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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Guardian sport

Route masters: football’s shortest multi-divisional stadium-spotting trips

Road signs to football stadiums
Off we go! Composite: Getty/Shutterstock

“A few weeks ago, I was driving home to Stockport from an insipid loss at Wigan in the [checks internet] Bristol Street Motors Trophy, and in less than a hour, we saw while driving past: the DW Stadium, Bolton’s ground (still the Reebok to me), the AJ Bell Stadium, and finally Stockport County’s Edgeley Park,” writes Paul Jamieson. “This got me thinking. What would be the shortest driving route whereby you could lay your eyes on at least one stadium from clubs from each of the top five men’s divisions in England? I’ve done almost zero work on this, but my first thought was around Greater Manchester: Oldham, Stockport County, Manchester United, and Bolton, on the way up to Preston. Google Maps has that route as being one hour and 32 minutes. Can this be beaten? Perhaps around London? What about other countries?”

Let’s start with a legal disclaimer: Guardian News and Media is not responsible for any accidents caused by readers vrooming about town like Ryan Gosling in Drive in an attempt to “win” a trivia question. An estimate from Google Maps, AA Route Planner or the like will suffice.


“If a shared stadium is allowed, then travelling from Airdrieonians’ Excelsior Stadium (Championship) to Fir Park, Motherwell (Premiership), then on to New Douglas Park, home of Hamilton Academical (League One) and Clyde (League Two), is a trip of just under 12 miles, according to the AA,” writes Stuart McLagan. “With just another three miles you could add in Cliftonhill, home of Albion Rovers (Lowland League, which is the fifth tier).” Graham Brown also suggested this route. According to Google Maps, if you start the journey at Cliftonhill the total distance is 14.3 miles.

In case you’re the kind of unashamed pedant for whom a groundshare is a dealbreaker, Graham has an alternative route. “You could start in Dundee, where the grounds of Dundee (Premiership) and Dundee United (Championship) are neighbours, then head to Forfar (League Two), Brechin (Highland League) and end in Montrose (League One). That’s a journey of around 30 miles, so well under an hour, and much more scenic.”

Tannadice Park, home to Dundee United.
Tannadice Park, home to Dundee United. Photograph: Matthew Ashton/AMA/Getty Images

Doug Coyle extended this answer by including Forfar United of the Midland League and thus covering the sixth tier of Scottish football.

Greater Manchester

Chris Rawson also went above and beyond the original question, plotting a journey that takes in a visit to teams from English football’s top six tiers:

“I would start at National League Rochdale’s Spotland, then drive north over the moors and drop into Burnley to visit Turf Moor,” begins Chris. “Then join the M65, proceed west and leave to visit both Accrington Stanley’s stadium and Ewood Park, home of Blackburn Rovers. You would then leave the M65 at Junction 3, and take the short trip to Chorley FC’s Victory Park, before joining the M61 to end up at the Toughsheet Community Stadium, home of Bolton Wanderers. That’s a total of 50.8 miles in around one hour 48 minutes …”

“Around” being the operative word. “Given the notoriously unpredictable M60 traffic, journey times can vary wildly so I preferred to look at road distance,” writes Dani G. “I used Google Maps with ‘Avoid Highways’ to get the shortest path (motorways are faster but usually a longer route). The route Paul mentioned in the original question is 56.0 miles. The shortest I could find in the Greater Manchester area was Oldham Athletic, Manchester City, Salford City, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers at 41.4 miles. For a very close second, switch the first two for Altrincham and Manchester United respectively and you get 41.6 miles.”

Old Trafford seen from a nearby street.
Old Trafford seen from a nearby street. Photograph: James Gill/Danehouse/Getty Images

Matthew Hague prefers time over cold, hard distance. “Blackpool to Burnley, via Fylde, Accrington and Blackburn at 78 minutes.” Google Maps has this journey at 62.7 miles, so goodness knows what the speed limits are like round there.

London (and surrounding areas)

Not content with appraising Greater Manchester, Dani G has taken a trip down south. “The only two London-area League Two teams appear to be AFC Wimbledon and Sutton United. They are around five miles apart but the former is marginally closer to the only National League side in south London, Bromley. You almost have to pass Selhurst Park (Crystal Palace) on the path between the two. Add Charlton Athletic then Millwall to the start and the total is 24.9 miles.”

Selhurst Park, under the lights.
Selhurst Park, under the lights. Photograph: Tom Dulat/Getty Images

Fraser Smith suggested the same journey: “It would set you back 1hr 42min at mid-morning,” he writes. “Time well spent I’m sure you’d agree.”

Stephen Simblet substituted Sutton United for AFC Wimbledon, the journey clocking in at around 29 miles as a result. He also suggested Stevenage to AFC Wimbledon, via Barnet, Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea (40.1 miles) and Gillingham to West Ham United, via Ebbsfleet, Charlton Athletic and Millwall (43.4 miles). “I have,” he says, spent far too much time on this …”

Fans head to Loftus Road, home of QPR.
Fans head to Loftus Road, home of QPR. Photograph: Jacques Feeney/Offside/Getty Images

Dan Levy reckons the shortest distance (though not, he stresses, the quickest) will be in and around the capital. “Either Gillingham, Dagenham & Redbridge, West Ham, Leyton Orient and Tottenham Hotspur, or Reading, Maidenhead United, Brentford, QPR and Sutton.” According to Google Maps, the distance for those jaunty little road trips is 49.8 miles and 58.1 miles, respectively.


