Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday April 4 2012
Where next? Wolverhampton Wanderers, The Molineux.
Where are we seated? Wolves actually have two dedicated away sections at The Molineux and decide which one to allot according to the size of the allocation given to the travelling support. Most teams get an allocation of 2,000 in the Jack Harris Stand, behind the goal at the South End of the stadium. But in my experience, Arsenal take 3,200 supporters and therefore get the whole of the lower tier of The Steve Bull Stand, along the touchline on the East Side of the stadium, directly opposite the dugout. That will be the case again on this occasion. Tickets are £38 and have sold out.
What`s It Like? The Molineux is a unique ground. It`s been heavily reconstructed over the years and developments are continuing, with a tier currently being added onto the Steve Cullis End, behind the North goal. The corner between the Stan Cullis End and the Steve Bull stand are to be adjoined as from next season. The Steve Bull Stand lower tier is pretty atypical of the away supporter experience in the top flight. Most teams house you behind a goal. Being seated all along a narrow lower tier makes it difficult to generate an atmosphere, due to the spread of away fans.
Since you are not hemmed in under a roof either, any noise that is generated tends to escape long before it can reach your fellow Gooner Brethren at the corner flag at the other end of the pitch. The stand is elliptical, which actually puts you further away from the pitch, although you are at ground level. It`s an interesting and unique perspective on the game not many grounds will offer.
The stadium itself is fairly modern, having undergone a total face lift over the last 15 years. Though there are temporary, green seats between the Stan Cullis and Billy Wright stands in the North West corner of the ground which look very out of place. Be sure to keep the Highway Code well remembered on your approach to the stadium. Just as you approach, you have to cross a busy junction with six lanes of traffic. The ground does also have a monument of interest to Arsenal fans, with a statue of England and Wolves legend and Arsenal manager from 1962-66, Billy Wright. The two clubs played a friendly to officially "Christen" the statue in August 1995, shortly after Billy`s death.
What are the facilities like? Adequate. Like I`ve said, the ground has had a lick of paint and a makeover in recent years. Concourses in the Steve Bull Stand are roomy, queues for food and beer not too arduous and toilets plentiful enough to resist the need to fill your mate`s levis pocket with effluent on the sly. (Though the bogs themselves are hardly roomy). Food and beer is pretty identikit to most lower Premier League / Championship grounds. The Lindley catering company govern operations at a lot of these sorts of grounds, which means your standard, bland hot dogs and pies. They won`t give you gut rot, but are equally unlikely to make your taste buds dance the watusi in delight.
Wolves don`t seem to have a fixed policy regarding beer inside the stadium, sometimes they don`t serve alcohol in the away end, sometimes they do. I`d say hook yourself up to a drip of Special Brew and conceal inside your coat just in case it`s dry inside. If you`d like to know how to construct a Special Brew drip, DM me for details.
What are the home fans like? The Stan Cullis End tends to be the noisiest, housed to the left of the away support. Wolves are generally quite a sardonic bunch. Whenever London sides visit they like to serenade them in mockney tones with "sit daaaan, shaaaaat uuuup." It`s funny the first 341 times. After that it gets a bit samey. A bit like when you get past Track 1 on a U2 best of. Wolves` fans generally back their team vociferously when the big boys come to visit, but many of their current players will testify they`re not afraid to voice their dissatisfaction with their own players. They`re also still quite likely to mockingly chant "Eng-er-land" at us when we visit. I`m sure you`ll agree this is genuinely hilarious.
My advice would be to at least have the ability to conceal colours when walking around outside the stadium or in the city centre. Wolves still have a contingent of fans that could be regarded as "rough and ready" in Daily Mail parlance. On my way out of there in 2009, our coach window was smashed by their supporters and unconcealed away vehicles are game for the same treatment. But don`t let that tarnish your view of all of their fans who, like a lot of Midlanders, approach life with a weary smile.
How to get there? Access to the ground is pretty straightforward. Wolverhampton station is about a simple 15 minute walk, which takes you through the city centre. Trains back to London are available until just before 11pm, which given this is an evening fixture, will see you back in London just fine.
There are plenty of pay and display car parks in the city centre, or else the Civic Hall car park stays open for a small fee. From memory the ground isn`t too much of a jaunt from the M6. Probably best to cover up that Arsenal sticker in your rear window. Quicker to travel via the Toll Road on the M6 but the bastards do charge you for it.
Are there any historical landmarks in the vicinity? Errrrrrm……I mentioned the Billy Wright statue right?
Where to drink? This is where The Molineux really lets itself, its children and its country down. Drinking for away fans is made incredibly difficult as nearly every pub in the city centre is for home fans only, with bouncers on the door requesting to see a ticket to that effect. The Walkabout in the city centre is said to be away fan friendly (again, expect to be shaken down at the door to produce an away ticket), but the beer in your average Walkabout tastes like donkey`s piss.
Apparently there`s some bar in a hotel near the train station that doesn`t regard away supporters as suspected Nazi war criminals, but hotel bars are about as appealing to me as being sellotaped to Noel Edmonds. As I alluded to earlier, often the away enclosure doesn`t serve the nectar. I know, it`s a disgrace. It`s almost like they don`t want you to get roaring drunk before urinating on people`s flowerbeds. Though Wolverhampton did open its first ever shisha bar last year, which may be of interest to Marouane Chamakh. You know, should he feel the need to reward himself for another three and a half minutes of hard labour.
So unless you have a ticket in the home end and can do a passable impression of Noddy Holder, your only option for booze as an away fan is that home made Special Brew drip I told you about. Your Blue Peter badge will not go to waste. LD.
Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA
Date:Wednesday April 4 2012
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