The Cottage Ground
Ground No. 199 (return visit)
Visited - Thursday 5th May 2011
Result - Wednesfield 3-0 Bromyard Town
Competition - West Midlands Regional League, Premier Division
Attendance - 54 (h/c)
When it comes to building a successful football club, then it helps having a town with a sizable population behind you, but more than that, location is crucial as well. With a population of just under 35,000, Wednesfield is bigger than or the same size as the likes of Accrington, Yeovil and Aldershot, yet the chance of Wednesfield FC climbing up to the Football League is difficult to imagine when they live in the shadow of Wolves, Molineux around three miles away to the west. The town, once a borough in its own right, makes up a large part of eastern Wolverhampton, and is staunchly Wolves, even the clubhouse being decked out by more gold and black memorabilia than their own! It’s a problem that many clubs in the West Midlands face, even Walsall to an extent with ‘the big four’ drawing crowds from all over the region on a matchday, leaving the other teams struggling to pull in the sort of gates that clubs at the same level elsewhere in the country manage, and perhaps that explains some of the more ‘rustic’ facilities around, of which the Cottage Ground definitely ticks all the boxes.
I’d first visited it in 2009, expecting to see Wednesfield taking on Continental Star only to find out that the game had taken place 24 hours earlier, staying to watch a youth team game that was on instead. As part of attempting to complete the West Midlands Regional League Premier then this was due to be my third trip here, having come back the previous month to tick it for
Heath Town Wolverhampton Sporting Community who have been tenants at the ground since 2006. To say it’s not my most favourite is a bit of an understatement, and having been at beautiful Bewdley at the weekend, then a trip into one of the less beautiful parts of Wolverhampton wasn’t ever going to be one of the highlights of the season, so I’d left it for a night game, circling in the fixture against Bromyard Town who I’d seen a few times before, and had got circled down to visit the following weekend, the match unusually scheduled for a Thursday, due to the away team suffering from a fixture backlog.
Founded in 1961 as Wednesfield Social, they moved to the Cottage Ground ten years later, not a long move having previously played on the playing fields in the opposite King George V Park where pitches are still laid out and used by local teams today. The Cottage Ground had previously been the sports field of an orphanage for homeless children, and was more enclosed than the park, allowing the club to step up to the West Midlands Regional League in 1976, winning Division One A in their first season and gaining promotion to the Premier after a runners-up spot in their second year in Division One. They’ve played at that level pretty much ever since, except for the mid-nineties and early 2000’s, when after being denied promotion to the Midland Alliance in 1995/96 following their title triumph, they were promoted the following season, having won the League once more and making the necessary improvements to the ground. Their time in the Alliance wasn’t entirely unsuccessful, third and fourth place finishes being recorded, prior to their disastrous 2002/03 season where with no money they went down with 19 goals for and a whopping 169 against, recording the record low crowd for the league (10 vs Biddulph Victoria) and the largest home defeat ever in the league (10-0 vs Stourbridge) to go with the record defeat already recorded a few seasons earlier when they’d been beaten 13-0 away at Stratford. Since then though they’ve started to steady themselves again, already having claimed a respectable fourth spot prior to this, their final game of the season.
The ground sits on Amos Lane, a name that occasionally it’s referred to as, and is easy to spot from the road, with the clubs initials emblazoned across the entrance gates. From here, a track leads down to the far end where the changing rooms and clubhouse are, two separate buildings adjacent to each other with a small car park in front, and a play area for children outside, set back from the pitch itself. Hard standing runs around three sides, with the dugouts on the far side, and the Main Stand sitting centred on the near touchline. With a deep, cavernous roof, it provides the only shelter at the ground, offering six rows of bench seating within, with it remaining welcomingly chav free for the night, unlike my other two visits here. As with the rest of the ground, it’s in desperate need of a lick of paint and a bit of TLC, something that could really help transform it from the somewhat tired image that it presents at the moment.
After a trip to the clubhouse for a pint, then it was eventually time for the game to get underway. Bromyard, whilst rooted to the foot of the table for most of the season, still had a chance to try and get off the bottom before the seasons end, with both Goodrich and Wolverhampton Sporting Community still within reach, but it didn’t start well for the Herefordshire side who fell behind in just the third minute, a corner headed home by Wednesfield’s number 5. Despite the setback, they recovered and the rest of the first half was a moderately entertaining spectacle, both sides attacking without ever really creating any golden chances. In the second though, they both eased off, the match turning into a typical end of season affair, the hosts grabbing two late goals courtesy of their number 17 and 7 to wrap up a routine win which had never really looked in doubt after the break.
After leaving, I made my way home in good time, glad to have finally ticked off the ground for both sides now, with the dread of having to go back now thankfully gone! Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, the ground is unique, which is never a bad thing, but welcoming or a pleasure to visit aren’t two quotes you’d attribute to it. I don’t like to be negative just for the sake of it, but having to revisit a ground is never a welcome proposition for most groundhoppers and when it’s one that you never really liked in the first place then it’s difficult to sum up many positives!
Welcome to the Cottage Ground
The Near Side
Rear of the Main Stand
Wednesfield trial Safe Standing!
The Far End
Looking across the Far End
The Near Side
The Far Side
Looking across the Near End
The Far Side
The Main Stand
Ready for Kick Off
The Cottage Ground Panoramic