Adventures in Football #45: Coles Lane (Sutton Coldfield Town/West Brom Women)
MARCH 20, 2022
WEST BROM WOMEN vs. AFC FYLDE WOMEN
Hello! It’s a Sunday and I’m not at work so I’m off to Coles Lane and the Central Ground. Home, normally, to Sutton Coldfield Town but also Paget Rangers and West Brom’s Women’s team. Seeing as it’s the West Brom Women’s team I’m watching today, here’s a bit of history about them. The club was founded in 1989 but wasn’t part of the West Bromwich Albion football club family until 2004. Albion expanded their operations to include them around then and by 2011 there was even a girl’s centre of excellence.
They play in the FA Women’s Northern Premier League. It’s the same league that includes Burnley, Middlesbrough, Hull, Derby and local rivals Wolves. In fact, I’ve already seen a game in this division this season and it was at Wolves and AFC Fylde were the visitors! I swear I’ve not done this on purpose. The Wolves game was 0-0 but it was a decent game. Hoping for some goals this time around.
I’ve been casting my eye over the Albion team and my instincts tell me to watch out for Shannon Stamps (#17). She was player of the season last year and is the creative force. Full back Ashlee Brown is another one to watch. Formally of Coventry, Blues and Villa she’s amassed a lot of experience for a 25-year-old and has pace. Sadly Ashlee didn’t play but she did walk past me a few times and she looked quick.
It’s a crisp but sunny morning in Bromsgrove. I head down to the station layered up, remembering previous games where I’d been left freezing by a lack of preparedness. So, I’ve got a t-shirt on, a Real Sociedad shirt (the only blue and white shirt I’ve got), a grey hoodie and a jacket on. Trains on Sunday are generally awful. During the week they run direct to Sutton Coldfield and would present no problem. On a Sunday I have to change at New Street and wouldn’t you know it, the train is late at New Street and switches platforms. Joy.
This is Birmingham, the second largest city in the country and the public transport is rubbish on a Sunday. What does that say about our country? Having disembarked at Sutton Coldfield station I march off to the Brewhouse & Kitchen where I’m meeting Tannoy Tom. He claims to be already there but I can’t find him and end up going to the toilet when he finally get around to ringing me. Brewhouse & Kitchen is a nice establishment. It’s a big old building.
I kinda forgot to take a picture of it, so you’ll have to make do with this shot from Google Maps. Tom had food and it looked great. The beer selection was really good and they’ve got their own microbrewery. The Black Belt stout I had was from there (***½) as was the Marksman IPA (***½). Staff were all nice and I’d recommend it if you’re in the area. It is a wee bit hipsterish. But it was also open way before the ‘real’ pub by the ground, so we ended up in here. We are joined by Shaz, who loves a bit of football. It’s great to meet up with multiple people for a game. Hopefully we can make a thing of it.
The ground is about half a mile from the pub, which itself is about half a mile from the station. If you want to drive in, the car park is actually inside the ground. You drive down this gravel entrance and swing a left at the bottom. You actually drive through part of the standing area. As you can see they groundshare with Paget Rangers, who have had some financial issues. Embezzlement mostly. We also have a pigeon club, rifle & pistol club, sub aqua club (I don’t know what that means) and a table tennis club. It’s all happening in Sutton!
The turnstiles are sadly not in operation today. No clack-clack-clack for us. We settle into the clubhouse as the Palace vs Everton game is on the TV. Beer in an actual glass here and you can see out onto the pitch so we don’t even miss the opening goal, which happens while we’re still in there. 0-1 Fylde.
It’s great having a nice sit down and chat in here. We have a word with Michael, who works at the Villa shop and gives us all the inside scoops on what’s happening. There’s so much happening in here. The football is on one channel, the Formula 1 on another and we are at an actual football game. I watch the start of the F1 but the second half kicks off so we head out to watch. There’s a cracking little snack bar at Coles Lane. I got some chips and curry sauce but it’s a solid menu. Chips were a bit soggy but the curry sauce was excellent. I have no complaints about the scran.
This is the main stand at Coles Lane. I’ve taken this from our vantage point in the bar so you can see some smudges on the window. The stand is an enormous building that houses media and executives as well as the bulk of the seating for the ground. It’s also elevated so it’s above the dugouts and there’s no restrictions on line of sight. Tempted though I was to go and sit up there I was happy where I was.
I didn’t spend the whole game in the clubhouse, although I could have if I wanted to. I like to get a feel for the atmosphere and went out to watch during the first half. The game was a bit scrappy. According to my notes “game is bad” but it did improve in the second half.
From this corner you can see the pitch in all its glory. Behind me is the snack bar and to the right is the clubhouse. Off to my left is another smaller stand built in the corner because there’s a brook running along the left of the ground. There’s plenty of tall nets designed to keep the ball from hitting houses, cars and going into the brook.
My usual disdain for a plastic pitch is here but at least the goal isn’t on wheels.
I was telling Tom about my ‘one to watch’ Shannon Stamps and she promptly stepped on the ball and lost possession. Here she is about to launch a free kick into the box. I was right though, she was a tidy player and the creative driving force. She scored a sensational goal to put West Brom 2-1 up.
This is the other stand I was telling you about. Bernard was the president of Sutton Coldfield Town FC who passed away in 2017.
The Richard Underwood Stand has to be the best thing about Sutton. An exclusive seating area for four people. Possibly more if you nick a plastic seat from the clubhouse. This is actually a covered area for supporters in wheelchairs but given the sparsity of the crowd I reckon you’d have been ok sitting in there for the Albion.
Oh, the game! Fylde took the lead through Jess Holbrook. It was 0-1 at HT. The second half was a much better game of football. Albion coming at Fylde. Leigh Dugmore equalised for 1-1. Shannon Stamps sensational lobbed goal gave WBA a 2-1 lead but Faye McCoy, referred to as a “unit” for her considerable presence, levelled it up at 2-2 somewhat against the run of play. Both teams could have grabbed a winner and the second 45 minutes absolutely flew by. Final score: 2-2.
I’m debating some sort of scoring system. So, here’s a stab at it for this game. I’ll try and retroactively slap together a league table.
Atmosphere: Yeah, not much. Bit of a YAAAAY when Shannon scored that peach of a goal. Otherwise very quiet. *½
Cost: It was a fiver! It cost me double that to get the train to the game. ****½
Quality of Game: First half was a bit ropey. Second half was terrific. End to end at times. Super goal from Shannon Stamps. ***½
Ease of Access: Didn’t drive to this one but there was a car park just down the road and plenty of parking at the ground. The walk from the station was easy enough. It was dead easy to get in with tickets on the door (there was no actual door). No queues at bar or food areas. ****
Misc: I don’t get food at every game so instead of having a food section there’s misc. I had some nice chips and curry sauce here. The service was fine at the food hut and better at the bar. The guy on tickets was great. I had a nice time. ***½
Is that good? I don’t know it’s the first one I’ve done! It’s the total to beat. Notts Co is next, be interested to see how they do comparatively. It was a great day out though. Spending time with Tom and Shaz in the pub and at the ground was very enjoyable. We’ll have to do it again sometime!