Ever since the earliest days of football in England, where the modern sport was founded, fans have flocked to watch their favourite teams in action in their masses. Although attendances have fallen since the introduction of all-seater stadia in the 1990s, clubs are continually looking to expand their current homes, or even move to entirely new venues, as they seek to match the huge crowds that packed the terraces of yesteryear.
Some of the clubs featured in this list have already moved from their original stadiums, whilst others have plans in motion to do so in the coming years. Interestingly, there are also clubs featured that achieved their record ‘home’ crowds at alternative venues; either due to capacity limitations at their own venues, or work in progress that prevented matches being played. Surprisingly, only two of these record attendances have been achieved within the last decade.
1. Tottenham Hotspur
Work had already commenced on the new £400 million stadium construction at White Hart Lane during the 2016-17 season, right next to the original venue, where Tottenham Hotspur continued to play their Premier League and domestic cup matches. However, UEFA capacity and access restrictions meant the club needed to use Wembley Stadium for Champions League matches.
On 2nd November 2016, Spurs achieved the highest ever ‘home’ attendance in English club football, in their Champions League encounter with German side, Bayer Leverkusen, with a crowd 85,512 at Wembley. Despite the huge backing from their fans, Tottenham slipped to a narrow 0-1 defeat.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) November 2, 2016
2. Manchester City
The current Manchester City side managed by Pep Guardiola started 2018 in unbeatable form in all competitions, and countless fans have been keeping an eye on free bet offer comparisons at Oddschecker, looking for their odds of completing what would be a spectacular quadruple of trophies. Their current Etihad Stadium home is packed to the rafters every match with expectant fans, but prior to 2003, Maine Road was the iconic home of The Sky Blues.
On 3rd March 1934, a crowd of 84,569 supporters filled the Maine Road terraces for their FA Cup sixth round match against Stoke City. A spectacular lob from winger Eric Brook was enough to win the game for Manchester City and earned his team progress to the semi-finals, during a year City would win the FA Cup for the second time in their history.
3. Manchester United
During the all-seater era since the 1990s, Manchester United have consistently recorded the highest average home Premier League attendances each season, with crowds continuing to grow thanks to massive expansion work at their impressive 64,994 capacity Old Trafford stadium; which has been the home of the Red Devils since 1910.
However, United’s record ‘home’ attendance wasn’t recorded at Old Trafford, but across town at the home of Manchester City. Old Trafford had suffered bomb damage during the Second World War and was undergoing lengthy repairs, so when Manchester United achieved their highest English club attendance on 17th January 1948, it was at their temporary Maine Road ‘home’ across town. 83,260 fans packed the terraces for the old First Division encounter with Arsenal, which ended in a 1-1 stalemate.
There’s always been a high demand for tickets at Chelsea matches, and with the current capacity limited to just 41,631 seats at Stamford Bridge, the club are planning to rebuild the stadium completely. At an enormous £1 billion outlay, the new venue will seat around 60,000 spectators, when construction finally commences; but that still pales in comparison with the days of terracing.
During the heady pre-war years of massive English football attendances throughout the country, on 12th October 1935, it was standing room only amongst the 82,905 crowd that attended the old First Division match between, as Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw against London rivals, Arsenal.
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Goodison Park has been the traditional home of Everton Football Club since 1892, and still retains much of the classic look typical of yesteryear English football stadiums. Limited by expansion possibilities at their existing venue, the club has accepted that a move elsewhere is inevitable, and a site has already been chosen north of Liverpool city centre, where a new £500 million stadium will be built at the Bramley Moore docks.
Prior to the requirements for all top-flight stadia in England to be all-seater, there were rarely problems accommodating massive crowds at Goodison Park, particular for the hugely popular Merseyside Derby against their fierce city rivals, Liverpool. It was in such a derby encounter on 18th September 1948 when Everton recorded their record home attendance in the old First Division, as 78,299 spectators cheered on The Blues against The Reds.
