Our Soccer Trip to England
At the end of 2022, my son’s U14 soccer team had an opportunity to travel to Manchester, England to soak in the culture, tour professional stadiums, play other clubs and create once-in-a-lifetime memories. And, that’s exactly what we did.
If you’re reading this and have an opportunity to travel to England to soak up the soccer scene…do it!
There’s nothing like soccer in England. The obsession with the sport is addicting. The energy of the stadiums is electric. And, the culture is nothing short of amazing.
Here’s some highlights of our 7-day soccer trip to England.
Touring Professionals Stadiums
Throughout our stay, we were able to visit Old Trafford (Manchester United), Molineux Stadium (Wolverhampton) and Anfield Stadium (Liverpool).
All three stadiums were unique in their own ways. For example, Molineux Stadium kept much of its traditional architecture. They didn’t build around it but just restored what was there.
On the other hand, Old Trafford, had its modern facilities and special spaces to accommodate their special fans.
Old Trafford Stadium
Old Trafford Stadium is the home of the coveted Manchester United (Man U) Football Club.
It was opened in 1910 and has a capacity of over 74,000 spectators, making it the second-largest football stadium in the United Kingdom after Wembley Stadium.
The stadium has undergone several renovations over the years, including the addition of new stands and a roof over the stands. It has also hosted several major events, including the 1966 World Cup and the 2003 Champions League Final.
Old Trafford is widely regarded as one of the most iconic football stadiums in the world and has a rich history of hosting some of the biggest matches in football.
One thing that stood out to me was how nice their locker room was compared to the visitors’ locker room (that resembled a jail). It’s definitely a home field advantage!
As a side note, if you are traveling with a group, there will most likely be parents, kids and/or coaches that either love or hate Man U. It’s fun to see the anger or the excitement if you tour Old Trafford.
Molineux Stadium is located in Wolverhampton, England, and is the home of Wolverhampton Wanderers (Wolves) Football Club.
The stadium was opened in 1889 and has a current capacity of just over 32,000 spectators.
The stadium has undergone several renovations over the years, including the addition of new stands and the installation of floodlights.
Molineux Stadium is known for its unique architecture, with the iconic Stan Cullis Stand being one of the most recognizable features of the stadium.
In addition to soccer matches, the stadium has also been used as a concert venue, hosting performances by artists such as Bon Jovi, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Bruce Springsteen.
Anfield Stadium, located in Liverpool, England, is the home of Liverpool Football Club.
The stadium was opened in 1884 and has a current capacity of over 54,000 spectators.
Anfield Stadium is known for its passionate and dedicated fanbase, known as the “Kopites”, who occupy the famous Kop Stand.
Anfield is one of the most iconic football stadiums in the world and has a rich history of hosting some of the biggest matches in football, including several European Cup and Champions League finals.
Thoughts on the Stadiums in England
Touring the different stadiums was really amazing. It’s awesome to be on the inside after watching many Premier League games on TV.
Some things that surprised me were:
- Each stadium didn’t have much parking – stadiums are usually in the heart of the city. Most people will take the commuter train in and leaving the game.
- There weren’t many restrictions from the tour staff – We were able to walk right up to the field (not on it) and even stand at the podium where they do their post-game interviews.
- Gift shops are money makers – Those gift shops got us every time. They were packed with fan gear for all ages. And, they would have a print shop on site to print last names on the back of an official jersey.
Visiting Different Cities in England
During our stay, we were able to walk around a few different cities in England. Each one had it’s own unique story and feel.
Our tour guide was from Chester City so he gave us a very in-depth rundown on the history and culture. Chester is a city located in Cheshire, England, on the River Dee. It is known for its rich history, Roman heritage, and stunning architecture.
Chester was founded by the Romans in AD 79 and was once a major port and trading center. Today, it is a popular tourist destination, known for its well-preserved medieval walls, Roman amphitheater, and the famous Chester Rows, a series of covered walkways that date back to the 13th century.
The city is also home to several notable attractions, including the Chester Cathedral, a stunning Gothic cathedral that dates back to the 11th century, and the Chester Zoo, one of the largest and most popular zoos in the UK.
Here’s some photos of the quaint town…
Before and after our tour of Anfield Stadium, we were able to tour Liverpool, England.
Out of the three places we visited, Liverpool was at the top of my list. In the heart of the city, you can walk by bars with their windows open playing vibrant music. Street performers flock the streets. And, there’s plenty of shopping and dining in close proximity.
The city is home to several notable attractions, including the Albert Dock, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that houses museums, galleries, and restaurants, and the Liverpool Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in the world.
