Sheffield Wednesday

Ground No. 17 (return visit)
Visited - Saturday 17th March 2007
Result - Sheffield Wednesday 2-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition - Coca-Cola Championship
Attendance - 24,181

With it being four years since my last visit to Hillsborough, memories had faded, so I decided to make a return trip to Sheffield to see what is generally accepted to be one of the most traditional grounds left in the country.

The journey northwards went fine, as usual travelling by train, arriving into the Steel city just before midday, taking the time to grab some food and drink, and spend an hour or two there, before heading up to the ground, using the supertram, which was easy and efficient, going from the city centre straight to Leppings Lane, a short five minute walk to the away end.

Even at 1:45pm, the streets around the ground seemed quite busy, so I made my way around the exterior, taking a few pics, and seeing that most of it looked unchanged from my last visit. From the outside, the Leppings Lane End (or West Stand) looks quite dated, but attractive nonetheless (well, to the ground enthusiasts amongst us!) with its large sign of the clubs name standing out. The North Stand is mostly hidden behind terrace houses, but you can see the eastern end of it, with its huge, moody looking struts bending around the roof and underbelly of the stand. Shaped around a hill, the huge Kop looks impressive, with the blue painted cladding giving a good impression, and finally the South Stand is the most impressive of the lot, with a walkway tunnel running underneath it to allow access to turnstiles, whilst to the left of that runs the River Don, which makes it necessary for there to be a small bridge running from the main entrance to the road opposite. The other main thing of note outside the ground is the memorial to the 96 victims who lost their life during the disaster in 1989. Whilst it has been nicely set aside, one small criticism is that it doesn’t seem particularly grandiose (maybe it doesn’t have to be), but considering the impact of the tragedy, the memorial does seem to be somewhat lacking in something, what I couldn’t really say. Despite that small downside though, from the outside the ground is truly carved into its environment with earth and water, and man made buildings restricting its growth on all four sides. The Madejski Stadium with its surrounding car parks, this ground certainly isn’t!

If the outside whets your appetite, then after going in, the ground doesn’t disappoint. With it being a Wolves game, I’d chosen to sit in the away end, where facilities in the two-tiered Leppings Lane End are ageing, but reasonable, which would also describe the views on offer, which aren’t too bad, unless you happen to be sat directly behind a pillar, or right at the top of the stand. To our left was the North Stand, a large single tiered stand, looking as moody on the inside as it did from the rear. The first cantilever stand in Britain to run the full length of the pitch, it was built way back in the early 60s, but still looks quite modern, whilst at the same time retaining character, particularly with the curved windshields adding a bit of extra depth to it.
Opposite was the Kop, which is immense, seating over 11,000. Stretching back right into its cavernous roof, you can’t really see the top rows, with it being difficult to make out that it’s even two tiered. The lower corners are filled in, albeit not in the more modern sense, with them just merely seeming to stretch a little beyond the width of the pitch. To the right was the South Stand. Like the Kop, it is at first difficult to tell that this stand is two tiered, due to how big the lower tier is, but it does indeed go back further, and the large, deep roof and curved windshields help add character, as does the famous gable with its ornate metalwork and clock sitting proudly in its centre.

Having taken a few pictures, the game soon got started, and from the off Wednesday looked up for it, taking the game to Wolves. They were rewarded in the 22nd minute, when some lax defending from a throw-in, meant Deon Burton was easily able to chip the ball over Matt Murray into the far corner of the net. After that they dominated the first half, however we were able to snatch a goal back on 35 minutes when Michael McIndoe headed home a cross to make it 1-1.

During the break, Murray was replaced, and almost immediately we were made to pay when Steve McLeans low shot along the ground creeped into the corner just beyond replacement ‘keeper Jan Budtz’s hand (can’t help but feel Murray would have got to it!). The rest of the half was even, and only notable for the sending off of Frank Simek after a rash challenge on McIndoe. The Owls were made to pay for that, when during injury time they were trying to run the clock down in the corner, only for Darren Potter to steal the ball from a Wednesday player. Fifteen seconds and three passes later, Andy Keogh beat Steve Watson on the edge of the box and smashed the ball home, low beyond Owls ‘keeper Iain Turner to make a 2-2 draw feel more like a victory with jubilant scenes in the away end.

Throughout the game, there had been a fairly good atmosphere. The attendance was only 2800 bigger than on my last visit, but with the home fans more spread around the ground than back then, the crowd seemed considerably bigger, so that was good to see.

After leaving the ground, the journey back went well, I managed to get straight onto the first tram back into the city centre (guessing exactly where the doors would stop and cramming straight on, whilst more people waited outside!). From there, the journey home on the train went without incident, arriving back into Wolverhampton just after 8pm.

Overall, it had been a pretty good day out. The ground was actually a lot better than I remembered it, being a true classic, and a rare gem left amongst the 92. Whilst it could probably do with a little TLC here and there, it still possesses more character than The Madejski, Walkers and St Mary’s Stadium(s) put together, so it would be a real shame if any ‘improvement’ work was done, as if there was probably one ground you would want to take and put in a time capsule, this is it. If you like grounds that have tradition, character, and are a good size, then you can do a hell of a lot worse than visiting Hillsborough.

The Main Entrance

Rear of the South Stand and River Don

The Hillsborough Disaster Memorial

Rear of the Kop

Rear of the North Stand and Club Shop

Rear of the Leppings Lane End

The South Stand

The Famous South Stand Gable

The Kop

The North Stand

The South West Corner

The North Stand

The Kop

The South Stand

Hillsborough Panoramic 1

Hillsborough Panoramic 2

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