(West Bromwich Albion)
Address: 9 Birmingham Road,
Capacity: 26,688 (All-Seater)
A lovely, modern football ground that’s the perfect home for a club of West Brom's size and stature. The Hawthorns maintains a consistent colour scheme and is easily one of the leading stadiums in the Midlands.
Built in 1900, West Bromwich Albion Football Club have called The Hawthorns their home ever since.
The Baggies had played at five previous ground since their founding in 1878, with the most recent being Stoney Lane, where the club spent five years between 1885 and 1890. The area which the pitch covered is now a road named Albion Field Drive.
West Bromwich Albion moved upon the expiration of their lease at Stoney Lane and also because of their desire for a more spacious location. The site purchased by the club on the borders of Handsworth was covered in hawthorn bushes, and that is where the stadium’s current name originates from.
Location and Getting There
The Hawthorns is well located within West Bromwich, around 1.5 miles southeast from the Town Centre. Handsworth is to the east of the ground, Smethwick is to the south, whilst heading due west from the stadium and through West Bromwich eventually leads you to Dudley.
Given its good location, The Hawthorns is very easily accessible by either car or rail. Free parking is certainly possible to find within decent walking distance of the ground.
I’ve found space myself in the residential and industrial estates to the south of the stadium, but there are no doubt other areas available as well.
The nearest train station to The Hawthorns shares the exact same name, perfectly placed just 0.3 miles south of the stadium. Walking from here to the ground can take as little as 5 minutes.
This station is served by both Chiltern Railways and West Midlands Trains.
Outside the Stadium
Walking from The Hawthorns Station along Halfords Lane, passing the West Bromwich Albion Academy in the process, leads you to the stadium’s South Stand, known as the Smethwick End after the area out beyond it. You enter here through one of several blue gates that each have WBA written on them.
The stand itself has a very nice exterior design, with the lower half made up of brickwork in a deep brown colour, and the upper half made up of corrugated iron in a deep blue colour. The white cantilever roof comes down from the top but stops before it reaches the bottom half of the stand.
At times, you may find that the turnstiles over towards the southeast corner are sectioned off with stewards as this is the area away fans enter the stadium through. Particularly on the occasions when large away followings are expected, you are not able to walk the entire way around The Hawthorns’ exterior.
Heading past the Smethwick End and continuing along Halfords Lane brings you to the West Stand.
It continues the same design as its adjacent neighbour, with brown brickwork at the bottom and blue corrugated iron at the top.
West Bromwich Albion’s Club Offices are located in this stand, and the only turnstiles into here are up by the northwest corner.
On matchdays, the car park and open space on the opposite side of the road to here is used as a Fan Zone, offering food, drink and live music from the stage set up on the near side of the car park.
Continuing round brings you to the Birmingham Road End, so named because of the street that runs right outside of it. Local fans also refer to it as the ‘Brummie Road End’.
Once again, the same brickwork and corrugated iron combination is repeated on the stand’s exterior, although unlike the West Stand there is a cantilever roof which is clearly noticeable in the upper parts.
Brick pillars run regularly along the bottom of the stand and the turnstiles are dispersed evenly throughout.
It’s worth mentioning that Birmingham Road outside of it is a busy, major street and fans are always advised to remain behind the metal fence and stay off of the road at all times, using the road crossing over by the stadium’s northwest corner if they need to get from one side of Birmingham Road to the other.
To get from the Birmingham Road End to the East Stand, you need to continue out beyond the northeast corner along the blue fence and then turn at the gates leading into the car park. These gates are named after Jeff Astle.
Born in Eastwood on 13th May 1942, Astle was a striker who joined West Bromwich Albion from Notts County in 1964. "The King" as he was nicknamed played 361 games for the club over a 10 year spell, scoring 174 goals as part of the team which won the League Cup in 1966 and the FA Cup in 1968.
Capped five times by England, he passed away on the 19th January 2002 at the age of 59. The gates at the Hawthorns depict Jeff Astle's celebratory pose after scoring the winner in the 1968 FA Cup Final.
The East Stand is the only part of The Hawthorns which has car parking spaces directly outside of it. These are evenly spread around the stand and both the northeast and southeast corners.
What makes the East Stand the largest of the four is the brick building protruding out of the middle. Unlike the rest of the stadium, the brick is a more sun-kissed, lighter colour here, and dominates the stand’s exterior much more than the blue corrugated iron does.
You can find turnstiles into the stand at either end of the central building, West Bromwich Albion’s Club Shop over towards the northeast corner, the Main Ticket Office over towards the southeast corner, with the club’s Reception and Executive Entrances in the very centre.
Outside of the East Stand is a statue of Anthony "Tony" Brown.
