West Bromwich Albion
The Hawthorns

 



Ground No. 81
Visited - Saturday 7th January 2006
Result - West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Reading
Competition - FA Cup
Attendance - 19,197

For some the FA Cup is something to look forward to, a break from the league, the chance of a giant killing, an opportunity to win something, but for Wolves, Third Round day normally means a home tie against another side from the Championship, and this year was to prove no different, with us being paired with Plymouth Argyle, a side who we had played at home just seven days earlier. Not exactly the stuff to get your blood racing. With the woeful football being played under Glenn Hoddle, and the club keeping ticket prices relatively high for the game, as with many other season ticket holders, I decided not to bother, after being sick to the back teeth of watching us recently, so it left me with the opportunity to get another ground in, where though was the question. There was one game that really spoke out, and that was the clash between West Bromwich Albion and Reading.

With not many other games speaking out to me, I really was in a quandary as to whether to go to The Hawthorns, it’s not something I would have been so bothered about if we hadn’t been playing, but missing a Wolves game to see the Albion just didn’t seem right, yet the prospect of an interesting match, and ticket prices being reduced to just £10, well it was too hard to resist, and so one phone call later I had booked my place on the ‘Brummy Road End’.

In the days leading up to the match, I was still a bit hesitant about going, but when the day itself came round I was looking forward to going to the game. Getting down to the ground was easy enough, two short train journeys, with a change in Smethwick and I was soon walking up Halfords Lane, with the area buzzing with both home and away supporters. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great, but having been to the ground to take pictures before, I was able to go straight to the club shop, before going round to the turnstiles.

From the outside, the ground really does look quite good, unlike many redeveloped stadiums, it does look to have had money spent on it, with all four stands looking of a high quality. The Smethwick End, Halfords Lane Stand and Birmingham Road End are all a similar design, with the lower halves of the exterior designed of brown bricks with blue metal cladding above that, however the East Stand was quite different, having been built with red bricks, and looking absolutely huge, far bigger than it’s 8000 capacity would suggest. Completing the ground are 4 floodlight pylons, which are quite unusual in that they lean at an odd angle, but look good all the same.

Going into the ground, I really couldn’t help but be impressed even further by the design of the concourse in the Birmingham Road End, which given the confines of the Jack Harris Stand at Molineux was a relief to see.

After finding my seat, there was the chance to survey the scene, and get a few pictures that I hadn’t previously remembered to get (i.e. the Throstle statue in the Woodman corner). To my left was the huge East Stand. It really can’t be said enough how deceptive the capacity of this is, with the stand going back quite deeply, with a row of executive boxes above the seats, and a further gap between them and the roof. Opposite was the Smethwick End, which was split between home and away fans. That was another impressive stand, with a single tier of seating and a large police control box dominating the rear of it. Finally, completing the picture was to our right, the Halfords Lane Stand. This was the smallest structure at the ground, being barely half the size of the other three sides, but despite this, it did seem to fit, having (again), a single tier of seating with executive boxes to the rear of that. Also, despite all four sides being very separate and different in design, the ground is fully enclosed with large metal sheeting on the East side, and the Halfords Lane Stand wrapping around to meet the two ends.

Although the ground wasn’t quite full, there was good crowd of over 19,000 with the only empty seats seeming to be in the East Stand. Reading had sold their allocation, and as the players came out, the crowd seemed up for it, helped by an impressive pre-match build up orchestrated by local radio presenter and Albion fan, Malcolm Boyden.

Unfortunately, despite the prospect of a good game, it never really got off to a good start, as neither side seemed to be in too much of a hurry to get a goal. This was typified when halfway through the half, Nathan Ellington comically missed a sitter, and it was a case of it would have been easier to score from all of about 5 yards out. After this, Albion were passing the ball well enough, but with Reading happy to sit back and soak up pressure, combined with nothing really happening up front for the hosts, the game just petered out into nothingness, and as the halftime whistle was blown, it was met with a number of boos from the crowd. 

The second half started much the same, with Albion dominating in terms of possession, but never really worrying the Reading goal, until finally in the 82nd minute when Geoff Horsfield won a rather bizarre penalty that returning hero Zoltan Gera tucked away with relative ease. With that looking to be it, it uplifted the home fans, only for three minutes later the visitors to go on a rare attack and win a penalty of their own following a handball. Kevin Doyle confidently smashed the ball home, to return the match back to deadlock, and it was no surprise when the referee blew his whistle to confirm that a replay would be needed to separate the teams. 

Throughout, there hadn’t really been a great atmosphere. Most of the noise and banter came from the Smethwick End between the two sets of supporters, but with a match as boring as this one had been, it seemed like most fans were doing their best just to stay awake!

After leaving the ground, there was quite a wait at The Hawthorns train station just to get down to the platforms, but after finally getting in, I was soon back on a train homewards.

Overall, despite the reservations I had had about coming, I was glad that I did. The match might not have been up to much, but The Hawthorns really is a great venue, and despite being a Wolves fan, that’s not something you can really deny, so I’ll be happy to come back again one of the days.





Directions to the Ground


The Tom Silk Building


Rear of the Smethwick End


Rear of the Halfords Lane Stand


Rear of the Brummie Road End


The Jeff Astle Gates


Rear of the East Stand


The Club Shop


The Main Reception


Rear of the East Stand


Rear of the Smethwick End


The East Stand


The Brummie Road End


The Halfords Lane Stand


The Smethwick End


The Throstle Statue


The East Stand


The Smethwick End


The Halfords Lane Stand


The Brummie Road End


The Hawthorns Panoramic 1


The Hawthorns Panoramic 2
07.01.06 vs Reading


The Hawthorns Panoramic 3
22.10.06 vs Wolverhampton Wanderers


The Hawthorns Panoramic 4
22.10.06 vs Wolverhampton Wanderers


The Hawthorns Panoramic 5
16.05.07 vs Wolverhampton Wanderers


The Hawthorns Panoramic 6
25.11.07 vs Wolverhampton Wanderers


The Hawthorns Panoramic 7
25.11.07 vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
(click here for full size picture)


The Hawthorns Panoramic 8
20.02.11 vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
(click here for full size picture) 






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