No football in Lancaster? Think again

Sean Drury explains that there is more opportunities to watch live football than first thought

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Photograph: Andrew Mercer

With a historic city, a reputable university and some beautiful surrounding countryside, who could possibly feel short-changed by Lancaster? Football fans, that’s who. For those who may have grown up attending live football matches, often in big cities, the move to Lancaster can leave you feeling like there is a gaping hole in your life; a hole that university football can only fill for so long. At some point you will find yourself longing for the thrill of the big game. But if you allow yourself a bit of leeway on the definition of ‘big’, you might find Lancaster and the surrounding area has more to offer than you think.

 

First of all there’s Lancaster City. Alright, alright, so you’re not going to get many ‘big’ games in the eighth tier of English football, but we play the cards we’re dealt, and Lancaster is your local team for the duration of your time here, so keep an open mind. Chris Bickley already covered Lancaster City pretty thoroughly in the last edition, but with attendances barely surpassing 200 in recent seasons, the Dolly Blues need all the help they can get. Here are three reasons why you should check out Lancaster City: one, they’re located within walking distance of the train station and the bus station so are easy to get to; two, it’s just £4 for a student ticket, which is the sort of value you won’t find anywhere in the Football League; and three, the stadium is called the Giant Axe. That third one was the clincher for me.

 

If you must insist on the Football League, your closest option is Morecambe, just a number 3 bus journey away. The Globe Arena was only opened in 2010 but although the front of the stadium does indeed look slick and modern, don’t be fooled. Opposite the main stand is an open terrace on which I damn nearly froze to death in my first year, and it’s hard to believe it was opened six years ago, not sixty. Apparently, it is supposed to ‘evoke’ memories of the club’s old Christie Park. What, that ground was closed because it was old, crumbling and no longer fit for purpose? Yeah, I can totally see why you wanted to ‘evoke’ memories of that place. I’m all for nostalgia but I can’t help thinking Morecambe’s motive was more about money-saving than memory lane. The rest of the stadium is perfectly nice though, and you’re looking at £13-17 for a matchday ticket, which isn’t terrible. You might want to wait until springtime though – I’m really not lying about those temperatures.

 

Next up is Deepdale, home of Preston North End and the oldest operational football stadium in the country. It’s an hour by bus, or half that if you’re lucky enough to own a car, but it’s well worth the journey to see some Championship football at a discount price. That’s right, student tickets (sold as ‘concessions’) can be as cheap as £16, a similar price to Morecambe for a much higher standard of stadium and football. This is a ground which dates back to 1875 and manages to make you aware of that history without compromising on comfort or quality. Preston won the first ever top-flight title without a single defeat back in the 1880s, but now it’s been over half a century since they were even in the highest division. It remains a great club though, and well worth a visit for any football fanatic.

 

Best of the Rest

 

No doubt you’ll spend a day in Blackpool at some point during your student life, and may be tempted to take in a Blackpool match if the weather cuts short your sunning session, as it inevitably will. But don’t bother. Even at the height of summer a permanent cloud hangs over Bloomfield Road, with many loyal supporters boycotting matches in an attempt to oust loathed owner Karl Oyston. It’s £22 for the cheapest ticket at Blackpool, or you could watch Premier League Burnley for £2 less than that, provided you’re under 22 years old. You’ll definitely need a car for this trip, but like Preston it’s well worth it – Turf Moor is a cracking ground and those Burnley fans can generate quite the atmosphere. Finally, let’s address the elephant in the room – we’re only about an hour north of Manchester. It’s too far and too expensive, right? Well, maybe not. The university’s football appreciation society (LUFAS) regularly sells discounted tickets for high-profile matches involving Manchester United and Manchester City, and sometimes arranges travel too. So give LUFAS a like on Facebook and you’ll find that Old Trafford might not be as far out of your price range as you imagined. Whether it’s the bright lights of the Etihad or the chilly corners of Morecambe, I hope you find that Lancaster is more than capable of catering to your footballing needs.