Wakefield AFC 0-2 Brighouse Town 22.5.21
Journey – 10
Well, football is back! The long period away from the beautiful game, although tough, has given us all a chance to really consider what we love about our national sport. If we were totally honest with ourselves here at SheffieldFootball.com, our enjoyment doesn’t solely come from the 90 minute football match, it comes from the whole day, and in that we include the journey. This journey gets a full score of 10/10 just for the fact that we got into the car knowing we were heading to a football game - such a magnificent feeling - and we look forward to all football fans experiencing that as our journey out of lockdown continues. Further excitement came from the fact that we were heading to the Millennium Stadium, Featherstone. Prior to sponsorship this ground was known as Post Office Road, and it has been home to Featherstone Rovers RLFC since 1904, and since 2019 has also been home to Wakefield AFC; with us attending the stadium's first event with supporters present since the pandemic began as Wakefield AFC hosted Brighouse Town in a Yorkshire Cup group stage clash. The car journey itself was straightforward, and thanks to information about a road traffic accident on Doncaster Road reported to fans by Wakefield AFC's Twitter account, we were able to re-route and thus arrived at the ground with plenty of time to spare!
Welcome – 10 We walked through the car park, (located beside a funfair, but more on that later) and reached the entrance to the ground. We received a warm welcome from the first steward who advised us of multiple gates which could be used to enter the ground. We approached through gate two and our e-ticket was scanned by another club volunteer as he asked how we were. He then proceeded to ask a simple yet effective question: “Have you been here before guys?” When the volunteer learned that this was our first visit to the Millennium Stadium, Featherstone he gave us all the information a visitor or groundhopper would ever need! Programmes, pin badges, food, drink, toilets, which stands were open, which bars were open, club shop availability and general COVID guidance. Everything was covered by the volunteer in just ten seconds! This saved us the hassle of going on a wild goose chase (of which we have been on many) in the hunt for a programme and a pin badge; of which is a staple of the groundhopper's diet. Turning right we were greeted by two teenagers who were selling the programmes and pin badges, the two young lads were a delight and within two minutes of getting to the ground we had had three positive interactions with club volunteers and those sort of experiences makes you want this very young club to succeed!
Stadium – 9 The Millenium Stadium (no, not that one) may be better know as the home of Featherstone Rovers, but it proved today that it's an excellent venue for non-league football too. When you consider that Wakefield AFC presently play in Step 7 of the non-league football pyramid, against clubs who regularly play on school grounds and astroturf pitches, it really is phenomenal that the club has managed to secure this venue as their home. This tells you how ambitious Wakefield AFC hope to be, and to join Ossett United and Pontefract Collieries as the third professional men's football club in the city limits. The stadium has three stands and an excellent terrace behind one of the goals. Each stand is unique and when we moved to the stand behind the goal, we discovered another little quirk of a football day that we have dearly missed! Pulling down your folded seat to take a seat on the stand, now you may think we’re being ridiculous but it’s genuinely mad how you notice these little parts of a football day after such a long absence from a stadium! If Wakefield reach the dizzy heights of the EFL – which is their stated aim to achieve within the next 15 years – then I see no reason why they would have to move grounds as the home of Featherstone Rovers has everything that an EFL club requires. I also have no doubt that the terrace behind the goal would be the perfect place for your loudest and most passionate supporters to create some noise.
Clubhouse N/A – As this is a Rugby League ground it did not have a ‘Clubhouse’ as such. The closest thing to this would have been the bar inside the main stand however this was not open for today’s fixture. This is a positive as it gives us another reason to visit the ground to see Wakefield AFC play again in what will be their first full season as a club. (Both previous seasons were cut short due to the pandemic).
