Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wembley Stadium (new) My Visits

Listed below are my visits to the 'New' Wembley and a short description of the occasion.

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
The first was continuous with access in the East corners to allow vehicles and emergency vehicles. The middle deck was titled Club Wembley, where fans had paid for debentures over ten years as well as the corporate hospitality boxes. The upper tier dipped slightly in the corners with the roof protecting fans, as well as temporary shields covering parts behind the goals. They were retractable so that sunshine could help pitch growth when there was no game on.

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
Germany brought a lot of fans and made a lot of noise. England went ahead to raise false hopes before a goalkeeping howler brought us back down to earth. The facilities inside the stadium were light years away from the old place, but so were the prices of everything, especially the food.

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
The gig itself was simply outstanding, and could have been even better if The Enemy hadn't pulled out at the last minute. All three bands were superb as we took it all in on the pitch, with Kasabian the stand out. It turned out to be one of Oasis' last ever appearances.

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
We headed to Wembley early as Paul had his own ticket and I'd sold the others as I was to purchase two for Club Wembley for the same price as a mate had won them at the Scarborough Athletic Golf Day, but couldn't attend. I called that a bargain! After much running about when I bumped into a Boro fan based in Kent who sponsored Ryan Blott's kit.

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)

How times changed in the world of going to football matches. Once upon a time England v Scotland matches were definitely not for the faint hearted, However, for this match my brother Nick took his wife and two kids. Who’d have thought it?

It was a lovely summer’s day. After lunch with my good friend Ross Sullivan in Camden Town I met the family off the train for an enjoyable wander around the markets and lock, Rachel and young Sally loved all of this, while little Stanley complete with his England shirt tried to take it all in.

We met up with old pal John Groombridge, whose lad Harry was also going to his first England match, in the Wetherspoon’s pub in the O2 Centre at Finchley Road. Nick and his gang went in search of a meal while I took the other two to the North Star where my Scottish pal Jim Wilson awaited. After a couple of pints it was time for the train to the stadium.

Nick escaped for a beer pre match on the concourse with us as we were all on the top tier at the west end of the stadium. Our view was brilliant and good value for £35, especially as the game was a real cracker in terms of excitement if lacking in a little quality.

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)

What a day. After much hard work, mainly from my brother Nick, we managed to get enough tickets to take the City members of the family to the match. Fred Firman sorted me through John Friend, a City mate in Hull.

The week had already seen one enormous victory as the FA correctly knocked back the request from City chairman Assem Allam to change the club name to Hull Tigers. The supporters group City Till We Die had carried out a brilliantly professional but dignified campaign.

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.

The first half was awful as a City fan. The Blades seemed to want it more and went ahead through Jose Baxter. Eventually Hull strung a few passes together close on half time leading to Yannick Sagbo firing home. The joy was short lived as United came straight back to our end to make it 2-1 with a Steven Scougall goal.

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.

Fryatt levelled the scores on forty nine minutes before Tom Huddlestone put City ahead with one of the great Wembley goals five minutes later. It knocked the stuffing out of The Blades. Their former midfielder Stephen Quinn seemed to have sealed it with a header to make it 4-2 with just over twenty minutes to go.

However, United were determined we’d suffer a tense finish as Jamie Murphy scored as the match entered stoppage time. Fortunately a fine flowing move set David Meyler free to slam home the decisive fifth to send City to their first ever FA Cup Final.

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.

To see pre and post match atmosphere, click here:

Arsenal 3 Hull City 2 - after extra time (Saturday 20th May 2014) FA Cup Final (att: 89,345)

An amazing amazing day. It took me back to the great final days when I was a young un. Finished night shift after sensibly taking Saturday off and after a good kip and a bite to eat I caught the train from Kingsbury like most days, only this time I was meeting loads of mates who I've done many grounds and miles with over the years with Hull City.

We all congregated in the yard of the Premier Inn by Wembley Park station. Gradually all the gang arrived; Frazer Armitage and family, Paul Sharp, Fred Firman, Steve ‘Chewy’ Sheader, John Groombridge and his young lad as well my Dad, brother Nick and his wife Rachel as well as the kids Sally and Stanley. 

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.

Arriving at the stadium was an incredible buzz after a really emotional walk up Wembley Way with Sally holding me together. 

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.

We were in dreamland after eight minutes as James Chester and Curtis Davies put City 2-0 up. The general consensus before hand was that City would struggle, but the head start was most welcome. Arsenal were shocking at set pieces. 

