The Hawthorns - West Bromwich Albion
Saturday 8th August 2009
V Newcastle United, Championship League, 5.30pm
By Josh Turner
1. 1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):
I was looking forward to going to the game as this was Newcastle's first non top flight league game in 16 years. And with WBA having not beaten us in the last 15 league meetings, I was hoping that my run of 7 consecutive defeats would end! It was also our first competitive game since the sad passing of Sir Bobby Robson.
2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?
I caught the train from Birmingham Snow Hill to the Hawthorns (second stop), a return ticket of about £1.15 (with a railcard) which was very reasonable. Finding the ground was easy, as we were frog marched by the police, not allowed to go to any pubs, food outlets or basically anywhere 10 yards away from Old Bill. With a full scale right wing protest going on in Birmingham city centre you thought they would be more bothered with that!
3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?
We talked to a few home fans walking down the hill towards the ground, they recommended 'The Royal Oak' but as I said the police were not going to allow us that privilege. There was a McDonalds opposite the ground if you fancy a burger. The home fans were fine, some of the best I've seen. We exchanged songs and the usual Mickey taking of each others accents.
4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?
The stadium is a traditional ground with lots of character, the roof is pretty low so it helps with the atmosphere. The legroom was cramped. If you are over six foot the seats in front will cut into your knees. Fortunately we only sat at half time, despite the warning of 'Persistent standing is not allowed' written on our tickets. The turnstiles are also a bit on the small side, with one girl on the large side, struggling to get through. We were also searched before entering, one steward even searched a little girl who must have been under 10 years old, which I thought was a bit unnecessary. It wasn't very thorough so I have no idea why they do it. They just felt your sides of your top half, so I could of hid an arsenal of weapons in my trousers.
5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc..
The game opened with a minutes applause in memory of the great Sir Bobby Robson, as far as I could see every single person was on their feet applauding. Both sets of fans joining in, in chants of 'One Bobby Robson'.
The game itself is what you expect when Newcastle play West Brom. Lots of attacking football, lots of wing play and lots of chances. We dominated possession but West Brom had the much better chances. Our second half sub goalkeeper Tim Krul saved us 4 times with some top saves. West Brom opened the scoring in typical Newcastle fashion. Bad defending from a corner, 5 minutes before half time. Coloccini completely lost his man and their scorer, tapped in from 2 yards after the ball ricocheted a couple of time.
Half time came, and Newcastle fans were expectedly downbeat. We have no manager, the club is up for sale, every decent player we had has left and things are so desperate Shola Ameobi is our premier striker.
The toilets were average, what you'd expect of a football match.The pies were slightly overdone, some would say burnt.
The second half kicked off and Newcastle picked up the tempo and were rewarded in the 55th minute when Damien Duff nestled a right foot drive into the bottom corner, after a clever passing move by our forward players. We had them on the rack for the next few minutes and should of scored again, but Gutierrez's inability to cross to a team mate in acres of space, let us down several times. Token gestures were exchanged for the next 35 minutes until West Brom thought they had got the winner in the 94th minute, but Olsson was judged offside, with replays later confirming it was the correct decision. The game finished 1-1 which was a fair result and a great result for us against the bookies favourites for the title.
The atmosphere throughout the game was excellent, we never stopped singing, chants alternated between our usuals and 'Shearer, Shearer, Shearer' ,'There's only one Bobby Robson' and anti Mike Ashley chants. West Brom fans were good for the first 45 minutes and then became quiet in the second half.
6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:
If you're getting the train back to Snow Hill or Moor Street, be very fast on your feet or you will be waiting over an hour for a train back. It's first come, first served and if you're towards the back of the queue expect to be twiddling your thumbs for a long time.
The platforms were PACKED and if one or two more people had entered on to it, the space would have been made by someone falling on to the tracks. As one train vanished we were given the sight of West Brom fans on the other side. Various songs were exchanged and then the 'show off' appeared. He exposed various parts of his anatomy, followed by Newcastle chants of 'it's not even cold out'. He attempted banter for 30 minutes, most ending in the mocking of the Geordie accent. His train finally arrived and we were relieved of the idiot. Not before him and his chav friends gave us the finger and fist waving gestures though.
As we STILL waited for a train, a lone ranger appeared on the other platform sporting a hair style remarkably similar to a certain Kevin Keegan. Chants of 'Keegan' were unanswered, he was either deaf or didn't have a clue who or what we were. Our train came and you could see the passengers were delighted with the presence of hundreds of Newcastle fans invading their quiet, pleasant journey home. We arrived back in the city centre, and attempted our way back to New Street Station, protests were still ongoing and riot police blocked our path and the entrance to the station. Some tried to sneak past and were promptly shoved in the face forcefully with shields. A friendly welcome back to the second city wouldn't you say?
7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:
Overall it was one of the best trips I've been to. Home fans were great, away fans were superb. Lots of friendly banter, a good football match, a good result, a sun tan day, and got back just in time to watch the BBC's new 'Football League show' which is basically Sky's 'Big League weekend but on terrestrial and with that prat Steve Claridge, who was sporting a fetching new comb-over. I was later informed by a friend that I was seen on BBC1 jumping up and down like a mental case after our goal. I think I can now claim F list celebrity. Would I recommend The Hawthorns? Most definitely.
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