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The Hawthorns
  West Bromwich Albion v
Aston Villa
Premier League
Monday November 25th 2013, 8pm
John Rogers

(Neutral fan)

1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):

Changes to the areas in which I work are providing opportunities to tick off a few grounds around the country whilst away on business. Completing the 92 is a secret ambition but I suspect I'm more likely to be aged 92 before I join that exclusive club.

The Hawthorns was a ground I last visited in 1979, so I was interested to see whether there was anything to remind me of my last visit. A free ticket came courtesy of a work colleague, who was supporting Albion.

2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?

As a passenger in a car driven by a 'native' of West Bromwich, finding the ground was straight forward. The Hawthorns is situated right next to the M5. The big draw back to the motorway proximity is the awful congestion around the Birmingham area and the ubiquitous road works. The recommendation would be to allow plenty of time for the journey if travelling by road.

The Park Inn, a hotel just off the A41, is a ten minute walk from the ground and is a safe place to park the car. It cost 5 and registration numbers are recorded at reception.

3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?

The Park Inn - welcoming; extensive bar area and no trouble.

4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?

The Hawthorns is quite small but has a modern appearance. Unfortunately there was insufficient time to wander round the ground before kick-off. We were seated in the Halfords Lane stand, opposite the big Rainbow East stand seen on tv. Away fans shared the segregated Smethwick End.

5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, facilities etc..

As a Leeds supporter I am generally disappointed by the atmosphere generated by the home support at other grounds, which is often drowned out by Leeds fans' efforts. This occasion was very much an exception, no doubt partly because it was a west Midlands derby - the West Brom and Villa fans were at it from the first minute to the last, with an inventive and vociferous repartee.

Albion got off to a great start, with two quality Shane Long goals, but Villa were allowed back into the game and equalised with a screamer from Ashley Westwood. Cue mass hysteria among the claret and blue army.

The stewards had little to do in the stand I was in, where I think it was fair to say most of the supporters were of a more mature profile.

Refreshments were not sampled, but the big minus for the Halfords Lane Stand was the woefully inadequate leg room - not a problem if under 5' 6" or a contortionist; otherwise very uncomfortable.

6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:

Exiting the ground was easy, but knowing that the traffic would be horrendous we returned to the bar at the Park Inn for a couple of drinks.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

It's never the same going to a game that doesn't involve your own team, but this was a good way to spend an evening away from home. The main memories of the evening will be the fantastic atmosphere and the home fans' rendition of 'Popov the Albion Man', to the tune of 'Popeye the Sailor Man'.

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