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”.

Post match was spent with mates and good City fans initially at the First Class Sports Bar in Wembley and at The Roundhouse at Covent Garden and out in the street. It was an unforgettable long day in the company of some wonderful people.

No sour grapes. As I say the best side won, but some of the Arsenal fans were awful. There are ways of being a good winner as well as losers, but they didn't seem to grasp it. They seemed a bit bemused as City fans laughed back at their taunts. 

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)

My regular football and cricket watching colleague Tony Foster had been in touch a few weeks earlier to ask if I wanted to go to the final on the special early bird price of £20. It was the day of the cricket World Cup Final and I naively thought I may be up early to watch England. I was also flying out to Bangkok via Abu Dabi that evening but the 1pm kick off worked for me.

It was a rainy lunchtime when we met up, but the weather was a typical ‘four seasons in a day’. Our seats were with the East Yorkshire club fans and offered a decent view. I got misty eyed with the trophy being displayed as it brought back so many happy memories in my youth as a Scarborough fan.

Another cricketing pal Paul ‘Hagar’ Jones was with his pals in the Wrexham end. Their support outnumbered the ‘minnows’ around four to one. Both national anthems were well respected before the teams gave all in attendance a thrilling afternoon.

The Red Dragons were by far the better side and were cruising at 2-0 thanks to goals from Louis Moult and Jay Harris after an hour. However, the game changed when Wrexham boss Kevin Wilkin took off experienced skipper Dean Keates with around twenty minutes remaining. Ferriby’s boss Billy Heath made decisive changes as the momentum swung.

St Kitts international winger Jason St Juste had been their biggest threat all afternoon, but he now really turned on the skill. Liam King fired in a penalty with fifteen minutes remaining to half the deficit. St Juste then set up substitute Ryan Kendall to level on eighty six minutes. Reds keeper Andy Coughlin pulled off a top save to take the game to extra time.

Remarkably ‘The Villagers’ took the lead through a Kendall header, but Wrexham drew level again two minutes from time with a Moult blockbuster shot. It had been a classic final but the drama extended to penalties as the lead exchanged and several spot kicks were missed or saved before Adam Nicklin proved to be the hero in the Ferriby net.

Goodness knows how tired the players must have been? We were worn out just watching. The extra time and penalties meant a bit of a rush to get home and eat before catching my cab to Heathrow, but it was worth any hassle. It was probably the best game I’d seen all season.

Hull City 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0 (Saturday 28th May 2016) The Championship Play Off Final (att: 70,189)

Never could I imagine that I’d be less enthused about seeing Hull City play at Wembley but the pressures of work and bereavement leading to mental illness was really taking its toll. Nevertheless, it really was lovely to meet up with Nick, Sally and Stan as well as John Groombridge and his lad Harry.

After a couple of cans we decided to head inside the stadium on a roasting hot day. I managed to actually enjoy a half of real ale. I wasn’t sure whether it was illness, nerves or a mixture of both, but I was struggling to enjoy myself.

The game was tight but City were the better side. Unfortunately the team had a poor turn out backing them owing to the poisonous reign under the Allam’s. Wednesday’s support on the other hand was superb.

Gradually I got into the game. Wednesday’s players were having a really poor day. City were hardly brilliant but they gained control of the midfield. The decisive moment of the game came on seventy two minutes when Mo Diame struck an amazing swerving shot into the top corner of the net.

We naturally went berserk. City were not really put under any pressure and it was a relatively straight forward ending to the match. The victory was sweet, but it said everything when the face of vice chairman Ehab Assam appeared on the giant screen and he was widely booed.

I used my local nous to get us back into Wembley Park station via the residents route and less than an hour after the game we were enjoying beers at Hampstead CC, while the boys payed outside making new friends and using all the facilities.

Hull FC 12 Warrington Wolves 10 (Saturday 27th August 2016) Rugby League Challenge Cup Final (att: 76,235)

Although not a huge rugby league fan, I do follow the game and Hull FC are my favourite team. When Hampstead CC club mate Ross Antrobus told me to give him a shout for tickets, I took him up on his offer. My good pal Steve Jarvis, an Aussie league fan and groundsman at our cricket club joined me.

Ross had come up trumps. We were on the half way line opposite the Royal Box in Club Wembley seats. We enjoyed beers in our seats throughout the afternoon.

 The match was an absolute classic and one of the great Wembley finals.

