FSM has come a long way since being established in the summer of 2016, but Saturday marked our biggest milestone yet as we embarked on our first official business trip. If you're looking for the complete hospitality experience at a football ground, you would do well to find a better one than that offered at the Hawthorns Stadium. As guests of Paul Bradbury, we were fortunate enough to take in West Bromwich Albion's home game with Huddersfield Town from the Darren Moore Suite, whilst receiving a five star service from the highly professional and attentive staff.
Paul has been the Head of Retail and Licensing at the Baggies for almost 12 years and has a wealth of knowledge and expertise to draw on, having also worked in a similar role at Stoke City. Over a delicious three course lunch, we were able to delve into how the retail side of a Premier League club is managed and also discussed which shirts have proven popular with Albion fans this season. One such shirt is the commemorative Cyrille Regis version, dedicated to the former club legend who sadly passed away last month. His death was a shock to the football world and society in general, so it was a fitting tribute to emblazon his silhouette on the shirt for their home game against Southampton.
Amongst all the fine food and shirt discussion, it was easy to forget that a football match was about to start, but after extending us a very warm welcome, Albion's former midfielder Bernard McNally was quick to emphasise the importance of this huge six-pointer against their relegation rivals. It was a pleasure speaking with Bernard, who showed a genuine interest in our business and really made us feel part of the 'West Brom family'.
With the players making their way out onto the pitch, we decided it was time to take our seats in a full capacity Hawthorns. At a brisk 4°C, we prepared ourselves for the chilly 90 minutes ahead, until Paul pointed out that each seat had a switch to turn on the heating - sorted! After a tentative first 45 minutes, Huddersfield raced into a two-goal lead early in the second half, which took the wind completely out of West Brom's sails. Craig Dawson's header from a Chris Brunt corner offered the Baggies hope, but ultimately they gave themselves too much to do and Huddersfield held on for a well deserved three points. Although the result was a real shame, it certainly did not put a dampener on the day. Paul was a fantastic host and spending a few hours in his company was invaluable and has provided us with plenty of new ideas going forward.
Thank you Paul and everyone at West Bromwich Albion Football Club for your outstanding hospitality. We hope to see you again soon!