Also to top it off, Liverpool is the home of the Beatles! There’s a museum dedicated to the historic band.
We stayed in Manchester, England and it is a true city. In fact, our 13 and 14-year old boys saw their first fight inside a Five Guys. Something they may never forget.
During our stay, we checked out the National Football Museum. Although it was very informative, we were all dragging from 36 hours of no sleep so I don’t think the appreciation was there.
Manchester is also known for its music scene, with several famous bands and musicians hailing from the city, including Oasis, The Smiths, and Joy Division.
The city is home to several music venues, including the Manchester Arena, one of the largest indoor arenas in Europe.
Manchester is also home to two major football clubs, Manchester United and Manchester City, who play at Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium respectively.
The city is also known for its vibrant nightlife, with several bars, clubs, and restaurants located in the city center.
Dining & Pubs in England
Dining in England
The food in England didn’t impress me all that much. And, I think I was in the majority. Most of the boys had Five Guys at least twice during our trip.
There were several occasions where we ate delicious food at local restaurants. Some of the food included:
- Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding (this was my fav): A traditional Sunday lunch dish consisting of roast beef, vegetables, and Yorkshire pudding, which is a savory pastry made from flour, eggs, and milk.
- Fish and Chips: A classic dish consisting of battered and deep-fried fish served with chips (French fries).
- English Breakfast (we had this at the hotel every morning): A hearty breakfast consisting of bacon, sausages, eggs, beans, mushrooms, and toast.
- Bangers and Mash: A dish consisting of sausages served with mashed potatoes and gravy.
Pubs in England
To be honest, because we were with the players most of the trip, we didn’t visit many pubs.
There was one pub around the hotel that we went to a couple of times for short stints. It was definitely a local spot and similar to what you would see on TV. It was a packed pub there to watch rugby then soccer. A couple of rowdy folks that maybe were there for a few hours prior to us.
Playing & Training in England
Playing Games in England
One of the main reasons why we went overseas was to play against European teams. Our team was able to play three games and went 3-0 during their time.
Overall, the competition was pretty good. We did not play any of the professional academy teams (i.e. – Manchester United U14).
Here’s a photo of both teams after we played a team from a Welsh Academy.
Training in England
I give the boys a lot of credit. On the first official day, they were able to train well after being on a plane for 7+ hours. Most of them didn’t sleep and had been up for almost 24 hours straight so they were running on fumes. But, they took a bus to a training facility in Manchester, England.
On the second and third training day, the kids were able to train with coaches from Everton and the Wolves respectively.
The training sessions run by the European coaches were good. Their style fit the style of our current training sessions since our coach is from Serbia.
The boys were engaged the entire time. A lot had to do with quick touches and moving laterally to create passing lanes and scoring opportunities.
I was impressed with the other teams that were training in the middle of the day. We would pass by fields and there would be kids playing all the time.
Watching Professional Matches
Manchester United vs. West Ham
Our trip was capped off by watching Manchester United take on West Ham at Old Trafford. After being inside the stadium a few days before on our tour, it felt like magic to be in the stands.
I’m not sure how the tour company pulled it off but we were able to sit together as a group and enjoy the game. Our seats were better than I expected we were going to get. I figured we were going to be sitting in the nose-bleed section.
Prior to the game, we enjoyed dinner and drinks at the International Suite. It is connected to the stadium so we just walked up the set of stairs to our seats.
The actual game was a tale of two halves. First half was a boring 0-0 then Man U put some of their starters in including Rashford and they ended up winning 3-1.
Stoke City vs. Brighton
The second game we went to was Stoke City vs. Brighton. For 15 Pounds, we got incredible seats – second and third row. Granted, the stadium wasn’t filled but they were great seats to watch a game nonetheless.
Although not as energetic as the Man U game, the fans were chanting their songs and our boys enjoyed every second of it.
Overall, Brighton dominated the possession (as they should) against Stoke City and ended up winning only 1-0.
Once in a Lifetime Experience
This soccer trip to England was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us (as parents) and the players.
As 13 year-olds, they are still young enough to bring the joy out of but old enough to really appreciate what is going on.
The days and nights were certainly busy (and grey)which was a good thing to keep everyone engaged.
The tour guides, John, Katie-Leigh and Like from XL Sports Tours, were very knowledgeable, caring, accommodating and fun which I think makes a huge difference on a trip like this.
If you are considering a trip like this, I would do whatever it takes to attend. If you have the time and the financial means allow, it will be a getaway you will never forget…especially if you are a soccer fan!