London is famed for its top-flight football clubs, but what if you’re a shameless dabbler who wants a taste of the Beautiful Game without having to fork out a fortune? We’ve cherry-picked five clubs from League One and below, where you can sample the joys of a top quality atmosphere without it hitting you hard in the pocket.
Leyton Orient (the Os, Orient): Football League One
Ground: Though it’s officially Matchroom Stadium, Leyton Orient’s ground is on Brisbane Road, and many fans remain faithful to this original moniker. It seats just under 9,300 — and according to John Rogers in This Other London, a good deal of those go for a pre-match brekkie in the Royal Cafe on Leyton High Road.
Tickets (domestic home match): £40 is the top-whack adult ticket (that’s for a seat in the Gallery, purchased on match day). For adults, the cheapest tickets are £21 and for that you’ll get a place in the North or South Stand. Concessions range from £15-30. In the North Stand, under-18s pay £5, and under 11s go free. If that still sounds steep, you can always watch Tottenham Hotspur Reserves play here instead.
Do say: “We’re going to do it this year”. Last season, Leyton lost out to promotion by just one goal during a penalty shoot-out against Rotherham.
Don’t say: “Why aren’t they playing that Moses Odubajo chap?” Orient recently sold the winger to Brentford.
Closest station: Leyton.
Dagenham & Redbridge (the Daggers): Football League Two
Ground: The clunky official name of the Daggers’ home is the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium, but most know it as Victoria Road. It holds just over 6,000 fans and is situated next to a load of plumbing outlets, so while in town, you can buy that new shower head you’ve been meaning to get.
Tickets (domestic home match): A top tier adult ticket is £21 (in the Carling Stand), but you only have to shell out £18 for a spot in the Family Stand. Concessions pay £13-15, while kids’ prices range from £12-free (the latter applying to under 10s).
Do say: “I feel another 2009-10 season coming on.” That’s when Dagenham & Redbridge won promotion to League One.
Don’t say: “I feel another 2010-11 season coming on.” That’s when they dropped straight back down to League Two again.
Closest station: Dagenham East.
Barnet (the Bees): Conference Premier
Ground: Given their nickname, it makes sense that Barnet do what they do at the Hive Stadium. But this venue won’t just feel new to footy dabblers — before last season the Bees played at Underhill Stadium, their home for over 100 years. The shiny new ground has a capacity of about 5,100 and also boasts extra for-hire pitches and a fitness centre (ideal for working off all those pies and Bovril).
Tickets (domestic home match): A premium adult seat in the East or West Stand will set you back £23, but you can whittle down the cost by opting to stand in the North or South Terrace — that’s just £17. Concessions pay £12 and under-14s pay a fiver.
Do say: “We need another 1992-3 season.” That’s the year the Bees won promotion to the then-Division Two, despite not being able to play the players’ wages.
Don’t say: “Who the heck designed the away kit?” It’s a brash lilac affair that looks like something from the Star Trek factory outlet. Although, as you’ll be watching the Bees at home, the chances of seeing it are slim.
Closest station: Canons Park.
Sutton United (the Us): Conference South
Ground: Borough Sports Ground was actually built as a race track, so the 5,000-odd seats are further back from the pitch than is the norm. This tends to mute the match day atmosphere a little — ideal if you’re a footy dabbler who’s nervous of rowdy crowds. Sutton United’s ground also hosts the odd non-football event. Next month, for instance, snooker legend Jimmy ‘The Whirlwind’ White is in the house.
Tickets (domestic home match): Adults £12, concessions £6, under 16s £2.
Do say: “Give us a wave Jenny the Giraffe!” This lanky ruminant is Sutton’s official mascot.
Don’t say: “I’d rather be watching Wimbledon.” The two teams are considered rivals, although Wimbledon have always been in a loftier league.
Closest station: West Sutton.
Metropolitan Police (the Met): Isthmian League Premier Division
Ground: The Met’s Imber Court is no Stamford Bridge — it seats just 3,000. On the other hand, it is set in 90 acres of parkland, endowed with a pool and health and fitness club, so it’s arguably one of the most pleasant grounds in London. Imber Court was bought by the Met in 1920 as a place to train its horses, and should actually be called Ember Court (a member of the council misheard the name, and it was recorded thus ever since).
Tickets (domestic home match): A very affordable £9 for adults, £5 concessions, and £1 for under 16s.
Do shout: “Come on you blues!”
Don’t shout: “Book ’im!” Like flogging a dead (police) horse, that one.
Closest station: Thames Ditton.