6. Aston Villa
A historic stadium steeped in football history, built on the site of a Victorian amusement park and originally known as Aston Lower Grounds, Villa Park has been the home of Aston Villa since 1897. During its early days, there were cycling and running tracks around the pitch, with the venue hosting various sporting events, although the stadium has undergone various transformations leading up to the present day.
Like all modern English top-flight football venues, Villa Park is all-seater these days, but on 2nd March 1946 when their club record attendance was achieved, the capacity was mostly comprised of terracing. Aston Villa played a nine-goal thriller against Derby County, narrowly losing 3-4 at home in the FA Cup sixth round, with 76,588 spectators crammed into the stands.
The current Stadium of Light home of Sunderland AFC boasts its sleek modern design and facilities, but ask any older fan of The Black Cats which venue evokes the fondest memories, the answer will always be Roker Park. The former home of the club between 1898 and 1997 was limited to a capacity of just 22,500 when the final game was played, but that wasn’t always the case.
Expectations were high after Sunderland had been held to a blockbuster 4-4 draw away at Derby County in the FA Cup sixth round, so for the 8th March 1933 replay at Roker Park, a massive crowd of 75,118 filled the stadium to beyond bursting capacity. For the home fans, unfortunately, a meat pie and a pint would have been the only post-match consolation, as visiting Derby edged to a narrow 0-1 victory against Sunderland.
8. Charlton Athletic
Following their foundation in 1905, Charlton Athletic spent their early years playing in regional leagues, but after a moderate run of success and nomadic existence of moving to various grounds, a new home was required. In 1919 an army of faithful fans dug out the pitch at an abandoned chalk pit, and perhaps because of the valley-like appearance of the location, The Valley was the name which stuck for the venue.
During the 1937-38 season, Charlton Athletic were enjoying a promising FA Cup run, and on 12th February 1938, a bumper crowd of 74,031 watched the 1-1 draw against Aston Villa. The tie needed two replays afterwards, both away from home, before Charlton Athletic eventually bowed out of the competition with 4-1 defeat against Aston Villa.
— Charlton Athletic FC (@CAFCofficial) November 4, 2014
Image Source: @CAFCofficial via Twitter
Whilst the former Highbury home of Arsenal regularly enjoyed large attendances, particularly prior to the all-seater changes enforced during the 1990s, surprisingly, the stadium doesn’t feature in this ‘Top 10’ of English club attendances. Likewise, neither does their modern-day Emirates Stadium home, with its 60,432 seated capacity.
The club record home attendance for Arsenal actually came at the old Wembley Stadium, before it too was rebuilt, for the 25th November 1998 encounter with French side RC Lens in the UEFA Champions League group stage. 73,707 Gunners fans filled the ageing but iconic venue, as their suffered a disappointing 0-1 ‘home’ defeat.
10. Sheffield Wednesday
Football at the Hillsborough Stadium evokes a variety of emotions and memories. The cherished home of Sheffield Wednesday fans since 1899, the venue also encountered its darkest hour with the tragic ‘Hillsbrorough Disaster’ which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans, during the FA Cup semi-final between their team and Nottingham Forest. This inevitably led to the Taylor Report and forever changed football stadia throughout the UK, as terraces were replaced with seats.
While the debate continues in recent years about restoring ‘Safe Standing’ at top-flight venues, it was during the days of huge terraced stands when Sheffield Wednesday recorded their highest ever attendance at Hillsborough, during an FA Cup fifth round encounter against Manchester City on 17th February 1934. The 72,841 crowd on that day were treated to a thrilling 2-2 draw between the two sides.
There we have it, Top 10 Record English Football Club Attendances of all-time as we head into 2018. Most if not all of these records will take some beating, although Manchester United are known to be planning further expansions at Old Trafford, which could push capacity beyond 88,000 seats eventually. With that in mind, they are the most likely to set the next English club attendance records of the future.