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Artvoice’s sports mavens hit The UK’s Premier League!

Filed under: Sports

Our Puck Stop and Play Ball columnists, Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell, are in England all week, visiting the Premier League of soccer and attending Sunday’s NFL matchup at Wembley Stadium between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos. Here is their report…

After many years, the day had finally come.

Years of surfing the net searching vainly for Championship League scores,
“watching” games through statistical gamecasts, viewing random YouTube clips. Of
slowly learning the long and storied history of the club. The hundreds of text
messages sent back and forth. The thrill of promotion felt while standing in a
concession line at CitiField. The low moments such as being eliminated from
playoff promotion(twice). The joys of the rare opportunities to watch
Wolverhampton on TV or over the net.

And today, I’d get to see the Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club for real. In
person at their beloved Molineux. To state that I was thrilled doesn’t begin to
describe the feelings for the day.

And what a wild day it was. It started early in the morning in classic USRT
style….travel hassles. The train line we were supposed to take from the Tube
station nearest our hotel to the Waterloo Station was closed, thus turning a
quick hop into a multi change clusterfuck that set us back a few minutes(whilst
we were carrying several peices of luggage).There was more in store as our train
in Waterloo was delayed, then cancelled due to another train being stuck one the
tracks. Thankfully we were able to board a train just a half hour later to get
us to our designated meeting spot at Feltham. From there our man Chris got us up
north to Wolverhampton in easy fashion and we got ourselves a free spot in a lot
just minutes from the stadium. I joked upon parking that we should have brought
a grill and tailgate supplies with us….but I digress.

Molineux dates back to the late 1880’s but was completely demolished and
refurbished in the early 90’s so it’s a pretty modern facility as football
grounds go. As in West Ham, plenty of outdoor street vendors sell all kinds of
“ballpark rubbish” and we went for a spot that sold the tasty roast pork with
stuffing sandwich as a pregame meal. Awesome, who says the Brits don’t make good
food! After grabbing some merchandise at the team store( I GUARANTEE that I’ll
be the only person in Buffalo with a 50’s era Wolves jersey!) and doing the once
around the venue that featured statues of two of Wolves finest, it was time to
enter the venue at the Jack Harris Stand behind one the nets.

A slightly larger gate than what was at West Ham, not by much as we didn’t have
to turn sideways to enter. Shortly after we saw something that floored us, as
again betting on matches was allowed on the ground complete with sheets of info
to help fans make their picks and the betting windows were inside stadium
grounds. You can’t even find that at a sports event in Vegas for goodness sakes.
For some reason we didn’t place any bets on the action and proceeded to the
seating area.

The seating area consists of four different sides named after Wolves legends and
all seats are in the Wolves team colors of black and gold and together they from
the “WOLVES” inscripted into the seating bowl on the sidelines and a team logo
behind the nets. There’s a bit of a pregame presentation featuring a somewhat
annoying PA guy, but things really don’t get underway at Molineux until the PA
system blares the lyrics of Jeff Beck’s “Hi Ho Silver Lining” with the entire
fan base singing the song using the word “Wolverhampton” in place of “Silver
Lining”.

The atmosphere of soccer overseas closest resembles a college football game. You
have a stadium filled mostly with the home team’s fans, a section cordoned off
to visiting team’s fans, and a particular section dominated by incredibly
passionate fans that stand for virtually the entire game, chanting, singing,
insulting the other team and their fans, and sometimes all of the above. For us
we had the fortune of being in that said section and boy is it a hillarious time
if you can handle the language. Most chants that the Wolves fans were chanting I
either can’t remember or shouldn’t state….ah heck, here’s one directed at the
Man City fans: “Where were you when you were shit! Where were you! Where were
you! Where were you when you were shit!!” a reference to the bandwagon nature of
fans. Trust me, that was one of the kinder ones….

But it didn’t look like the home fans at Molineux would have much to cheer about
on this day. Wolves had come into today reeling having only gained one point in
the past six matches to fall to the bottom of the Premiership standings. Their
opponent being highly touted Manchester City, one didn’t need an oddsmaker to
determine that Wolves would be big underdogs at home today. And early on Man
City dominated play, eventually nailing the first marker of the day on a penalty
in the 23rd minute.

From there it was all Wolves, they were able to keep possesion in their end for
plenty of the action and equalized the match just minutes later on a cross to
send the fans, especially our section into mayhem. And when David Edwards found
himself in possession of a rebound to fire into the net after 56 minutes mayhem
became insanity for the folks in the Jack Harris Stand, and I’d never seen a
better scene at a sporting event in quite some time.

34 minutes to go…….I looked at that clock….could they pull off the
stunner…..tick…tick….the fabled old clock that dates back over a century
moved oh so slowly. Man City kept coming, attack after attack into Wolves
territory. Each shot kept out of the net by keeper Marcus Hahnemann. Then into
injury time….WHAT! FOUR minutes!?!?! My heart was pounding, hands clasped
together for a club that just a few years ago I had no idea existed, now totally
capturing my emotions as well as any Bills game or Sabres playoff game ever did.
REF!!! BLOW THE F%$%ING WHISTLE! END IT!!!! And when that moment finally came
– delirium, a happiness at a sports event that I’ve seen and felt far too little
of back in Buffalo in recent memory. It was quickly followed by another playing
of “Hi! Ho! Wolverhampton!” to the rest of the giddy crowd. For one day, we
stave off potential relegation and begin the climb to avoid such a fate.

Wolverhampton 2, Manchester City 1, Final.

It is a day that I won’t soon forget, and hopefully life gives me the
opportunity to experience it once again, at very least. HI HO! WOLVERHAMPTON!

Other notes from the day that was;

Chris threw us a pleasant surprise prior to the game. I thought it quite bizarre
that someone would specifically buy us each a match program, until he opened it
up to a “fan’s page”. Whose photo was in it but myself and Andrew in front of
Lucas Oil Stadium and trumpeting our appearance at today’s game. For that and
so, so, so, many other things we say THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU to Chris Boyes to
whom without his assistance this journey to Wolverhampton and England wouldn’t
have been anywhere near what it was.

What does HSBC Arena in Buffalo and Molineux in Wolverhampton have in common? A
sports venue where the home fans chant “USA! USA! USA!” to honor their starting
goalkeeper, Wolverhampton’s keeper is Marcus Hahnemann, backup for Team USA.

The karma works on multiple continents: The USRT saw wins by the home club in
both sports events attended thus far. Wolverhampton should pay me to spend the
rest of the season with them to assure themselves of staying in the top
flight….

Never seen before on a USRT stop! How about: No scoreboard!!! There is a pair of
videoboards at Molineux that are currently not in use by the club. Hell, you
only need to look at the clock to figure out time of game, and if you don’t know
the score then what in the world have you been watching while in the stands?
Though admittedly a stat geek like me would at least like to see basic stats if
nothing else.

Sunday it’s off to the new Wembley Stadium for the football that we’re used
to. Broncos/49ers in a classic one star game. ‘Til then! –