The Same – But Different!

Fitting Setting For Gareth’s Boys

An author-taken 2019 photo of the spectacular stadium in Gelsenkirchen.

Stan Cullis’s all-conquering side visited there in 1958 and a special Wolves plaque made the same journey 30 years later.

But the stadium Gareth Southgate’s players will breeze into this weekend for their European Championships opener is literally something else altogether.

That’s because the building of the magnificent Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen – venue for the Sunday evening Group C game against Serbia and often known for commercial reasons as the Veltins Arena – was completed only 23 years ago. 

It has since hosted five games at the 2006 World Cup, including the England v Portugal quarter-final in which Wayne Rooney was sent off, and the 2004 Champions League final, for which a certain Nuno Espirito Santo was the substitute goalkeeper for Jose Mourinho’s victorious Porto side.

Do we need to say anything else about the merits of this outstanding, imposing structure?

In November, 1958, League champions Wolves faced Schalke at the nearby Parkstadion, suffering a 2-1 second-leg defeat that spelled elimination in their opening assignment in the European Cup.

The sides had drawn 2-2 at Molineux six nights earlier, with Peter Broadbent scoring both goals en route to being the club’s highest scorer in European football until Derek Dougan overtook him almost a decade and a half later.

“Schalke’s old stadium was very open and was still present and visible in the middle distance when I returned to the city with my fellow writer, John Lalley, for a Bundesliga fixture against Cologne in October, 2019,” said Wolves Heroes’ founder David Instone.

“It was a dismal, wet weekend and it seemed a bit eerie observing the old place through the gloom as we stood outside the new stadium before kick-off. I was very surprised to see it still standing.

Wolves forward Bobby Mason with a keepsake from the European Cup meetings with Schalke in 1958-59.

“I covered the West Germany v Denmark clash there when the Express & Star sent me to the 1988 European Championships and the scene then couldn’t have been more different to the one we found five years ago.

“Jurgen Klinsmann was in his prime and it was a very warm, sunny night, with the Danes little more than lambs to the slaughter. I had taken with me one of several plaques that Joe Witherington in Molineux’s commercial department had asked him to include in my luggage.

“I carried out his request to spread Wolves’ name a little more by presenting it to officials at the stadium, as I did when England played their group games in Stuttgart, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt.

“The more recent memories John Lalley and I have of the spectator experience in Gelsenkirchen are all positive….it is a stunning venue and England supporters will love walking into that place on Sunday. I’m sure we’d both love to have been going back there.”

 

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