From King's Lynn to Moscow via Holland, meet the groundhopper who visited a new stadium every five days in 2018
PUBLISHED: 12:12 02 January 2019
From The Walks in King's Lynn to the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow via the Rat Verlegh Stadion in the Netherlands, meet the Norfolk football fan who's New Year's resolution in 2018 was to visit as many stadiums as possible.
Attending a game roughly every three days, Andrew Howell, 44, visited 75 different grounds across Europe in 2018, and already has plans to add to his growing list.
More than 120 games later, the Norwich City season ticket holder and lifelong fan of the Linnets now has his sights set on visiting all 92 grounds in the Football League as well as completing all the stadiums of Europe’s top leagues.
• Bored of the same old grounds
A lover of non-league, who fell in love with the game as a child at The Walks in King’s Lynn, the tedium of the same old Championship and Premier League grounds pushed him to explore further afield.
He said: “I got bored of going to the same old places all the time. As a Norwich fan we go to the same old grounds and the tickets are expensive and the atmosphere is not great.
“It was a New Year’s resolution in 2018 and it was the only one I stuck to. It is just something different and amazingly cheap and it’s a hobby I just enjoy.
“It is often cheaper to watch a German team than it is King’s Lynn. I’ve spent €12 a match and you can get a ticket for £20 a flight with a day return.”
• The best grounds are in surprising places
Visiting grounds in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia and Portugal, Mr Howell’s best moments have come from some unexpected places.
“There is a team in the Netherlands called NAC Breda,” he said, “They were fantastic and had a really great atmosphere, as were Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany.
“Years ago I went to Barcelona thinking it would brilliant and though the atmosphere was rubbish. It can be the most surprising of places that can be really good.
“You go to these places sometimes not knowing what to expect, and that is part of the fun. You just rock up and just see what it is like, the atmosphere can be great and really good like at Breda.”
The secret to finding a good atmosphere is derby games, said Mr Howell. “I did Köln versus Schalke and that was really good and the crowd and the atmosphere was amazing.
“Derby games are when you get the best atmosphere.”
• Favourite moments
Alongside the countless Norwich City winners at Carrow Road, Mr Howell’s favourite moments came in two very different parts of the world, King’s Lynn and Moscow.
He said: “Kieran Trippier’s goal in the World Cup semi-final against Croatia was my best moment. I thought we were going to the final and it was all the highs and lows in one match.
“King’s Lynn beating Hereford as well for the title and winning 3-2 after being 2-0 down and The Walks were really loud that night, it sounded like there were 5,000 there.”
• Home comforts
Despite jet-setting around Europe, his love of non-league and the grounds closest to his heart remain constant favourites even as he continues to add to his list of stadiums.
Mr Howell said: “The Walks and Carrow Road are still my favourite grounds. King’s Lynn was the first place I watched football with my Dad and the both of them are my home.
“I’ve also watched a lot of non-league. I went to March and one of the guys at the turnstiles and he pretty much gave me a guided tour of the place.
“It clearly meant so much to them that I had bothered to go and watch a game and bigger clubs don’t really care. It was really refreshing.”
“This year I’m just going to try and keep going, I have got trips booked to Bulgaria, Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic already. My target is to complete all the top leagues in Europe and see all the major teams.”