FANTASY FOOTBALL OR ....
TO PLAY IN OLD GOLD AND BLACK OR TO END UP AT THE DEVA, THAT IS THE QUESTION.
I went to watch a pre-season friendly
between Wolves and Hamburg at the magnificent new Molineux
stadium. I had seen it from the outside but not been
to watch a game there. It looks good, even if the team
were made to look second class by a superior side (Wolves
had the excuse of fielding an under strength team).
The site of the stadium, on a slope, means that it remains hidden from
the towns ring road but as you walk down beside the main stand,
the full majestic size of the ground begins to unfold. As you look more
closely some of the attention to detail strikes you: bollards in the
shape of footballs; a grand entrance with the name of the ground displayed
on a pedestal and a giant sculpted club badge, the wolfs head mounted
up on the wall. Since I was there a statue of Billy Wright has been unveiled
outside the entrance, adding to the impression that this is a club with
a proud history and a confident future. Inside, the seats of old gold
were glistening, the pitch looked luminous green in the floodlighting,
an impressive sight. The large tv screens in each corner however were
a distraction. When they werent showing a blurred picture of the
game in progress there was a nauseating animation of a cartoon wolf presumably
to get the crowd worked up but having no effect on the crowd whatsoever,
Beneath the stand too, the concourse was drab, people milling around
at half time wondering whether to feed the appetite with over priced
junk food and drink or glance at television screens showing an uninteresting
On the whole though, Molineux must be one of the most attractive of the
new grounds worth a visit in itself. As I sat there looking across
to the stand behind the goal at the far end of the pitch with that famous
emblem, one of the most marketable in football the sinister looking
wolfs head picked out in black against the old gold background.
And I thought about the other team in the League which has a wolfs
head as its badge, our own Chester City.
Our wolfs head is derived from the Earls of Chester, or the first
one in particular Hugh Lupus, or Hugh the Wolf or Hugh the Gross
to his enemies. According to a story I heard third hand some time ago
one of Hugh Lupus more genteel successors, the Duke of Westminster,
earlier this century offered the football club a new stadium to be built
on the canal side site where the telecommunication building is now. A
stones throw from Telfords warehouse and not far from the
City walls it would have been a tight and dramatic situation for
a football ground but less bleak than the end of Bumpers lane in the
middle of nowhere.
The only condition which the Duke made is that the team should play in
his racing colours of.....Old Gold and Black. Whether it was for this
reason or some other the offer was not taken up and City remained at
Sealand Road until the nineties. It makes a fascinating What if story
to imagine what might have been if Chester did play so close to the town
centre. Such a site would have been much more popular with the fans if
a nightmare for the city authorities and local residents. Even if the
ground had been built there surely the Taylor report would have meant
Chester being banished to an out of town site like the Deva anyway where
access would be easier (some joke), and would be the only place for a
modern stadium. Or would it?
Remember the brilliant Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, played in by both
Scotland and Ireland during Italia 90? Well that beautiful stadium
was built on a very restricted site, hemmed in on all sides by buildings
that could not be demolished and a river bed. The Genoese municipality
employed the best architect they could find (Vittoria Gregotti) to completely
rebuild the stadium on its existing site and the result is a Glowing
example of the urban art form (Simon Inglis). In my fantasy football
world, either the Duke or, better still, the City Council would have
built an equally magnificent arena for the boys in blue/old gold which
would have graced a restricted but dramatic site. Now if you think this
is fantasy football, just wait till you hear who would be in the side.