“I’ve got Chesterfield (SMH Group Stadium), Sheffield United (Bramall Lane), Sheffield Wednesday (Hillsborough Stadium) and Barnsley (Oakwell) before finally finishing at Doncaster Rovers’ Eco-Power Stadium,” writes Rob Dalziel. “This totals 44.4 miles and takes 1hr 43 mins if you travel at 3pm.”

Bramall Lane
Bramall Lane is the second stop on a trip around Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Photograph: James Gill/Danehouse/Getty Images

Steve Laverick suggested Mansfield, Chesterfield, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley. “Google Maps tells me this is 1 hr 27 mins of driving,” he tells us. It’s also around 43.5 miles.


“The Spanish pyramid is unusual in that the third tier (Primera RFEF) consists of two leagues, the fourth tier (Segunda RFEF) consists of five leagues and the fifth tier (Tercera RFEF) consists of 18 leagues,” reports Jake Garlick. “Nevertheless, the existence of B teams in the normal league structure makes this very easy in the south of Madrid. Beginning at the Estadio Fernando Torres of third tier Fuenlabrada, it is a 14-minute drive to Estadio de Butarque of second tier Leganés. It is then a three-minute drive to the Instalación Deportiva Butarque, where fifth-tier Leganés B play, followed by an eight-minute trip to the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, home of first-tier Getafe. Finishing with a three-minute drive to the Ciudad Deportiva Fernando Santos de la Parra, home of fourth-tier Getafe B, all five tiers can be completed in just 28 minutes.”

And according to our new best friend, the total distance is 13.5 miles – which puts it a nose ahead, or rather behind, the 14.3-mile Lanarkshire route outlined above. It does involve two B teams, but then North Lanarkshire included a groundshare, so we’ll let you decide which side of this particular culture war you’re on.

Coliseum Alfonso Pérez
A fan heads to the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, home of Getafe. Photograph: Sergio Pérez/Reuters

Knowledge archive

“I bet you get hundreds of questions on this, but when was the last time there were no replays at all in the fourth round of the FA Cup?” asked Andy Mackenzie, the only man to pose the question, in 2008.

According to the FA’s merry bunch of statisticians, the last time round four went replay-less Anthony Eden had just resigned over the Suez crisis, Lennon and McCartney were yet to meet and Stanley Matthews was still zipping around on the wing for England. Yes, 1957 was the year. Saturday 26 January 1957 to be precise.

That year’s fourth round was something of a goalfest: Blackpool thumped Fulham 6-2, Burnley hammered New Brighton 9-0, Birmingham grabbed a 6-1 win at Southend. The closest the 1957 fourth round got to a draw was at Ninian Park, where Barnsley sneaked a 1-0 win, and at Molineux, where Wolves went down 1-0 to Bournemouth. Aston Villa won 3-2 at Middlesbrough in the fourth round and went on to lift the Cup, beating Manchester United in the final.

[Update: since 2007-08 there have been only two seasons without any fourth-round replays, 2020-21 and 2021-22. There were no fourth-round replays in either season because of the Covid backlog, though they wouldn’t have been necessary in 2020-21: all 16 ties were settled inside 90 minutes.]

Can you help?

“Ivory Coast losing 4-0 against Equatorial Guinea made me wonder: what are the biggest defeats by host nations in major tournaments?” wonders Pablo Miguez.

“Afcon hosts Ivory Coast sacked coach Jean-Louis Gasset after a desultory group-stage performance, but it was later confirmed they had qualified for the last 16. Has a coach ever been sacked during an international tournament before? And if so, what is the best finish for a coach (or caretaker) appointed mid-tournament?” asks Grant Ninnes.

“When Maidstone United beat Ipswich in the FA Cup they were 98 league places below them in the pyramid. On Tuesday they played a Kent Senior Cup quarter-final against Punjab United, who play in the Southern Counties East Premier Division and are 72 league places below Maidstone. That’s a whopping 170 places between those two opponents. Has there ever been such a greater swing in consecutive matches?” enquires Lino Di Lorenzo.

“The Antigua and Barbuda international Dion Pereira has been loaned to Dagenham & Redbridge from Luton,” begins Paul Quinn. “Are there any other players who have played for a club and country with ‘and’ in their name at the same time?”

“As the weekend showed, Liverpool v Norwich pretty much guarantees goals, and it got me wondering when they last drew 0-0. It transpires it was 34 years ago in February 1990. Has any other regularly contested match-up gone that long without a stalemate?” asks Jim Hearson.

“Last year, Wessam Abou Ali was sold from Vendsyssel in the Danish second tier to Sirius in the top Swedish league, where he scored 10 goals in 16 league matches and was named player of the year. Earlier this month he moved from Sirius to Al Ahly in Egypt. From first game to last, his Sirius career lasted 120 days. Is that a record for a player of the year?” wonders Kristian Enstrøm.

“Which teams have won the most games in extra time, without going to penalties?” asks Bree Eldred.

“On 19 May 2007, Sal Caccavale made his MLS debut for the NY Red Bulls against Columbus,” begins Dan Ryazansky. “He entered in the 88th minute, scored the last goal in a 4-0 win, and … never played in MLS again. His career stats are recorded as two minutes, one goal. Can any other top-flight player beat that?”

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