Lost in…Wolverhampton

Wolves v Crawley Town

Molineux / League Cup / 9th August 2016

I’ve always liked Wolves. Firstly, they are called ‘Wolves’ – cool name. Secondly, they wear cool coloured shirts. Thirdly, there’s a strange sort of glamour attached to them thanks to their Stan Cullis era team and their pioneering European games against the likes of Real Madrid and Honved. When you throw in the fact that Swansea have played them several times over the past decade, I’m more and more confused as to why I had never been to Molineux before. It was something I had been looking to remedy for a while and with less than a week to go before my departure for pastures new, the perfect opportunity arose to ‘tick off’ Wolves’ home.

They’re not everyone’s idea of a ‘perfect opportunity’ but my perfect opportunity would come in the form of Crawley Town and the fact that they had drawn Wolves in the first round of the League Cup (I’m not big on this whole ‘EFL Cup’ branding). For those new to these parts, Lost Boyos has formed a strong relationship with Crawley Town over the past 18 months or so spawning from the rollercoaster ride that was Crawley Town 2-2 MK Dons back in January 2015.

“So, you would have seen us last before you go and after you saw Morecambe,” was the reply I got from Crawley pal Craig when I texted him to confirm I’d be at Molineux.Craig seems to have formed a bit of rivalry with Morecambe as they both vie for ‘Matt’s second team’ glory. Indeed, it would probably be my last game on English soil for a long while with the end of the week consisting of two games back in my homeland in the valleys.

Last time I watched Crawley in the Midlands they delivered probably the worst team performance I’ve ever seen at any level, as they were monumentally trounced 5-0 at Walsall. 5-0 was kind to them. For me though, the big fuck up of the night would come in the form of me being stranded in Crewe train station after missing a rail replacement bus and thus I spent the night in the station, until the 5am train back to my then home in Manchester. There was no chance I was having another night like that and so this time I booked myself a bed in the cheapest of hostels in Birmingham.

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The Wellington – still one of the nation’s finest.

I’ve been to Birmingham countless times and I’m a big fan of the city, so after arriving into Brum shortly after 1pm I figured I’d spend the next few hours in various Birmingham drinking holes. There wouldn’t be too much variety in the end though. Firstly, I sampled the Square Peg Wetherspoons – the only Spoons in the city centre I hadn’t been to before. Then it was onwards to the ‘Mecca of real ale’ that is the Wellington. This is one of my all-time favourites with its electronic board going through the day’s beer options. They had Citra too which is a personal favourite ale of mine at the moment; although my drinking was interrupted by a wacky old man coming over, grabbing my hand and telling me to let him know when my phone was finished charging. “I want to write it down,” he insisted – whatever that meant.

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With Blake in Spoons.

In a predictable move, I then moved next door to the Briar Rose, another Wetherspoons (surprise, surprise). In here I was meeting Birmingham fan Blake, who was originally coming to the Wolves game with us, before thinking better of watching Crawley Town and going to watch his own team take on Oxford at St. Andrews. He learned his lesson for abandoning us though by watching Brum lose 1-0 in extra time to a team from the league below them. However, I’m sure his night was made better by the fact that earlier in the afternoon he had lost his Punk IPA virginity in Spoons; when I asked him what he thought of Punk, he answered correctly by stating he liked it.

By 16:30, I was heading into the newly glitzy Birmingham New Street station and I was soon on a train to Wolverhampton. I’d never set foot in Wolverhampton before and I was heading into the city with no real plan. One thing I did have to do though was have a photo with the metal horse on the Wolverhampton train station platform. There was a running joke in uni about my mate Tom acting a bit like a ‘proud horse’ at times, so every time me and him would go to Brum to watch the Swans, a photo of the horse would be taken from the train and he would be tagged in the photo. Now I could have a photo with the horse properly. The lady on the station platform asked was I playing Pokemon Go. “No, just taking a photo with this horse for my mate.” She looked confused, but once you have a shit running joke, you have to remain commited to it.

