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Official Review by Gary Foxall, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Not at the moment anyway, but the £35M rebuilding work has started to give Northern Ireland a stadium to be proud of.
Windsor Park is the home of both Linfield F.C. and the Northern Ireland National Team and also hosts the Country’s F.A. Cup Final each year. Opened in 1905, Windsor Park was a typical Archibald Leitch designed stadium that underwent renovation in 1996 but despite this remained outdated compared to other National Stadiums around Europe.
The Alex Russell and North Stands modernised the ground but since then not a lot has transformed. Currently the stadium has an all seated capacity of about 10,500, but this will increase to 18,500 once the rebuild is complete in 2015.
The stadium’s record attendance was 58,420 for a Northern Ireland v England game in 1956.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Kiosks selling pies, chips, hot dogs, burgers and hot and cold drinks are available in each of the three stands currently in operation. There is also a stall selling sweets at the back of the main stand.
Although an old stadium, the atmosphere for big Northern Ireland games is second to none and in recent years the home support has been the extra man on the field when England and Spain have been beaten here. Despite the crumbling appearance of the ground, this is a place where the big International teams dread coming.
With the political issues of the last thirty years hopefully a thing of the past, Belfast and its surrounding areas are a nice place to visit. In addition to the lovely countryside Ireland has to offer, Belfast possesses all of the big brand High Street shops, restaurants and concert venues.
There is not a lot in the immediate vicinity of Windsor Park, but a short walk to Lisburn Road offers plenty of public houses and fast food outlets.
Despite not having been to a major tournament for some time, Northern Ireland supporters are a credit to football. They even travel to World Cups and European Championships if their own country is not involved, always being good for a laugh and a sing song. Linfield also have a good supporter base and are one of the most successful sides on the domestic front. Regular participants in the earlier rounds of the Champions League and Europa Cup, many teams have slipped up at Windsor Park over the years.
Local rivals for the National Team are England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland. Linfield's rivals are Glentoran and all the other Belfast clubs.
Located west of the City Centre, Windsor Park can be accessed by exiting Junction 1 of the M1 motorway. There is a large car park at the stadium in addition to street parking and shopping car parks. City Hospital, Botanic and Great Victoria Street are railway stations that are a twenty minute walk away with Adelaide Station on the south side being nearer. All have connections from Belfast City Station. Buses from the City Centre also pass the stadium. Belfast has two airports, Belfast International and the George Best Belfast City Airport.
Tickets prices for Northern Ireland games are reasonably priced and start at around £20 but will need to be purchased from the Northern Ireland F.A. via their website. Linfield tickets are available on the day of a game priced at £10.
There are not many extras in relation to the stadium although I was glad I visited to see the ground in its original glory. The various Murals around the grounds vicinity with pictures of past heroes including George Best are certainly worth looking at.
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