Adventures in Football #20: Castlecroft Stadium (Wolves Women)
August 29, 2021
WOLVES WOMEN vs. FYLDE WOMEN
I’ve never been to a women’s game. This has nothing to do with any prejudices or anything, it’s simply that women’s football doesn’t have the visibility of the men’s game. For example, I went to buy tickets to this game to discover that you can’t. There’s no link to anything on Wolves website although there is a section for the women’s games. When travelling to games I’ve always been a bit worried about “pay on the gate, mate” mentality. I’ve seen pictures from Wolves Women’s game with West Brom from the previous week and it looked packed in there.
Wolves aren’t in the top flight of women’s football. They play in the National League Northern Premier, which is the third tier of women’s football. The picture above is the only one I can find that adequately explains things. The Northern League is an interesting mixture of women’s versions of men’s teams (Burnley, Derby, Huddersfield) and women’s teams that are more successful than their male equivalents like Brighouse Town and Fylde plus women’s clubs like Loughborough Foxes. The lack of independent women’s teams is a little worrying with London City Lionesses being the only one in the top two divisions.
There’s a whole world of stuff to explore but we’re starting out at Castlecroft, home of Wolverhampton men’s team AFC Wulfrunians, who play in the same division as Romulus and Worcester City. Castlecroft is a long way out from the middle of Wolverhampton. It borders the countryside. So, I asked Josh if he fancied a stroll through Wolves and we decided to go for it.
I leave my house around 10.20am, heading for the train. Josh is on a different train into New Street so we’re meeting in Wolverhampton. It’s slightly chilly as autumn is approaching. Josh would spend the entire day complaining of feeling cold. I kept having to take my hoodie off because it was 21 degrees outside. I jump on a train to Preston and hop off in Wolves to discover they’ve completely rebuilt the entranceway. I thought for a horrible moment I’d gotten off at the wrong stop. I’m not used to change. Wolves station has looked like that forever.
I took the short stroll past the Murder Hotel (the Brit), the Spoons and the Royal London and took a seat in the beer garden of the Hogs Head, which is my favourite pub in Wolves. It’s a game day for Wolves’ men’s team too so it’s busy and all the tables are booked inside. I end up sitting in the beer garden and realising I can’t order any food because I can’t leave my pint or table unattended. I end up downloading the MyPub app just so I can order a burger. It’s fantastic though and I highly recommend the Hogs Head for both beer and food. Also there’s graffiti in the beer garden that says “a rhino is just a fat unicorn”.
Josh eventually turns up, looking haggard as he had his second Covid jab the day before. Hey, how do you feel about that 3.5 mile walk now mate? The walk is immediately rewarding as we pass Molineux and the Banks’ Brewery. It also has downsides. There’s a bit just outside of the middle of Wolverhampton that smells bad. It just stinks. It was around the Chindit Inn. Past that we headed out into suburbia and eventually clean out of the county into Staffordshire!
NOTE: In order to avoid “why don’t you take the bus?” questions; I tend to get motion sickness on buses. It’s something to do with the way it moves. I don’t know the physics of it, it just makes me feel sick so I’d rather walk. Cheers.
We headed out into the countryside before turning into the driveway to the ground. We were getting bantered by a lady on a bicycle who kept overtaking us and then stopping. It turned out she was just looking for the turning to the ground. She went in just before us! The Castlecroft is also known as the CKW Stadium. It says Castlecroft on FootballGroundMap.com so we’ll go with that. Speaking of that website I’ve now got 20 grounds, which puts me ahead of Lukas and Ash Scales and in #5 on my friends list. I’m only three grounds behind Mike now!
Entry was £4 and Josh pretended he’d got no money so I had to pay. It was cash only, which is something I struggle with…mentally. The match day programme was £2 so I ended up parting company with a tenner. I reckoned my Dad might be interested in seeing the programme as he collected them back when he went to the football in the 60s and 70s. If we’d been going to AFC Wulfrunians it would have been £6 so technically I saved money in the long run by knocking this ground off for a women’s game. It’s a decent attendance, somewhere around 100-130 plus a cyclist and two dogs.
We start out in the stand. The ground has a main stand and everywhere else is just standing. Over to our right there’s a random field behind the goal and no real space for standing to speak of. On the left side is a big old hedge and a little bit of a standing space. On the far side is some housing with a gigantic net hung up to stop balls from flying into people’s back gardens. I feel like we’re in for a treat when Wolves attempt the “non-league kick-off”. You know the one; four players go to one side of the pitch and then the ball gets hammered down there for a header. Only a Fylde player blocked it and they countered. So, 20 seconds in and we’d had a failed non-league kick-off and an errant shot embedded into the hedge behind the goal.
At half time the tannoy decided to blast music directly into my brain. I notice most of the crowd buggered off into the bar, at the top of the stand ‘Romulus-style’. I couldn’t hack the musical abuse and we strolled down to the corner flag by the exit. Giving us both an excellent view of the Wolves’ attacks in the second half and putting us close to a quick escape at full time.
A few shout outs for players to watch from the Wolves gang. Tammi George was the only name I knew before hand and she’s a bit like Granit Xhaka*. Only taller and blonder. She went flying into a tackle in the first half when no one else left their feet. She also got on the end of a lot of crosses. Her jumping reach is great but if she worked on her heading she’d score more. Amber Hughes was particularly good in wide areas and Jade Cross was a menace, constantly hounding opposition defenders and creating chances out of nothing.
*This seemed tenuous at the time when I said it at the ground, in print it looks pretty ridiculous.
Full time and no goals at Castlecroft. It’s the first goalless draw of Josh’s journey and the first one I’ve seen live since Everton vs. Wigan in 2010. As for a first women’s game, it was genuinely fun and an enjoyable experience. There really wasn’t the same vitriol you get from the crowd in the men’s game and it was pleasant. At one point in the second half, I got distracted by two little girls doing cartwheels. Football is for everyone, and I love that girls are inspired here. They can be a footballer if they want. That’s an option for a little girl. There was a girl behind us in the first half who was having a great time.
This is a crucial time for the development of the women’s game globally and we run the risk of being left behind. It was great to see fans here supporting the Wolves Women in numbers. They turned out in greater numbers for the West Brom game the previous week and this is a decent Wolves team, gunning for promotion to the second tier in the women’s game. The women’s game has a bright future and I’m happy to say I’m along for the ride. It’ll be an important part of my adventures in football going forwards!