Brent Residents Viewing (Saturday 17th March 2007)
I was living in Willesden Green and heard of the first Test Event at the new stadium. Residents in the London Borough of Brent were allowed to apply for four free tickets by email, so needless to say I sent in.
My joy was unconfined when I got the tickets from Brent Town Hall within sight of the wonderful new place. I had watched ever since the heartbreaking day I went to the snooker at the Conference Centre and saw the old place just about demolished. I had worked for over a year in stewarding, either at the Arena or being picked up there to go to other venues, so I saw it progressing.
It had also affected work on the tube, as every weekend northbound Jubilee line trains terminated at Willesden Green so that a new brige and lifts could be put in at Wembley Park station to deal with the crowds with proper facilities.
Gradually the arch was lifted into place and the stands built around it. I had been on a few occasions around the boarded up temporary roads to see how things were developing. It really was quite exciting, despite the moans about the delays who hadn't been there in person, so they couldn't really understand the work being undertaken.
Now here I was, resplendent in my Scarborough FC 1973 replica Wembley shirt meeting up with my Irish pals Emmet and Colm and their Dad who was over for the weekend. We arrived early so we were near the front of the queue to get in. Our turnstiles were around the far side an the excitement built as fans looked at the stewards and their watches.
Eventually we were in. Immediately we headed upstairs to the third tier for the best view. We weren't let down.
The pitch had been moved a few metres so that the far touchline was around the place where the old Twin Towers once stood. This was to allow space by the railway for the extended stadium and the better road access. The spectator accommodation was in the form of a bowl with three tiers.
|The Carton gents enjoy Wembley|
We posed for our photographs and moved around. There was entertainment on throughout, including a pro celebrity football match. We were free to move around at will, as the stadium authorities needed to know that everything worked so that they would be granted a license. Many of the people in attendance would no doubt be paying their only ever visit. The vast majority were Asian families making use of a free day out. Everyone got a drinks voucher, but the machines broke down after an hour or so, which received many ironic comments.
We watched a little bit of the match and then went on our way. We'd seen what we'd wanted and were some of the very first customers in the new stadium. I headed off to work pretty happy with the day thus far.
England 1 Germany 2 (Wednesday 22nd August 2007) Friendly International
It was time to go and see a proper event and when Crusher said he could get tickets I agreed to go. He came down with Phil Armitt and I met them at Willesden Green to go to a cheap pub for our pre match beers. Our seats were near the front of the top tier in the North East corner.
|Crusher and Phil|
The atmosphere from the home fans was OK but it was so different. Lads who followed England when we went regularly had been replaced by Mexican waving families with no attention span, who needed the England Band to prompt them. I think the band summed up everything I hated about the modern game. I would have banned them for life at the same time Glenn Hoddle lost his job.
We left at full time and really noticed the difference in getting away. We were still held in groups on Empire Way for a while until the station platform was ready for more fans, but it was so much quicker and less claustrophobic.
St Helens 30 Catalan Dragons 8 (Saturday 25th August 2007) Rugby League Challenge Cup Final
I had the day off from my ticket office training and a colleague of mine Andy Hogan told me that he didn't want to use his Club Wembley ticket, and with me being a northerner he wondered if I wanted to go to the rugby league final?
I nearly bit his hand off and found myself meeting my pal Karl from Scarborough who'd come down on a trip with Heworth RLFC from York. We had beers outside The Greyhound and arranged to meet after the match. I went in early so I could enjoy the delights of my posh seat.
The facilities were second to none. Pictures brightened up the concourses, which were more like an airport departure lounge than a sports stadium. Again the prices were extortionate, but they knew they had you once inside.
My seat was above where the majority of French fans were sat, which was good as I wasn't a huge fan of St Helens. Every neutral in the stadium was supporting the Dragons. They had a brief spell where there was a remote chance of an upset, but the class of the Lancastrians shone through.
At the end I managed to get through the crowds of heavily inhebriated fans to meet Karl. If football fans were in that condition there would have been hell to pay, but the rugby fans were left alone and even allowed to drink in their seats during the match. We went up the hill to the infamous Green Man before I bid farewell and headed back towards the city.
