Day 17-West Midlands!
So, time to take on the West Midlands and the youngest city in Europe, Birmingham. Home to music pariahs ELO, The Streets, UB40, Dexys Midnight Runners, Judas Priest, Ocean Colour Scene and the legendary Black Sabbath. Birmingham is home to the balti, the setting of Peaky Blinders, holds the worlds largest collection of pre-raphaelite art, has more canals than Venice AND even has 7 greggs shops. So steeped in culture they are up here that it even houses Cadbury World, which also makes it home of the Curly Wurly.
Oh, and they also have 5 very different stadiums in the top 4 flights of the EFL…
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Wolvegas and Brum Vegas!
Starting off, I went to Molineux, the home of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Now the brummies reading this are going to call 4 of my reviews a 4 letter word and one 1 of them brilliant, so I’ll reserve who I think has the best stadium in the fairest way possible.
By whichever teams fans donates the most money 💰 justgiving.com/team/mindrush
Molineux is right on a main road. Which must be sheer hell to drive up on matchdays, especially if your one of the cheeky ones who are saving money by parking in the asdas car park next to the ground. I bet its full of orange cars on matchdays, talking of which, one thing I LOVE about Wolves stadium is the colour orange theyve integrated into the actual stadium itself.
Im a big fan of this, trust me, I’ve seen so many plain stadiums that just look like warehouses so far, go back through my journey in the progress section and see for yourself. Teams that have their colour splashed across the stadium stamp their identity on the ground. It looks more unique and imposing. Think of the predominant red outside the entrance to old trafford or the big blue presence outside Goodison Park, wolves have done it brilliantly.
They have stamped their presence all around the stadium in the local surroundings too. The club have erected statue of centre half-club legend Billy Wright CBE standing proudly outside the entrance and fair play, why wouldn’t they. The first player in the world to earn 100 international caps, with 105 caps and 90 of them as captain, including the 1950, ’54 and ’58 world Cup finals. He also beat David Beckham to the first ever super celebrity singing wife as he was married to Joy Beverley of the Beverly sisters. Not a bad lifetime CV that.
Then there’s the statue of Stan Cullis. Heres some history for you, Stan only made 152 appearences for Wolves. In fact he only made 152 career appearences for any domestic club(even though he was a guest player for some clubs, including Liverpool). This was due to the second World War, which took away the best part of his career. When England played Germany in Berlin on 14 May 1938, Cullis refused to join the rest of his teammates in performing a Nazi salute prior to the match. Cullis, the only player to refuse, was dropped from the team. And according to legendary manager Bill Shankly, he never swore. Which, being a footballer deserves a bloody statue in itself.
Not content with just 2, like when Al Fayed started putting up statues at Fulham, including one of Michael Jackson, at the back of the stadium is another statue, as seen above right, this time of former club owner Sir Jack Hayward MBE, who stands in front of a stand named after another local legend, Steve Bull, who scored 306 times for the club, including an incredible 18 hat-tricks. Not a shabby record, not a shabby stadium. In fact its one of the more aesthetically pleasing I’ve seen. Top job Wolverhampton 👏
My next jaunt in my journey took me to the Banks’s stadium, home of Walsall.At first glance when I approached the entrance, I thought they were setting up for game day at the stadium and must have been playing at home, due to the mini tables they were setting up all over the place. But no, they drew away to Football League newcomers Harrogate Town and had a man sent off. Awkward. So I’m assuming that due to the set up, they must have been having a car boot sale or something.
For a league 2 ground this is no nonsense. You can get a pint in the Saddlers club before the game after you’ve complained that the scrabble set you just bought in the car park for 50p is missing some letters and is the only ground I’m aware of that literally offers fans cashback through the turnstiles. Incredible.
For all the competition, including 3 premier league clubs around it, Walsall are holding their own and is indicative of a community club. With so much option, I reckon the saddlers are a strong, close-knit lot of supporters, which is what makes the club so special. This club is so down to earth, they are even sponsored by bloody Poundland!
Remember the days when access to your club and the relationship between fans and players and management was paramount to the ethos of a club? This is what they have i reckon and if we are honest, most of us miss it.
Next up for another 1 of my 5 a day, I peddled my way to The Hawthorns, where newly premier league team West Bromwich Albion Call home. Quite the unassuming presence, it is a stadium that is kept simple, with no frills apart from the awesome Jeff Astley Gates.
