Hillsborough - Sheffield Wednesday
In the week that the great and good of the Beautiful Game made a pilgrimage to the country`s fourth largest city, the birthplace of football 150 years ago, how fitting that the mighty Seasiders can pay their own respects at S6 on Saturday.
Whether you like it or not a haul of 6 points out of an available 24 has already given this match added edge, especially given Wednesday`s poor start to the season. Blackpool may be low on points but they are not on confidence and this game gives them a great chance to climb back up the table at a team whose home form is dire to say the least. And by giving the dreaded vote of confidence to an already beleaguered manager maybe Chairman David Allen has suggested that this is a must win game for Owls boss Brian Laws.
Injuries to Richard Wood and Wednesday`s answer to Ben Burgess - Francis Jeffers - have hardly helped the home team`s preparations. Added to that it looks like influential midfielder Graham Kavanagh will return to Sunderland after the game. So what better game to kick start the Tangerines league season?
There can be no denying that Hillsborough really is a beautiful ground simply oozing class. It has 4 large separate stands, all of which are covered and are roughly the same height, giving a uniform feel to the stadium. On the one side is the North Stand, opened in 1961. It was hailed then as an architectural marvel, as at the time it was the largest cantilever stand ever built in Britain. The two tiered South Stand on one side of the ground is the largest of the stands and is very impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that it was actually opened in 1914!
At one end is the Spion Kop. Previously a huge open bank of terrace it gained a roof in 1986, and was made all seated in 1993. Opposite is the Leppings Lane Stand where we will be seated. This two tiered stand was opened in 1966, in time for the club to host some World Cup games! Like the Kop it has a number of supporting pillars, some of which can impede your view. One corner of the ground is filled with seating between the North and Leppings Lane Stand, this area is uncovered. On the other side of the West Stand is an electric scoreboard, under which is tucked a Police Control Box. Unusually for such a ground there are no floodlight pylons, with the stadium illuminated by lights running along the front of the stand roofs. When inside make sure you sample the Shire Food Pies, particularly the Chicken Balti Pie (£2.40).
If your coming to Hillsborough from the North or South then the best way has to be the M1. From the North the best junction to use is junction 36. From here, takes the third exit at the roundabout which brings you on to the A61 to Sheffield. This road will take you directly to the ground and is around 15 minutes from the M1.
From the South the nearest Sheffield junction is junction 39 - which takes you through the centre of Sheffield. This can be very confusing for visiting supports, as it's a nightmare to drive through the city centre - but if you do follow the Parkway dual carriageway in to the centre of Sheffield until you reach Park Square roundabout. From here look for signs for the A61 North (Barnsley) - this will take you directly to Hillsborough. Many visiting coaches from the South avoid this route and carry on up the M1 passed Sheffield to junction 36 - which is the closest and easiest route to the ground. From here, take the first exit on to the A61 (Sheffield) which takes you directly to Hillsborough.
Alternative route from the West due to roadworks on North approach..
One route I frequently use between the Fylde Coast and Sheffield is as follows:
-Come off at junction 5 and take Haslingden Grane Road
-Once in Haslingden take right turn to pick up M66
-Take M60 towards Oldham
-At junction 24 take a left onto the M67 for Hyde
-Follow A57 through Glossop towards outskirts of Sheffield.
-Road splits into two.
-Take left fork onto Rivelin Valley Road (A6101)
-4 miles later turn left onto the one way system and follow road round to the right onto Holme Lane.
-This road then becomes Bradfield Road.
-At the junction with the A61 Penistone Road turn left towards Barnsley.
-The ground can be seen on your left!
The nearest station to the ground is obviously Sheffield, but from here it's quite a hike to Hillsborough. The easiest way to the ground is to leave the train station at the back exit, which leads you directly on to the supertram stop. From here you can catch the Blue route (Malin Bridge) which goes to Hillsborough Corner. From here, the ground is still a 10 minute walk, and the area is usually packed with Wednesday fan, some not so friendly with the high number of pubs in the area. To get directly to the ground, catch any tram from the station to the city centre, and get off at any city centre stop. Now wait for the Yellow tram (Middlewood), and get off at Leppings Lane (there is a Hillsborough stop, but 'Leppings Lane' is closer).
WHERE TO PARK
There is some street parking to be had if you arrive early, otherwise there are some unofficial car parks along the A61 that charge in the region of £3. There is also a car park directly behind the Kop and the Wednesday Club Shop. It is called the wednesdayite car park and is open to fans of both teams. This costs £5 for visitors.
WHERE TO DRINK
There are numerous drinking holes around the Hillsborough area - but I'll start with the ones which are best to avoid. The whole Hillsborough Corner area is probably best avoided, as it's where most of the Wednesday fans gather before the match. There are a number of pubs here in close proximity, with the infamous 'Blue Ball' being part of that number. The area is renowned for trouble on big match occasions and is probably best avoided, especially if wearing club colours. Another two which are best avoided are The Travellers and The Gate which are situated on Penistone Road as you come toward Hillsborough from the M1.
One of the best pubs for away fans is the Red Lion, which not many fans know about. It's situated on the A61 approaching Hillsborough from the M1 and is small family run pub. The pub isn't the kind to attract a mass amount of football fans on match days, but is often the meeting point for away fans, and SWFC supporting locals. The Horse & Jockey is the designated away pub, and is a short walk (up hill!) from the away end (police often direct away fans to this pub). Another designated away pub is The Railway - again situated on the A61 approach to Hillsborough, just after the bridge taking you in to the Hillsborough area.
Other local pubs worthy of mention are - Wadsley Jack on Rural Lane, 20 minutes walk from the visitors end going away from the city centre, and close by the Rose and Crown and The Beehive. The New Barrack Inn somewhat closer to the ground has some excellent décor if you are out to impress the other half!
There are also a couple of pubs in the town centre if you come by train or just fancy a look around the centre. The Bankers Draft is a Wetherspoons run pub where the alcohol is nice and cheap, and a popular venue for the Yorkshire Seasiders The pub is situated right next to the supertram Castle Gate stop, and so is easily accessible to the ground. Directly behind this pub is The Fountain, another pub which I have seen many away fans in.
STEWARDS AND POLICE
Not surprisingly for a club with average gates of 20,000 plus the stewarding is usually of a high standard, and the policing reasonably low key. However that view might not be shared by the Scunthorpe fans who on Tuesday were evicted from their seats in the hospitality area and the ground for celebrating the Irons second goal! Clearly a word of warning for Wiz whose daughter is the Seasiders mascot for the day!
FEAR FACTOR RATING - 3
Wednesday fans still firmly believe that the club are a Premiership team in Championship clothes. Consequently they spend most matches venting their spleen on the underachieving Manager, Players and most of all Chairman! Sound familiar? Consequently their treatment of away fans is almost angelic by comparison, and should make for a great day out culminating in hopefully 3 points being taken back over the Pennines.