Stadium Tour (Wednesday 18th December 2007)
My Mum and Dad were visiting London for a few days pre Christmas as they so much loved doing. My Dad was struggling a little bit as he was awaiting a hip replacement operation, but that wasn't going to stop him.
I had booked tickets for his seventieth birthday so I really wanted him to have a good day. Our tour guide was a bit younger than my Dad and a Chelsea season ticket holder who had been to the FA Cup match at Scarborough a few seasons earlier. We were the only two with him, so he took us places that were normally a bit awkward with a large group.
It was brilliant. The pitch was up at the time as they were preparing for a motor racing event, but it didn't spoil anything. We went into the changing rooms, boxes, press box, the Corinthian Club (the group that disappear before half time and don't return for some time afterwards) before climbing the steps up to the Royal Box where we had our photos taken with the FA Cup.
It was a very special day that I will always remember. We went to meet Mum back at Bond Street. She had been on her own in central London for the first time ever, and was really on top form. As I say. A very special day.
Hull City 1 Bristol City 0 (Saturday 24th May 2008) Championship Play Off Final (att: 86,703)
Talking of very special days. The club who I'd followed alongside my beloved Scarborough reached Wembley for the first ever time and I managed to get a ticket.
It was a very emotional time among my City supporting mates. One of the stalwarts of our trips Nick Groombridge was cruelly taken away from us that January. At a hugely attended and very emotional funeral we all said that City would reach the Premier League just for Nick.
The big day arrived and my brother Nick asked if Nick's brother Jon and Fraser could stay at my flat. As it transpired I was in Brighton for a stag do, so I left them the keys before meeting up with them at a Rayners Lane pub on Saturday lunchtime.
We tried not to be nervous and smile as much as possible, but it was going to be a tough day. I had a few more with James Hunter at Wembley before going upstairs to my seat. I was right next to the segregation area, with snarling Ciderheads hissing insults across.
Fraiser Campbell went to the byline midway through the first half and dragged the ball back, to where veteran local hero Dean Windass charged in and volleyed the ball into the back of the net. It was a really magical moment. Half the stadium, including myself went absolutely berserk.
At half time I met up with Fred Firman and a load of Hull lads who had a spare seat with them. The second half wasn't as anxious as it could have been and City were pretty comfortable for the win.
I headed off at full time to my flat. I told the others to head to a pub in Willesden Green where I'd take them their luggage. I was just so pleased to see the look on their faces. It was a very emotional moment. Sadly, I had to get back to bed as I was on night shift. I'm sure the lads enjoyed their ride home. At least I found a decent home for the bottle of champagne I'd had in my fridge for ages!
England 2 Czech Republic 2 (Wednesday 20th August 2008) International Friendly
Guy Watson and Crusher came down to this game. I was not in the best of form after the incompetents at Wembley didn't send me the tickets, meaning a trek to the stadium in the morning. However, we had a great afternoon around the pubs of the Euston area and had tea at the Finchley Road Walkabout. There was lots of laughs and chat about football. Then we went to Wembley...
It was one of those evenings when I tried to wonder why I bothered. I had a row with two idiots behind us who booed the Czech anthem, Mexican waves and the band never ceased and England were absolutely awful.
I swore I'd give England games a miss afterwards, until Guy next texted me of course!
Oasis, Kasabian, Reverend & the Makers Concert (Saturday 11th July 2009)
My good mate Jeff Cards sorted me out with a ticket for this wonderful lads day out, to go with his felloe QPR fans, his brother John and Rob. We took lubrication in the manic Walkabout as the staff were caught out by the Ashes and a South African rugby match on the TV.
|My companions enjoying the day|
I'm glad I had nothing planned the following day!
England 3 Belarus 0 (Wednesday 14th October 2009) World Cup Qualifier
I found my fan number despite threatening to delete it and ordered the tickets when Guy texted and I found that I was off work. Again we had a quality day out and thankfully the performance was an improvement. The band and waves were still there though. The seats like the Czech game gave a great view at the front of the top deck behind the north goal.
