is the desire of the athlete. When they put all their effort into the exercises you have planned, it will always end up being a good session. If the athlete is unwilling, it is better to finish the training and coming back the next day.”

Diet & Sleep 

Navarro says that diet and sleep are two of the main factors in having productive training sessions, and for anyone to have a good lifestyle generally.

“Ask any fitness trainer and they will tell you that diet is one of the most important things, not only for athletes also for non-athletes, too. To have a healthy lifestyle and to be able to perform all your tasks in the best possible way is a philosophy that everyone should have.

“Obviously, though, I am a fitness trainer and not specialised in nutrition. Nutrition is a profession and career in its own right. I read a lot about it, but the first thing I always recommend to people is they go to a nutritionist so they can plan their own diet and stop searching the internet. Some online diets are very dangerous.”

Good diet goes hand in hand with plenty of rest after training and good-quality sleep. Navarro says: “If you do not rest, you cannot give 100%. For me, the most important thing is not how many hours of sleep, it is about its quality. The athlete feeling rested and not fatigued is where we want to be.

“I think it is not about sleeping for seven, eight, nine or 10 hours; it all depends on the individual and that each person feels like they are at 100% able to perform physical activity.

“I really ask the athletes to eat properly, whether it’s before workouts or games and competitions. Good diet also aids recovery, especially after high-intensity training sessions. They also need to stretch properly so their muscles are in perfect conditions for the next session. If their muscles are very tight, I recommend ice baths.

“Each athlete has different routines, so everyone knows what is best for them individually. But, for me, a good recovery plan is: rest, good food, a cold bath, stretching and a little bike exercise for the legs.”

Navarro adds that the best fitness trainers know their athletes and their priorities, and plan accordingly. Maybe his job is not appreciated by sports fans when their heroes are on the podium, but fitness trainers like him will have played a big part in helping to put them there.

Photos courtesy of Andreu Marco Navarro, who is on Instagram and Twitter

It’s not always about winning…

I sat there as the heavy rain fell, in pain and feeling so disappointed at not been able to help my team to push for victory.

For months, we had been preparing for this match, doing extra training sessions, eating more healthily and going to social events together so that every player felt a strong bond with their team-mates. We were ready for Varsity.

The annual multi-sport competition between University of the Arts London and Goldsmiths is a big day for both institutions and attracts a lot of interest among their students.

As captain of the UAL women’s football team, I woke for Varsity at 8am with butterflies in my stomach – a feeling of nervousness that I couldn’t shake all morning. I showered quickly, barely ate any breakfast and left for my college where the coach was waiting for us.

Even those players not involved had been asked to come along and support the team, and seeing all the girls talking and laughing made me feel better. I could see everyone was feeling positive and focused for the big game.

However, the 30-minute journey to the Varsity sports ground felt more like two hours, and I began to feel tense again. I tried not to let it show, although my feelings were obvious, and concentrated on my music.


On arrival, our excitement rose even further, and as we got changed, I started talking to motivate the girls, but my mouth was dry and what I was saying didn’t feel like it was enough.

Outside, the rain was pouring down, but we were ready. We left the changing room took to the pitch in silence, and I had never seen the team so focused. I met the Goldsmiths captain, and then the referee – the same one who booked my last year when I got a bit too passionate…

We talk and made our peace. This day should be one to remember and I wanted it to be a good memory.

The writer takes a corner before her injury

By now it had started hailing, but the ref signalled the start of the game. Five minutes in, the ball found me outside the box and in a split second I had fired it goalwards. The ball seemed to gain velocity and height as it beat the Goldsmiths ‘keeper and nestled in the net. Everyone was jumping around and hugging me.

My team-mate and best friend said “That’s what we needed, well done, mi capitano.” In that moment, I was so happy but, as my dad always says, it is not how you start but how you finish.

We were playing beautiful football, and I could hear people from UAL’s hockey, men’s football, netball and cheerleading squads chanting and cheering. Even the sun had suddenly come out as we pushed forward, desperate to make up for last year’s Varsity loss.

The second half began and we looked to maintain our momentum. But five minutes in again, I ran for a ball in our box but pulled up with a pain in my right calf. Even one step was painful. Seconds later, I felt the same pain my left leg. It was like I was in movie and someone had shot me as I fell down screaming.