Born in Oldham on 3rd October 1945, Brown was a wide player who came through at West Bromwich Albion in the early 1960s, staying at the club until 1980. He made 720 competitive appearances in total for the Baggies, scoring 279 goals as West Bromwich Albion became a successful cup team. He would win the League Cup with the club in 1966 and the FA Cup in 1968, additionally playing for West Brom in European Competition and being the First Divison Top Scorer during the 1970-71 season.
Considered one of West Bromwich Albion's greatest ever players, the statue of Tony Brown has been in place outside the Hawthorns since November 2014. It depicts him scoring his second goal in the club's 2-0 win over Valencia during the 1978-79 UEFA Cup, a competition they would reach the quarter finals of.
Inside the Stadium
The Smethwick End is made up of a single tier of dark blue seats, with the stadium’s control box at the very back. Slightly off centre is a barriered staircase running from the top of the stand to the bottom, and this is used to segregate the rivals fans from one another when they are sat in here on a matchday.
There are no supporting pillars coming down from the roof in the Smethwick End, and as a result your view of the pitch from any seat is perfectly clear.
The West Stand is also single-tiered, though it is noticeably smaller than both the Smethwick End and the Birmingham Road End either side of it. There are much fewer seats here as well because of the row of executive boxes which runs along the very back of the stand.
The stadium's tunnel and changing rooms can be found in this stand whilst the dugouts are built into the seating blocks themselves, marked out clearly by a small wall that surrounds them. A television screen can be found over in the northwest corner.
Once again, there are no supporting pillars coming down from the roof and as a result your view from any seat is perfectly clear.
The Birmingham Road End is divided into two tiers, though it is possible to get from one to the other.
The upper tier, which has a large striped scarf made out of blue and white seats running across it, is slightly larger than the lower tier, which has the letters WBA and FC spelt out in white across its central blocks.
The Birmingham Road End's ceiling and walls are dark blue and are not very well lit. What that means is that if you are in a seat at the back of the upper tier, a nice, dark ambience can be created by everything around you.
Your view from any seat in the Birmingham Road End is perfectly clear as the cantilever roof above means that there are no supporting pillars coming down.
There are a couple of blocks of seating between the Birmingham Road End and the East Stand, which is known as the Woodman corner. It is named after the pub which used to be just behind here until it was demolished in 2004.
There is a large television screen on the wall behind the back row and perched atop of that is an effigy of a throstle, very similar to the one which appears on West Bromwich Albion’s Club Badge. The effigy has been a feature of the Woodman Corner since the 1970s and has been moved around the ground several times during redevelopment. It has since moved back to its original place.
The East Stand is two-tiered.
Both levels are of a similar size and separated by the walkway which also acts as the viewing area for disabled fans. The executive seating blocks are located in the middle of the upper tier and there is a row of executive boxes right at the very back.
The walls on either side of the stand are decorated with large pictures of West Bromwich Albion players celebrating.
Your view from every seat is once again perfectly clear as there are no supporting pillars coming down from the roof above.
Like the Woodman Corner, there are a couple of blocks of seats in the southeast corner between the East Stand and the Smethwick End, which is known as the Millennium Corner.
It also has a large television screen up on the wall behind it, but there is no throstle effigy perched upon that. The throstle is a unique feature of just the Woodman Corner, as it has been for decades at The Hawthorns.
Away fans are housed behind the goal in the Smethwick End.
They are given the blocks of seating that are closest to the Millennium Corner, whilst home fans take up the remaining seats on the other side of the stand. The barriered staircase, alongside rows of stewards, is used to segregate the opposing sets of supporters from one another. An open entrance for emergency vehicles segregates the away seats from those nearby in the Millennium Corner.
Having fans in the same stand helps to enhance the atmosphere on matchdays, with the two sets of opposing supporters often taunting each other throughout the game. The area around the away turnstiles outside is also often sectioned off to restrict the mixing of home and away fans before they enter the stadium.
You are treated to a perfectly clear view of the action from any seat in the away section.
Pubs available to supporters on a matchday include:
-The Fan Zone opposite the West Stand off Halfords Lane (Non-Rival Away Supporters Welcome)
-The Horse and Jockey (49 Stoney Lane, B71 4EZ) (Home and Away Supporters) (A fair distance admittedly from The Hawthorns itself)
-The Royal Oak (171 Holyhead Road, B21 0BD) (Away Supporters Welcome)
-The Vine (152 Roebuck Street, B70 6RD) (Popular with Away Supporters)
The Hawthorns really is a top football ground. It has a very nice, consistent colour scheme and design both inside and out. You can guarantee yourself a high quality view of the pitch no matter which seat you are sat in, and the atmosphere can be really impressive in games when a large away following is joined by a big section of home supporters just a matter of metres away.
Very easy to get to and very easy to get around, The Hawthorns is one of England’s finest professional football stadiums and somewhere you should definitely aim to see a game at.