Wembley Stadium, London
Championship Play Off Final
West Bromwich Albion v Derby County
Monday May 28th, 2007, 3pm
By Tim Joyner
1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be)
I was looking forward to the game, firstly as a long term Albion supporter it's important to try and cherish theseoccasions and secondly it was an opportunity to visit the "new" Wembley.
I'd visited Wembley twice in the past, once to see an England game in 1980 and to see Albion in the 1993 Play Off Final against Port Vale.
2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking
As Albion have a sizable level of support in my home town of Kidderminster, they run Official Supporters Clubs to all away matches from the town. Normally these coaches start from Kidderminster and pick up at various points throughout the Black Country before joining the main group of coaches from The Hawthorns but due to the obvious demand for tickets for this match we headed straight off to Wembley via the M40.
As usual with trips to London there was the usual traffic congestion around the ground but eventually we got onto the huge parking areas at about 1pm.
3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?
The original plan was to have a walk round the ground and maybe then find a pub but with it being after 1pm and with the miserable weather and heavy rain we decided to go straignt into the ground.
4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground.
Although the arch is a very distinctive feature the rest of the exterior of the ground was pretty non descript, very functional but maybe lacking in any kind of unique charachter.
My first impressions of the interior were very positive, we had tickets in the upper tier and on entering the ground travelled up to the upper levels via various escaltors, with the Albion fans singing and chanting as we went up each level it was a great atmosphere and we eventually walked into the big concourse area where the food and beer was being sold.
This area seemed quite roomy and I do have to say the service for food and drinks, in our case a few beers, was superb, we were served within seconds and with a smile! a bit of a rarity at a football stadium.
My initial impression of looking at the stadium from the seating area was "Wow", I can't remember ever being so impressed and in my opinion it is far superior to the "old" Wembley (though interestingly this view was not universally held by quite a few other Albion fans).
From my own perspective though I would find it very difficult to fault either the view or the impression of the rest of the interior of the ground. What was particularly noticable was how deep the terracing was for the seating and how roomy it was. Superb in my opinion.
5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc..
The game itself is probably one most Albion fans will be happy to forget.
I found the stewards to be friendly and helpfull. The toilets didn't seem particularly spacious and I would describe them as maybe slightly above average.
In terms of the matchday atmosphere, from an Albion perspective I felt it never really got going somehow, there could be a number of reasons, normally Albion's support are always "up" for any big occasion but I think this is one occasion which, for whatever reason, we struggled to maintain a really vocal backing.
One thing that certainly detracted from the matchday atmosphere was the huge numbers of empty seats in the middle tiers all around the ground.
Albion and Derby fans were in the upper and lower tiers but the middle tiers were predominantly empty, I'm not 100% sure why these seats were not available to Albion and Derby fans who were allocated 33,000 tickets each but the split in each teams support certainly didn't help matters.
It seemed a real shame as I know Albion could easily have sold an additional 10,000 tickets for this game and I'm sure the same would apply for Derby.
6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game
As usual with London stadiums it did take a considerable amount of time to get away from the area, I know the issue of location has been well documented but I have to say that once the decision to demolish the "old" Wembley was made, the decision to rebuild it in the middle of a north west London suburban area seems bizarre though maybe not really surprising.
Once we were out of London the journey home went quite quicky and we were back in Kidderminster about 8:30pm.
7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out
Obviously with Albion missing out on promotion the day ended with a downbeat feeling, although on the day Albion were the better team Derby finished several points ahead of us in the league so we could have no real complaints.
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