If you want to know why this piece is necessary, click here to see an account of how a grand day out for fans of both Wolves and Sunderland was marred by petty-minded officialdom of the sort that gives petty-minded officialdom a bad name …
After the last game of last season. I wrote a sour little description, under the heading “Mighty club, petty-minded city”, of the wooden-topped approach of police, local authorities and, unless they are acting under duress, publicans towards ordinary, decent visiting supporters. It was an appalling example of attitudes that were understandable 25 years ago but now bring shame on the city.
This, in part, is what I wrote in May:
Last game of the season. Two clubs already safe (though our second-half display was to resemble that of a team doomed since February). No obvious history of animosity. A changeable day but with bursts of warm sunshine. A drink and maybe some food before the match?
Maybe. But, if you were a Sunderland supporter in Wolverhampton city centre today, only if you were very lucky.
Pub after pub had bouncers posted on the door to enforce home fan only rules – even the pubs listed in the Sunderland Echo guide to matchday as being more welcoming to those visiting their city and wishing to boost its economy a little.
Three men, age aggregate in the region of 180, wandered disconsolately from one hostelry to another. At the most, specks of red were just about visible on the collar lines of my jumper and another supporter’s jerkin. Did we have Mackem stamped on our foreheads?
At one pub, the No on the door sat oddly with the sight of a Sunderland banner draped over the back of a chair by the window. “Yeah, they got here before we did,” moaned one of the bouncers. Well-meaning directions to friendly pubs led to more disappointment. Small groups of perfectly well behaved Sunderland fans were everywhere, but almost always on the outside.
A Yates pub, with its grim selection of yellow fizz and keg, proved our salvation. I had by then removed my SAFC home top from beneath the jumper – not a pretty Sunday afternoon spectacle for innocent passers-by – and two of us marched inside without challenge. That speck of red almost did for our friend, a quiet, peaceable businessman who was stopped, told he couldn’t enter and finally shepherded inside after he persuaded the door staff that he was a man of 61 seeking only food and a beer.
Anyone who made straight for the ground was greeted by signs saying no alcohol would be on sale. “Crazy,” said a policeman. “They were quite happy to sell it to Chelsea fans when they came. As for banning you from pubs, we’d rather you were there: then we know where you are and if there is trouble, we can close the place down.”
An amiable Wolves fan we met in the street agreed. “Last game, nothing at stake, people just want some harmless fun.”
The Sunderland Echo‘s regular “awayday” writer Brian Patterson takes a similar view. In this year’s preview, he says he thought of labelling Wolverhampton “the worst away place outside London and Wales for away supporters to go for an unintimidating pre-match pint” – until he remembered Leeds and Barnsley.
He called the home fans-only city centre policy a “most damning indictment on any town’s hospitality” and he was right; it is a measure, as he adds, that may have been “OK in the dark days of the 80s but … is just not on in the 21st century. Shame on you Wolverhampton publicans, Shame on you Wolverhampton police. Worse still, shame on you Wolves fans.”
I was with Brian until those last few words. I do NOT blame Wolves fans, even though, as with any club, they include some cretins.
But who could not recognise the decency and friendliness of Andy Nicholls, our Wolves “Who are You?” candidate (see this if you haven’t already)?
And were these not the comments posted BY Wolves supporters after my article in May?
Try The Great Western next yr, its just round the corner from the train station in Sun St & is a proper pub one of the few in Wolverhampton, I know away fans use it & its in the CAMRA guide, about 10 mins walk from the ground.
There were plenty of fancy dressed Mackems in and around the Goalpost pub just down the Waterloo road from the ground before the match, but they were being closely observed by several members of the local constabulary.
Petty minded doesn’t even begin to describe match policing in Wolverhampton, be thankful you only have to come once a year!
Hi lads, enjoyed your visit today, had excellent banter with your fans, for next season you need to drink in the “Goal Post”, 5 mins from Molineux, away fans friendly!
Good luck next season!!
Couldn’t agree more about what you are saying regarding the pub situation, it’s our police & PC rubbish council, they seem to have forgotten we live in a democratic society!!!
I was going to make the headline “Mighty Wolves, shameful Wolverhampton revisited”. But I cannot make the game. Maybe fans of both clubs can let us know how it goes this time, especially in view of the suggestions made in those comments.
* Salut! Sunderland stated in May that whoever was responsibe for the policy “should hang their heads in shame. Wolverhampton Wanderers is historically a mighty club, as the names of the Molineux stands – Billy Wright, Stan Cullis – remind us; the city, sadly, shelters pockets of thinking that haven’t moved on, as football has, from the dark age of hooliganism.” However, we welcome any response from individuals in a position to defend the attitude described. All comments face a short delay for moderation, not to deny the right of reply to petty-minded officialdom, but to control spam.