The injury time equalizer came as a bit of a blow to dampen what had been a great day. However, the draw aside I had a fantastic time. Let me start from the beginning, I woke up around 8am, which is late by my standards. Dropped my Mum off at work and then headed into town to get my haircut. About quarter to ten, I was back at home and started to get ready. Chris called, he sounded hangover and had just got up, he would get to my place around 11.30am. This gave me time to get all my things together and watch some television with my Dad in the lounge while I waited. Chris called again at 11.30am, he was just leaving. We were running slightly later than planned but it was not a major issue. Chris came to pick me up just before 12pm and I bought my tickets from the Fast Ticket machine at exactly 12:06pm. We were on our way. The next train to London departed in five minutes from Platform Three. However, when we got up to the platform, we noticed after two stops it would be heading directly to Marylebone. I had only bought a return ticket to Wembley Stadium as I had an Oyster Card for any tube trips. We turned around and headed back to Platform One, the next train was at 12:32, we waited a few minutes and then boarded the train as soon as it arrived. We were on our way to Wembley.
As the sun was shining and we had clear blue skies all around, I had planned the following for our day. Get over to Wembley, take some photographs while it was dead. Then walk down to Wembley Park tube station, get into city centre, grab some food, chill out, meet up with Chris’ Uni mates and then head back for the stadium around 5pm. It was not perfect but better than our original plan, which was for me to head to Henley and then catch the train from there. This would have involved two changes and a hellish journey back. Looking back, I think we made the right choice.
As we pulled up at Wembley Stadium, quite a few other England fans had decided on the same course of action. The arch looked amazing against the backdrop of a clear blue sky. We took some photos, but my CyberShotU batteries packed up after just a few photographs and I was gutted. It was down to Chris to rescue the day and take photos for the rest of the day. We walked down to the Bobby Moore statue and took some photos with us standing next to the England legend. I looked up and noticed the sun just behind the arch, so grabbed Chris’ camera and took a few photos. Easily my favourite photograph of the day.
We then walked down Olympic Way to Wembley Park Station. It was a hot and glorious day and we looked forward to the thought of coming back in four hours time and seeing the place packed with fans heading to the match. We jumped on the Jubilee Line heading to Green Park. Here we changed for the Piccadilly Line to Leicester Square. We then decided to get some food, opting for the Pizza Hut Buffet. I had been in this restaurant a few years ago (September 2003, in fact) with my sisters but did not realise there was additional seating downstairs. During our meal, there was an irate customer that started ranting and raving at the staff, including shouting “Get me your MANAGER!” at the top of his voice! There was just no need for that type of aggression, the manager appeared from somewhere to take the man into his office. After lunch we decided what to do, I was not really in the mood for doing anything to exaggerate (or expensive). We thought about catching a movie but opted to walk down to Trafalgar Square and relax. As we walked passed the National Portrait Gallery we saw the final few blows of a fight. Two guys were out cold on the floor and a third guy was being smashed down to the ground by a young lad, who swung at him with a kung fu kick. The victim went down like a sack of spuds. It was all over quickly and the gang responsible casually walked off, while bystanders went to the rescue of the three victims. It was not long before the police were called and two ambulances arrived.
The Square was packed, with many tourists all enjoying the first glimpse of June sunshine. As we walked up to one of the fountains, I noticed a girl in full cycle gear, being interview for television. The web URL on her top revealed, all Cycling.TV. We just chilled out here for a while, taking some photos and generally relaxing. Chris then suggested going and sitting at the bottom of Nelson’s Column and so we did. There were many young children running around with their parents close at hand. It was the last day of the half term holiday after all. We had arranged to meet up with Chris’ Uni friends for a drink before the game but they were not going to arrive until 2.30pm. We decided to head down to the river and on route, give them a call and locate them. We headed down Whitehall, based Horse guards Parade and Downing Street before crossing Westminster Bridge. I was handed the free London Lite paper and looked at the preview to the big match. They had Kaka against Reading’s Nicky Shorey with the verdict, “Kaka too tricky for Nicky!” Chris text our colleague Peter, who is a Reading season ticket holder.