Warrington had gone into a 10-0 lead with tries from Matty Russell and Ben Currie with Kurt Gidley adding the conversion. The Airlie Birds looked a beaten side, but they kept plugging away.

A tremendous 40/20 kick from Marc Sneyd set up a running move, which saw Mahe Fonua run over the try line. Sneyd added the additional two points. With just six minutes remaining Jamie Shaul forced his way over the line, with Sneyd again kicking the two extra points.

Wolves fought back and looked certain to score the decisive points but somehow Danny Houghton made a miraculous challenge to knock the ball from Currie’s grasp as he was about to put the ball down for a try.

FC hung on to win at Wembley for the first ever time in their history. It was their first Challenge Cup victory in eleven years. The celebrations were euphoric to say the least. Sneyd was given the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match.

We followed the same route back to Wembley Park as I’d used a few weeks earlier. Our destination was O’Neill’s opposite St Pancras station where we met up in a celebrating pub by Fred Firman, while his family ate upstairs.

We cheered on Hull City on the live tea time match against Man Utd. A gloss was slightly taken away from a pretty special day when Marcus Rashford scored United’s winner in stoppage time. We were past caring and headed home for food in tired and emotional conditions.

Jeff Lynn’s ELO (Saturday 24th June 2017)

I’d wanted to see ELO and particularly Jeff Lynn for several years. After my Mum passed away, I’d made up several CD’s for Dad to listen to. He absolutely loved The Travelling Wilburys so I also got him the ELO Greatest Hits.

Dad listened to it regularly and enjoyed a tremendous documentary on Lynn on BBC Four. I’d turned down the opportunity to see him at the Radio Two Party in the Park a few years earlier and immediately regretted the decision not to go.

There was no way I was going to miss out again. Fellow Scarborough fan and Facebook pal Patrick Waterhouse posted that he had two tickets for the Wembley gig for sale. He didn’t for long!

Emmet Carton accompanied me, while Patrick was with his wife Lisa. We settled down to enjoy a simply stunning gig. Unfortunately, we were running a bit late and didn’t see nearly enough of former Keane front man Tom Chaplin’s performance.

However Lynn and his orchestra more than made up for it as they played all the bands greatest hits as well as plenty of other stuff. The musicians and backing singers were simply amazing. I’d been to gigs with atmosphere; but I don’t think any were up to the same musical standard.

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?

Hull FC 18 Wigan Warriors 14 (Saturday 26th August 2017) Rugby League Challenge Cup Final (att: 68,525)

Hull FC returned to Wembley as holders of the trophy after demolishing Leeds Rhinos in the semi final. I asked the question of good old Ross at Wembley on behalf of Jarvo and myself. He got back to me a few days before the match.

Because it wasn’t an FA event he was unable to sort us with general seated tickets, but he’d arranged for us to have a place in a corporate box with hospitality and free food and soft drinks. This worked out perfectly as I was on night shift!

I met with my Aussie pal at Wembley Park where I also bumped into Fred and Helen, both in their black and white attire. We found out area via the escalators. Much though I missed the old place, there were some features that I really liked at new Wembley.

Our box turned out to be near the half way line behind the Royal Box. The view was absolutely magnificent. Some of our fellow patrons were obviously rugby fans, while others just there for a day out.

Before the match we were treated to a meal. I’ve still no idea what the starter was? It was some kind of a block of a meaty taste and texture of cream colour. It came with a breadstick and some kind of chutney or sauce.

The main course was a wonderful belly of pork; sadly missing the crackling. It was beautifully presented with a breadcrumb coated potato dish and carrots. It got the thumbs up from the pair of us. It was a shame that I couldn’t have a beer to wash it down, but I was heading straight to work.

Jarvo on the other hand, enjoyed a few bottles of beer that were brought to him whenever he wanted one. I made do with a coke and then went onto the water. We were given waitress service in our seats throughout the match. Our seats also gave us a view of the TV showing the game inside, which was ideal to watch replays.

The atmosphere was perfect as we were more or less half way between the fans; if a little towards the Hull support. I’d obviously taught young Steven well the year before as I detected he was favouring the Yorkshire side.

Wigan went ahead as a hopeful kick was allowed to bounce awkwardly to allow Anthony Gelling to pass inside to John Bateman to score with George Williams adding the extra points from the conversion.

The previous years Lance Todd Trophy recipient Marc Sneyd then began to weave his magic with the boot. Albert Kelly offloaded to Sneyd whose high kick into the corner was collected by the Tongan Fetuli Talanoa to outjump his opponent to touch down. The provider scored the conversion.

