1. Why you were looking
forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):
The opening game of the season against a team just relegated from the
premiership. Under a new manager with new tactics, it had to be a perfect
opening game to get the new season under way. Plus another ground to add to
the list of visits. Plus as an exile living in South Yorkshire, it's not
really a long drive for me.
2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking:
Very straightforward to find. However, users of multimap or other online
navigation sites planning a route coming down the M1 from the North may find
the directions take you through the areas of Birmingham, and straight past
Villa's ground. Since the premier season was not
underway yet, this wasn't a problem. I imagine if Villa were also at home,
this route might be a nightmare.
Leaving the ground is a couple of miles of queues then straight onto the
M5. Possibly the easiest way to get there is via the M5 too as the ground
is a stone's throw away from the Motorway.
Car parking is readily available around the ground, average cost a fiver.
That said, there seems to be little in the way of parking restrictions
around the main roads. And traffic warden's didn't seem bothered by every
dual carriageway central reservation being turned into a car park. So
plenty of free parking available if you follow the lead of the home fans.
3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?
Can't comment on the pubs. As an exile, I always drive to games so no
pre-match boozing for me. Home fans around the ground were sociable and
friendly. However - since the stadium is 100% no smoking, I was
disappointed to find a complete absence of programme sellers outside the
ground. A shame as I would have liked to have had something to read outside
before committing myself to entering a smoke-free zone.
4. What you thought on seeing
the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground.
A good traditional football ground in many ways. Seating and facilities were
good, though nothing to write home about. A major improvement would be some
attempts at singing from the home fans though! Not a problem confined just to
WBA, but it was deathly quiet at some points. The replays on the TV screens
in the corners of the ground were okay, except for the fact that anything that
needed replaying to see what a decision was for, seemed to be lacking.
View from the away end is good. The stands are very close to the pitch with
nothing to obstruct your viewing.
Onto the bad points. A ridiculously long queue from woefully inadequate
refreshments kiosks. You could hardly move in the concourse for the lengthy
queue - both in numbers and in time waiting. I decided to forgo the pleasure
of sampling the catering because of this. And I am glad I did. Allegations
of bottled beer being served which was not only warm, but also past it's best
before date, have come from more than one source (some letters of complaint
were to be sent to the club about this oversight).
5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc..
The stewarding is the main reason I felt compelled to write this report. It's
not a complaint particularly, they were no more zealous than at many other
grounds. However, previous reports have mentioned no hassles from constant
standing. This does need correcting as this is definitely no longer the
case. Letters were issued with each ticket indicating a strict no standing
policy, and this was indeed the case. Right down to the pathetically
laughable "If you love football sit down" animated messages repeated over the
corner TV screens. Unfortunately, the stewards seemed so concerned with
people standing at the back, that it took one of our players to restrain one
fan who went onto the pitch in an attempt to donate his glasses to the
referee. So..the standing days of visiting the Hawthorns seem, sadly, to be
Onto the game. The referee could certainly have done with those glasses as
one of the clearest penalty claims (agreed upon by the majority of fans from
both sides) was met with a yellow card for the player brought down - which led
to the glasses incident. West Brom definitely seemed to have stayed in the
dressing room for most of the second half. They did show signs of class
unfortunately, new signing Hartson scoring 2 against the run of play. The
second coming moments after the ignored penalty claim, so we were perhaps
unlucky to come away with nothing.
6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:
As mentioned by others, away fans exit away from the ground in the opposite
direction from the entrance. It's not a long walk, as the exit leads to the
opposite end of the road used for coach parking and the car parks around the
ground. Signposts are lacking towards the M5 as you leave (also having to
drive in the opposite direction from the way in, but if you have a good nose
for direction (or sat-nav) it's about 125 minutes to the motorway, then off.
7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out
I've mentioned quite a few negative points but this really isn't a "letter of
complaint". More that I'm happy watching decent football whether I'm stood by
the side of a field or sat in an exec box, so in many ways for me, grounds are
much of a muchness. So to sum up:
Easy to find / park
Mostly very friendly fans.
Excellent view close to . the pitch. If you want a noisy
atmosphere - you'll have to make the noise yourself
No smoking anywhere in the ground (either a plus or a minus depending on your
Cramped concourse & long queues for food
Cracking down on standing up during the match.
Would I visit again? I don't think I'll get the chance next season as my
feeling is that WBA will be back in the premier.
But if I'm wrong about that, I'll definitely look forward to visiting again.
I'll just get there earlier before all the outside programme sellers haven't