I shall begin with a quote from my last visit to Hillsborough: “I hope to visit Hillsborough again. It is a traditional British football ground, home to a team that deserve to be in a higher division. Hopefully my favourite manager Gary Megson won’t be in charge next time.”
2 years on? Sheffield Wednesday are now in the Championship after celebrating promotion from League One, and Gary Megson has been replaced by Dave Jones. Dreams do come true.
On my last visit in August 2010, it was a pretty dull affair with Bury being the visitors in the Carling Cup. Nothing exciting happened. The highlight of the evening was probably visiting the chippy… or annoying the few arrogant stewards who were in charge. I was hoping for a far more entertaining visit this time.
I caught the coach from The Reebok with Callum and Lucy, setting off at 12:00. We took 6 coaches across the Pennines to Sheffield, which is about average for the loyal moaning brigade known as Bolton fans.
Fat Frank was on our coach, and he still recognised us from sneaking us into a pub at Arsenal last season. This means we are still part of his drinking club. Franks best story line of the day?
“I have three cats, seven fish and two dogs. The council won’t let me keep any more though. I’m not even allowed the cats.”
Right. That’s this weeks dose of Fat Frank out of the way. Have a read next time when we travel to Blackpool and he goes skinny dipping after having too many to drink on the coach.
The trip to Sheffield was a comfortable one, thanks to the club acquiring brand new travel partners for the new season. Along with the new travel provider, the club had also introduced a new loyalty scheme. Collect 20 stickers, and receive a free away match. Brilliant!
We arrived at Hillsborough at 13:50 with the help of a police convoy. Having parked up, the doors opened and a steward boarded. He stood at the front, and in the thickest Yorkshire accent possible, he went:
“Helurrrrr! And welcome t’Sheffield! If you make your way t’turnstyles there are drinks and snacks available inside. Your curccches (coaches) will be waiting for you here after t’match”
With that amusing announcement, we got off the coach where Wednesday fan Joe, and his Hereford supporting girlfriend Sophie were waiting for us. The first thing I did was interrogate Joe as to the whereabouts of the nearest chippy. He didn’t know. What a disappointment.
With the chippy now looking like a bleak, and distant hope, we decided we would walk around to the club shop instead. En route to the shop I took it upon myself to physically attack an owl. I know. I’m not proud of my actions, and it in hindsight, I should have known better. There were young children about, and I accept that my actions were not setting a good example. In my defence though, if the owl did feel intimidated he could have quite easily flown away, or pecked at me with his oversized beak. You’ll be glad to know that I have submitted a full written apology to Ozzie the Owl, and I have donated my chippy money to the World Owl Trust. You can also donate here – http://www.owls.org/
After abusing an owl, and having an unsuccessful visit to the vast club shop I then proceeded to express my views on Chinese Chippies. After purchasing a soggy and undercooked Peters Pie at Tranmere, I refuse to buy pies from Chinese Chippies. I was halfway through moaning about this controversial issue when Emma turned up. It probably wasn’t the best of first impressions. We had a few photos before heading to our separate turnstyles with half an hour to go.
Approaching the rusting and derelict away end, we noticed a long single file queue. The health and safety procedures at Hillsborough were extreme. Understandable really after the Hillsborough Files were released the week previously.
It took about 10 minutes to reach the front of the queue, where I was asked for proof of age. Do I seriously look over 18? No. No I don’t. Anyway, thanks a lot for that Sheffield Wednesday, I shall take it as a compliment. It can be added to Sophie saying “You’re not as small as I expected!”. That’s right, all 5ft4 of me was taller than she expected. What did she think I was? One of the borrowers?
Our tickets were in the Upper Tier, with the Lower Tier not being in use. This suited me as I thought the view from the Lower Tier last time was absolutely diabolical. The concourse in the away end seemed to have all life sucked out of it. With a lack of room and no real character, it really was a sorry sight.
To my right was The South Stand. It has a capacity of 11,354 and bears the most distinctive feature of Hillsborough, the clock. The clock has been with the club since they played at their old Olive Grove stadium in the late 1800′s.
Directly opposite stood The Spion Kop. The Kop is built into a hill which gives it an eye-catching appearance from the outside. The more vocal Wednesday fans usually sit in The Kop.
To the left was The North Stand. On my last visit it didn’t have anybody in it, so it was pleasing to see that this time around it was full.
The match began with the 2,500 travelling Wanderers roaring their side on from the outset. Bolton had a stone wall penalty waved away in the third minute when Wednesdays summer signing Martin Taylor brought Chris Eagles down rather clumsily.
Other efforts from David N’Gog and Mark Davies were kept out by Chris Kirkland, before the tempo of the match gradually slowed down. In fact, it got that boring, I decided I would go and purchase a pie after Joe informed me they had new suppliers.
