Wednesday 18 January 2023

West Bromwich Albion - The Hawthorns

West Bromwich Albion FC
The Hawthorns
Halfords Lane
West Bromwich
West Midlands
B71 4LF

0871 271 1100
Official Website

Ground Number: 186
Saturday 7th January 2012
West Bromwich Albion 4-2 Cardiff City
FA Cup 3rd Round


1:  The club was founded as West Bromwich Strollers in 1878 by workers from George Salter's Spring Works. They were renamed West Bromwich Albion in 1880, becoming the first team to adopt the Albion suffix; Albion was a district of West Bromwich where some of the players lived or worked, close to what is today Greets Green.

2:  The club was one of the 12 founder members of the Football League. Their best finish came in 1920 when they were First Division champions. Seventy years later saw their worst period. Relegated from the second tier in 1991, they had their worst-ever finish of 7th in the third tier in 1992. The following season saw a 4th place finish and playoff wins over Swansea City & Port Vale to get back up. Nowadays, they've become a bit of a yoyo club between the top two tiers. A recent high was 8th place in 2013 under Steve Clarke.

3:  The club has won the FA Cup on five occasions. The last of these wins came in 1968 when they beat Everton 1-0 in the final, thanks to a goal from Jeff Astle. One game they will want to forget in the competition was the 1990 game at home to Woking which they lost 4-2, thanks to a Tim Buzaglo hat trick.

4:  West Bromwich Albion won the League Cup in 1966. In the last final to be played over two legs, the Baggies won 5-3 on aggregate. They lost the following year's final 3-2 to QPR at Wembley and the 1970 final 2-1 to Manchester City.

5:  There have been a number of forays into Europe. During the 1968/69 season, they reached the Quarter Final of the Cup Winners Cup. Club Brugge and Dinamo Bucharest were defeated before a loss to Dunfermline. A decade on, they played in the UEFA Cup, beating Galatasaray, Sporting Braga & Valencia before falling to Crvena Zvezda, again in the Quarter Final. Finally, during the 1995/96 season, it was the less prestigious Anglo-Italian Cup's turn. They came through a group containing Salernitiana, Foggia, Reggina and Brescia before beating Birmingham City in the Quarter Final. They finally lost over two legs to Port Vale in the semi-final.

6:  Famous fans include Goalkeepers Aaron Ramsdale and Ben Foster, comedian Frank Skinner, TV presenter Adrian Chiles, One Direction singer Liam Payne, comedian Lenny Henry, actress Julie Walters, The Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, tennis player Goran Ivanišević, television presenter Cat Deeley, DJ Dave Haslam, boxers Richie Woodhall and Tommy Langford, and guitarist Eric Clapton.

7:  Although known in their early days as "the Throstles", the club's more popular nickname among supporters came to be the Baggies, a term which the club itself looked down upon for many years but later embraced. The phrase was first heard at the Hawthorns in the 1900s, but its exact origins are uncertain. One suggestion is that the name was bestowed on Albion supporters by their rivals at Aston Villa, because of the large baggy trousers that many Albion fans wore at work to protect themselves from molten iron in the factories and foundries of the Black Country.

8:  Historically, Albion's greatest rivals were Aston Villa from nearby Birmingham. The two clubs contested three FA Cup Finals between 1887 and 1895 (Villa winning two and Albion one). More recently, however, some Albion fans tend to see Wolverhampton Wanderers as their main rivals, particularly as between 1989 and 2002 Albion and Villa were never in the same division, but Albion were in the same division as Wolves for 11 out of 14 seasons. This had led to Aston Villa supporters now considering Birmingham City to be their fiercest rivals. A less-heated rivalry also exists with Birmingham City, with whom Albion contested the 1931 FA Cup final and a semi-final in 1968.

9:  West Bromwich Albion's record victory was their 12–0 league win against Darwen on 4th April 1892. This is still the widest margin of victory for a game in the top-flight of English football, although the record was equalled by Nottingham Forest when they beat Leicester Fosse by the same scoreline in 1909. Tony 'Bomber' Brown holds the record number of appearances with 720 and he is also the record scorer with 279 goals.

10: Players to have played for both West Bromwich Albion and Wycombe Wanderers include Matt Phillips, Cyrille Regis, Simon Garner & Nicky Reid. The two sides have met four times. In 1992 they drew each other in the FA Cup 2nd Round. Wycombe were leading the Conference at the time with WBA riding high in the third tier of the Football League. The two sides drew 2-2 at Adams Park before losing 1-0 to a late Bob Taylor goal in the replay. They met again in the League Cup in 1999 over two legs. Wycombe lost the home game 4-3 at Adams Park after drawing 1-1 at the Hawthorns.


As Wycombe's game against Huddersfield was switched to a Friday night, owing to being picked as a live game by Sky TV, I had the opportunity to take in another game on Saturday. I am working towards completing the 92, and after looking at prices and travel cost, I narrowed it down to 2 choices. In the end, West Brom v Cardiff won out over the alternative at Doncaster, as it was a lot easier to do on the train. I had prebooked my ticket before, at the fairly cheap price of £20 for one of the best seats in the stadium, right in the centre of the East Stand, high up on the halfway line. I also got a bit of a bargain on the train tickets, £5 each way to Birmingham from the website RedSpottedHanky and then only £2 for a return to The Hawthorns from there. It would have cost me £30 in petrol, plus parking, so it was a bit of a no-brainer to be honest. The only bone of contention was that I had to get exact trains in and out of Birmingham, namely the 09:23 from High Wycombe and the 18:45 back from Birmingham. But it was a sacrifice worth making considering the saving. And I could get to have a look round Birmingham, taking particular interest in finding a decent pub!

