Anyone fancy a Pint?
The ground itself isn't particularly well served for pubs, especially if you're an away supporter. The Woodman, once on the corner of the Birmingham Road Stand and the East Stand, was bought by the Club in 2003 and admission was restricted to those that have tickets for home areas of the ground - but in the summer of 2004 it was demolished and turned first into a patch of waste ground, then later into an extension of the East Stand car park. The Hawthorns, on the corner of Halfords Lane and the main road, operates a membership card scheme, and upset regulars recently by changing hands and refusing to honour the Life Memberships given out by the previous incumbents. The Throstle Club, which used to live a little further down Halfords Lane, was the home of the Supporters Club and was open only to members at all times, but it too was closed down a few years ago and has just been demolished to make space for the combined Super School and Youth Academy. In the meantime, the Supporters Club negotiated the use of a sort of tent contruction at the back of the The Hawthorns pub which has become their temporary headquarters until future ground developments give them a permanent home.
Heading from the ground towards Birmingham along the main A41 (Holyhead Road), about ten minutes away and just past Wickes on the right hand side, is the Royal Oak. Regular patron Chris tells us that there is always a large contingent of away supporters in there, and he has yet to see anything but good natured wind-ups inside, although the Police tell us that following a bit of a disturbance back in August, security is being tightened up and CCTV will be used to keep an eye on things. It's run by Asians and the beer's pretty good - Chris reckoned the food was rumoured to be fantastic too, although he'd never tried it - but Chelsea fan Shane told us that when he visited in March 2006 there was no food being served and according to the barman there hadn't been for some years. Last year they gave an entire room (the bigger of the two) to Arsenal supporters and the Newcastle fans were so numerous that they outnumbered the home supporters and filled the large open area out the front of the pub - but as no-one could understand them, they didn't know if they were abusive! There is also parking available down the side streets there. If you keep walking further towards the centre of Birmingham, a few more basic pubs can be reached - the beer tastes good, but the pubs are in Handsworth, which does make a lot of people feel rather uneasy. One such pub is The Uplands, at the bottom of Sandwell Road, which Police tell us was also the scene of a disturbance after the Villa game and is also being closely monitored from now on. To get there turn left at the traffic lights on the island just past Apollo 2000.
The favourite meeting place for members of the BOING mailing list is generally now The Vine - although it's quite a busy place on match days. This Banks' pub is about ten minutes walk from the ground and serves good food before and after the game (it's run by Asians, and the barbequed chicken tikka just BEGS to be eaten). It also has plenty of seats and a children's play area at the rear, making it ideal for families as well. To get there, follow the sign to "West Bromwich Town Centre" from junction 1 of the M5 (i.e. the opposite direction to the ground), and take the first left turn into Roebuck Street. The Vine is on the left hand corner of the T-junction at the end. It's also a good place to park (street parking) and walk to the ground along the new Metro train line under the motorway, which brings you out in Halfords Lane just South of the ground. I can't remember any problems there with away supporters. It even has it's own web site now at www.sukis.co.uk. A similar sounding venue is the Island Inn, just off the Metro line by Trinity Way, which is a popular venue for Albion fans to meet up before the game - it has pool tables, video games machines (including a Playstation), a dartboard and a variety of Indian snacks. However, away fans haven't been seen in there - though whether that's by chance or by design we're not sure.
Further along the road from the motorway to the centre of West Bromwich is the Desi Junction, which has received favourable reports from a few away supporters, although we've never been there before and don't know any more details. Also is The Sportsman, which is another members-only club, but may let you in if you're discrete and early with a following wind...
The traditional spit-and-sawdust of the Waggon & Horses at the bottom of Halfords Lane may appeal; we understood that in years gone by football supporters in general weren't made welcome, but the legendary Smethwick Batman tells us that Margaret, the old landlady, has left now and away fans will get in as long as they dont wear colours and are discreet. However, he adds that the service is terrible now that all the Irish bar staff have gone and describes their replacements as "a clueless bunch". Another basic alternative he mentions is The Navigation - left at the Waggon and Horses and it's 500 yards down Middlemore Road on the left - but adds that "it's a right dump". You might have guessed by now that Batman doesn't work in marketing.
So what do serious drinkers do? Here's a few suggestions. They are all a few minutes drive away, but are worth it:
Away fans should perhaps avoid the pubs by West Bromwich bus station - The Goose (formerly the Goose and Granite, and before that the Sandwell), and yet another Waggon & Horses - as they tend to be frequented by the noisier home supporters, if you're an Albion fan you could try The Rising Sun in Barton Street. It's a 2 minute walk from the bus station - turn left towards Olbury, just off Moore Street and turn right at Bromford Lane post office. It claims to be "the best pub with Albion attitude". The bar is decorated from floor to ceiling with Albion memorabilia and it's reckoned to have a friendly atmosphere with a lounge area and big screen TV. Children are welcome and food is served daily, so it could be worth a visit even on non-match days.
Last update: March 2009, thanks to Gordon Brindley for info on the Horse & Jockey. If you come across any errors or omissions, or have found others worth reccommending, please Contact Us. And if you're any good at drawing maps and fancy a go at showing where all these places are, let us know - we never paid attention in art class and even managed to screw up the lesson on tie dying.
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