I had never felt this pain before. I look up to see if someone could help me and suddenly I saw my centre-back running over. She grabbed my right leg and tried to stretch it, as if to alleviate cramp, but the pain remained.

I received treatment on the pitch, but to no avail, and was helped to the sidelines. People watching asked me what had happened. “I am okay, I will come back on in a bit,” I replied, but even as I stretched both legs, I felt broken and unable to take a step.


On 60 minutes, Goldsmiths equalised and I felt like I was letting my team down, that they needed my help and I couldn’t give it to them.

With 10 minutes left, they scored again to make it 2-1. Our midfield was disorganised and our defenders seemed to have forgotten everything they had been taught. The spirit so evident in the first half had gone out of the UAL team.

I was so mad at my players because they were not fighting hard like I had showed them. At the same time, I felt that if they weren’t capable of doing that without me, that meant I hadn’t done my job properly.

I was also bitterly frustrated at myself for getting injured because it was my last Varsity game and I had wanted to win it so badly. To make matters worse, not only did we lose our game, but UAL’s other teams also suffered narrow defeats to seal overall victory for Goldsmiths.

Afterwards, and in a more reflective mood, I realised that, yes, I am passionate about football and my team, but it’s a game, and sometimes we win but many others times, we lose.

It is the best way to learn from our experiences, not only sporting ones. It can also help me to approach situations in life. That is ultimately why I am so grateful to be able to play and to have been part of such a wonderful team.

Photos courtesy of UAL Sport.

Espanyol make Europa League exit despite win over Wolves

Jonathan Calleri’s hat-trick clinched a 3-2 victory for Espanyol over Wolves in this Europa League second-leg encounter, but the damage had already been done in their 4-0 defeat at Molineux.

Away goals from Adama Traore and Matt Doherty killed off the tie, making it 3-6 on aggregate to the Premier League side and leaving Espanyol to focus on their fight against relegation from La Liga. They are currently rock bottom in the table, five points from safety.

The Barcelona-based club marked a return to the European stage after 12 years this season by topping their Europa qualifying group with 11 points from a possible 18, creating confidence for the round of 32 knockout phase.

However, the dreams of the 1,200 ‘pericos’ who travelled to England for the first leg against Wolves were dashed as Diego Jota scored three times and Ruben Neves also found the net to create a seemingly unassailable lead in the tie.

Feisty encounter

Abelardo Fernandez’s team were, though, given hope on home soil by Calleri’s opener just past the quarter-hour mark, only to see the visitors reply through the dangerous Traore in the 22nd minute.

Calleri, on loan from Deportivo Maldonado, restored Espanyol’s lead from the spot in the 57th minute after Max Kilman raised his boot his on David Lopez.

In a feisty encounter which saw six yellow cards, Wolves were able to sit back, with their hosts having 63% possession and double the number of passes.

But pressing forward left Espanyol vulnerable on the counter, and Doherty duly made it 2-2 from Daniel Podence’s cross with 11 minutes remaining. Calleri’s winner came via a header in the first minute of added time.

Afterwards, Abelardo said he took heart from Espanyol’s fighting display, adding: “Today the fans have seen again the team they want.”

Screenshot from the BBC Wales documentary Mavericks: Sports Lost Heroes: Bomber: Newport's Rocky

Documentary pays tribute to David Pearce – Newport’s Rocky

David Pearce came from a renewed South Wales boxing family. His dad boxed, and six of the seven Pearce siblings became professionals – but everyone could see David had a special talent. 

Bomber: Newport’s Rocky, the concluding part of the BBC Wales documentary series Mavericks: Sport’s Lost Heroes, did a good job of explaining Pearce’s humble origins on the tough streets of Pill in Newport.

Following his 1978 pro debut, which he won by a knockout in a matter of seconds, his dedication, determination and bravery soon had him marked out as a rising star of the UK boxing scene.

In September 1983, ‘The Bomber’ blitzed reigning British heavyweight champion Neville Meade in a blockbuster title fight which ended with Pearce’s fellow Welshman out for the count, held up only by the ropes.

Newport’s favourite son looked set on the path to stardom and world title challenges when he was given some devastating news.

While preparing to fight for the European title, a routine brain scan revealed an abnormality which was to ultimately end his career in the ring.

In the meantime, Pearce kept training and flew to France in 1984 to meet Lucien Rodriguez. He fought bravely but lost, having suffered a hand injury in the build-up and slept rough the night before the bout because no-one had booked him a hotel.

