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12th Nov 2019

Does stadium atmosphere matter to players? More than you may think

Wayne Farry

Sponsored by Paddy Power

Atmosphere is a word regularly used in football

The feeling within a stadium during a football match is quite intangible. What one person considers a powerful atmosphere can to someone else be seen as something of a damp squib.

What is considered a good atmosphere varies from person to person. To some, atmosphere comes from the level of vitriol between fans, and from supporters towards the opposition team on the pitch.

To others it can be frequency and volume of chanting and singing coming from the crowd, accompanied by the thunderous bellowing of large drums that sound and feel like they’re emanating from a cauldron beneath the stadium.

To a few, a good atmosphere is one which is good natured and polite, but that simply isn’t factually true so we’re not going to give it much thought.

We are lucky to be, for the most part, beyond the days of violence and abhorrent abuse at football matches, but it is hard to deny that the truly inspiring atmospheres still come from old fashioned stadia, and usually during games between teams that genuinely dislike each other.

This topic, of what makes a good atmosphere, was one discussed at length during the most recent episode of Liquid Football, hosted Kelly Cates, who was joined by Carlton Cole, Matthew Upson and Wayne Bridge.

Discussing Liverpool’s emphatic victory over Manchester City in front a braying and passionate Anfield crowd, Kelly asked the ex-footballers whether it was true that atmosphere is actually important, or whether it is nothing more than a marketing ploy by clubs to encourage supporters to feel that they are more involved than they are.

All three agreed that it does in fact matter, and that for the most part it is new stadia that suffer from a lack of atmosphere brought about by sterility and a significantly higher degree of luxury than the stadia they replaced.

“I honestly think that older grounds – if you can renovate an older ground – like what Liverpool have done, and make it into the modern day, it maintains a bit of like a gritty edge,” said former Arsenal, Birmingham and West Ham defender Upson.

“It’s hard to explain it. It’s a bit of atmosphere. It’s just gritty. And the newer stadiums, you lose a little bit of that. It becomes maybe a bit more sterile. And very nice, and grand, and amazing. But it just doesn’t have quite the same feel for me.”

The point of new stadia losing their imposing nature by way of having modern luxuries – for players as well as supporters – is something backed up by Carlton Cole, who cited the luxury away changing rooms in West Ham United’s London Stadium and how it differs in comparison to the grittiness of Upton Park, which they left in 2016.

“The London Stadium now. Fantastic facilities in the changing room. The home changing room’s exactly like the away changing room. It’s got a jacuzzi and everything in there mate,” said Cole.

“If you’re an away player, I’d have been in the jacuzzi chilling.”

Watch the latest episode of Liquid Football in full on YouTube here: