Warrington Wizards

Ground No. 10
Visited - Saturday 24th May 2008
Result - Warrington Wizards 22-14 Bramley Buffaloes
Competition - The National League Conference
Attendance - n/a

When I first started to get into Rugby, one of the first grounds I visited was Warrington’s brand new Halliwell Jones Stadium. I’d instantly liked the place, but as impressive and good quality it was, being generally more interested in the older, more traditional grounds I was disappointed to have missed out on their former home, Wilderspool, having heard quite a few good reports about it.

Having moved out three years prior to my visit, in 2003, then I’d expected it to have been turned into houses or a retail park, so it was good to hear that the ground is still very much in use, nowadays by the towns smaller side, Warrington Wizards, who had moved in when their bigger neighbours moved out. With this in mind, I was determined to make my way back to Cheshire and visit the ground, even if it was for a more low key occasion than a Wolves home game would undoubtedly have been.

Travelling up to Warrington was relatively easy, with a direct train that took just over an hour, arriving just before midday. Situated just outside the town centre, then Wilderspool isn’t the hardest of venues to get to, although it is tucked away behind the bus depot and a series of terraced streets, meaning it can be difficult to spot once in the immediate vicinity.

From the outside, it really does look quite run down nowadays, with the main Brian Bevan Stand mostly boarded up except for the main entrance, which was open, ready for the game. Outside The Railway End had become an area for fly tipping (although I got the impression behind here had never widely been in use by the public), whilst the far side on the Priory Street side was virtually derelict, with the old Snookers club completely closed down (it had been open when I visited in 2006). The Fletcher Street End seemed to have survived mostly intact, although after going in, it seemed to be the other way round, with this side looking a bit of a mess! It’s an unusual end, split into two, with terracing running from around the corner to halfway behind the sticks where it was covered by a high roof, whilst next to it stood a separate bit of terracing which was much smaller and also covered, with what looked like possibly press boxes at the rear of the stand. The Priory Street Side was another small strip of terracing running the length of the pitch, with the snooker club sitting above it, dominating that side with its dark brick exterior looking a bit of a mess now, not helped by the tatty advertisements which had suffered since Wire had left the ground. The Railway End was still in good shape, looking like it could still be used today with little work needing doing to it, whilst the only side now in use was the Brian Bevan Stand, which towered over the rest of the ground, with a strip of terracing running the length of the pitch and around both corners, whilst an upper tier sat raised from it, seating what looked to have been a couple of thousand.

Having been allowed in to take a few pictures, I eventually left and spent the rest of the afternoon in the town, grabbing a drink before having to go back for the afternoons game. Bramley were scheduled as the visitors, and it looked to be an exciting match, with neither side having lost a league game all season so far.

It started off well for the visitors, taking an early 2-0 lead thanks to a penalty in the second minute for a high tackle, but the Wizards rallied and it turned into a real battle, with both sides refusing to give an inch, although that led to a number of sin bins when temperatures got a little over heated, particularly from Bramley who conceded a try almost straight after Danny Johnson was sent off, when Alan Reddecliff went over and had his effort converted to make it 6-2, but it was soon 8-6 when John Elliker found space to run into and went over unchallenged to put the Yorkshire side back in the lead. That was the last bit of luck Bramley were to have in the first half, and two tries before half-time sent Warrington into the break 16-8 up, despite having had their own man sent to the sin bin for punching.

The second half was mostly even, although a flurry ten minutes in saw the hosts extend their lead, only to be pegged back, when Bramley got their second try of the afternoon through Kevin Till who went over beneath the posts. Another sin bin for Bramley was the only real point to mention after that, although the game finished well with most of the crowd seeming to have enjoyed the match, both sides being warmly applauded off.

Unfortunately the actual attendance was never announced, although with a noisy following from Bramley, by all accounts it seemed larger than usual for Wizards, with the Brian Bevan upper tier being ‘busy’ in the central sections, with the two ends of the stand blocked off.

Overall, it was a good trip. Whilst the ground may look a little run down nowadays, and is only open on one side, it’s still a good place to visit and serves a purpose for the Wizards, surely better for the community than cheap houses or another B&Q. It’s just a shame that other grounds haven’t been preserved in this way for smaller, more local clubs, but as usual, money speaks... That aside, with everything else in mind, I’d be quite happy to revisit, and at only £3 entry, would urge anyone else to do so.

Welcome to Wilderspool

Rear of the Fletcher Street End

Rear of the Priory Lane Stand

Outside the Railway End

Rear of the Railway End

Rear of the Brian Bevan Stand

The Players Tunnel

The Brian Bevan Stand

The Fletcher Street End

The Priory Lane Stand

The Railway End

The Railway End


1 comment:

  1. Its a shame in a way that the old grounds are going. Its understandable I guess, but still a shame.