A statue of Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown adornes the outside and holds the club record for goals sckred AND appearances, with 720 and 279 respectively over an incredible 20 year playing career at West Brom.
Quite the hard knocks up this way. With a nickname like ‘bomber’ and a manager you wouldn’t mess with in Slaven Bilic especially. Recent former WBA Super-flyweight champion Khalid Yafai is a Birmingham native and my boxing coach Marc is from this way and he has an incredible fight record, even brummie Ozzy Osborne can bite the head off a bat and not get Covid-19. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chuck Norris announced he was born in the West bloody Midlands next.
Despite the ferocity of the people involved, West Bromwich Albion is the poshest stadium youll find up this way. I bet they even put a hoover over the car park twice a day. It wins best kept stadium in Birmingham by a mile and it won’t be long before they put a statue of Mary Poppins outside in that honour.
Next up, I was tracking my way to a very, very noticeable stadium, Villa Park.
I don’t know who Aston Vills biggest rivals are, but I’m sure to upset them. Google says its Birmingham City, so I apologise in advance for what I’m about to say to them, but what a stadium.
Just like the old football saying, Its like a stadium of 2 halves.when you approach it from the direction I did, let’s call it the tesco end of town (locals will get me) youll see theyve made their presence in town known big time. With big banners everywhere announcing your imminent arrival at the ground, the underwhelming cycle at the start of the stadiums walls doesn’t prepare you for the ground itself.
Seriously, this is an imposing ground when you go all the way round, which once again has made use of the clubs colours, just like wolves, to create a grand look about the place. You KNOW youre at Villa Park. The space the club holds is massive, considering its capacity is 34,000 less than the premier leagues largest capacity ground, Old Trafford.
Another stadium with a statue, however, this time its Scottish founder of the football league, William McGregor. I did my research and he became a Villa director and in 1877, he helped the club out after the bailiffs came in and took all the penny farthings and tin whistles. Then, under his directorship, 10 years later, the club became the first from the Midlands to win the FA Cup, defeating local rivals West Bromwich Albion in the final. Ouch.
The club shop is huge and is the only club I have seen out of the 44, to have 28 people queuing to get in. Socially distanced of course, Villa are ahead of the pack with this. They even have a ‘sanitation station’, fair play.
Round the back, as if i was travelling round there via Delorean rather than bike, is the Holte End.
Incredible contrast to its new-age counterpart around the other side, for someone who loves their football history and architecture, this is incredible.
Love it Villa, thats a stadium keeping history yet modernising what they need to, which is the key. Thumbs up 👍
And finally, double whammy with 2 clubs in 1. StAndrews, home to both Birmingham and Coventry because they are skint and their owners couldn’t run a bath let alone a football club. In fact since their inception in 1883, they have called no less than 6 stadiums their home,l temporary or otherwise, must be a nightmare, honestly, to walk into another teams stadium and have call it your home, with all that clubs murals and colours around, especially when they were a former premiership club. Until you look at their Marco Pierre-White style menu. This stuff would bloody win you Masterchef.
Birmingham football club has some awesome artwork to go with their artisan menu too. Featuring club legend Trevor Francis, footballs first million pound footballer and youngster Jude Bellingham who was at the club since he was 8 before signing for Borussia Dortmund in Germany.
I came here years ago to watch Cardiff away. I decided to take my girlfriend at the time as a treat. It was a 12.30pm kick off due to it being a bubble trip and on sky so we had to leave at 6am to get the bus. It rained the entire time, mostly coins, there was 1 shot on target the entire game, the end result was 0-0 and the bus got a puncture so we didn’t get in until 1am the next day. We broke up shortly after. Probably about 2am.
The front of the stadium has been done up nicely since then. Although I think the name of the stadium is quite optimistic.
Birmingham, you are an incredible footballing city.
But for now, completed it mate 👍
Going to thank Welsh legend Jonny Owen and all the team at Talksport for giving me the time for an interview on national radio this morning. Such exposure goes a long way towards hitting the target we have set for our two charities AND helping end the stigma surrounding mental health problems. Thats what we all are, a team.
Its worth mentioning what we are doing this for all the time. Please if you or anyone else need help, click the ‘I’m not OK button’ you can see on this website. Whatever you’re going through, there is help.
Cause its ok not to be ok.
Thank you for the love, messages and donations. It means the world.
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