David Pearce’s statue on the banks of the River Usk

He then received confirmation that the British Boxing Board of Control were removing his licence – a decision he fought, getting ‘second’ opinions from no less than 14 consultants – but it was one he could not overturn.

As one member of his family said in the documentary: “He couldn’t let go, [boxing] was his life.”

Deprived of his livelihood, and having spent all his money on battling the board’s ban, Pearce fell into depression, and then began exhibiting the signs of epilepsy and Alzheimer’s presaged by that scan. He died in May 2000, aged 41, at his home in Newport. 

The Welsh boxer had 22 professional fights, winning 17 of those, with 13 knockouts, losing four and drawing one. More than 2,000 people came to say their last goodbyes on the day of his funeral.

His nephew Luke wanted to keep pay tribute to his uncle’s life and launched a campaign to pay for a bronze statue of ‘Newport’s Rocky’. It ended up raising £61,000, and the sculpture now stands by the river in the city. 

With vivid and touching testimonials from his family and friends, this emotional 30-minute programme reflects the emotion and passion that still surrounds Pearce’s name, and the impact he had in his community – an impact that keeps his memory alive.

Spanish goalkeepers in the Premier League

It’s not new to hear that an English team has signed a Spanish goalkeeper. Since 2004, 14 have played in the Premier League. 

Young Spanish ‘keepers have seen big opportunities in the English leagues, and that is why many come very young to the Premier League and develop as professional players.

This table shows at what age the goalkeepers came to England. From the youngest goalkeeper playing in the English league to the oldest one. 

Name  Age Team / s  Season 
Robert Sánchez  19 Brighton & Hove  Forest Green AFC Rochdale     2016 – now  2018 (loan) 2019 – (loan)
David De Gea 21 Manchester United  2011 – now 
Pau López  21 Tottenham Hotspur  2016 – 2017 
Joel Robles  22 Wigan F.C  Everton        2013 (loan) 2013 – 2018 
Pepe Reina 23 Liverpool F.C
Aston Villa F.C.
2005 – 2013
2020 (loan) 
Kepa Arrizabalaga  23 Chelsea F.C  2018 – now 
Sergio Rico  24 Fulham F.C 2018 – 2019 
Adrián San Miguel  26 West Ham United  Liverpool F.C 2013 – 2019  2019 – now 
Manuel Almunia  27 Arsenal F.C West Ham United  Watford F.C  2004 – 2011  2011 – 2012  2012 – 2014 
Fabricio Martin  29 Fulham F.C 2018 – 2019 
Vicente Guaita  30 Crystal Palace F.C  2018 – now 
Kiko Casilla  31 Leeds United F.C  2018 – now 
Víctor Valdés  32 Manchester United Middlesbrough F.C 2014 – 2016  2016 – 2017 
Ricardo López  32 Manchester United  2004 – 2005 
Roberto Jiménez  33 West Ham United  2019 – now 
César Sánchez  37 Tottenham Hotspur 2008 – 2009 

Spanish goalkeepers have shown plenty of talent talent, and two are on the list of 15 Premier League ‘keepers with 100 or more clean sheets. In sixth position former Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina with 134 shut-outs, and in last position of the list is Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea with 104.

This table shows how many appearances the goalkeepers have had during their careers in England.

Pepe Reina  396
David De Gea  358
Manuel Almunia  316
Adrián San Miguel  289
Joel Robles  78
Kepa Arrizabalaga  63
Vicente Guiata  41
Kiko Casilla 38
Sergio Rico  32
Cesar Sánchez 30
Víctor Valdés 30
Robert Sánchez 19
Robert Jiménez Gago  8
Ricardo López Felipe  5
Fabricio Martin  2
Pau López  0

The Premier League is popular around the world, and this has been reflected in the variety of nationalities among its goalkeepers. But arguably its the Spanish ones who have captured the essence of the top division.

The first Spanish goalkeepers arrived in 2004, and this next list picks out some of the notable ones and when they began their careers in England:

2004 – Manuel Almunia – Arsenal 

2004 – Ricardo López – Manchester United 

2005 – Pepe Reina – Liverpool

2008 – César Sánchez – Tottenham Hotspur 

2011 – David De Gea – Manchester United 

2012 – Joel Robles – Wigan F.C 

As the years have passed, Spanish ‘keepers playing in England have gone from being a bit of a novelty to a mainstay of the Premier League.