England 4 Bulgaria 0 (Friday 3rd September 2009) Euro Championship Qualifier
Guy and Sharpy had got in touch trying to get me to go to this match,plus they wondered if I could put them up for the night? Sure enough I ordered the tickets and met Paul early and dropped his bag off at my place before we headed into town for beers. Guy eventually arrived at the magnificent Market Porter as we had a pub crawl on the way to Liverpool Street.
|Guy and Sharpy enjoying the pre match beers|
England were OK against a poor Bulgarian team. Our seats were good and we were in the only area that served alcohol! We headed to The Torch at full time to watch the highlights before we all headed for a cozy night at my comfy abode.
We got a taxi because there were no trains the next morning as the lads headed to Yorkshire and I went to watch Scarborough at Seaham Red Star. I think it was a smooth journey but as I didn't wake up until Durham, my judgement wasn't the best.
Muse, Biffy Clyro Concert (Saturday 11th September 2010)
A major cock up on the ticket front meant I didn't go with the same lads as the previous concert. They were there the previous evening while I was at a cricket awards evening. A fellow Boro fan had posted on Surfing Seadog that he had two tickets for sale.
We worked a deal out that benefited everyone and went with Colm. I had been to a magnificent game at Loftus Road, watching QPR smash a poor Middlesbrough team before I met Colm in the sports bar near Wembley Park station.
We saw the back end of Biffy Klyro as we chose to sit for the evening. Muse came out and put on the best live show I'd ever seen. The music was excellent, but the actual effects were staggering. It was one of those nights that would live with me for many years to come.
Huddersfield Town 0 Sheffield United 0 Huddersfield won 8-7 on penalties (Saturday 26th May 2012) League One Play Off Final (Att: 52,100)
I received a phone call from my old mate Martin Kaye from my old days in Scarborough in the week leading up to the game telling he was coming down. I offered to put him up for a couple of nights so he could catch a reasonably priced train and in return he kindly bought me my match ticket. I rang work who kindly granted me a days leave.
After a good night out we rose to have breakfast at the Wetherspoons where we'd spent plenty of money the previous evening, only to be turned away because Kado was wearing his own shirt, and the pub had been allotted to Blades fans for the day. his was not the start we were looking for, but we got on with it and headed to the stadium ticket office, where we were met by another pal Colm who decided to come to the game.
We spent the next few hours in the company of some excellent Terriers fans outside the Greyhound and then Mannions as we soaked up the atmosphere and copious ales before heading to the sun drenched stadium.
Our seats were in the lower tier where the players come out but towards the west end. The game was tight with defences dominating. The atmosphere made up for the lack of goal mouth action. Colm managed to get a seat with us for the second half and then the inevitable extra time and penalties.
An incredible twenty two penalties were taken in the shoot out, with plenty of misses along the way. It came down to the goalkeepers to take their turn. Alex Smithies scored with his, while Steve Simonsen missed. The place went crazy.
Click here for my amateur video coverage:
There was a nice touch as both sets of players took the plaudits from opposing fans. We went for more drinks along Wembley High Road. I headed to Kings Cross with Martin in not pristine condition!
England 1 Ukraine 1 (Tuesday 11th September 2012) World Cup Qualifier (att: 68,102)
This game formed part of a great sporting week with my Dad as we saw the Under 21s the previous evening at Chesterfield and then had a couple of days watching Yorkshire on their way to promotion at Chelmsford. My brother Paul also came to Wembley.
We met him after we'd walked to the stadium from my flat. Our seats were in the top tier at the west end. It was the first time for Dad at an England full international, and the first time he'd seen a game inside the new Wembley.
England weren't at their best, but the Turkish referee was not helping as he ruled out a fine Jermaine Defoe goal after he was conned by some fine Ukranian acting. The away side took the lead with a superb long range shot from Yevgeni Konoplianka. England laboured with too many sideways passes, but deservedly snatched a late equaliser with a Frank Lampard penalty. Captain Steve Gerrard received his marching orders for two soft yellow cards.
