West Bromwich Albion - The Hawthorns
Who said they hope never to see Blackpool in a quid a kid game again? Too late it`s happening on Tuesday when we take in the Hawthorns on the latest of our Championship tour. The Baggies are known as annual up & downers hence the 'boing boing` chant we`ll no doubt have to suffer from the high pitched screams of the massed under 13`s. Just to ensure that our eardrums are subjected to the maximum abuse possible it`s bloody half term too so no school in the morning to keep them away either.
The Hawthorns has been completely redeveloped over the years, as you would expect having had the benefit of the Premiership millions, for a couple of seasons at least. Impressive stands it`s totally enclosed and has 2 large video screens, one at each end. They have the Jeff Astle memorial gates in memory of their late great forward and it also has the dubious pleasure of being the highest ground in England (in terms of feet above sea level).
We`ll be sat in The Smithwick Road End - half a stand allocation with the obligatory netting between us and the homers. There`s room for 3000 travelling fans here. Although as it`s yet again another Tuesday night away game expect around a third of that to make the trek. I was reliably informed yesterday that it is pay on the gate for us if you haven`t got a ticket. Legroom is limited but there`ll be plenty of empty seats for those of us who like to stretch out a bit..
Plans are afoot to take the overall ground capacity over 30,000.
How to get there
I`m pleased to say that the ground is one of the most easily accessible around. M6 South, avoid the toll road, and leave at J8 onto the M5. Leave the 5 at J1. Take the A41 sign posted Birmingham City Centre. The ground is visible from here being less than half a mile away. Be aware that this stretch of the A41 is Gatso city.
or the Virgin Lovers amongst us, Birmingham New Street then a local train, or metro to The Hawthorns from Snow Hill Station.
Where to park - take your pick from this little lot: Hawthorns Pub £5, Park Lane (secure) £3, Park Lane (Industrial Estate) £2.50, Fire Station Training Centre £3, Moat House £3, Gordon`s Motors (Secure) £4, ECP £5, Plastic Tech £2.50, Brasshouse Lane Community Centre £3. If you are in SGU mode and your there early enough there is off street parking available too.
Where to drink
General consensus is steering away fans towards a pub called the Vine. 20minute walk from the ground, a mix of home & away fans. Situated on Roebuck St you turn away from the ground after leaving J1 of the M5 heading towards West Bromwich. A little further on is the Desi Junction pub.
Other suggestions say pass the ground on your right and keep going for half a mile till you come to the Royal Oak. Ale is on sale inside the ground.
Stewards & Plod
Generally regarded as a friendly ground, I`ll be expecting a low key approach. Stewarding has been reported as over zealous for the fans who try to stand and watch the game.
Fear Factor rating - 5
Our last away trip on a Tuesday night to the Midlands resulted in a 1-3 defeat at the Ricoh. West Brom are sitting high up in the league, but as we have proved at Watford we`re nobody`s mugs when we are on our game. One thing`s for certain, to come away with anything from the match we`ll need to be at our best. Here`s hoping we leave the Hawthorns with something less prickly than the name suggests.
Onwards + Upwards