Friday, 24 February 2017

Banks's Stadium

Walsall 2-0 Peterborough

18th February 2017

Something which has long vexed me through many sleepless nights is the correct pronunciation of the word “Saddlery”. Is it “Saddler-E” i.e. a place where a saddler works, or is it “Saddle-Ri” i.e. a place which deals in saddles?  As the former owner of a horse, I have heard both pronunciations in use up this end of the island.

So where better to ascertain the correct method than in the town known as the home of The Saddlers: Walsall.  Or, indeed, even better, in the town’s leather museum.  So it was to this modest little attraction I drove before making my way to the football.

And a pleasantly diverting hour or so it turned out be, wherein I learned all about the rise and fall of the leather trade in Walsall, and even widened my vocabulary – adding the word Lorinery.  Quite how I am going to squeeze it into my day-to-day conversation, I am still working on.    

I did note what the museum, perhaps understandably, had chosen to gloss over was the appalling stench which was invariably associated with leather works in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries.  I suppose any operation which involved the use of copious amounts of chicken-shit and dog-shit was never going to be popular with the neighbours.

In the Jorvik Centre in York there is a ride which takes one through a mock-up of the old town, including a smell-o-vision impression of the open air toilets.  The leather museum really should consider something similar; to give visitors a real insight into what life was like for leather workers back in the day.  But when I made this suggestion to the chap behind the counter in the museum shop, he was a touch sceptical.  Perhaps sensibly wary of how the attraction's Trip Adviser rating would be affected.

As for the correct pronunciation of Saddlery?  I did ask, but consequent to his Black Country accent, I came really away no wiser than when I went in.

The No 1 Attraction in Walsall (it says)

Which of us has never wished to be able to wear one of these things?

Read This...

Happy leather suitcases.

The Leather Museum, Walsall.

Regretfully, no workers in situ on this Saturday.

And so to The Banks's Stadium, or Bescot as was.

Like most folks, I suspect, I knew the place best from views of the ground when passing on the nearby M6, where the precipitous Tile Choice Stand gives the impression that the ground is larger than it really is.  For, rather in the same manner of Aberdeen's Pittodrie Stadium, three lower lying stands are dominated by a single glowering structure behind one goal.

It is a pretty unprepossessing stadium from the outside I have to say, from some angles almost indistinguishable from the retail units with which it shares Bescot Retail Park.  Inside, there are a fair collection of pillars associated with the three smaller stands, but give me pillars over open corners any time, and I was pleased to note the arena was totally enclosed.  

I had plumped for the upper tier of the Tile Choice Stand, but soon wished I had chosen the lower.  For despite the prominent No Transfers Between Stands notice, the stewards appeared to be taking a civilized laissez-faire approach to the business of folks wandering around the ground.  But us bods in the top tier were stuck there. 

Banks's Stadium, Walsall.

Banks's Stadium, Walsall.

Banks's Stadium, Walsall.

Banks's Stadium, Walsall.

All-weather pitches at the rear of the Tile Choice Stand

Walsall FC Club Shop.

Both sides started this afternoon's encounter sitting in mid-table in League One, and it soon became clear why, with each looking patently competent enough to keep out of harm’s way down the foot of the table, but with neither really looking like they possessed the quality likely to trouble the lads uptop.  But there is, I acknowledge, some considerable way to go until the end of season pressies are handed out.

Peterborough, I initially felt looked the more accomplished of the two combatants, but it gradually began to dawn on me they really flattered to deceive.

The stocky Junior Morais – who looked as if he had wandered in from Twickenham – appeared early on as if he could be a real handful, particularly after he took Walsall defender James O’Connor to the cleaners in the opening minutes.  But O'Connor swiftly got his measure and the big lad was swiftly subdued, being reduced to moans and exasperated shrugs whenever the ball was not punted in his direction.   Indeed, the only danger he posed to anyone was to spectators with a brace of shockingly wild free-kicks he attempted.  

Craig Mackail-Smith also scurried around without achieving anything terribly much – as he did during his brief spell as a Scotland player, if I recall correctly.  Even visiting captain, the slim and elegant Chris Forrester initially impressed me, until I noted pretty much all his passes were short sideways jobs, and whenever he attempted a forward one possession was lost.  

The home lot, although enjoying seemingly less possession at least looked likely to do something positive with it, and Simeon Jackson was unfortunate not to score at the near post on 24 minutes, whilst the ever-busy Erhun Oztumer was a persistent irritant to the visiting defence.   And in Adam Chambers, the Saddlers' possessed a midfield player with not only a deft touch, but someone who could probably look after himself should the situation require it.

But a deal of the actual entertainment on show, certainly after the break was less than wonderful, and I more than once found my attention wandering to the almost hypnotic flow of vehicles as they sped past in both directions on the nearby M6.

Perhaps inevitably, things only picked up after I had left early to get to Molineux with, I later learned, OZTUMER and Kieron MORRIS both scoring late goals for the hosts, and my man Forrester being ordered off for throwing a wobbly at a refereeing decision.

Panorama of Banks's Stadium.

Panorama of Banks's Stadium.

WFC Community Stand

Will Randall & (I think) Frank Moussa

Erhun Oztumer

A touch of TLC would not go amiss in parts of the stadium.

Panorama of Banks's Stadium.

Panorama of Banks's Stadium.

TV gantry atop the Homeserve Mains Stand

Homeserve Mains Stand

Walsall v Peterborough - February 2017

Walsall v Peterborough - February 2017

Walsall v Peterborough - February 2017

This lady spent much of her time on her phone.
But at least she took her kids to the match, I suppose.

Walsall v Peterborough - February 2017

Craig Mackail-Smith

Panorama of Banks's Stadium.

Peterborough's Andrew Hughes takes a tumble, as his goalkeeper Luke McGee gathers in

Between the top and bottom tiers of the Tile Choice Stand lives the refreshments stalls.
From which can be viewed the match via a row of windows.

Banks's Stadium, Walsall.

Walsall v Peterborough - February 2017

Peterborough's Junior Morais (out of pic) skies another free-kick into the stand.

Panorama of Banks's Stadium, Walsall FC

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