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A ‘proud horse’ at Wolverhampton train station (as always dedicated to Tom Probert).

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Wolverhampton…nice…

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Spoons! Again!

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The Billy Wright.

My first impressions of Wolverhampton…well it’s not exactly the most aesthetically pleasing place on the eye. However, I felt comfortable when I spotted a Wetherspoons and into my 3rd Wetherspoons of the day I went. I’ll say here that Wolves’ Spoons offering was a good one too and after enjoying a steak with my ale, I carried on into the centre. I literally had no idea where I was going, but I stumbled upon pub called ‘The Billy Wright’ – in ode to Wolves’ legendary, snappy midfielder. It looked suitably rough and I figured I’d head in there after I had had a pint in the Duke of York across the road. No sooner had I had some lovely Salopian ale poured for me, I was receiving a message off Wolves fan Nyle asking where I’d ended up. When I told him where I was he seemed displeased with my pub choice and soon rushed to come get me out of there. He did indeed arrive and I was made to rush my drink and head elsewhere (we never made it to The Billy Wright after all).

Nyle is a friend of Craig’s and it seemed that the Crawley buses had arrived in town and soon Nyle was on the phone organising a meeting point for us all to meet. Our pub choices would soon be reduced as it seems there aren’t many away friendly pubs in the centre. I had wisely left my Crawley shirt in my  bag for now, but once we were joined by Craig and a small gang of Crawley-shirt-wearing fans, entry to most pubs would be denied. So Nyle led us away from the city centre and towards what appeared to me to be a small industrial estate. I began wondering whether Nyle was not the nice chap I had first thought and whether he was just leading us to some sort of derelict estate where we would be massacred by a Wolves firm. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case.

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The Emerald Bar – it didn’t exactly look inviting…

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…but I loved the place!

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Me, Craig and Nyle.

We eventually ended up in a rather hidden away bar called the Emerald Bar – and my word was it awesome. Despite being off the beaten track slightly, the place is huge. The walls are covered in football memorabilia, especially relating to Celtic (being a big fan of all things Celtic, this was fine with me). Beer was cheap and this was our home for the hour building up to kick-off.

Soon, we were heading back down the road towards Molineux – not before Craig trying to recreate the famous post-Colchester piggy back celebrations photo in the pub car park though.

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The top photo was at Colchester and bottom is an attempt at recreating. Not quite (plus we’ve switched colours it seems).

I hadn’t actually realised that we had walked past Molineux on the walk to the pub with it being slightly out of sight at the bottom of a steep hill. The huge Stan Cullis Stand looked mighty impressive from our vantage point.

Molineux is a ground steeped in history to say the least. The name of the ground comes from Benjamin Molineux, who would purchase land in 1744 to build Molineux House and then Molineux Hotel; this site would eventually be where the football ground was built after it became a leisure site known as Molineux Grounds. A brewery rented the grounds to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1889 and after some redevelopment, Molineux became the home of Wolves that year. It was the first ground built for the newly established Football League, it was the first to have floodlights and it was also one of the first to host European games. Like I said, a lot of history has passed through here.

Like virtually all league grounds, the 1990s would see a massive redevelopment of Molineux with legendary chairman Jack Hayward acquiring the club alongside the Taylor Report instructing changes to football venues. The ‘new’ Molineux was reopened in 1993 with Hungarians Honved revisiting in homage to their famous European tie there in the 50s.

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View of the Stan Cullis Stand from the top of the hill.

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Heading to the away end.

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In Molineux.

Everyone I know seems to like Molineux and on entering I declared myself a fan too. It’s a great ground – although it wasn’t exactly a life-changing experience being there either; it does beat going to a generic new build ground though.