Current Spanish national team goalkeepers David De Gea and Kepa Arrizabalaga, play here, following in the footsteps of other La Roja ‘keepers such as Pepe Reina and Victor Valdés.

This table shows how many Spanish goalkeepers have been playing in professional English teams down the years:

2004-2006 3
2007-2009  3
2010-2012  3
2013-2015 6
2016-2018 11
2019 -2020 10

A dozen high-level teams have had Spanish goalkeepers during one or more seasons. This five teams are the ones that had a bigger number of them: 

Manchester United – 3 

West Ham United – 3  

Tottenham Hotspur – 2

Liverpool – 2

Fulham – 2 

With a good number of Spanish managers plying their trade in the Premier League, European football’s highest salaries on offer, and the global reach of the English top flight, the flow of goalkeepers from Spain to the UK looks set to continue…

Allianz Arena, Munich

Preview: Euro 2020 Group F

Next summer’s Euro 2020 will take place 60 years after the inaugural tournament, and to mark the anniversary, Uefa has decided to celebrate with “a party throughout Europe”. Matches will be played in 12 cities in a dozen countries across the continent.

For a month, beginning on 12th June, Amsterdam, Baku, Bilbao, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Glasgow, Munich, Rome, St Petersburg and London will host games, culminating in the semi-finals and final at Wembley Stadium.

The last time Wembley hosted a European Championship final (at the old stadium), Germany won their first title as a unified nation, beating Czechoslovakia 2-1 thanks to a ‘golden goal’.

Group F at Euro 2020 is made up of Portugal, France, Germany and the winner from play-off path A: Iceland, Bulgaria, Hungary or Romania. Games in this group will be played in Munich at the Allianz Arena and in Budapest at Puskás Arena. If Hungary qualifies, a draw will be made to decide which venue will host Germany and Hungary’s Group F encounter. 

Portugal are the defending champions, having beaten hosts France to win in 2016. They have always survived the first round of matches since 1984 and have reached the final four on five occasions. As hosts in 2004, they reached the final but lost to surprise package Greece.

France have won the European title twice, in 1984 and 2000, second only to Spain and Germany who have won three titles each. Led Ballon d’Or winner Michel Platini, France won their first title on home soil in 1984, and in 2000 won their second in Belgium, led by FIFA World Player of the Year Zinedine Zidane. They suffered first-round eliminations in 1992 and 2008. 

Germany competed in five tournaments as West Germany and, since 1990, have played in seven as a unified nation. They will be the hosts in 2024. The Germans have three European titles, in 1972 (Belgium), 1980 (Italy) and England (1996).

They have only finished outside of the tournament’s top eight on two occasions, in 2000 and 2004, but have appeared in a record nine finals.

The forth team in the group will only be known in March 2020 after the play-offs.

Iceland only reached their first European Championship in 2016. They came second in their group, winning against Austria and drawing against Portugal. In the round of 16, they beat England 2–1 in an historic victory, but then lost 5-2 to hosts France in the quarter-finals.

Bulgaria have qualified twice, in 1996 and in 2004, but failed on both occasions to make it beyond the first round. They lost all three matches in 2004, but achieved a victory and a draw in 1996.

Hungary have appeared at three Euro finals. In 1964, they finished third, and at Euro 1972 they placed fourth. Four years ago, they reached the round of 16.

Romania have played in five European Championships and are the more experienced team in this play-off path. They have played in every tournament since 1984, with their best performance coming in 2000, when they reached the quarter-finals, only to be eliminated by eventual runners-up Italy.

Group F schedule

Group stage:

In the group stage, the top two will go through automatically, plus the best four third-placed teams. 

16/6/20 17:00 X v Portugal 

16/6/20 20:00 France v Germany  

20/6/20 14:00 X v France 

20/6/20 17:00 Portugal v Germany 

24/6/20 20:00 Germany v X 

26/6/20 20:00 Portugal v France 

Round of 16:27/6/20 – 30/6/20 

Quarter finals: 3/7/20 – 4/7/20 

Semi finals: 7/7/20 – 8/7/20 

Final: 12/7/20 

Allianz Arena photo by Werner Kuntz via Flickr Creative Commons, licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Should netball be in the Olympics?

As part of the annual ThisGirlCan Week, which celebrates and encourages female participation in sport, UAL offers people the chance to have a go at a range of different physical activities.

