Clarke Still Faces Difficult Challenges
Sunderland travel to West Brom on Saturday and WBA boss Steve Clarke admits his first season as a manager has been a major learning curve.
Steve Clarke: "It's been a good experience. Different challenges always bring different solutions.
"While I didn't want this kind of publicity for the club, it's been a challenge for me.
"In the early part of the season everything, was going great for me.
"Recently, it's a little bit more difficult and people can see if I can handle these challenges.
"I won't look back on it with any fond memories.
"But, if I learn something from it going ahead that makes me a better coach and helps me work better with the players, I'll try to take the positives from it."SUNDERLAND FIXTURES February 2013 Sat 23 15:00 A West Bromwich Albion March 2013 Sat 02 15:00 H Fulham Sat 09 15:00 A Queens Park Rangers Sun 17 13:30 H Norwich City Sat 30 12:45 H Manchester United April 2013 Sat 06 15:00 A Chelsea Sat 13 13:30 A Newcastle United Sat 20 15:00 H Everton Sat 27 15:00 A Aston Villa May 2013 Sat 04 15:00 H Stoke City Sun 12 15:00 H Southampton Sun 19 16:00 A Tottenham Hotspur
.THE HAWTHORNS - WEST BROM How To Get There By Car And Where To Park
The Hawthorns is located on the A41 (Birmingham-West Bromwich Road). If approaching from outside the area the ground is about half a mile from Junction 1 of the M5. On leaving the M5 take the A41 towards Birmingham, the ground is on your right. Beware though of speed cameras on this stretch of the A41. Street parking or alternatively there are a few private matchday car parks at some local industrial units near the ground, or at Hawthorns station which costs £4.By Train/Metro
The Hawthorns has its own railway and metro station which are about a five minute walk from the ground. It can be reached from Birmingham New Street, by first taking a train to Smethwick Galton Bridge and changing there for the Hawthorns. Total journey time is around 20-25 minutes. Alternatively the Hawthorns is also served by direct trains from Birmingham Moor Street and Birmingham Snow Hill. The metro line runs from Birmingham Snow Hill.What Is It Like For Visiting Supporters?
Away fans are housed on one side of the Smethwick End, where the normal allocation is 3,000 seats. This means that this stand is shared with home supporters. For cup games, the whole of this stand can be allocated to away supporters, raising this figure to 5,200.
The facilities and the view of the pitch in the Smethwick End are okay, although the leg room is a little cramped. I have been to the Hawthorns on a number of occasions and have always found it to be a fairly friendly place. The only thing against it, in terms of a day out is the lack of nearby pub for away fans, meaning that most elect to drink inside the ground instead. Considering that the concourse at the back of the Smethwick End is pretty small in comparison to its overall capacity, then it can have uncomfortable feel, especially when there is a capacity away support. Strangely I noticed that fans were not allowed to bring in take away food from the nearby McDonalds. Food available on the concourse includes; Cheeseburgers (£3.70), Burgers (£3.50), Chicken Balti Pies (£2.90), Chicken & Mushroom Pies (£2.90), Cheese & Onion Pies (£2.90), Steak & Kidney Pies (£2.90), Sausage Rolls (£2.90) and Pasties (£2.90).
Look out for the West Brom Mascot called 'Baggie Bird', who does a good job of entertaining the away fans before the game. This even involves going in goal and challenging players to take a shot!
Greg Whitaker adds; 'I've been to the Hawthorns twice as an away fan and had a similar problem on both occasions. There is a huge metal gate, outside the stadium, next to the away fan section. On my first visit, this was closed before the game, meaning we had to walk in a big loop through a load of residential streets to get round to the other side of the gate. On my most recent visit, the gate was closed after the game. There are no signs to give you directions and, with it being an evening game, I ended up wandering deserted streets in the dark trying to find my way back to Rolfe Street station'.Where To Eat And Drink?
The main pub for away fans is 'The Vine' which is about a 15-20 minute walk from the ground. From Junction 1 of the M5 turn left towards West Bromwich town centre (opposite direction to the ground). Take the first left into Roebuck Street. The Vine is down on the left. You can also street park in this area and then walk to the ground. This pub also offers Indian food and has an indoor tandoori barbeque (from 1pm on Saturdays), plus has a beer garden with children's play area. Barbara Osborne adds; 'The Vine from the outside looked like any small corner boozer, but inside it was quite large and it was fairly easy to get served. It had a good mix of home and away fans.'
Dave Wilson recommends; 'The Park Hotel which is just off junction one of the M5 and a 10 minute walk to the ground. You can park on their car park for £5 and away fans are always welcome. There are plenty of families who meet in here before games and it is a very safe environment. There is also plenty of street parking in and around the area of the hotel if you don't want to pay the £5.'
Sean Mowat a visiting Sheffield United supporter adds; 'As you pass the ground on the right on the main Birmingham Road. Carry on about another half a mile and there is a pub on the right set back off the road called the Royal Oak. We've been in the last two times we've visited WBA. The beer is okay and they also serve Asian food (try the chicken kebabs!). It had a friendly atmosphere'. It also has the added benefit of showing televised football.
If travelling by Metro or train from Birmingham Snow Hill and you like your real ale, then it may be a good idea to stop off on the way to the Hawthorns at the Jewellery Quarter station. Within a 10 minute walk of the station are at least three pubs serving decent real ale. These are the Rose Villa Tavern, Red Lion and Lord Clifden. The Red Lion and Lord Clifden are both listed in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, whilst the Brown Lion has recently opened and is effectively the brewery tap for the local Two Towers Brewery. See the Google map below for their locations (this will require you to use the arrows to move the map down and then to the to show the Jewellery Quarter and pubs).
Alcohol is also available within the ground, albeit in plastic bottles/cans, in the form of Carlsberg (£3.70), Tetleys (£3.70) and Strongbow (£3.60), plus Red and White wine, Smirnoff Ice, and various Spirit Minatures (all at £3.80).
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