Gander Green Lane
Address: Gander Green Lane,
Capacity: 5,013 (765 Seated)
Non-League brought to the Football League, and that's a great thing.
Otherwise known as the Borough Sports Ground, the Gander Green Lane site dates back to the 19th century when it was used for allotments. The football ground was first opened on the site in 1912, consisting of a small pavilion on its northern and a turnstile entrance in the northwest corner. Trees surrounded the other three sides of the pitch alongside a residential building called Strawberry Lodge that could be to the west. The lodge had been demolished by 1937.
When the ground first opened, it became home to Sutton United Football Club, who played their first game here against Guards Depot Football Club in the FA Cup. The initial tenancy lasted only one season however, with Sutton leaving Gander Green Lane in 1913 as Sutton Adult School had formed their own team and were using the ground instead. Sutton United would return to the site in 1919 however and have remained here ever since.
In July 2002, following the relocation of Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes, Gander Green Lane hosted the first match ever played by the newly formed AFC Wimbledon. Sutton United won the friendly fixtures 4-0 in front of a crowd of over 4,600.
Since April 2015, Gander Green Lane has also been home to Sutton Common Rovers Football Club, a semi-professional team founded in 1978 that are also from Sutton.
The ground was also one of several host venues used for the 2018 ConIFA World Football Club. ConIFA is the international football association for teams that are not affiliated to FIFA, such as Abkhazia, Cascadia, Tibet, Tamil Eelam and Székely Land.
Gander Green Lane played host to six games in total, including quarter finals which saw Barawa face Northern Cyprus, and Kárpátalja face Cascadia.
Location and Getting There
Gander Green Lane’s name comes from the road which is a little away from its western side. The ground is located in the London Borough of Sutton, around 11 miles south of the Centre of London. Sutton Green is around 0.5 miles away to the northeast, Nonsuch Park is around one mile away to the southwest and Morden Park is around 1.5 miles away to the north.
I would normally recommend against coming to London-based football grounds by car, but Gander Green Lane is one of the more reachable ones.
There is a small car park outside its southern side, but this is for permit holders only.
Whilst there are plenty of residential streets surrounding the ground, plenty have a residents parking scheme in place. You can reach Sutton United’s home by car, but you may well have to find yourself parking a fair distance away and set for a lengthy walk to reach the ground itself.
A much easier way of reaching Gander Green Lane is via public transport.
The nearest railway station is West Sutton, served by a Thameslink line that runs between Sutton and Luton via London St. Pancras. It is a short distance south of the ground and walking from here takes under five minutes along Gander Green Lane.
If you have the option of coming to Gander Green Lane by car or train, I would definitely recommend the latter.
Outside the Ground
Heading to Gander Green Lane from West Sutton Station will likely send you through a small opening between the houses. Heading down this road brings you to the ground’s southwest corner, and then on from there to the South Stand.
Considered the Main Stand, its exterior contains a number of brick and concrete buildings that hold Club Offices, Hospitality Areas, and a bar inside, as well as the ground’s Main Entrance in the centre. Adjacent corners meanwhile have a concrete wall and metal perimeter fence running along them with multiple advertising boards attached.
Before reaching the Main Stand exterior buildings, you will come to Entrance A, providing access into for home supporters. Entrance A is Turnstiles 1-4, split into two separate turnstile blocks (1-2 and 3-4).
Head along the nearby concrete well and you will come to the Ticket Collections Hub and later the Sutton United Club Shop which is based inside a white portacabin.
On the other side of the access road from the Sutton United Club Shop is the Fan Zone, a collection of benches based on artificial grass with mobile catering units behind them. One of these catering units is known as "The Pie Pod".
Head around the corner from the Sutton United Club Shop and you will come to a white building that holds the MBA Lounge (Monica Bradley Associates). Parking spaces immediately outside of this building are reserved for Match Sponsors and the Commercial Manager, with other permit parking spaces available on the other side of the access road.
Sutton United's club house is in place through a set of gates, which includes a meditation and prayer room nearby. Car parking spaces continue along the rest of Gander Green Lane's southern side.
For most supporters, they will need to only take entrance in the Sutton United Club Shop, Fan Zone, and Entrance A for access into the football ground.
In a clockwise direction from the Main Stand is the West Stand, better known as the Gander Green Lane End after the road out beyond it. With housing located right up behind it, accessibility into this part of the ground is very limited.
Home supporters who wish to be based in the Gander Green Lane End have a choice of two entrances. They can choose to use Entrance A (Turnstiles 1-4). Alternatively, heading further north along Gander Green Lane will bring you to a path on your right that is split evenly between pedestrian and bicycle use. Head up this path and you will soon come to Entrance B on your right. Entrance B houses Turnstiles 5-8, split into two separate turnstile blocks (5-6 and 7-8). Those who use these turnstiles will emerge behind uncovered terracing and can walk around the football ground from here.
