Today is the centenary of the birth of Sir Stanley Matthews. Nicknamed ‘the Wizard of the Dribble’, Matthews was one of England’s greatest footballers and his ball skills inspired a generation of devoted fans. Matthews may be gone, but England’s love affair with the sport is still going strong. A stay at Strand Palace Hotel offers the chance to observe the great game in play, either live at one of London’s stadiums or at an atmospheric pub or sports bar.
Wembley has been the traditional home of the FA cup final since 1923 and every British footballer dreams of playing here, just as Sir Stanley Matthews once did. With a capacity of 90,000, this is now the second largest stadium in Europe. The chances of getting a ticket to watch football here are slim, but the daily stadium tours give you a chance to see even more than you would from the stands, including the changing rooms and the players’ tunnel.
Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and the World’s End pub
London is home to six Premier League clubs and the largest of these clubs’ grounds is Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. Not only is it the biggest, but it’s also said to have the most comfortable seating in the Premier League. Having taken 43 honours, Arsenal is London’s most successful team and match tickets fly away even faster than Stanley Matthews on the ball. Your best bet for Arsenal action might be visiting to see the Arsenal Museum (open daily) and then watching the football at the World’s End pub nearby, which shows live matches and has a great local atmosphere. It’s just a few stops away on the Piccadilly Line from Covent Garden station near Strand Palace Hotel.
The Chelsea Ground at Stamford Bridge and Frankie’s Sports Bar & Diner
Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge is another Premier League ground with an interactive museum that almost makes up for the fact that tickets are so hard to come. If you don’t get lucky with tickets, watch the game live at nearby Frankie’s Sports Bar & Diner, a joint venture between Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White and jockey Frankie Dettori, where you can cheer at the screens over your chow. To get there, it’s a short tube journey on the District Line from Embankment Station near Strand Palace Hotel.
Where football began
Although Stanley Matthews was teetotal, we’re sure he wouldn’t mind you going to a pub to enjoy a match. And if you’re based in Strand Palace Hotel, the Freemason’s Arm is the nearest venue with a fantastic match-day atmosphere. As well as their six split-feed high-definition plasma screens, you can see a display of Football Association memorabilia commemorating the fact that the original Freemason’s pub was the site of the meetings in 1863, where the rules of football were agreed. It’s located on Long Acre, just a short walk from the hotel.
For 3D matches (screened in the basement next to its table football), Bar Kick in Shoreditch is a popular alternative (reached from Strand Palace Hotel on the 243 bus route), or you could stroll to the ritzy king of London sports bars, the Carlsberg Sports Bar in Leicester Square.
Looking for hotels near Emirates Stadium or Stamford Bridge? Strand Palace Hotel is a short tube journey away and is well placed for London’s many sports bars and other sports attractions.