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A Vital Guide To...The Hawthorns

Where next? The Hawthorns, West Bromwich Albion.

Where are we seated? Behind the goal in the North End, The Smethwick End. The allocation is 3,000 seats priced at 40. Sold out as it is, was and ever shall be.

What`s It Like? The Hawthorns is a unique stadium. A well worn piece of trivia tells you it`s the highest ground above sea level in the football league. It holds 28,000 and has been completely renovated in the last 15 years, meaning all sides are now enclosed. The atmosphere in the away end is very easily generated as the Smethwick End is a steep, one tiered stand. Plus, the stand is split with home supporters away to your left. This always lubricates the vocal chords.

Access and aggress to the Smethwick End can be troubling though. The stand is housed at the bottom of a long, sloped footpath. There is a quicker way to access the stand that eliminates the need to use the slope, but it`s usually cordoned off with a metal gate for reasons that are not readily explained. So on your way down to the turnstiles, you have to walk like a penguin to avert a comedy tumble. On your way out, smokers and comfort eaters are easy to identify as the level of panting can reach Alsatian levels when you climb the hill. If it`s an evening game, it`s even more fun. The pathway is shrouded by trees and is not lit in any way. So you have to orienteer your way up a steep hill with 3,000 people in pitch black. With an afternoon kickoff in mid May, on this occasion it shouldn`t be an issue.

What are the facilities like? In the Smethwick End, the facilities are pretty dire. The concourse is probably the most cramped you will find in the Premier League. There aren`t many staircases which take away supporters from the concourse to their seats, so 3,000 people cram into a space that would probably best serve about 1,000. It`s a bit like going on a caravanning holiday with the Brady Bunch. If you suffer from claustrophobia, have a brown paper bag handy. Just make sure it`s not from a local fast food outlet. They won`t let you bring it in.

If you have a nervous constitution, give the pies a swerve. They`re bloody awful. The hot dogs are only any good if you`re conscious about your love handles. The frankfurter to bread ratio is akin to sticking a pinhead into an A3 envelope. The alcohol on offer comes in the shape of plastic bottles of Carlsberg, pints of Tetley and Strongbow. So that`s the worst lager, the worst bitter and the worst cider. Inside, seating is cramped but the steepness of the stand means views are good pretty much everywhere. In my experience, everybody has almost always stood throughout the game.

What are the home fans like? The Baggies are quite typically Brummie in their darkly ironic outlook. (Their official club season review for their 2005-06 relegation season was called 'Making God Laugh`). West Bromwich was described in the Domesday Book as "the little village on the heath of broom" and their town motto is "work conquers all." Despite becoming a large, cosmopolitan borough in the West Midlands, the West Bromwich folk maintain their cheerful community feel. (A curious number of comedians support West Brom, which tells a story).

In terms of atmosphere it`s nothing special. Like most Premier League grounds it depends entirely on how well the team are playing, but Baggies` fans rarely turn on their own team with the same viciousness that others do. Perhaps that`s partly to do with the demeanour of their fans and partly because being the archetypal yo-yo club of the 21st Century has given them a decent level of perspective.

How to get there? Train links are pretty good. You can either go to Birmingham Snow Hill and take a metro straight to the Hawthorns station, five minutes away. Or else if you go to Birmingham New Street, regular overground trains will take you to Smethwick Rolfe Street, which is about ten minutes from the stadium. From what I`m told, parking is sparse. On your way off the A41 towards the ground, you`ll exit the M5 on a road that looks like a helter skelter. On this occasion, me and mine are staying in Birmingham on the Saturday evening.

Any historical landmarks in the vicinity? Around the ground there are the Jeff Astle Memorial Gates. I`m told that he was some kind of cabaret singer on Baddiel and Skinner`s Fantasy Football Show. Between the Birmingham Road End and East Stand, there is an ornament of a throstle standing on a football, as seen on West Brom`s badge.

If you`re an architecture buff, there`s the West Bromwich town hall. Other than that, like most satellites of big cities, there`s not a great deal to get the Tourist Board`s phone lines buzzing.

Where to drink? The Vine on Roebuck Street is the recommended away pub, about 15-20 minutes away. But whenever I`ve been for a drink pre West Brom I`ve used the Royal Oak. It`s about a mile and a half away from the ground. If you travel via the stadium, take the Birmingham Road and chuck a right and The Royal Oak is about half a mile away. It`s not the biggest pub, but the bar staff are very quick to serve. It`s reasonably priced and on a nice day, there`s plenty of room to stand outside. Obviously the pub is aptly named for an Arsenal fan. LD.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday May 1 2012