I opted to try netball as it is a sport that has always caught my eye and intrigued me because it is not played in my home country, Spain. The closest thing we have to it is basketball, but there are many differences: size of teams, type of ball, more markings on the court, and many different rules.

In fact, the two are only seen as sibling sports because they both involve passing a ball with your hands from player to player and scoring points by placing it through an elevated net. But, like American football and rugby, they are related, but only distantly.

Although netball was originally called women’s basketball, things have changed. The first netball match in England was played at Madame Ostenburg’s College in 1895, and the sport quickly spread throughout what was, at the time, the British Empire but is now the Commonwealth.

For more than a century it was viewed mainly as a game for schoolgirls, played during Physical Education lessons, with little or no interest from the media or wider public even at international level.

However, as more funding became available in the UK – particularly for sports with a good chance of medal-winning success – elite netball took its first steps towards being semi-professional. England won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and finished third in this year’s World Championship, and netball’s Super League is now televised by Sky.


During the try-out session, I realised how inclusive the sport is and how accomplished players need to be. UAL has two big, strong teams that play every week against other universities, and to play at an even higher level must require a huge amount of skill and determination.

The other thing to note was it’s not just for girls: there were boys in the training session, too, and they love the sport. Yes, they can be more aggressive, looking for more contact, and maybe their passes are stronger, but the game is really about being strategic and quick with the ball.

Whatever the perceptions outside of the sport, the reality inside it is that everyone supports everyone and gender isn’t a problem. More than 80% of the girls wanted more boys in the team as it is a mixed team league.

Perhaps, making it mixed at the highest levels would add to its overall appeal and improve netball’s chances of becoming an Olympic sport.

According to the International Netball Federation, netball remains very popular in many Commonwealth nations, specially in schools, and predominantly played by women. It is played by over 20m people in more than 80 countries. In the UK, it is the No.2 female participation sport after football, with approximately 1.4m women and girls playing it in 2018, compared with 8.2m who play football, according to England Netball

The UAL players I spoke to were all certain that it is a sport that deserves more attention – and perhaps the ultimate accolade of Olympic status.

Alexandre Hor said: “I feel like sometimes netball is not taken as seriously as it is a female sport and does not have as much status when compared to the ‘male’ sport equivalent of basketball and the NBA.”

Lauren Barrett said: “I would like to see more media coverage and money put into it as I feel its quite overlooked compared to other team sports.”

Maybe if it was in the Olympics, more people would know about it therefore more people would play it – Patricia Beja

Lauren Hillsdon added: “What I loved most about netball in primary school is that it was completely mixed, and teams were based on performance only, not gender. I found this so much more fun as there was no ‘netball is a girls sport’ and ‘netball is just rubbish basketball’ stigma. I didn’t even realise it was a ‘female’ sport until I got to secondary school and it was female only. It was considered ‘cool’ to play netball in primary, and everyone wanted to make the A team.”

Patricia Beja said: “I don’t think netball is a sport only for girls. I understand that it started as being just for girls to play, but in the 21st century I don’t think it makes sense to have sports categorised by genders. Everyone should be able to play whatever they want to.”

In terms of its potential Olympic inclusion, the main thing holding it back is perhaps its status as a Commonwealth-only sport, but Kirsty Shannon said: “It definitely should be in the Olympics. I think it’s not because people think it’s only a women’s game, but men can play too – mixed netball is fun and I think men would enjoy it if they had a go.”

As Patricia Beja put it: “Maybe if it was in the Olympics, more people would know about it therefore more people would play it.”

Photos courtesy of UAL Sports.

Wembley Stadium

How many grounds have England called home?

As England prepare to play their 1,000th international against Montenegro on November 14th at Wembley Stadium, Elephant Sport looks back at the many stadia that have hosted their home games down the years.

The home stadium for the England national team is Wembley, right? Sort of…

Over the last 147 years, England have led a nomadic existence when it comes to hosting games. In total, they have actually played at over 50 different grounds all around the country since their first match against Scotland in 1872.

That encounter – the world’s first football international fixture – took place at the West Scotland Cricket Club, and England staged their first home game against the Scots on March 30, 1872 at another cricket ground – The Oval in Kennington, London, which they won 4-2. 

The original Wembley Stadium, originally known as the Empire Stadium, opened in 1923, and up to that point (and even beyond it), the England team were on the road for their home matches.