We went for post match drinks at the Wetherspoons in Wembley High Road while watching the highlights. Sadly the beer was rotten and the establishment had introduced much inflated match day prices. You live and learn!
To see my video of the penalty, here:
England 3 Scotland 2 (Wednesday 14th August 2013) Friendly (att: 80,485)
Scotland went ahead with a James Morrison shot from the edge of the box, which Joe Hart should have probably stopped on eleven minutes. There were a few small pockets of Scottish fans in the home sections without causing any problems. However once the goal went a few English Neanderthals decided it was time for a fight. I wasn’t particularly popular when I offered feedback to some, but thankfully things calmed down.
England levelled before the break when Theo Walcott was put through wide before prodding home. However, much to the delight of the travelling hordes Kenny Miller restored the visitors lead four minutes after the restart as he outwitted Gary Cahill. Five minutes later Danny Welbeck restored parity once more with a fine header from Steven Gerard’s free kick.
With twenty minutes remaining, substitute Rickie Lambert headed home the winner with his first touch in international football. Overall England just about deserved their spoils. To round off a very decent evening Jim and I adjourned to The Torch while Nick reported that the evening was a massive hit with his car and they’d be returning as soon as possible!
Hull City 5 Sheffield United 3 (Sunday 13th April 2014) FA Cup Semi Final (att: 71,820)
I was so nervous and umpired the Hampstead Ladies Cricket Sixes in the morning to try and take my mind off things. I met up at Kingsbury for a quick lunch before we managed to meet with Fred and mates and get into the First Class Sports Bar for beers. The scorching weather meant the car park at the rear was perfect for our needs.
The atmosphere was tense and nasty in places on the way up to the stadium. Liverpool secured a vital league win over Man City as we got inside the stadium. Everyone was really up for it on the concourse.
There was a mixture of anger and disbelief over our half time pint. Fortunately feelings were being released in the City changing room. The awful George Boyd and Maynor Figueroa were hauled off and replaced by Matty Fryatt and Sone Aluko.
I wasn't sat with the family but I called them to make sure all was all right before returning to the sports bar and then onto Camden Town with a fine group of City fans. It was a long day but one I’d remember for a very long time.
Arsenal 3 Hull City 2 - after extra time (Saturday 20th May 2014) FA Cup Final (att: 89,345)
We were just missing our much missed pal Nick Groombridge. He was in all our thoughts. Several other City fans joined us. Frazer was staying there and became a hero as we used his room passes for cheap ale inside, leading to Phoenix Night like scenes as the poor fella on the door was put under more pressure than David Moyes and mayhem ensued.
Three of us; Fred, Chewy and myself, were more inclined to imbibe so we were together in Block 522 upstairs in line with the goal on the camera side. We had a great view in a great stadium for our £45 ticket. The atmosphere on the concourse was something else.
However, eventually class told, City ran out of gas and when changes were required, the replacements were sadly not up to it despite giving it their all.
There were no complaints whatsoever. The better football team won. If City had have hung on until penalties I'm not sure that they'd have had the energy to take them. They could hold their heads high, as could the incredible support. It was good to hear the raptuarous applause for the Bradford Fire Disaster on 56 minutes, mainly from the City end, followed by chants of “Yorkshire”.
Thank God I don't follow a team who think it's their divine right to lift trophies. City were just happy to be there. Many did well to hold it together under severe provocation.
It had been one of my greatest ever days at football. It was right up there with the four Scarborough finals at Wembley and the Italia 90 semi final. I was so glad I’d shared it with so many good people. My Dad headed back to Scarborough to check the expiry date on his passport as City prepared for Europa League football!
North Ferriby United 3 Wrexham 3 after extra time: NFU win 5-4 on penalties (Sunday 29th March 2015) FA Trophy Final (att: 15,585)
Jeff Lynn’s ELO (Saturday 24th June 2017)
The audience were generally of a more mature age, but every single person there got into it. The tickets were certainly not cheap; but it was worth every single penny. The tunes were in my head for days. Surely that’s testimony to a quality performance?