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The Hawthorns is an all-seater football stadium in West Bromwichmarker, Englandmarker, with a capacity of 26,500. It has been the home of West Bromwich Albion F.C. since 1900, when it became the sixth ground to be used by the club. The ground was the last Football League ground to be built in the 19th century. At an altitude of 551 feet (168 m), it is the highest ground among those of all 92 Premier League and Football League clubs.

Previous grounds

During the early years of the club, West Bromwich Albion led something of a nomadic existence, playing at five different grounds in a 22-year period. Their first ground was Cooper's Hill, which the club occupied from 1878 to 1879. From 1879 to 1881 they played at Dartmouth Park, although they may also have alternated between there and Cooper's Hill during this period. Albion's third ground was Bunn's Field, also known as The Birches, where they played for a single season in 1881–82. With a capacity of 1500–2000, it was their first enclosed ground, allowing the club to charge an entrance fee for the first time. The increasing popularity of football led the well-established West Bromwich Dartmouth Cricket Club to rent their Four Acres ground to Albion from 1882 to 1885, but they quickly outgrew their new home and soon needed to move again. Albion's tenure of Stoney Lane, from 1885 to 1900, was arguably the most successful period in the club's history, as the club won the FA Cup twice and were runners-up three times.

History

Fans spill on to the pitch following Albion's escape from relegation in 2005.
The expiry of the lease on Stoney Lane, as well as the club's desire for a more spacious location, saw them move once again in 1900, this time permanently. All of Albion's previous grounds had been close to the centre of West Bromwich, but on this occasion they took up an "out of town" site on the borders of Handsworthmarker. The area was covered in hawthorn bushes, which were cleared to make way for the new ground, hence its name, The Hawthorns. The club signed a lease for the land on 14 May 1900, giving them the option to buy within 14 years from the owner, Sandwell Park Colliery, and Albion did indeed buy the freehold on the ground in June 1913.

The first match at The Hawthorns took place on 3 September 1900, when Albion drew 1–1 with Derby County. Derby's England international Steve Bloomer scored the first Hawthorns goal, with Chippy Simmons equalizing for Albion. The 1900–01 campaign was not a successful one however, as Albion finished bottom of the table and were relegated to Division Two. Their defeat to Sheffield United on the final day of the season was witnessed by just 1,050 spectators, which remains the record lowest crowd for a league game at the Hawthorns. The attendance record at the Hawthorns was set on March 6, 1937, when 64,815 spectators saw Albion beat Arsenal 3–1 in the FA Cup quarter-final. The highest league crowd was 60,945 against Wolves on March 4, 1950, a game that finished 1–1.

Concrete terracing was added to the ground in 1920. In 1949 the ground became the first in Britain to have an electronic turnstile aggregator fitted, in order to automatically calculate attendances. In 1957 electric floodlights were erected, at a cost of £18,000. The ground's first floodlit match saw Albion draw 1–1 with Chelsea, on 18 September, 1957. The ground was once divided by the Birminghammarker/Smethwickmarker border, but was moved completely into the latter by a minor rationalisation of local government borders in the 1960s and is now entirely in Sandwell. In 1964 the Rainbow Stand was built, at a cost of £40,000. The Halfords Lane stand was rebuilt in two separate phases between 1979 and 1982, at a cost of around £2.5 million.

In the early 1990s, following the Taylor Report, the ground became all-seated, with both the Smethwick End and Birmingham Road End terraces being demolished and replaced by all-seater stands, giving it a capacity of more than 25,000. The official re-opening of the redeveloped ground saw Albion beat Bristol City 1–0 on Boxing Day in 1994. During the mid-late 1990s there were proposals for Moseley Rugby Football Club to share the ground, but these never materialised. Albion celebrated the stadium's centenary on 3 September 2000 by beating Crystal Palace 1–0 in a Division One match. In 2001 the Rainbow Stand was replaced by the new East Stand.

In 2002, The Hawthorns became the first ground to install big screens in the widescreen format. The ground hosted its first Premier League match on 24 August 2002, with Albion losing 3–1 to Leeds United. Leeds player Harry Kewell scored the first Premier League goal on the ground. The Jeff Astle gates, which commemorate one of Albion's greatest strikers, were unveiled on 11 July 2003. The gates are located on the Birmingham Road, close to the Woodman Corner, and form the entrance to the East Stand car park. In December 2003, the board of directors unveiled plans to increase the stadium's capacity to 40,000 all-seated. However these plans have yet to be materialised, as Albion slipped out of the Premiership in 2006, and are unlikely to go ahead unless Albion ever re-establish themselves in the top flight.

There had been plans for the Halfords Lane Stand to be rebuilt, but these were shelved due to what Albion chairman Jeremy Peace called "continuing levels of excess capacity". The stand was instead refurbished and became known as the West Stand, with the capacity reduced to 26,500.

