The Hawthorns is an all-seater football stadium in West Bromwich, West Midlands, England, with a capacity of 26,688. 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 Hawthorns was the last Football League ground to be built in the 19th century opening in September 1900, after construction work took only 4 months. At an altitude of 551 feet (168 m), it is the highest ground among those of all 92 Premier League and Football League clubs.
|Full name||The Hawthorns|
|Owner||West Bromwich Albion F.C.|
|Operator||West Bromwich Albion|
|Record attendance||64,815 v Arsenal, 1937 (FA Cup Sixth Round)|
|Field size||105 m x 68 m|
|Renovated||2008, West Stand|
|Construction cost||£7.5 Million (East Stand,2001)|
|West Bromwich Albion F.C. (1900–present)|
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.
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 Handsworth. 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.
When opened, the Hawthorns could hold around 35,500 spectators. The first match took place on Monday 3 September 1900, when Albion drew 1–1 with Derby County in front of a crowd of 20,104. Derby's England international Steve Bloomer scored the first Hawthorns goal, with Chippy Simmons equalizing for Albion. The first Saturday game followed soon after, with Albion losing out 0–1 to fierce local rivals Aston Villa in front of a capacity crowd, officially put at 35,417 but with many more forcing entry and an estimated 15,000 people locked out. 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 ground was gradually expanded and 1923 saw the first ever 50,000+ gate with 56,474 watching a 2–1 win in the cup against Sunderland. The first 60,000+ gate followed in 1925, with 64,612 fans watching a cup tie with arch-rivals Aston Villa. The all-time attendance record at the Hawthorns was set on 6 March 1937, when 64,815 spectators crammed in to see Albion beat hot-favourites Arsenal 3–1 in the FA Cup quarter-final. It is worth noting that this attendance was probably bettered, when Albion played Newcastle in a fifth round tie in 1954, when over 80,000 people turned up. The official crowd was put at 61,088. The highest ever league crowd was for a 1–1 draw 60,945 against Wolves on 4 March 1950.
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. Soon afterwards a friendly game against the Russian Red Army was organised to officially open them. Albion won 6–5 in front of 53,805 fans. The ground was once divided by the Birmingham/Smethwick 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 large Handsworth Side terrace was replaced by the Rainbow Stand at a cost of £40,000, reducing capacity to around 50,000. In October 1968, closed-circuit television was installed at the ground, in an attempt to ward off "increasing hooliganism". Over the following decades capacity was further reduced and perimeter fences were built to help tackle hooliganism. The Halfords Lane stand was rebuilt in two separate phases between 1979 and 1982, at a cost of around £2.5 million.
By the end of the 1990s, the capacity had been slashed dramatically to just over 30,000, with attendances frequently dropping below half that figure. The Hawthorns was become increasingly dilapidated and in need of modernisation.
Following the Taylor Report in January 1990, the ground became all-seated with first the Smethwick End and then the much-loved Birmingham Road End terraces being demolished and replaced by all-seater stands, giving it a capacity of more than 25,000 by the mid 1990s. 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 were scrapped as Albion slipped out of the Premiership in 2006.
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 26,272. Plans were again announced to expand capacity after West Bromwich finished in their highest league position since 1983. The plans involved an increase of capacity to around 30,000 by 2014, regardless of league performance. However, this never materialised and the Hawthorns still awaits its first major development in nearly two decades.
Capacity: 4,725 (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, cutting capacity from 28,003 to 26,272.
Birmingham Road EndEdit
Capacity: 8,286 (seated) (including Woodman Corner)
Affectionately called the Brummie Road by supporters, the Birmingham Road End runs behind the goal, adjacent to the A41. Traditionally, it has always housed the core of the home support and was the main source of the so-called Albion roar. When a terrace, it held up to 14,000, but the stand which replaced it in 1994 holds 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. There are plans in place to expand the Woodman corner in the future.
