Molineux - Wolverhampton Wanderers
Championship League
Vs Ipswich Town
Saturday, April 4th 2008, 3pm

By Tim Sansom

1. Why were looking forward to going to the ground?

The gruff ticket guard at Leamington Spa seemed surprised when I asked for a return to Wolverhampton. I tried to put on a Black Country accent to suggest that I could have been a local, and I felt that I needed to bluster the reasons for my visit but I do not think I was that convincing.

I was looking forward to visiting Molineux for a footballing reason and an aim that could be described as geeky in the extreme. Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Ipswich was a key game in the hunt for a Championship play-off place that had been one of the tightest in years, and I still had some hope that my beloved Ipswich would get into the playoffs. The slightly more embarrassing reason for my visit was based on ‘ticking off’ a ground on my ’92 club’ list. The only other Midlands venue to visit in Walsall’s Bescot Stadium, so I will have to find some obscure reason to venture into the West Midlands again!

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

As a result of travelling from Leamington Spa, it was a very easy trip to Wolverhampton. However, as a local can quite happily tell you, the Midlands rail system can sometimes be as belligerent as a bitchy candidate on The Apprentice. Whole pub conversations can be based on recounting a stormy night somewhere near the weirdly titled ‘Smethwick Galton Bridge’ due to a ‘track circuit failure’ somewhere near Tipton and Birmingham New Street can be as soul destroying as a barbed insult from Sir Alan Sugar.

I avoided the potential carnage of signal failure, overcrowded platforms and what is painfully described as ‘throat congestion’ at the ‘mouth’ of Birmingham New Street to use Chiltern Railways service to Birmingham Snow Hill, which rivals Luton, Birmingham New Street, and Sunderland to be the worst station in the UK. I took the Midland Metro to Wolverhampton St George’s.

The metro station and the main Wolverhampton railway station are in separate places and signs to the Molineux stadium across the city are confusing and non-existent at many key junctions. Without the help of the mostly friendly locals, and the site of football fans moving along one particular street, there is little chance that I would have found the stadium.

It seems to be only in Britain when visitors to towns are dumped at transport interchanges without a recognisable information point close to hand. Although the operatives at the Wolverhampton tourist information centre were helpful, the centre should work with the council to improve the directions around the city, rather than touting brochures for late autumn breaks in Glasgow.

Despite my rants, the most embarrassing aspect of this tale was that I was actually closer to Molineux then I realised. The stadium is just north of the city centre between Waterloo Road and Stafford Street next to a sprawling glass-topped Asda superstore.

3. What did you think when seeing the ground/ first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?

Molineux is a striking complex that nestles in a valley beside the city centre. As you turn the corner on Waterloo Road, the stadium hits you between the eyes with the iconic Billy Wright statue in the foreground providing a meeting point for fans. The bright yellow paint that defines the roof and the awnings is uncompromising to the eye but the stadium has a very clean look about it.

The ticket office and club shop staff were very friendly and the shop had a very impressive range of gifts. You can laze away the hot summer afternoons by completing a 1000 piece jigsaw of the stadium, or down your ale from the impressive range of pint glasses. However, as a visiting supporter, I am never 100% sure whether I should be buying this merchandise of another team. The naming of the stands after former Wolves legends is a refreshing antidote to the Grand Slam Sunday ‘manager gets sacked in a month’ culture of modern British football. Wolves is a club that appreciates its history.

Sadly my cheerful attitude that had remained whilst I killed time in the Mander Shopping Centre within the City Centre went slightly downhill when I entered the ground. I had thought that those attitudes had finished in the early 1990s, so it was depressing to be body searched upon entering the ground. I felt that I was being treated like a potential football hooligan and I appeared to be closely observed throughout the game by an uncompromisingly looking steward at pitch side, who seemed to think that my every movement was some sort of violent statement of intent. There were two policemen at the top of our aisle, which gave a further feeling of slight tension.

My only possible suggestion for the police presence is that away fans were housed in the bottom tier of the Steve Bull Stand and could potentially enjoy a rainstorm of objects from the home support during the controversial moments of the game. Despite the over-the-top stewarding, I was impressed with the stadium. The view lines were clear and uninterrupted and access to the key facilities was easy to hand. The décor is a tad dated but the stadium is a decent arena for football.

4. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies and toilets

What usually happens when two teams that are battling for the sixth and final play off position in the Championship is a tight game, and this match was no exception. I should stop thinking that every single game will be a 4-3 showdown with penalties, red cards and contentious goals.

Throughout the match, the atmosphere was average with occasional flourishes of shouting. The announcer seemed to be interested in reading out the sponsor’s names which was a very corporate way of getting the crowd going, but ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ was sadly only played once. The use of KC and the Sunshine Band’s 1983 smash ‘Give it up’ when Ebanks-Blake scored was suitably kitsch and a nice touch.

As Ipswich struggled to mount a meaningful series of attacks on goal, the positive attitude of the Suffolk troops appeared to gradually collapse. After the Wolves goal, the situation for Ipswich seemed to be getting more and more helpless. Trying to score a goal seemed to be like wading through a sticky quagmire and Wolves were mostly on top throughout. Ipswich were lucky to get their equaliser in the dying seconds of the game. There was much punching of the air by the Town players and screams of ‘Barmy Army’ but I felt we were going through the emotions. The home fans were unhappy at the end and I had some sympathy for them.

5. Comment on getting away from the ground:

Now I knew my way around Wolverhampton City Centre, I could get back to the Metro stop without too much trouble, although I had the check my directions at one junction, where I was surrounded with hog roast pork sandwich shops and city centre beer halls. The Metro is quite frequent back into Birmingham and the main Wolverhampton railway station is not far away off Pipers Row and Railway Drive.

The police presence appeared to be more extensive than before kick off, although they were all friendly and had shut off part of Stafford Street to help you get off on your way. Whether you can get quickly away from Wolverhampton in a car is difficult to tell. The site of an Ipswich fan trying to perform a jerky hill start surrounded by a phalanx of walking Ipswich and Wolves fans was hopeful in the extreme. In a car, I presume that you leave by Stafford Street and Stafford Road to the M54 and the M6, which is your highway to the rest of the UK, and the World!

6. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

I love visiting these random places around the UK for the sake of following my team. There would be few reasons why I would visit Wolverhampton on a regular basis. The city is not on the tourist trail but there is some charm in the Black Country. I enjoyed my visit although I had no idea where I was going, and I did enjoy my time at Molineux. It is a decent ground and a passionate home crowd but will Town be playing again at Molineux in the 2008/ 2009 league campaign?


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