The northern side of Gander Green Lane is known as the Recreation Terrace (Rec Terrace for short). This is because of Collingwood Rec. which is located out beyond it.
The aforementioned footpath and cycle path runs along outside the Recreation Terrace, though you aren’t able to see too much of the stand’s exterior from here.
Home supporters can make use of the aforementioned Entrance B which is located at the northwest corner of Gander Green Lane. If you head to the other end of this footpath, you will come to Entrance C (Turnstiles 9-12) which is for away supporters only. Entrance C is split into two separate turnstile blocks (9-10 and 11-12) and also includes a sign that details Sutton United's next opponent. Entrance C is based opposite a small playground, and Sutton Skate Park is located around the corner from here.
The East Stand is also known as the Echo Laser Stand through sponsorship.
With grass, trees and Sutton Skate Park right up behind it, access to this side of the football ground is very limited.
As a designated away stand, access into this side of the football ground comes via Entrance C (Turnstiles 9-12). These are reached via the footpath/cycle path that passes along the northern side of Sutton United's home.
If you continue along the footpath and past Entrance C, you will eventually come to a railway bridge and Collingwood Road itself.
Essentially, access to the football ground comes via one of two routes from off the road called Gander Green Lane.
If you are a home fan, you have the option of Entrance A off the more southern access road or Entrance B at the start of the more northern route.
If you are an away fan, you will use the footpath which is the more northern route and passes alongside Collingwood Rec. Entrance C is your point of entry into the designated away section.
Inside the Ground
Gander Green Lane’s interior has a rather unusual shape to it.
Whilst the pitch is rectangular and the dimensions you would typically expect to find, there is a lot of space immediately around it as there was once an athletics track in place. What this essentially creates is an interior that has straight sides and curved corners, with none of the stands or terraces being right up against the pitch itself.
The Main Stand rather unusually runs along half the length of the pitch but is located off-centre from the half-way line.
It consists of a single tier of seating which is elevated above ground and accessible via small staircases at the front and sides. The outer blocks in this stand are coloured blue, with the central blocks coloured red and for executive use. Considering Sutton United play in yellow, the colour scheme can appear odd, although this is because the seats were donated to the club by Chelsea.
The ground's Control Box is located up at the back, with the tunnel right down the front and the changing rooms based inside. Gander Green Lane’s dugouts are housed out in front of the Main Stand, much closer to the pitch.
There are supporting pillars coming down regularly towards the front of the seating area, and these will restrict your view slightly if you are sat behind them. The pillars will not your restrict your view if you are sat in the front two rows of each block, though the view in general doesn’t feel that great as you are a fair distance away from the pitch.
Windshields are not in place at either end, with just small walls offering protection from the sides.
Heading west from the Main Stand brings you to a section of uncovered standing terrace that swings round to include the ground’s southwest corner. Rose's, which provides matchday food and drink, is located in-between here and the Main Stand.
There are rows of yellow metal bars in place for fans to lean on, and the terraced area goes further back the nearer you are to the southwest corner itself.
Views from this part of Gander Green Lane are relatively clear, albeit you can still feel a fair distance back from the pitch even if you are stood on the very front row. The presence of a floodlight pillar can partly affect your view as well in certain places.
Protection from the elements is minimal however with no roof in place overhead.
The Gander Green Lane End consists of five rows of covered standing terrace.
This stand only runs along approximately two thirds of the width of the pitch however, and the space behind is fenced off. The space in front is expected to be left clear during games to avoid blocking the view of those inside the terrace. There is a row of yellow metal bars in place down at the front of the terrace for fans to lean on. Dating back to the 29th March 1997, a gold plaque on the stand's back wall lists the names of those who contributed towards the terrace's construction.
Your view from anywhere inside the Gander Green Lane End is perfectly clear, though you can feel a fair distance back from the pitch even if you are stood on the very front row.
Windshields are not in place at either end, though small walls do help give some protection to those inside. At the northern end of the terrace is a small yellow booth that is home to the Sutton United Supporters Club.
The northwest corner contains a curved section of uncovered standing terrace, similar to what you can find in the ground’s southwest corner.
This terraced section has a row of yellow metal bars in place at the front, middle and the back, with a staircase also in place at the back that leads down to the facilities in place behind it.
Views from this part of Gander Green Lane are relatively clear, albeit you can still feel a fair distance back from the pitch even if you are stood on the very front row. The presence of a floodlight pillar by the pitch can impact your view in certain places as well.
Protection from the elements is minimal however with no roof in place overhead.
Prior to Sutton United's promotion to the Football League, there was a very small section of uncovered terracing between the northeast terrace and the Recreation Terrace. Affectionately nicknamed the 'Shoe Box' by fans, the stand was demolished in the summer of 2021 due to its small size being deemed inappropriate for Football League use.
What currently stands in place there is a covered stand made from scaffolding and black corrugated iron. It is often used by disabled supporters and provides a fairly clear view of the pitch out in front.
