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Tuesday 30 July 2013

Around the grounds: The Hawthorns, West Bromwich Albion

Today's Barclays Premier League stadium profile takes in the Baggies' home ground

  • The Hawthorns was built in 1900

  • At 551 feet it is the highest ground in the country

  • The venue has hosted internationals and semi-finals

Premierleague.com profiles all 20 Premier League venues, finishing with West Bromwich Albion's home ground, the Hawthorns.

In profile: The Hawthorns

Capacity: 26,272
Year built: 1900
First League match (First Division): West Brom 1-1 Derby County, 3 Sep 1900

History

The Hawthorns has been home to West Bromwich Albion since 1900, when it became the sixth ground used by the club after they decided to move to an out-of-town site on the borders of Harmsworth. The ground, which at an altitude of 551 feet (or 168 metres) is the highest in the country, took its name from the large number of hawthorn bushes that needed to be cleared in order to build it.

Over 35,000 spectators witnessed the first Saturday match to be played at the venue, with an estimated 15,000 others locked out for the visit of local rivals Aston Villa. The ground was gradually expanded and by 1925, 64,612 witnessed a cup tie with Villa. The all-time attendance record at the Hawthorns was set on 6 March 1937, when 64,815 spectators crammed in to see Albion beat favourites Arsenal 3-1 in the FA Cup quarter-final. The highest-ever league crowd of 60,945 watched a 1-1 draw  against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 4 March 1950.

In 1949, the ground became the first in Britain to have an electronic turnstile aggregator fitted, in order to automatically calculate attendances, and eight years later electric floodlights were erected, with a friendly game against the Russian Red Army organised to officially open them.

The Hawthorns has hosted a number of other football matches, including two full England internationals, on 21 October 1922 when England beat Ireland 2-0 and on 8 December 1924 when England defeated Belgium 4-0, as well as two FA Cup semi-finals, between Derby County and Sheffield United in 1902 and Aston Villa v Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1960.

Following the Taylor Report, the ground became all-seated, reducing its capacity to 26,272, but stadium's Premier League record 27,751 fans who crammed into the ground on 15 May 2005 will never forget the eruption of noise that greeted the moment Albion pulled off their Great Escape from relegation.

  • May 2005: Geoff Horsfield celebrates West Brom's opening goal against Portsmouth

  • May 2005: Albion fans listen nervously to events unfolding at The Valley

  • May 2005: Supporters invade the pitch after West Brom completed their Great Escape

Three of the best: Classic Premier League matches at the Hawthorns

15 May 2005: West Brom 2-0 Portsmouth
In the history of the Barclays Premier League no club that had been bottom of the division at Christmas had ever avoided relegation. In order to become the first to do so West Brom, who had been five points adrift of safety on 25 December and were still bottom of the table at the start of the day, required a home win against Portsmouth and other results to go in their favour.

On a momentous day at the Hawthorns, the Baggies fulfilled their part of the bargain thanks to second-half goals by Geoff Horsfield and Kieran Richardson. However, the elation in the crowd following Richardson's 75th-minute winner soon gave way to nervousness as attentions inevitably switched to the matches taking place elsewhere.

Andy Johnson's goal, which put Crystal Palace 2-1 up at Charlton Athletic, killed the carnival atmosphere for several minutes, and there were even rumours of a second Charlton goal which proved to be false. But then, just when all hope seemed lost, Jonathan Fortune scored an equaliser at the Valley. After another anxious wait confirmation of the 2-2 draw that had condemned Palace and saved Albion came through, and the ground erupted in cacophonous celebrations. The pitch was suddenly invaded by a sea of striped shirts and the theme from The Great Escape echoed around the ground.

2 Apr 2011: West Brom 2-1 Liverpool 
In 16th place at the start of the day and by no means safe from relegation, West Brom needed a victory to earn some much-needed breathing space in a condensed bottom half of the table. For manager Roy Hodgson this was also a chance to put one over on the side that had dispensed with his services in January after six months in charge.

Liverpool had edged control for much of the match, taking the lead on 50 minutes through Martin Skrtel's header. However, the hosts were back in the match when Chris Brunt converted a penalty after Peter Odemwingie had been felled by Sotirios Kyrgiakos and, with two minutes remaining, Odemwingie was again brought down, this time by Jose Reina, enabling Brunt to again beat the Spaniard from 12 yards and earn three crucial points for his side. The Baggies jumped four places as a result and never looked back, finishing 11th in the table.

19 May 2013: West Brom 5-5 Manchester United
Steve Clarke's first season in charge of West Brom began with an impressive victory over Liverpool and ended with a 10-goal thriller at The Hawthorns. In Sir Alex Ferguson's final match in charge of Man Utd, the Barclays Premier League champions looked destined for an emphatic win after Shinji Kagawa's opener, Jonas Olsson's own goal and strikes by Alexander Buttner, Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez had given the visitors a 5-2 lead with nine minutes to go.

But Albion added to James Morrison and Romelu Lukaku's first-half strikes by staging a remarkable fightback in the last nine minutes with Youssouf Mulumbu on target and Lukaku signing off from his season-long loan spell at the club from Chelsea with two more goals to complete his hat-trick in the highest scoring draw in the history of the Premier League.

  • Apr 2011: Chris Brunt scores the first of two penalties aginast Liverpool

  • Apr 2011: The Albion captain celebrates his first penalty

  • Brunt's second penalty gave the Baggies a crucial home win over Liverpool

  • May 2013: Robin van Persie puts Manchester United 4-2 up on West Brom

  • May 2013: Romelu Lukaku completes a remarkable comeback for West Brom

  • May 2013: The Hawthorns erupts as Lukaku celebrates his hat-trick against United

Hodgson hails Albion die-hards

"This is a fantastic football club with a great tradition and, even in the rough times, I felt the fans were behind us."
Roy Hodgson (May 2012)

For a 3D tour of The Hawthorns and a video profiling Sunderland and their home ground, click here >>

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Key Points

  • Premierleague.com looks at the history of West Brom's home ground, The Hawthorns
  • West Brom have played at this venue since 1900
  • We pick out three of the best Barclays Premier League matches at the ground, including the famous 'Great Escape' in 2005