Between the 1873 and 1924 they played nearly 70 home games at venues including Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane, Anfield and Goodison Park in Liverpool, Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park and Villa Park in Birmingham. In total, England played in 19 nineteen different cities and 35 stadia in that era. 

England’s first home game not at The Oval came in 1881, when they were beaten 1-0 by Wales at the East Lancashire Cricket Club in Blackburn. By 1890, all their matches were being played at football stadia (although Bramall Lane was also used for cricket by Yorkshire until 1973).

From 1883-84 onwards, England hosted games in the British Home Championship against Scotland, Wales and Ireland (and then Northern Ireland are Irish independence). The competition last for 100 years.

Twin Towers

Another venue which hosted home matches in the early years of the 20th century was the White City Stadium, built for the 1908 Olympics in London. Only eight nations took part in the football competition, and 12 other sports were staged at the west London location during the Games.

A postcard of the original Wembley Stadium

After Wembley Stadium opened its turnstiles in 1923, England’s first match beneath the famous Twin Towers came in 1924 against the Auld Enemy, Scotland. Until 1951, Wembley only saw matches between England and Scotland but in that year the first big international game against Argentina was held at the stadium, with England winning 2-1.

Even after Wembley came into use, England still played many of their matches in other locations. Goodison Park in Liverpool was one of their favorites, playing seven games in total, winning four and drawing two. White Hart Lane was another lucky ground, with England winning all four of their internationals at Tottenham’s home.

After World War II, England’s games continued to be a moveable feast, and it wasn’t until the early-mid 1950s that the team really settled at Wembley. It was, of course, the scene of the first – and to date only – World Cup triumph, in 1966. The Three Lions played all their games during the tournament at Wembley, and stayed in north London 30 years later as England hosted Euro 96 and reached the semi-finals.

Wembley continued to host England games into the 21st century, but by then the old venue was starting to show its age, and was eventually deemed as unfit to be the home of English football. A decision was taken to demolish it and build a new stadium on the same site, meaning England had to go on their travels against between 2001 and 2007.

During that time, they played in 15 different stadia, eight of which had never hosted England internationals. Some 34 matches were spread around the country, bringing England closer to supporters outside of London.

England on tour

Given its size, Old Trafford in Manchester was the most used stadium during this time, hosting more than a dozen matches, including 2002 and 2006 World Cup qualifiers, and Euro 2004 and 2008 qualifying games.

The tour saw England team return to several cities for the first time in 5- years or more, and was considered a success, not only because it kept the money rolling in for the FA but also because the team engaged with fans all over the country.  

The new Wembley Stadium is a multipurpose venue

After several delays, the new Wembley Stadium was finally finished in 2007, and England’s inaugural match there on June 1st, ended in a 1-1 draw against Brazil.

Since then, England have definitely called Wembley home, but during the build-up to Euro 2016, they played two games outside of London; against Turkey at the Etihad Stadium and Australia at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. 

Ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, England beat Costa Rica 2-0 in a friendly at Elland Road, Leeds, and after the tournament, Leicester City’s King Power Stadium hosted another friendly: a 1-0 win over Switzerland.

In September 2019, England staged a World Cup qualifier against Kosovo at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium, winning 5-3, but expect the vast majority of their matches to be played at the National Stadium – as Wembley is known these days – for the foreseeable future.

Here is a list of all of the grounds England have called home the past 147 years, with some interesting peculiarities:  

Alexandra Meadows, Blackburn – played in 1881; also was a cricket ground.

Leamington Road, Blackburn – played in 1885 and 1887; ground closed in 1890.

Ewood Park, Blackburn – played in 1891 and 1924; held three Women’s Uefa Championship games in 2005. 

Wellington Road, Birmingham – played in 1893; ground closed in 1897. 

Turf Moor, Burnley – played in 1927; one of the oldest football grounds still in use in the United Kingdom, second only to Deepdale and Bramall Lane. 

Bloomfield Road, Blackpool – played in 1932. 

Park Avenue, Bradford – played in 1909; also a cricket ground. 

Ashton Gate, Bristol – 1899 and 1913; also a rugby ground. 

Cricket Ground, Derby – played in 1895; hosted the first-ever FA cup final played outside London. 

Baseball Ground, Derby – played in 1911; demolished 2003.

Pride Park, Derby – played in 2001; fourth newest stadium to host England. 