On the day, I woke up at 8 and was out of the house by 8.30. I nipped into town and got a breakfast sub from Subway, as well as a paper and a few drinks for the journey up there. It was a trouble-free journey, and I arrived in Birmingham just before 11am, so 90 minutes on the train was not bad. But a complete change of plan regarding going for a drink. I had had a fair few the previous night, due to the pathetic performance on the pitch of my beloved Wycombe who had lost 6-0 at home to Huddersfield, live on Sky. A few things I did notice about Birmingham was the sheer amount of A) daft haircuts - some of them were more embarrassing than the Wycombe showing last night, believe it or not. B) Religious fanatics, trying to dish out pamphlets and DVD's - both Christian and Islamic. And C) The sheer amount of baguette shops, there must have been about 10 within a couple of minutes walk of each other. And it kept the prices down, with some starting from 50p. And they weren't bad either, I had a Sheekh Kebab one and a Spicy Chicken Tikka one and they were both nice with fresh bread. And the market was huge too. So before long, it was time to get the train to West Brom, which should have cost me £2 return. But I accidentally got on the tram, thinking that that was what I was meant to do. But it cost me another £2 as my ticket was now not valid. I eventually got to the Hawthorns Station at about 1.30, having a look around the club shop before going into the ground. There was some time to kill so I watched the end of the Birmingham v Wolves game, which wasn't up to much.

Thankfully, the game of my choosing was a lot better. Both sides featured a lot of changes, Cardiff especially with their League Cup semi-final coming up on Tuesday. Peter Odemwingie gave the hosts early on with a simple finish, despite offside protests by the Cardiff defence. It looked to be a routine win for West Brom on 33 minutes when Simon Cox headed in Nicky Shorey's free kick. But Cardiff had other ideas and they reduced the arrears moments later when Robert Earnshaw tapped in Filip Kiss' cross. The Baggies went into the break ahead but did not heed the warning, for, on 50 minutes, it was all square, Joe Mason's shot going through the Ben Foster's legs. Nicky Shorey's free-kick smashed the bar for West Brom as they sought to regain the lead. Simon Cox eventually did put them ahead with a cracking strike and he completed his hat-trick in the final minute to make it 4-2. After the game, I made a quick exit. I got back to Birmingham with an hour to spare, so had another look around the city. I eventually got back to Wycombe and home by 8.30, having had a good day out.

Originally on this day, I was adamant that I was going to do a new ground having done mainly revisits this year. I'd not enjoyed them as much the second time around and fancied something different. However, looking at the weather, it looked absolutely frozen and with barely any 3G options, I didn't want a wasted journey. Initial thoughts were a night in unless something close to home came up, the FA Trophy tie between Harrow Borough & Halifax Town looked like a cracker. However, it was another cup tie that turned out to be my game of choice and it was all thanks to fellow hopper Anwar. I met him on Saturday as usual for the Wycombe game and he mentioned to me that West Brom were doing £10 tickets for their game against Chesterfield. As well as being a cracking cup tie, it was also guaranteed to be on, so we planned what would be a revisit for us both.
The day of the game came and as usual, it was my day off. It was the standard walk to town and back with me having a few bits from Lidl bakery for lunch. I came home for just over an hour before leaving at 4. Anwar by 4.30 and we were soon on our way with an ETA of 6.10. However, thanks to a bump and rubber-necking ghouls on the M40, we were delayed by an hour, getting there at 7.10. That ruined pre-match plans at a decent restaurant I'd seen in town and meant we had to park near the ground. Selly Oak Methodist Church was reasonable at late notice for a fiver and was just over ten minutes walk away. We needed food though and there was a complete dearth of bricks & mortar outlets, bar dull change. A mobile outlet served me a footlong hotdog for £4.50 and whilst it was passable, I wish I hadn't bothered though as around the corner was a far better outlet called Burger Boi. Apparently a local upscale burger place, their offerings looked superb. I only had room for some Cajun House Fries but these were superb and great value for £2.95. It was nearing kickoff, so we headed to the gates. There was a women-only turnstile, very unusual but if it makes women feel more comfortable in the current world, it's OK with me. The search was thorough but friendly and our seats were excellent. The match report is below.
The Chesterfield fans had been superb and in great voice all night. The home fans sang occasionally but generally were subdued, maybe due to the media and people within the game constantly deriding the FA Cup. On the field, WBA had been well in control. Chesterfield played some nice passing football and that might have worked against their fellow league teams. However, they were closed out by the home side and were very shot-shy, trying to walk the ball into the net. We headed back to the car. At -2, it had been warm in the ground amongst other people. However, as soon as we got outside, we felt the cold. We stopped at the local garage, which had an excellent Spar store attached. It had all kinds of American imported sweets and a got a pack of some chocolate cookie dough and a bottle of Irn Bru. From there, it was a walk back to the car with us leaving around 10.30. I dropped Anwar off at 12.05 and got home myself at half midnight. It took me ages to get to sleep and I was glad of an evening at home the next day.

THE HAWTHORNS has seen extensive refurbishment over the years. I was sat in the East Stand along the side, which is the biggest stand in the ground. The views from here are excellent, with no pillars obstructing your view. Opposite is the Halfords Lane stand, which is smaller. The away fans are located in the Smethwick End, whilst at the other end of the ground is the larger Birmingham Road end. Overall there is a capacity of around 24,000, making it one of the smaller grounds in the Premier League, but still better than some of the larger capacity grounds in terms of atmosphere and view. There isn't a lot around the ground, a range of burger vans is about it. West Bromwich town centre is a couple of miles away, whilst Birmingham is a short train ride away. The Hawthorns train station is well located, five minutes walk away.


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