I felt so sorry for the women serving pies. They were all locked behind a metal fence, much like a prison setting. I even saw one of the employees gnawing at the bars in an attempt to escape from the dire working conditions. I approached one woman, who had also been forced to wear a rather embarrassing cap, and I asked her for a Chicken Balti pie. At £3 it was rather expensive, but I did get a bit excited when I realised it was the same pie which I had recently enjoyed at Sunderland.
It was like heaven. A nice buttery pastry, with a piping hot spicy filling. This meant that Sheffield Wednesday had risen from 4/10 to 9/10 in just two seasons. Great work!
I went back up to my seat to discover we had “just taken the worst corner ever” according to Lucy. No doubt David N’Gog had something to do with it. The match continued to be a borefest, so Lucy and I decided to throw pie crumbs at each other. Oh well, what else do you expect when you pay £1 for your ticket?
Sheffield had their first opportunity of the game when Michael Antonio shot from long range. The home side were offering little in the way of support for their frontman Jay Bothroyd, and he later vented his frustrations on Twitter. He even had a go at the fans for booing him off. Fair enough.
On 30 minutes Wednesday came within inches of taking the lead when Rhys McCabe fired his free kick low and hard under the Bolton wall. That was probably the most exciting moment of the match up until that point, and we really were becoming frustrated at both teams lack of effort.
The final stages of the second half saw Bolton respond to increasing Sheffield pressure.
The Wanderers man of the moment, Chris Eagles, was spearheading the attack and he nearly scored when he cut in from the right before curling a shot just over the bar. It was a great individual effort from a player full of confidence.
It was then the turn of fans favourite David N’Gog. First he missed the target with an awful header from 5 yards out, almost hitting the corner flag in the process. Less than a minute later, he managed to hit Row Z from 5 yards out when he was one on one with Chris Kirkland.
When it seemed like it was going to be one of those days, Eagles swung in a corner from the left and on hand was Marcos Alonso to glance home. 1-0. Half time.
I always go for a Wander around the away end at half time, and I can safely say that it was a nightmare. The concourse turned into one giant spooning session, it was awful. After around 5 minutes of pushing we found ourselves at the other side, and we were able to breathe again. We took a few photos, and headed back to the top corner for the second half.
Bolton came straight out of the blocks, and David N’Gog somehow failed to double the lead. Marcos Alonso did well down the left before firing in a low cross to the oncoming Frenchman. All he needed to do was get a toe to it, and Kirkland would have been beaten.
On 62 minutes, Wednesday found their way back into the match when Keith Andrews bundled over Anthony Gardner. Up stepped Everton loanee Ross Barkley to score his first goal in Wednesday colours, right in front of the Spion Kop. It was a brilliant penalty, one which left Adam Bogdan with no chance.
The away side regained their lead just minutes later. Kevin Davies pounced on a loose ball in the Sheffield defence, before passing to Mark Davies. The midfielder still had a lot to do, but after beating three defenders he rifled a shot into the top left hand corner, to send the Bolton fans behind the net wild.
One Bolton fan got that excited he decided he’d take it upon himself to jump off the Upper Tier. I didn’t see it at the time, but here is video evidence that it DID happen! – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUwA840hbs4&feature=player_embedded
That brought the end of any meaningful action. It may seem like a bit of a biased match report, but on reflection, Sheffield offered very little in the way of attacking threat of creativity. The consensus amongst home fans is that Dave Jones fails to pick a settled squad, and as a result the team hasn’t been able to gel yet.
We exited Hillsborough in full voice. It was brilliant. We hadn’t won away from home since April, and I hadn’t seen us win away since December! What really excited me was the fact I would receive a “WIN BONUS” sticker for my away day loyalty card, which definitely made the day out worth it.
Having been told before the game that our coaches would be waiting for us on the road, we ventured that way. We couldn’t find our coach though! After a couple of minutes of chasing Callum and Lucy in and out of coaches we eventually found Coach 3, which was a relief. We were nearly stranded in Sheffield for the night.
The journey home was probably the most enjoyable one I have had so far. We won. Everybody was in a jovial mood. The sun was shining, and the coaches drove us home over the Pennines. It was a beautiful ending, to what had been a beautiful day out.
I will probably visit Hillsborough for a third time in the future, but I don’t have a clue when it will be. I’d give it a good 5 years anyway! I don’t know when I will next see Sheffield Wednesday play either. They play at The Reebok on Boxing Day, but it is Atherton Collieries v Atherton Laburnum Rovers so I won’t be attending.
It was nice to meet up with Joe, Sophie and Emma even if it was only brief. You can follow them on Twitter: @ShemmOwl @s0phlarr_ and @emswfc
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND – 57.8 miles
- ADMISSION – £1 as U-18
- PROGRAMME PRICE – £3
- PIE – £3