Capacity: 5,200 (seated)
Running behind the goal at the southern edge of the pitch, the Smethwick End houses the away supporters though they are only allocated part of the stand, except for cup matches. The remainder houses the most vocal of the home support (if the new west stand is completed, there may be a chance of the Smethwick End going to the visitors). Development in the summer of 2014 increased the stadium capacity to 26,850, with added seats made available in the Smethwick End due to the movement of the police control room.
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.
The Rainbow Stand was built in 1964, originally known as the East Stand, but gained the name Rainbow Stand over the next few years owing to its brightly painted seats. It originally consisted of standing accommodation in the lower section and seating in the upper section. However, a refurbishment project in 1977 saw the terracing replaced by executive boxes and seating. It survived until 2000, when it was demolished to make way for the new stand which opened in the 2000–01 season.
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 also hosted the first post-war match between England and Wales on 20 October 1945, in which England lost 0–1 to Wales in front of 54,611 people. Also, two FA cup semi-finals have been staged at the ground. The first saw Derby County draw 1–1 to Sheffield United in 1902 and the second took place between Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1960. Wolves won 1–0 in front of 55,596.
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 25 miles (40 km) from Coventry to the Hawthorns, and one of them – Jack Price of Small Heath Harriers – was selected for the British team for the London Olympic Games 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. On 11 January 1987, Telford United (a non league side playing some 30 miles away in Shropshire) switched their FA Cup tie against Leeds United to the Hawthorns as they had refused to host it at their own stadium as Leeds fans were notorious for hooliganism at this time.
Records and statisticsEdit
- All-time Record Attendance: 64,815 v Arsenal, 6 March 1937 (FA Cup Sixth Round)
- Modern All-Seated Record Attendance: 27,751 v Portsmouth, 15 May 2005 (Premier League)
Progressive Record AttendancesEdit
- 3 September 1901: 20,104 v Derby County
- 8 September 1901: 35,417 v Aston Villa
- 23 February 1907: 35,629 v Derby County
- 11 January 1908: 36,727 v Birmingham
- 26 December 1908: 38,049 v Birmingham
- 30 September 1911: 46,203 v Aston Villa
- 4 October 1913: 48,057 v Aston Villa
- 10 February 1919: 49,121 v Aston Villa
- 26 December 1921: 49,488 v Birmingham
- 3 February 1923: 56,474 v Sunderland
- 21 February 1925: 64,612 v Aston Villa
- 6 March 1937: 64,815 v Arsenal
- 1998-99: 14,840 (Football League Division One)
- 1999-00: 14,371 (Football League Division One)
- 2000-01: 17,699 (Football League Division One)
- 2001–02: 23,655 (Football League Division One)
- 2002–03: 26,776 (Premier League)
- 2003–04: 24,765 (Football League Division One)
- 2004–05: 25,987 (Premier League)
- 2005–06: 25,404 (Premier League)
- 2006–07: 20,472 (Football League Championship)
- 2007–08: 22,314 (Football League Championship)
- 2008–09: 25,827 (Premier League)
- 2009–10: 22,199 (Football League Championship)
- 2010–11: 24,682 (Premier League)
- 2011–12: 24,639 (Premier League)
- 2012-13: 25,360 (Premier League)
- 2013-14: 25,194 (Premier League)
- 2014-15: 25,064 (Premier League)
- 2015-16: 24,631 (Premier League)
The stadium is served by the Hawthorns station, which is both a railway station and Midland Metro tram stop. The station is approximately 500 yards from the ground. Due to the large number 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.
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- Full Throstle DVD 0:06:37
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- Inglis, Simon (1984) . The Football Grounds of England and Wales (Paperback ed.). Collins Willow.
- Matthews, Tony; Mackenzie, Colin (1987). Albion! A Complete Record of West Bromwich Albion 1879–1987. Breedon Books. ISBN 0-907969-23-2.
- Matthews, Tony (2007). West Bromwich Albion: The Complete Record. Breedon Books. ISBN 978-1-85983-565-4.
- Adrian Chiles (presenter) (2005). Full Throstle: The Official History of West Bromwich Albion (DVD). Manchester, England: Paul Doherty International. Cat No. WBADVD05. Retrieved 3 December 2007.