I completely forgot to mention in my blog about my trip to Cardiff Met University the awesome conversation that me and Nicky had regarding football entrance music and what would be the best option. We were discussing it in relation to the fact that he had been put in charge of the playlist at his club, Pontypridd Town. We eventually settled on the theme song to the cult 90s TV show Gladiators (what an epic tune and you should listen here if you are unfamiliar with it and want a pure cheesfest), but I must give a big thumbs up to Wolves’ musical choice. Nothing quite gets you fired up for League Cup clash against Crawley Town than the War  song from the Rocky IV soundtrack (listen here if you are unfamiliar again). Immediately images of Ivan Drago training in his super Soviet gym rushed into my head. But instead of the likes of Ivan Drago and Rocky Balboa, I was to be treated to the likes of Danny Batth, Conor Coady and Kortney Vause taking on Crawley-ites likes Enzio Boldewijn, Mark Connolly and Lewis Young (I believe it’s obligatory to say he’s Ashley Young’s brother when mentioning the lesser known Young brother).

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Getting ready for kick-off listening to War from the Rocky IV soundtrack.

Aside from the first 2 times I saw them play, Crawley are usually rather woeful when I see them play. However, I had a sense that under new ownership and under new manager Dermot Drummy (also a great name) Crawley fans seemed uncharacteristically chirpy and optimistic about their team. And they were to play great tonight too. There were just over 8,000 in Molineux for this game, but we were treated to a good one.

Crawley started the game great, but the goal they conceded was about as cruel a goal as you are ever going to see to conceded. Repeated pressure from the away team saw them earn a corner. From the corner the ball was headed down to Boldewijn, who’s volley was flying in it seemed, only for it to be heroically cleared off the line by a defender. Within seconds, Wolves’ Joao Teixiera was launching a counter attack, which eventually saw striker Joe Mason go through on goal to fire home. There must have been about 10 seconds from the ball being cleared off Wolves’ goal line to them scoring. I was further annoyed that a former Cardiff player was scoring the goal too.

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Match action.

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Match action.

Wolves’ goal came in the 7th minute and I feared the worst for Crawley. Fairplay to the away team for quashing those fears, as they continued to play well. It took just 4 minutes for them to equalise. A corner landed straight on the head of Boldewijn, who sent his header flying in. I went to hug Craig only to be greeted by him tackling me and bowling me into Tom. These scenes continued for a bit and it was actually a change for Craig not to end up on the floor like he usually seems to when Crawley score. As things calmed, I got into a panic as his celebrations had led to me losing my flat cap. Fortunately, it was found on the floor in the row in front of us and all was good in the world again.

It was evident that Wolves were the more composed with the ball and more patient, but Crawley were working their arses off and it was nice to hear Crawley fans be positive. The team were doing them proud with a few efforts at goal and Wolves keeper Andy Lonergan making a good save to deny Adil Yussuf.

As the half was drawing to a close, the sun began to set in the open corner between te Stan Cullis Stand and the Billy Wright Stand. Thankfully, I had my sunglasses to deal with the sun shining at us, but others were forced to squint. Of course, any sort of scene like this is Instagram gold, so I began snapping away (“Instagram is going to fucking love this.”) However, Craig was getting particularly irate with the Midlands sunshine. He has a bit of an obsession with the statement ‘announce’ at the moment – a craze that seems to have swept social media (e.g. Announce new striker signing Swansea City). So in a bid to sort out the blinding sunshine, he made a plea to Mother Nature – a plea that went wrong. “Announce sun-…what’s it called? Not sunrise?…” It seemed he was trying to tell the sun to set and go away, but he’d stupidly forgotten the opposite of sunrise. It’s ‘sunset’ lad. In fairness, it’s not the stupidest thing he’s said to me in a football ground – as those at Crystal Palace v Swansea City last May will testify…we’ll leave that one for now though…

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The sun we had to deal with. We were waiting for the ‘sunset’…

Half-time: Wolves 1 – 1 Crawley Town.