Beer – 6 As pointed out by the steward at the start of our visit, beer was available behind one of the stands through a hatch. The choice was limited but was very much true to its foundations as a Rugby League venue. One choice of lager, one bitter and one stout. No nonsense, which you’ve almost got to admire. We also appreciated that you can get a “Jumbo” pint at this venue (a two pint cup) although this is going to set you back £8. At £4 a pint it’s a little too close to professional football pricing for our liking, but the drinks did go down a treat alongside the matchday snacks. Food – 8
The food hatch is not your usual hatch connected to the stand like your average non-league venue. The food outlet here is actually more like a food van which only adds to the charisma of the place. Usually we’re not a
group of halftime snackers at Sheffieldfootball.com, but there was something about being denied a chip butty at the football for so long that we couldn’t wait any longer! The portion size was brilliant and the picture doesn’t really do it justice. The range of food available at the ground was excellent: bacon sandwiches, hotdogs, burgers, chips with gravy, chips with cheese and a whole range of pies! It was no wonder that the catering staff were rushed off their feet for most of the day. We were really pleased that the club were able to make the most of this as a revenue stream for the club, on a day in which they had a bumper attendance. Programme – 10 We have never seen a programme of such high quality at this level of football, let alone for a pre-season friendly. This is testament to the set up at Wakefield AFC, and shows that they are a club looking to do the off-field jobs to a professional standard despite not yet being a professional club. The printing quality is excellent and unlike some non-league programmes the content is not cluttered with adverts, or of articles copied and pasted from other club websites. There is a great explanation of the Yorkshire Trophy, which would have provided anyone unaware of the tournament with all of the information they need. Updates on the community and charity work being carried out including news of raising over £500 for a charity food project. The really impressive aspect of the programme is the range of QR codes, inviting the reader to check out further information. For example after reading an interview with Jake Bennett, the Wakefield AFC Women’s manager, potential new players can scan the QR code to apply to join the team. Wakefield also used their programme as a great marketing ploy for next seasons shirt, promising that the kit would be revealed exclusively in the matchday programme. There was even a QR code next to the above two-page spread about the new shirt, to give supporters the option to pre-order the jersey. It is superb that the club is showing such innovation, and this will stand them in good stead as they look to climb the divisions.
Match Quality – 8
Like many returning fixtures Wakefield held a moment of reflection before the game to recognise the tough year we have all been through; however, it didn’t quite go to plan. Remember the fun fair mentioned earlier? Well, as the referee blasted the whistle to signal the beginning of the silence the fun fair music was blasting out uplifting pop music and the faint screams of children riding the waltzer could be heard. The calls of “Hands in the air if
you want to go faster!” from the funfair speaker system made for a very surreal experience and you couldn’t help think that you were only a Ray-Von “Shabba!” away from being in the Family Fun day episode of Pheonix Nights! Despite this the silence was immaculately observed by all those in attendance for the game.
3 steps in the non-league pyramid may presently be the difference between these two clubs, but today’s Yorkshire Cup group stage match didn’t suggest that was the case. After going a goal in front after just 5 minutes, Brighouse seemed the more comfortable of the teams until Wakefield burst through on a one-on-one situation. Unfortunately for Wakefield the resulting effort missed the target and just a minute or so later Brighouse doubled their lead. In the second half Wakefield were relentless in their pursuit of a goal, forcing many set pieces, but they weren’t able to get the strike that would have really heated up the contest; Brighouse were professional in the way they saw the game out and it finished 2-0. A personal highlight was Wakefield hitting the post from a free kick, not ideal for Wakefield mind, as it was the post for the rugby goal which had been left in place behind the goal netting! There was little in the way of singing, but it was also quite clear that the majority of supporters in the ground were neutral groundhoppers who had Featherstone on their bucket list. We are really hopeful that today was an excellent advertisement for the locals and will mean AFC Wakefield can maintain a decent following as they aim to climb the footballing ladder over the coming years. It was great to see the game played in a superb spirit and even the referee was all smiles as the supporters from the main stand kept shouting that he was wearing a wig - he then proceeded to point to his nearby linesman who indeed was bald.
Admission – 10
A great days entertainment in superb surroundings with 691 other fans. What price do you put on that? Well some would say it’s priceless based on the year we’ve all been through, however the small sum of £5 is all it cost
for a ticket! A bargain! Two goals, the familiar feeling of camaraderie with football fans and the feelgood factor meant that we would have been happy to pay double for the pleasure of watching Wakefield AFC at home. This is a must visit ground, and we recommend that you keep a close eye on this club because after two pandemic affected years it is doing many things well off of the pitch; we really hope that this level of success can be replicated on the pitch too for AFC Wakefield. We thoroughly enjoyed our day in Featherstone and will be watching AFC Wakefield closely as the club look to climb the footballing pyramid!