Time: 8:09AM

Your Comments

Nothing less then 3 points, plain and simple.
gunnerman76
On paper norwich and west brom are probably the two teams you would pick to play when you need 6 points to end the season. Both very beatable but more importantly they don't have a massive amount to play for as they are both safe from relegation. Let's hope their minds are on the summer holidays and ours are not. Two cup finals....
gunnerman76
There's just the little matter of Norwich city to come first.
Naijagunner
Really not liking the fact Norwich is an early KO, we never seem to perform well then, like we're still waking up or summit.
nikolaijns
Make sure you sing Woy a thank you song when you visit the Hawthorns!
Rocky7
Just hope they're not too intent on giving Woy a good sending off by playing their socks off against us.
Wyn Mills
We done alright against Tottenham, just can't quite see the same level of commitment coming up tho ... ://
shewore
Hopefully Newcastle and Chelsea will draw tonight meaning a win on Saturday will guarantee us a top four finish. Here's hoping Bolton can do us a favour too.
Rocky7
Bloody *****. Two teams 1 pt behind us. Absolutely no room for a ***** up.. ******** hell. We should be miles ahead by now..
Sajit
Goals difference is cut down by Spurs, as well.
Naijagunner
It just makes things all the more exciting. Who would have thought Newcastle could come to the bridge and score two goals (brilliant goals by Cisse, by the way) with no reply? That Cisse just came in and has stolen Demba Ba's thunder, hasn't he? Chelsea is feeling the strain of too many big games one after the other.
Naijagunner
This race for the CL is intense now as it has been all season. We need to win both games, obviously, as our rivals cannot match 72 points. Chelsea are basically out of the race now and will have to win in Munich (won't happen, Bayern aren't losing at home to these flukers and I feel Chelsea have expended all their luck in Europe). So let's beat Norwich and West Brom and get this 3rd position, anything less is not good enough really.
NADH-91
Chelsea knocked out, Newcastle likely to drop out of the race against City, its likely to come down to a tussle between us and the good ol Spuds again. Two cup finals - hope the team is up for it.
Deltaforce
We just have to get the job done and with the lunch time fixture this Saturday, it will help to get a big scoreline to demoralise the chasing pair. IF Newcastle can get 3 points off City, they probably deserve a place in Europe.
Naijagunner
Seems you gooners are nervous.. lol...well as an old spurs legend of a player has said "It's a funny old game!" Jimmy Greaves was spot on... Now it is down to the 2 N London clubs.. Newcastle had a very good result last night, goals were top class. Chavs are now in a must win CL Final.. leaving them open to counter attack.. In all honesty, West Brom will go all out to give their manager a 3 points game goodbye, so could be bad news for your club.
Block D Spurs
Like, what do you know? If you could read the future so well, you should be celebrating the title for Spurs this year, no? But, here you are, wishing we lost to teams you know we should be getting 3 points agaist.
Naijagunner
*against*, just so you stand a chance for 3rd spot and CL footie. Aston Villa has something to play for, you know?
Naijagunner
If any of us could see the future we'd all be lottery winners worrying about which colour our next Ferrari would be. Truth is its going to be a nerve jangling weekend. Although reason would say Chelsea cannot win at Bayern football is not a game that always adheres to reason. Anything could happen. I can see the fight for 3rd going down to the last game of the season.
Wyn Mills
I'm not ashamed to admit, I'm crapping it. The teams outside the top two seem to be going out of their way to stumble across the finish line ... anything can happen in these last two games.
Rocky7
I'm with you Rocky, feeling very nervous about the end of season games. Added to that, we've lost Arteta and Theo, and Theo is someone who enjoys playing against teams that give him space to run into. We really need the experienced players to step up now - Rosicky, RvP, Benayoun, Kosc, Verm.....even a draw will be costly. I do think Newcastle will lose against City and I hope that gives us some breathing space, but only if we win.
prits
I would hate to be finish the season still not knowing if we'll be in the CL and sat waiting for the outcome of the CL final should we finish 4th. That would be more agonising that having Spurs finish above us.
Rocky7
In my view, we will get the 3 points against Norwich. They play an expansive style that should suit our wide players; plus, it is the Manager's 900th game in charge. Surely, the lads will not be losing such a milestone game. Now, WBA at the Hawthorns is the game I will have fingers crossed for. Not because I don't believe we can take the points off them, but because it will be a nervy last game, especially if the spuds win their game this weekend and we have shown we can be fragile when the stakes are high. We have the personnel to win it but they must be up for it and fight to the end.
Naijagunner
A link between a milestone game and the result does not exist, naija. Villa will turn over against the Spuds so no point hoping for anything else.
prits
It is easier to assume the worst for our own club, isn't it? So, why would Norwich have any advantage in a game against us (forget the milestone, then)? I guess we have little choice than to wait till the games are played ;-)
Naijagunner
I have a feeling Newcastle will shock City. They're the dark horse coming up on the inside.
Wyn Mills
 

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