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Friday, 4 January, 2002, 15:21 GMT
Fans' guide to football stadiums
Sunderland's Stadium of Light
Sunderland's Stadium of Light gets top marks
A football fanatic who has spent almost two decades travelling to football stadiums has produced a definitive guide to England's best and worst grounds.

Peter Tomlins' ground-hopper's guide gives a thumbs up to the Stadium of Light for its food, facilities and atmosphere, but describes Barnet's Underhill ground as "almost falling down".

Anfield, the home of Liverpool Football Club, heads the league for the best atmosphere and the wittiest chants.

The toast of the terraces for the best pre-match pint goes to the Nationwide Conference club Stevenage Borough, in Hertfordshire.

Footballing odyssey

"I've been to some pretty horrendous fields and sheds in my time but Underhill is the worst," he said.

"Though I have nothing against the Barnet fans, who are wonderful," he added.

Mr Tomlins, from Cheshire, started his football ground odyssey in 1982 while travelling to Chester away games, but it soon spiralled out of control.

"I have visited 471 grounds at last count, and all but two of the Scottish ones," he told BBC News Online.

The Cheshire Health Authority worker, a single man who lives in the Handbridge area of Chester, printed the book himself at work.

Profits from the 2 cover price will go to the Hospice of the Good Shepherd.

Emile Heskey playing for Liverpool
Liverpool has the most exciting atmosphere
He said that Tours Glorious Tours had already raised almost 400 and had nearly sold all 250 copies.

"I am chuffed that it has almost sold out in less than three months."

But a spokesman for Barnet said the comments about the north London club were wide of the mark.

"We have a neat and tidy ground," said Dennis Signy, a public relations consultant for the club.

"He is entitled to his opinion but our club has spent thousands of pounds to bring the ground up to football league standards.

Bizarre pitch invasion

"We have been trying for the past seven years to get planning permission to build a new stadium."

Mr Tomlins added: "The book is based on funny stories about people I have met travelling the country and I figure I have covered all four corners, from Exeter to Colchester and Carlisle to Ipswich."

Liverpool fans were amongst the quickest to react to the football news of the day, he said.

The championship winners in the most bizarre event category went to the north Wales club Y Felinheli where Mr Tomlins witnessed a pre-match pitch invasion by a herd of cows.

Anyone for cricket?

This year he hopes to travel more frequently north of the border to write a second book about his experiences at Scottish grounds.

He also has plans to write a cricket book in the future.

"I like to go to cricket grounds in the summer and have visited between 130 and 150 so far, from local grounds to the big ones like Lords, the Oval, Edgbaston and Leeds.

Mr Tomlins said one of his worst trips was in the early 1980s when he travelled all the way to Colchester and Cambridge for two weekend matches, only to have both called off because of waterlogged pitches.

"It was a wasted trip and to top it off we went on a bit of a binge on the Friday and had to spend the night in the car park," he said.

See also:

11 Apr 01 | Business
English stadiums leading Europe
01 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Football supporters demand ombudsfan
02 Nov 00 | Business
Cup holders to build new stadium
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