For some sort of mysterious reason, I had been told 24 hours previous that I wasn’t allowed to go on the concourse at half-time as there was something planned for me. Craig then gave the game away by saying it didn’t matter now as we couldn’t hear the PA system (tannoy is a brand name) very clearly pitch side. It seemed that Craig had pre-prepared some sort of message for me from him and the Crawley fans to be read out by the Wolves announcer at half-time. We soon learned that the PA system could be heard clearer from on the concourse, so we headed to the bar. Eventually, I was receiving a message from the Wolves PA guy wishing me well in Slovakia from Crawley Town and thanking me for my ‘support’ of them over the past 18 months. It’s no problem Crawley Town. A lovely gesture that.

For the second half, Wolves brought on their new Icelandic signing Jon Dadi Bodvasrrson and my biggest fears for football were confirmed: Wolves fans were doing the Icelandic thunderclap. Oh dear. I’m really hoping that Swansea fans don’t jump on board this bandwagon and perform similar actions towards my beloved Gylfi Sigurdsson. Leave that for the Icelandic folk please lads.

As Crawley continued to impress, we even had Crawley players who were not in the squad for tonight come join us in the away end, which I thought was good of them. We had Addison Garnett standing directly behind us and he seemed to be enjoying some of the comments from the fans about his fellow team mates. We just needed those team mates to score now.

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Match action.

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Match action.

There were chances for Jimmy Smith and James Collins, who’s shot went just wide, but I found myself getting more excited about Crawley’s next substitution. Early sub Yussuf was forced off with a knock, but this meant that one of my favourite names in football was coming: Bobson Bawling. What a bloody name!

Undoubtedly the most heroic moment of the night would come from Reds defender Mark Connolly (probably my Man of the Match too). A header from Wolves’ Batth from a freekick had left Crawley’s keeper wrong-footed and the ball was flying in; yet, somehow, Connolly threw himself back at his goal line and cleared with his head. It really was an extraordinary block.

Sadly, such heroics didn’t pay off as minutes later Wolves had their second goal of the game. Another freekick was met by Bodvasrrson, who’s pass across goal was met by Conor Coady’s head to score from close range.

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Sad times.

If there was one person who I wanted to see rescue the game, it was Matt Harrold – the inaugural winner of the Lost Boyos Matt Harrold Hero of the Year award at the end of 2014/15 (it was named after him of course). So I was delighted to see Harrold come on with ten minutes left to hopefully rescue it for the Reds (spoiler: he didn’t).

There was still time for Connolly to pick up his second yellow card and be sent off and Wolves would hold on for the win, despite Crawley’s valiant efforts.

Full-time: Wolves 2 – 1 Crawley Town.

An enjoyable game of football and it was just a shame that Crawley couldn’t cause an upset against Walter Zenga’s charges.

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The Crawley players deserved their applause at the end.

Having done the whole goodbye thing when he had come to Manchester last month under the pretence that he wouldn’t see me until he visits Slovakia next month, I said my goodbyes to Craig again and the rest of the Crawley lot, before we went our separate ways. I realised that I’d probably be the only Crawley ‘fan’ in the city with it seeming that the rest of the 100 or so fans were heading for the fan buses, so I removed my Crawley shirt and put it back in my bag.

There was enough time for me to fit in one last Punk IPA in Wetherspoons, before heading back to Brum, where I hopped between a couple of pubs that were remaining open after 11am. However, I was soon running out and for what I think must be a personal best, I ended up paying Wetherspoons my 5th visit of the day, as I ended up back in the Briar Rose – a Spoons that seemed to stay open remarkably late.

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Me with the face of someone who has clearly enjoyed their day out…

Cheers for another enjoyable evening Crawley Town FC. That’s probably my last post from these shores. See you on the other side in Slovakia!

Highlights: Wellington, lots of Spoons visits, Emerald Bar, great ground, good game, Craig forgetting the word ‘sunset’.

Low Points: Wolverhampton is not most beautiful place ever been, Crawley loss.

See all my photos from my day at Wolves here.

 

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