Stands

West Stand

The West Stand and Smethwick End (exterior).
Constructed: 1979–1981

Refurbished: 2008

Capacity: 5,110 (seated)

Running along the west edge of the pitch and along Halford's Lane, the West Stand (formerly the Halford's Lane Stand) provided VIP seating before the advent of the new East Stand. The stand houses the main TV cameras as well as the press and commentary area. Chairman Jeremy Peace had announced that there are plans for the Halfords Lane Stand to be demolished to make way for a single-tier, 10,000 seated stand within the next five years. This would raise the total stadium capacity to around 33,000. However, since Albion's relegation from the Premier League and a drop in attendances, this plan has been shelved for the time being, although Albion did regain their top flight status in 2008. The stand has instead been refurbished.

Birmingham Road End

Constructed: 1994

Capacity: 8,286 (seated)

Better known to supporters as the Brummie Road, the traditional Birminghammarker Road End runs behind the goal, adjacent to the A41. Traditionally housing the core of the home support, its role has been somewhat stolen by the Smethwickmarker End in recent years. It traditionally held up to 14,000 standing spectators, but the stand which replaced it in 1994 holds over 8,000 all-seated spectators. Between this stand and the East Stand lies the Woodman corner, named after the Woodman pub which stood just behind it until its demolition in 2004. The Woodman corner is home to a large throstle mascot, which was originally perched above the old (terraced) Woodman corner, but was housed in the Halfords Lane stand for several seasons until the stadium redevelopments were completed.

Smethwick End

Constructed: 1994–1995

Capacity: 5,816 (seated)

Running behind the goal at the southern edge of the pitch, the Smethwick End houses the away supporters though they are generally only allocated part of the stand, the remainder housing the most vocal of the home support. (If and when the new west stand is completed there may be a chance of the Smethwick End going to the visitors).

East Stand

Constructed: 2001

Capacity: 8,791 (seated)

Replacing the old Rainbow Stand, the East Stand now houses the club's administration offices, club shop, club ticket office and corporate entertainment suites. The wings of the East Stand are known as the Woodman corner (which joins up with the Birmingham Road End, and is named after the Woodman public house that stood there until 2004) and the Millennium Corner (adjacent to the Smethwick End).

Above the Woodman corner sits a giant effigy of a throstle, which had been a familiar feature of the ground for generations. It used to perch on the old scoreboard in the old (terraced) Woodman Corner; after the redevelopment of the ground in 1994 it was moved temporarily to the main stand in Halfords Lane, and it can now be seen back in its old position.

Other uses

As well as serving as the home ground of West Bromwich Albion, The Hawthorns has hosted a number of other football matches. It has hosted two full England internationals: on 21 October 1922, England beat Ireland 2–0, while on 8 December 1924 they won 4–0 against Belgium. The Hawthorns hosted a 'B' international for the first time in February 1998, when England B lost 2–1 to Chile. Two months later, a women's international friendly was hosted, Italy winning 2–1 against England.

The ground has additionally been the venue for other sporting events. In its early years, the ground was used for athletics meetings; in May 1908, Birchfield Harriers used The Hawthorns for their Spring Meeting, which included the end of the first marathon to be run in the Midlands. The runners covered from Coventrymarker to the Hawthorns, and one of them - Jack Price of Small Heath Harriers - was selected for the British team for the London Olympic Gamesmarker on the strength of his performance. In the late 1970s The Hawthorns was the venue for a cricket match between India and Pakistan, watched by 2,641 spectators, while in 2000 and 2001 the ground hosted Kabaddi tournaments.

Records and statistics

Records



Average attendances



Transport

The Hawthorns railway station
The stadium is served by The Hawthorns stationmarker, which is both a railway station and Midland Metro (tram) stop. The station is approximately 400 metres from the ground. Due to the large amount of fans travelling in both directions to and from The Hawthorns on matchdays, trains run more regularly at these times, and have been known to depart every ten minutes. This has helped to reduce the time taken for travelling fans to leave West Bromwich and return home.

Bus routes 74 and 79 pass the stadium along the A41 Birmingham Road, with services running between Birminghammarker and Dudleymarker/Wolverhamptonmarker. The 450 bus stops on Halfords Lane but is rerouted approximately 1 hour before kick off as police close Halfords Lane. The ground is less than half a mile from Junction 1 of the M5 motorway.

See also



Footnotes

  1. Full Throstle DVD 0:05:36
  2. Full Throstle DVD 0:06:37
  3. Matthews (2007) p64.
  4. Full Throstle DVD 0:15:16
  5. Inglis pp173–175
  6. Full Throstle DVD 0:22:16
  7. Matthews (2007) p198
  8. Matthews (2007) pp83–84.
  9. Matthews (2007) p69. Official club website records a period of 1980–1982 and a cost of £2.56 million.
  10. Matthews (2007) p366.
  11. Matthews (1987) p238–239
  12. Matthews (2007) p372.
  13. Matthews (2007) p332.


References



External links




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