On twenty minutes Sneyd’s kick to the opposite corner caused panic. Mahe Fonua picked up the ball to cross the line. Again Sneyd made no mistake with the kick to make the score 12-6. However, the Cherry and White’s fought back in what was turning into a great game.

Eight minutes before the interval they scored their second try as a fine move saw Thomas Leuluai and Williams link up to send Oliver Gildart over for four points. However, Williams missed the conversion. I pointed out to my mate that it could prove pivotal.

During the interval we went back inside to enjoy small meat pies and a selection of dainty little deserts in glasses. I’ve always been partial to a mousse so I wasn’t going to say no! I’d certainly enjoyed my dining experience.

Sneyd once again played a huge part in what would eventually turn out to be the decisive try. His 40-20 kick right into the Wigan danger zone led to Kelly sending in Fonua in the corner. Once gain Hull’s hero plonked the kick between the posts to make it 18-10.

Joe Burgess went over for Wigan to reduce the deficit as Williams missed another kick, before Burgess had a late try disallowed; which neither of us could see coming. That would have made the last few minutes tense.

That was the third try ruled out, the second for Wigan after Tony Clubb had been denied by the video referee for losing the ball over the line, closely following a Fonua try chalked off for obstruction.

Another crunching Hull tackle led to a Warriors player losing the ball in the closing stages as the Airlie Birds saw out victory. We hung around to see the lifting of the trophy a few rowns down to our left.

Sky TV’s former summariser Mike Stephenson had been sat not far in front, with commentator Eddie Hemmings a bit further down. It had been a brilliant afternoon out in a different spectating experience.

I had a twelve hour shift to get out of the way at work straight from Wembley, but the time flew by. It’d had been that kind of day.

England 0 Germany 0 (Friday 10th November 2017) International Friendly (att: 81,382)

My attendance at England games had reduced to a trickle, but I was becoming utterly fed up with those in the media looking to bash the team and manager Gareth Southgate at every opportunity.

When Ross Antrobus kindly offered me a couple of complimentary tickets, I jumped at the opportunity. I took regular football and cricket attendee Tony Foster with me for what was an enjoyable evening.

It helped that our seats were in Club Wembley and offered a great view. The tribute to the fallen in all conflicts was impeccably observed, as were both anthems. The pre match scenes can be viewed here.

Both teams were missing players to injury, but it was Southgate’s tactics and formation and trust in youth that caught the eye. England looked a different team playing with three at the back and wing backs.

The teams had equal opportunities. Jordan Pickford was excellent in goal for the home team, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek would go on to become man of the match. John Stones was commanding at the back, while Danny Rose looked back to his best.

Jesse Lingard missed a guilt edged chance in the closing seconds for England to inflict a first Wembley win against Germany since 1974, when he scooped over. I left the stadium extremely upbeat and optimistic.

The only slight downer on the occasion was the fixation by large numbers to engage in a paper aeroplane contest throughout the second half. It was one of the perils of the gentrification of such events.

England 0 Brazil 0 (Tuesday 14th November 2017) International Friendly (att: 84,495)

Nick was down for work and had struck lucky with complimentary tickets through his role as an FA Coach. He had stayed over the previous night as we attended the Haringey Borough v Sittingbourne FA Trophy replay.

After tea we had a quick pint in the local Kingsbury Wetherspoons before having a vastly more expensive ale inside the stadium, as the trip and getting through security was far quicker than we envisaged.

The atmosphere was decent, with plenty of ex pat Brazilians adding to the noise and passion. Their full strength stretched England time and time again, but Joe Gomez and Joe Hart both put in fine performances.

Indeed, the whole England side put in a serious shift and kept their shape and formation, even though attacks of their own were at a premium. Neymar lived up to his billing and looked different class on the ball.

Credit must go to the Brazil boss, Tite, and whoever pulled the strings as all the big names and Premier League stars had playing time, to the joy of the youngsters in the crowd. If only Gareth Southgate had been afforded such luxuries, with his injury ridden squad?

We headed back to Wembley Park via a route down the side of the Arena and I was back indoors at 10.20pm; with Nick getting to Kings Cross well in front of his scheduled 11pm departure. It had been another decent night.


  1. Sports betting system earn +$3,624 PROFIT last week!

    Z-Code System winning bets and predictions for MLB, NHL, NBA & NFL!!!

  2. eToro is the best forex trading platform for new and pro traders.