Rose's, which provides matchday food and drink, is located behind this black stand.
The Recreation Terrace consists of several rows of covered standing terrace that run along approximately half of the length of the pitch.
There is a row of yellow metal bars along the front for fans to lean on, and positioned atop the roof is the gantry which holds the matchday camera.
Your view from most of the Recreation Terrace is clear, although poles attached to the front of the camera gantry do come down to the ground below. These poles can slightly restrict the view of those stood in line with the half-way line. The stand as a whole can also feel a fair distance back from the pitch even if you are stood on the very front row.
Windshields are not in place at either end, though small walls do help give some protection to those inside.
Gander Green Lane's away section begins to the left of the Recreation Terrace.
Currently in place here is a small stand consisting of blue seats and a soft roof overhead. Supporting pillars do come down from above and will restrict your view somewhat as a result.
Behind the east goal is the Echo Laser Stand, a major part of Gander Green Lane's modern redevelopment.
Though it can look half-finished at first glance, its design is done completely on purpose. The stand is split between standing terrace at its northern end and rows of yellow seating at its southern end. The standing terrace section has rows of metal bars at the front and middle for fans to lean on, with tunnels in-between leading to the stand's outer concourse.
With no supporting pillars coming down from the roof, your view from anywhere inside the Echo Laser Stand is perfectly clear.
Windshields are not in place at either end of the stand.
Gander Green Lane’s southeast corner has a blue two-storey portacabin-like building in place, on top of which is a large electronic screen.
There is a curved section of uncovered standing terrace next to this, which has a row of yellow metal bars in place along the front for fans to lean on.
Views from this terraced section are clear, albeit you can feel a fair distance back from the pitch even if you are stood on the very front row.
Protection from the elements is very limited however with just a back wall providing cover. The portacabin structure could potentially help a bit here though.
Away fans are given the northeast section of Gander Green Lane. This fenced off area includes a small covered stand next to the Recreation Terrace on the northern side of the football ground, as well as the large Echo Laser Stand behind the east goal.
The small covered stand is all-seater and has its view slightly restricted by the supporting pillars that come down from its soft roof. When small away crowds are expected at Gander Green Lane, this stand normally provides the seating option for away supporters.
The Echo Laser Stand is split between standing terrace at its northern end and rows of yellow seating at its southern end. There are clear views throughout with metal bars in place in the terraced section for fans to lean on and tunnel which lead to the stand's outer concourse at the back.
The seated section of the Echo Laser Stand is only made available for use when large away crowds are expected at Gander Green Lane. Away crowds of any size tend to congregate in the terracing immediately behind the east goal.
Away fans enter Gander Green Lane via Entrance C (Turnstiles 9-12) which are based in the northeast corner of the football ground.
To reach them from off the road called Gander Green Lane, you will need to head north and turn right onto a footpath/cycle path that runs alongside Collingwood Rec. Heading along this will eventually bring you to Entrance C on your right.
Do not head along the access road off Gander Green Lane, as this leads to the southern side of the ground and the turnstiles for home supporters.
Pubs available to supporters on a matchday include:
-The Social Club behind the Main Stand (Away Supporters Welcome, though could be different for High-Profile Games)
-All Bar One Sutton (2 Hill Road, SM1 1DZ) (Typically Home and Away Supporters) (Located north of Sutton Station)
-The Crown Sutton (285 High Street, SM1 1LD) (Typically Home and Away Supporters) (Located in more central Sutton and west of Gander Green Lane)
-The Gander (2 St Dunstan's Hill, SM1 2UE) (Typically Home and Away Supporters)
-The Moon on the Hill (5-9 Hill Road, SM1 1DZ) (A JD Wetherspoon Pub, Typically Home and Away Supporters) (Located north of Sutton Station)
-The Railway (32 Station Way, SM3 8SQ) (Typically Home and Away Supporters) (Located near Cheam Station)
I have been to football grounds all over the country and at many levels of the English game, and few of them leave an impression on me like Gander Green Lane did. People are quick to mock the Football League's smallest grounds but what this place provides is proof of how we should celebrate what Sutton United have achieved and continue to achieve.
It is a very 'Non-League' ground. I'm sure plenty of Sutton United fans will happily admit that. The fact that this Football League level ground has a 'Non-League' design to it though is what I love so much about it. There's freedom here. You're not restricted to the seat number and row number on your ticket. During the space of 90 minutes, you can head around the pitch freely, switch between being at the back of a covered terrace or right up by the corner flag on ground level. That's refreshing to have when compared to the larger stadiums where you have to cope with the view you've got and the cover you've got (and indeed sometimes have to put with the person behind you screaming his head off at the players on the pitch).
The newly built away stand to the east is the start of redevelopment purposely being done to accommodate the larger crowds that Football League matches will bring Gander Green Lane. It will take time for this place to grow, but there is no desperate need to do despite what others may try and say.
I loved my first experience here, and I know that I will love every experience after as well.