As you would expect the place was swarming with tourists. As we headed down towards the London Eye, we walked passed County Hall. They were hosting a Star Wars Exhibition. On another day, I would have popped in to take a look but I had to make do with the Clone Trooper posing for photographs outside. The Eye was extremely busy with the queue stretching across back towards the Shell building. As we walked by, the sky had turned a dull grey and we both knew it would start to rain any moment soon. Within a few minute, it start to lightly spit but not progress into a full shower. We went past the a skate park and then came under the cover of a railway bridge. There was a book sale on, but to the left was the BFI. A bar come cafe backed by I assume, The British Film Institute. We ordered some drinks and sat down. That was a well earned break. We decided what to do next. The anticipation was in the air. You could sense it. It was Friday afternoon, people were beginning to leave work to kick off their weekend. Chris spoke to his friends and they were about to make their way back to Wembley, so we decided to do the same. I grabbed my tube map just to confirm in my mind the trek back. Walk back to Waterloo, grab the Jubilee Line direct to Wembley Park. Twenty minutes or so? A few minutes later we were heading back. The roads and pavements were busy with commuters heading back home after a long week. We went to cash point first and joined a queue of six or seven. Then headed back to the Waterloo Underground entrance but realised that this was not for the Jubilee Line, so headed back down the station to the far left and entrance we required. Chris had never been on the tube at rush hour and this was going to be experience for him. Luckily, Waterloo has disable step free access, so we know where to board the train. There was standing room but not as tight a squeeze as I would have hoped. Looking out the window, I could see the arch in the distance and the sun softly setting in the distance. We rushed off the train and out of the station. The place was heaving with a great number of police and LU staff.
We walked down Olympic Way, it felt strange. We had been here just a few months back for the Under 21 international but the atmosphere now was different. Much better in my opinion. We walked past Jake Humphrey from CBBC (he occasionally has filled in on Football Focus). Chris does not watch peasant television, as he calls it and did not recognise the television celebrity. We walked half way up the left hand side ramp and waited. There was a barrier of policeman ahead of us, checking bags and looking out for suspicious characters. Some people had been granted access to the upper most tier of the stadium and were looking down at us. Lucky people! Further down, outside by the Booby Moore statue, a group of fans and tied a England flag of Saint George with the letter EFC and Everton Crest to the railings. Chris just had to take a photograph. His friends were on their way and eventually Andy B, Alex and Chris arrived and we made our way up to Wembley. They were in the upper tier and went in, as we walked around to turnstile N. As soon as we went through, I knew that we would not be able to go up and meet up with them for a drink. We asked a steward who said we could catch an escalator. We walked around but I was concerned we might not be able to get back to the lower tier. We came across a security guard and asked him. To give him credit, he was very helpful and pointed us in the direction of a team supervisor but left saying it had a special magic pass that enable to go anywhere. For a split second we thought he was going to do us a favour. We came to the realisation that there was no way of us going up to the upper tier, even though Chris did want to actually try and talk his way pass some stewards. He got a drink and we headed for our seats. Block 125.
We were half way between the goal and half way line (if that make sense?). Towards the left of the pitch. Sorry that is rather pathetic description of where we were sitting but for those of you whom caught the came on television, I think we were part of the ‘O’ of “Welcome Home” which was formed by the crowd (as well as the cross of Saint George) during the national anthem. It must have looked impressive on television, all I caught was the image replayed on the big screens within the stadium. It just was amazing to be part of something for a change, to be there. My first ever England international, the first at the home of football. It was a moment I had perhaps never really thought about until now. I remember Chris and I talking about getting tickets back in early 2006, discussing buying tickets with the accounts department at work. Here I was, minutes away from kick off.
Well it ended in a draw, which I suppose was a fair result. I have been given Chris’ photos and uploaded the best over on a fresh FlickR set. As we headed out of the stadium we had to get into a queue for the Wembley Stadium station. Our queue, was in the middle and quite a long queue. This was for all trains heading northbound. The announcer was some camp guy, and after I thought about it for a while, he must have been the son of Gordon Brittas from the Brittas Empire. He over emphasized the words “Safety” and “Aylesbury” to great comic effect. This had most of us in the queue, including many children in stitches!