Aston Villa
Villa Park

Ground No. 11
Visited - Sunday 5th April 1998
Result -
Arsenal 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition -
FA Cup Semi-Final
Attendance -

After an unlikely 1-0 win up at Elland Road in the quarter-finals against Leeds we had unexpectedly managed to secure a semi-final spot for the first time in my life. Although my Dad, and his generation had watched Wolves in the semis before, for supporters of my age this was due to be a unique experience. The draw had been made, and as well as us, Arsenal, Newcastle and Sheffield United were in the bag. Of course both us and Sheffield fans were hoping to draw each other and secure an easy path to the final, but instead we got the toughest draw possible against Arsenal, who were going all out for the double. There was one good bit of news though, and that was that the game would be played at Villa Park, so we would only have a short distance to travel down to Birmingham.

After much anticipation the big day finally arrived and it was quite a sight to arrive at Molineux where normally for away games the North Bank car park would be half full, having about 20 coaches on it, but the entire car park was packed full of coaches, even the small car parks behind the John Ireland stand were crammed full. As well as this ASDA was full with yet more coaches, as well as busses hired from the local travel firm. There must have been easily over 100 coaches there in all, which is something I’ll probably never forget. After eventually finding ours we set off for the journey before too long, with Jack Hayward standing on the corner of the club shop waving each and every coach off! Going up the Stafford Road out of Wolverhampton was another memorable sight, with scarves and flags hanging from nearly every window, wishing the lads well for the biggest game in 20 years.

The journey didn’t take too long and we parked on a car park near the ground before walking a short distance to Villa Park. Due to an early kick off there wasn’t much time to do anything before the game, so we went straight into the ground and found our seats in the lower tier of the Holte End, which offered quite a good view of the action. The ground was full, with not a spare seat to be seen, which looked an amazing sight, and despite us having the slightly smaller allocation we were actually on 3 sides of the ground, taking up all of the North Stand, Doug Ellis Stand, and half of the Holte Ends Lower Tier. Other than Wembley, the ground was easily the biggest I had ever been to and looked impressive, with the tall North Stand opposite, and to our right the equally tall Doug Ellis Stand. To our left was the Trinity Road stand, which was older and slightly smaller than the other 3 stands, but had a charm to it with its sloping roof, and gable in the middle, although it did have supporting pillars, but they added to it (although you probably wouldn’t want to have been sat behind one!). As for the stand we were in, the famous Holte End, it was huge, not just in the seats, but the concourse underneath was massive, and put to shame the glorified corridors that most grounds have underneath their stands. 

The game got started, but unfortunately we never did. Despite having star names such as David Seaman, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Patrick Vieira, David Platt, Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp, Mark Overmars and Emmanuel Petit, Arsenal never really impressed that much, but they did enough to keep us quite and never really troubling them. Unfortunately despite that talent the game was won not by a moment of individual skill, but when goalkeeper Hans Segers made a poor clearance straight to Christopher Wreh, who slotted home whilst Segers was still recovering. It was a blow we never really recovered from, although we did play well after that, it was never enough and the game finished 1-0 to Arsenal.

After staying behind to clap the players off we left extremely disappointed and headed for the coach where we made the journey home in silence, everyone shattered from the big day where both the players on the pitch and the supporters off it had given their all. 

Overall it had been a great day out, although immediately afterwards none of us were thinking that, but in hindsight it was a great occasion, going to a great ground and seeing the country’s best team, who after this went on to win the double. Going back a few years later confirmed my view that it is one of my favourite domestic grounds.

Rear of the North Stand

Rear of the Trinity Road Stand
Rear of the Trinity Road Stand

Holte End Gates

One of the Lion Statues around the ground

Rear of the Holte End

Rear of the Holte End

Rear of the Doug Ellis Stand

The Villa Academy

The Club Shop

The Holte End

The Doug Ellis Stand

The North Stand

The Trinity Road Stand

The Trinity Road Stand

The Holte End

The Doug Ellis Stand

Villa Park Panoramic

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