I’d been planning on taking in a game at Sporting Khalsa for a few years now. If I’m being honest though, I’d been saving it up for the right time. That time had arrived. Firstly, I’ll tell you that the club is based in Willenhall, so don’t get the map out and try to find a place called Khalsa. In fact, if you want to know what Khalsa means, you’re better off looking in a dictionary. Go on, I dare you. It might surprise you. Anyway, Willenhall is a place that I first heard about when I still lived in Bridgnorth. My Sister Val got a job at H Samuel’s Jeweller’s in Wolverhampton. A big store, she worked in the clock department situated on the basement level. In fact, she was head of it. She had just the one assistant and her name was Carol with an ‘e’ on the end. She was from Willenhall and she hated her name. I have no idea how it came about, but the ‘e’ on the end of her name was utilised. Carol with an ‘e’ (Well before the rave drug of choice, I might add.) became K’roelee. She was also to be the very first vegetarian I would meet. That was purely a taste thing, and not a choice of conscience. She simply didn’t like the taste of meat. I thought she was dead cool. She had contact lenses, nobody had contact lenses back then. I suppose you could even say I had an early schoolboy crush on her. Val and her became really good friends. They used to have a ‘swear box’ in their clock department, and once a year, they used to take me out for a day during the school summer holidays, using the accumulated ‘fines’. She was even invited to be a ‘maid of honor’ at my Sister’s wedding. It was the last I would see of her. Fast forward to watching Blues regularly, I became mates with a couple of lads from Willenhall and also bumped into another Blues lad from Willenhall from time to time. So fast forward to the present day, Sporting Khalsa and Willenhall it was to be. Before getting the train over to Wolverhampton, I’d decided on a quick pint in the Welly. Turning up as the doors were being opened, Taffy had got similar ideas. He was off to Wrexham for their game versus Altrincham. The thing with Taff, is that when we get chatting, we don’t seem to know when to stop. The quick pint turned into a slower one. Knowing his train would be stopping at Wolverhampton, I decided to catch the same one. If nothing else, it gave me the opportunity to carry on chatting. At New Street, we met up with his companion for the day, Eggy. A name I’d heard many times, but a character I’d never met. It was good chatting football with the both of them as we waited for the train. No disrespect to either of them though, but had I known it was only going to be a two carriage train and also packed, I’d have caught the service before. Touching down in Wolverhampton, I wished them and Wrexham luck as they carried on their journey. My itinerary for the day, only really included Willenhall, as I know Wolverhampton well, and after visiting the place hundreds of times over the years, it was highly unlikely I was ever going to get lost, even with all the regeneration that’s happened and happening to the train station and immediate area. My sense of direction is indeed terrible, but it’s not that bad. The only thing that I had needed to write down for Wolverhampton, were the opening times of the pubs I’d got planned, and as I was later getting into Wolverhampton than I’d expected, even they were irrelevant. My first port of call, was the Lynch Gate. Walking through the town towards it, I couldn’t help thinking how quiet Wolverhampton was. As a kid, I’d remembered it as bustling, heaving mass of shoppers on a Saturday. It was like a ghost town compared. No, don’t worry, I’m not going to go into a rant. It is was it is I suppose. I must admit though, I’m glad I don’t have to live there. Mind you, that’s doing a disservice to the excellent Lynch Gate. A Black Country Ales pub, and every bit as good as many more in the chain’s portfolio. After the Lynch Gate, I went in not only the best pub in Wolverhampton, but a compulsory visit, if you’re ever passing through the city. I almost wrote town then, as it’s only been made a city in the last 25 years. Not only that, but it just doesn’t feel like a city. Ironically, it did when I was a kid, and it wasn’t back then. I wax lyrical about the Alexandra Hotel in Derby, or the ‘Alex’, as it’s more fondly called, for its railway memorabilia. The Great Western in Wolverhampton is every bit as good.