Leeds Road, Huddersfield – played in 1946; since demolished, also a rugby league ground. 

Portman Road, Ipswich – played in 2003. 

Elland Road, Leeds – played in 1995, 2002 and 2018 – being one of the oldest in the country to still be in use, also a rugby league venue. 

King Power Stadium, Leicester – played in 2003 and 2018; newest stadium in the Premier League along the Etihad Stadium. 

Liverpool Cricket Ground, Liverpool – played in 1883; also a cricket ground. 

Anfield, Liverpool – played in 1889, 1905, 1922, 1926, 1931, 2001, 2002 and 2006.

Goodison Park, Liverpool – played in 1895, 1907, 1911, 1924, 1928, 1935, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1953 and 1966 – held three games in the 1966 World Cup. 

The Oval Kennington, London – played during 1873 to 1889 – first stadium England called home; their original home ground. 

Athletic Ground Richmond, London – played in 1893; a rugby field. 

Queen’s Club, West Kensington, London – played in 1895; now famous as a tennis venue. 

Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace, London – played in 1897, 1901, 1905, 1909 and 1926. 

Craven Cottage, Fulham, London – played in 1907. 

The Den, New Cross, London – played in 1911; demolished in 1993 and rebuilt 2010. 

Stamford Bridge, London – played in 1913, 1929 and 1932; also staged cricket, rugby, baseball, speedway, boxing, American football and greyhound racing. 

Arsenal Stadium, Highbury London – played in 1920, 1923, 1931, 1936, 1938, 1947, 1948, 1950 and 1951 – held 1962 FIFA World Cup qualification; demolished in 2006. 

White Hart Lane, Tottenham, London – played in 1933, 1935, 1937 and 1949; demolished in 2017. 

Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, London – played in 2003; demolished in 2017. 

White City Stadium, London – played in 1909; demolished in 1985. 

Wembley Stadium, London – played in since 2007 and current home.

Whalley Range, Manchester – played in 1885.

Old Trafford, Manchester – played in 1926, 1938, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007 – second biggest capacity in the United Kingdom. Has held FA Cup semi-finals, World Cup games, Champions League final, Euro Cup games.

Maine Road, Manchester – played in 1946 and 1949 – demolished in 2004. When opened, it was the biggest stadium in England and the second largest after Wembley. 

City of Manchester Stadium (Etihad Stadium), Manchester – played in 2004 and 2016 – Newest Stadium along with the King Power Stadium. Used for the 2002 Commonwealth Games then reconfigured for football. 

Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough – played in 1905, 1914 and 1937; demolished in 1996; a venue for games at the 1966 World Cup.  

Riverside, Middlesbrough – played in 2003; record of attendance (35,000) for England v Slovakia. 

St James’ Park, Newcastle – played in 1901, 1907, 1933, 1938, 2001, 2004 and 2005; held 2002 and 2006 World Cup qualification games.

Trent Bridge, Nottingham – played in 1897; famous as a cricket ground. 

City Ground, Nottingham – played in 1909; hosted Euro 96 games. 

Fratton Park, Portsmouth – played in 1903; an Olympic venue in 1948.

Bramall Lane, Sheffield – played in 1883, 1887, 1897, 1903 and 1930; considered to be the oldest football stadium in the world.

Hillborough, Sheffield – played in 1920 and 1962. 

The Dell, Southampton – played in 1901; closed in 2001. The first ground to have permanent floodlighting installed. 

St. Mary’s, Southampton – played 2002 and 2019.

Victoria Ground, Stoke-on-Trent – played in 1889, 1893 and 1936; demolished in 1997. 

Newcastle Road, Sunderland – played in 1891; closed in 1998. 

Roker Park, Sunderland – played in 1899, 1920 and 1950; closed and demolished in 1998 but then remade. 

Stadium of Light, Sunderland – played in 1999, 2003 and 2016; replaced Roker Park as Sunderland’s home.

Molineux, Wolverhampton – played in 1891, 1903, 1936 and 1956 – it has a long story and was one of the first stadiums to install artificial lights. Also first to host European Cup matches in 1950. 

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich – played in 1922 and 1924. 

Feature image by Michael Day via Flickr Creative Commons under licence CC BY-NC 2.0. Old Wembley postcard by ca1951rr under licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Panoramic shot of Wembley by AKinsey Foto under licence CC BY-NC 2.0.