The Banks's Stadium

Ground No. 10 (return visit)
Visited - Tuesday 29th April 2008
Result - Walsall 0-4 Wolves
Competition - Friendly game
Attendance - 1330

Situated 8 miles to the east of Wolverhampton, The Bescot Stadium (or Banks’s Stadium as it’s now officially known as) is the closest Football League venue to Molineux, but despite the proximity, Wolves and Walsall have never been rivals, or at least that’s the view from the old gold and black side of the M6. Walsall on the other hand hate us! 

Living in the shadow of their bigger neighbours, it’s fair to say that they’re the forgotten side of the Black Country, always referred to as an afterthought following the mention of Wolves, Albion, Villa or Blues, they’ve grown up amidst the two big rivalries that the West Midlands is consumed by, stuck in the middle with no natural foe to enjoy banter and a derby game with, so when Darren Wrack announced his testimonial game would be against Wolves then it gave the Saddlers fans a chance to enjoy a local derby that had slipped away after their brief stint in the second tier had ended in 2004.

Unusually, the game had been arranged just before the end of the season, with both teams in the race for the play-offs when it was announced, so it never promised to be a full blooded affair, but I was looking forward to it having wanted to go back to the Bescot for some time. Unfortunately, the game had seen little publicity prior to it, with the only mention in Wolves media being a brief announcement on the official website on the morning of the match, so with torrential rain from the afternoon onwards then it didn’t bode well for a good turnout.

Arriving at the ground at 7pm, other than name of the ground and stands, it seemed little had changed since my last visit. The Floors 2 Go Stand still dominates the outside with its giant advert overlooking the M6, bringing in much needed revenue to the club. The Main Stand (or atrociously named Txt 64446 Health Stand) is reasonably impressive with its brick exterior, whilst the away end (Homeserve Stand) and W**t B******h Building Society Stand still resemble the side of a warehouse! After going in, the ground is really starting to show its age now compared to never venues. It’s still quite smart and well looked after, but the design has long since been surpassed in its short 20 year existence. Three sides are small all-seated stands, joined in the corner where the roof shelters the facilities on offer instead of having them underneath the seating in a concourse, and the other most obvious pre-Hillsborough design are the numerous pillars restricting views, with the only clear view on offer being opposite the away end in the Floors 2 Go Stand, which had a second tier added in 2002. This is quite an impressive structure, and was originally a terrace the same height as the other 3 stands, but it now has executive boxes splitting the two tiers and by all accounts, a very luxurious interior. With a small crowd expected, the upper tier (and WBBS Stand) had been closed for the evening, but a group of home fans still gathered in the centre of the lower tier behind the goal.   

After having taken a few pictures, and found a seat, then by kick off it soon became obvious just how small a crowd had come, with a very disappointing attendance of 1330 including 300 Wolves supporters. Fair enough, the weather was atrocious, as was the timing of the game and lack of publicity hadn’t helped either, but it still seemed a rather poor turnout for a player who had served the club well over the years with nearly 400 appearances in all.
As it was, the stayaways ended up missing a relatively decent game as well with Wolves fulfilling their promise and sending a strong side to face a Walsall team who as the night wore on featured a mixture of current players and former favourites such as Don Goodman and Jimmy Walker. Walsall kicked off and set their stall out to attack early on, with some good work down the right forcing Graham Stack into some early action for us in the Wolves goal, but it was the visitors who took the lead in the 10th minute when Stephen Elliott lobbed Clayton Ince from an angle just inside the box to make it 1-0. After that the game was played at a relaxed pace with Wolves never seriously in any trouble from the home side, keeping their one goal advantage at the break.

Afterwards, the substitution of Kevin Kyle on for Elliot Bennett to partner Freddy Eastwood up front paid dividends (slightly helped by Walsall taking off half the first team as well), and it was soon 2-0 when centre back Neil Collins surged through the middle before setting up the Welsh misfit, and fans favourite Eastwood who confidently made it 2-0. Three minutes later and it was 3-0 when Kyle smashed the ball home from close range, and Eastwood wrapped things up in the 77th minute when he grabbed his second with a sublime shot after being under pressure. Eastwood could have had a hat-trick with two chances late on, but the score eventually finished 4-0 to Wolves with a good workout for the team, having never really been under much threat from the Saddlers.

After leaving the ground, I made my way back to Walsall to grab a drink before getting the train home, glad to have made the trip.

Overall, despite the attendance and awful weather, it had been a decent little trip. A step back in time to a ground that I used to visit a lot whilst younger when Wolves were away (£2 for under 16s and a free school bus pass used to tempt quite a few Wolves fans to make the trip over the Black Country!), so it was good to see it again after a while without a visit there. The ground itself isn’t particularly great, with poor views and a relatively boring design, but if the club were ever to extend one of the stands like they have the Floors 2 Go Stand, then it could become quite an interesting venue, until then though it will probably never enter many peoples favourites list, but it certainly does a job for the club, which of course is the main thing (unfortunately, in a lot of cases!).

Rear of the Txt 64446 Stand

Rear of the Txt 64446 Stand

Rear of the Floors 2 Go Stand

Rear of the West Bromwich Building Society Stand

Rear of the Homeserve Stand

The Txt 64446 Stand

The Floors 2 Go Stand

The West Bromwich Building Society Stand

The Homeserve Stand
(an old picture, taken in 2005)

Players form a guard of honour for Darren Wrack

Ready for Kick-Off

State of the pitch at half-time

The Banks's Stadium Panoramic


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