“It just draws you to it”
“And that’s just the bar”
I could’ve easily filled this blog post with photos of the place. I advise you just to visit. As long as the Wolves aren’t at home, you should get a seat. A good number of Wolves fans like real ale, so be prepared to stand if they are. As you can guess from reading this post, they weren’t. I was going to a game though, so it was off to the bus station. No matter how many times they flatten a bus station, any bus station, the resultant rebuild never ever injects a soul into the place. I honestly don’t know what’s more depressing, a bus station, or a shopping mall. There really isn’t much to choose between either, and it’s always a relief to get out of them. The 529 took me to Willenhall. I thought of the journey K’roelee would’ve taken all those years ago. Touching down, I went straight in the Royal George. If the Great Western is packed full of railwayana, then the Royal George is the football version. Especially for a Wolves fan.
“They even had a signed shirt from the ‘Hand of Dog’. Yes, it STILL rankles.”
Again, I could’ve taken a lot more photos, but I was getting curious looks from the locals as it was. Least I think it was because I was taking photos and gawping at all the football memorabilia. I don’t suppose they get many outsiders. When doing research for my itinerary, I’m sometimes misinformed. I’d read on the Whatpub website that the clubhouse at Sporting Khalsa stocks real ale, getting to the ground early, I was to learn that they don’t. I had to make do with a Guinness.
The story of how Sporting Khalsa were established and have grown, is quite impressive. Like I’ve said, look up what Khalsa means. The ground they play on was bought off Willenhall Town. (If you carry on reading this rubbish, then you’ll find out what happened to them in a future blog post. Or you can save yourself the hassle of wading through this bilge and just find out for yourself.)
“Obligatory photos of the ground”
The game had the makings of an absolute cracker. Going into this game, Stamford were lying second, and Sporting Khalsa were third. Depending on Halesowen’s result, either could’ve gone top with a win. I suppose given their slightly loftier position in the league, Stamford could’ve been forgiven for being a tad cagey. Consolation being their game plan’s aim. Far from it, Stamford had travelled with the intention of taking all three points. It was Khalsa that were on the backfoot and struggling to take control of the game. Needing to produce some Carling, I spotted the familiar face of Mick on the way. Out of the three Blues lads I knew from Willenhall, Sid was the one who I was expecting to see the most, given that he’s Sikh. (Did you find out about Sporting’s history? Well maybe that’s a pointer to do so.) I wasn’t expecting to see Daz at all, but I did think I might have seen Mick. More of a maverick free spirit, he just gets around more. Not for him, sitting at home watching ‘Strictly Come Bake Off On Ice. Or ‘I’m a celebrity, Get Me Out Of Britain’s Got X Factor Masked Singer’. After primary greetings, I carried on to Sporting Khalsa’s Carling factory. I was to miss Stamford’s first goal. I just hope that the recipient of my efforts, enjoy their Carling. Finding him in the stand near to the dugouts, we spent the rest of the game chatting about everything and anything, along with a mate of Mick’s who was something to do with the playing side of Sporting. It made for quite an enjoyable, relaxing game. Unfortunately, and according to Mick, always happens when he watches a side other than Blues, Khalsa were rubbish. He reckons he’s a jinx. I’m not going to argue. It’s clear from their league position, that Sporting are a much better side than they were exhibiting. The final ball always seemed to be the wrong option, and when it wasn’t, they spurned the chance when it was easier to score. Every team has an off day. Even the most prolific of sides. It was Stamford’s day, confirmed with a second goal. At least I got to see one. As for Sporting Khalsa, they needed a blowtorch taking to them, they’d frozen so badly. Well done to Stamford. They deserved to win. Bidding farewell to Mick, I said that I might see him at Stoke.
With the Black Country Ales pub, Robin Hood, shut for refurbishment, I walked back through the town centre to the Malthouse Wetherspoons. Mainly just to tick off that I’d been in the place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one that seeks Wetherspoons establishments out, but you can guarantee they’ll have real ale on. Whether it’s in good nick, is always in the drinking, and not all Wetherspoons are well run. Maybe I went in there on the wrong day, but let’s just say this, the pint was just the right side of minging. Not too satisfied with the final beer of the day, I got the bus back into Wolverhampton, and escaped back on the train to Brum.