Intimidating atmospheres, bad pitches or simply a place where you just could not win – there are a number of reasons why certain grounds hold a sense of trepidation for certain players.
The subject of toughest places to play has been discussed by Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Micah Richards in the latest Match of The Day: Top 10 podcast, which returns for a new series, and their choices – in no particular order – are listed below.
To hear how they made their final selections, make sure you listen to the podcast on BBC Sounds and you can rank yours at the bottom of the page too.
Shearer: “I always think at Anfield, the fans are a tad more respectful to you as an opposing player than at a lot of other grounds. At other grounds, certainly with me, I got absolutely battered.
“It was one of the toughest places because they always had such a great team.”
Richards: “It is horrible. You go through the tight tunnel and they have the badge above and everyone is slapping it. You look at Steven Gerrard and he is there and you are just in awe of the guy. He would always set the tempo, first tackle, and he used to get away with all sorts. You never used to get a decision there.
“In the league, I’d definitely not won there. Maybe in the cup. When you’re playing, you feel confident sometimes, but when you go to Anfield it is like you have your legs on backwards. You cannot play a simple ball. It is like a fortress. I never had a great memory from Liverpool. They were just too good.”
Britannia/Bet365 Stadium (Stoke)
Richards: “It was one of my worst stadiums to go to. The fans were horrible, and it was so tight. You were getting abuse for nothing. And the wind would be coming through! Can you do Stoke on a Wednesday night? You can’t sometimes!
“I used to hate it. I even said to [Manchester City’s then manager] Roberto Mancini: ‘You don’t want to play me against Stoke. You won’t get the best out of me.’ He did actually play me and I scored.”
Lineker: “I played there yonks ago [at Stoke’s old Victoria Ground]. Even back then – I can’t remember who was Stoke manager – it was in the era of the long ball and there were certain managers who would demand the grass was grown really long because they played so direct it would stick in the corners. I think it ended up 0-0 but second half I rounded the goalkeeper, slotted in and ran away celebrating but it hadn’t gone over the line!”
The Dell (Southampton until 2001)
Shearer: “I loved The Dell. When I was starting out at Southampton, I was in digs about half a mile from it. I used to get up at 7:30am and walk to the ground and do the boots. It is where it all started, it had a great feel about it. It was a really small, compact, tight ground. I made my full debut there in 1988 and scored a hat-trick against Arsenal.”
Lineker: “It was a great old ground. Really small.”
Richards: “I’d never been to The Dell. I’d never heard of that!”
The Den (Millwall until 1993)
Lineker: “I played at the old Den a few occasions. It was quite a harrowing experience at times. You’d get on the pitch and you’d think to yourself ‘it is probably not a good idea to play too well today’.”
Shearer: “I played at the old Den in a reserve game when I was 17 I think it was, at Southampton. Neil Ruddock was playing for Millwall reserves and he gave me one of the biggest kickings I’d had in football.”
Elland Road (Leeds United)
Richards: “I wasn’t playing but when I was at Aston Villa, I went to watch them against Leeds and I was in the Leeds end. Villa had a shot and I must have clapped my hands and some guy next to me said: ‘What you doing here, fella?’ I said I was watching the game. He said: ‘Why are you cheering for Aston Villa?’ The fella stood up, so I stood up as well. He came towards my face and I thought: If I fight here I am going to get in trouble.”
Shearer: “I loved Elland Road. It was one of those grounds I just knew I would score goals. It is a great atmosphere. I loved going there; it was always a happy hunting ground. [The fans] were boisterous.”
Old Trafford (Manchester United)
Shearer: “You very rarely went to Old Trafford and got something and obviously I got dog’s abuse from the fans [having twice rejected the chance to join Manchester United], but what a team.
“I always wanted to score the winner with about 30 seconds to go, just so I could get my own back.”
Richards: “Derbies. There was one memory that sticks out. Remember the Wayne Rooney overhead kick. How many times do you see it shown? And you just see my face just about to head it but he just comes and scores one of the best goals.
“Every year we were getting better and better and then the 2011-12 season – the 6-1 Manchester City win at Manchester United wasn’t it? That was just the best day of my life.”
Roker Park (Sunderland until 1997)
Lineker: “I played a couple of times in my early days with Leicester and the ‘Roker Roar’ really was a thing. It really was. A well-supported club.”
Selhurst Park (Crystal Palace)
Shearer: “It was a horrible old stadium, dressing room small, tunnel small. Still now, you can see the teams coming out of the tunnel together.
“On the first day of the Premier League in 1992, we went there. I’d signed for Blackburn and that was our first game. We drew 3-3 and I got a couple of goals, a couple of decent ones. I always remember Selhurst Park, always a good atmosphere there.”
Richards: “I got twisted up by Wilfried Zaha. It is one of those where you know the attacker has one up at you and you try to hold your position but he kept coming and coming and then the crowd started getting involved saying ‘run at him!’ and every time he would get past, they would say ‘wahey’.”
Stamford Bridge (Chelsea)
Shearer: “I played there with all three of my clubs – Southampton, Blackburn and Newcastle. It was a horrible pitch, really bobbly and dry and long grass.”
Lineker: “It was always not a very nice pitch and not a very welcoming place. This is one of my more extraordinary stories. We once arrived really early, you’d go out on the pitch, kill a bit of time, look a the playing surface and see what studs you are going to wear, etc. I walked back to the tunnel area and there were quite a few kids. I stopped to sign a few autographs. Suddenly I heard this voice from up above, a woman’s voice. I look up and it’s an old woman and she says ‘Lineker! You diving…’ A lovely welcome.”
Upton Park (West Ham until 2016)
Lineker: “If ever there was a contrast between what a club’s ground was like for atmosphere and what it is like now for atmosphere, this is probably it. London Stadium is probably the only ground I can think of nowadays in this country where the pitch is miles from the stand. That is where it loses that atmosphere.”
Shearer: “You mention The Den about them being close and tight and horrible and them abusing you, Upton Park was similar to that and in terms of going from that to where they are now at London Stadium, it is chalk and cheese. London Stadium feels empty even when it is full.”
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