What a weekend! I am not sure where to start really, I am tempted to work backwards from this afternoon but I do not know how well that will work when being read back. As I got into my car at Pav’s house this afternoon, around 1pm (BST) I decided to head to Forbury Retail Park to buy Norton System works to help in the recovery of my hard drive. I will get to that later. As I drove home, the car bleeped at me to refuel, with the computer giving a range of 25 miles. I ran the risk and drove home to review at my local BP garage rather than do the sensible thing and stop at the nearest petrol station. I did something, I never do, I hit the A329(M) and linked up to the M4 Eastbound to get home, rather than take the A4, as I have always done in the past. This way, even though the route was slightly longer, I could sustain a more economical speed and get every last drop of out of the tank. There was a hairy moment when I got onto the A404 by-pass when the range was down to 5 miles and I continued to overtake the slow Sunday afternoon drivers. In any case, I got to the BP West End garage just in time to fill up, I had squeezed an extra 32 miles or so out of the tank compared to my last trek and that is from the super juice – BP Ultimate.
Saturday, an early start, even for me and I was out the door just after 8.30am as we headed to Uxbridge with my work colleagues. I was looking forward to the day. However, in my excitement I made one fatal mistake, I did not bring a jacket or jumper. I just had my away England top on and the minor convenience that it was full sleeve. We got to Sainsbury’s car park but found it was limited to two hours parking, so we went into The Chimes car park and parked there, as there was no where else really and agreed to share out the parking cost, as it would be astronomical. After a quick stop at the cash point, we went over to McDonald’s for some breakfast, we then headed to the tube station. Our other work mate, had called asking us to stick our hands out of the tube train as he rushed up the platform. We laughed before telling him we had just left the big M and were walking around to the station. Sure enough, there he was behind the ticket barrier waiting and eating his own McDonald’s breakfast. This was a first, he was never on time for anything, including client meetings. I went through, thanks to my Oyster card while my colleagues when to buy a ticket. There was a funny moment when one had difficulty actually finding the right slot! He was gently guided by the ticket inspector at the gate. He then made a side comment, “Well I always used to just over in the past!”. Enough said. Our train was waiting on platform one and relatively busy for the time of morning. A few other England fans as well but it was a good ten minutes before we finally set off, beauty of being at the end of the line.
As we pulled up to Wembley Park Station, you could clearly see the Arch sticking out across the landscape. That tinkling feeling inside started, as we came off the train and headed to Olympic Way. There were countless policemen and women across the station, guiding us out. We had stopped at the top of the stairs to take some photos but were shouted at for blocking the exit and to move on. I did, after taking a few photographs first. Then it was the history first walk down Olympic Way to the imposing stadium. Chris got his camera out and started filming. I was surprised by the number of early supporters whom had also arrived to take in the stadium before the match. We saw David Davies being interviewed by Sky Sports News and I quickly snapped a few photographs, while Chris tried to get in the background, walking into shot. We walked around to our turnstile, P, and waited to be permitted access. The gates would open at 10.30am, in a few minutes time. As we went through, we were greeted by a lovely guy in the booth, whom after taking our ticket wished us a great day of enjoyment. Then came my problems. Chris and I were both stopped and pulled to one side by the stewards. My camera was far too “big” apparently and I had to be seen my supervisor. In the end I approached the supervisor myself, who told me that if I took my camera out of my bag to take photos, I would be ejected from the ground. Enough said. Chris was pulled up as he had a camera but also food. Eventually they let him in. While all this had been happening my colleague had been taking photographs of us being searched. After that, we headed up the escalators to the upper tier concourse. My colleague made the call we should get our programmes now before getting any food and drink. This was an excellent decision in hindsight, as much later the queues were right around the block. I bought three programmes, and was offered a special deal for the Open Day programme from last week but explained I already had one. We laughed at the price list on the wall, in case there were any employees that failed GCSE Maths and could not count up in their three times table. We then headed to the bar, got some drinks and food. We were here and could relax. Pav text me at this point, he was waiting at Salzburg airport to catch his plane from Austria back to Gatwick. I explained I was at Wembley and was looking forward to the night out clubbing this evening.
Heading out to our seats, Chris again filmed walking up the stairs to his seat. The view was amazing and it was good to see a proper crowd of 60,000. Everyone was taking photographs so I was annoyed, particularly when many had professional cameras, of much higher quality than mine. Then perhaps forty odd minutes before kick off we went back down to the concourse to get some food. My colleague put a bet on for an England win at the Bet Fred kiosk, which opened to our left, as we took in the few over the White Horse Bridge. I convinced Chris to give me his jacket, as he already had a jumper. It helped and was much better than just my England flag, which I had on as a cape! The woman over the PA system informed us that the pre-match entertainment was about to start. We finished our food and headed out to back to our seats. The stadium was now almost full of the 60,000 supporters but there were no Italians fans anywhere visible to be seen. Perhaps they were scattered among the England fans. There was no entertainment on the pitch as far as we could see, the flags were brought out and the teams soon followed. It was a proud moment as Chris & I sang the national anthem at the top of our voices. While our colleague decide to laugh and take photographs!
The first official match at Wembley was about to kick off and the first incident came. Italy kicked off and just played the ball forward. The English defence just pushing back and no one went to tackle the number 9. Everyone knew he was going to have a crack, and he did just outside of the box and bang, one nil. The fastest goal scored at Wembley (new and old). It was 25 seconds on the clock! The crowd were deadly silent as the Italians celebrated by the corner flag. It would be a the story of an open game of football with almost end to end action. I will not bore you with much more, you can read a full match report over here. I just have to make the comment about David Bentley’s free kick. Just before the referee blew the whistle to let the kick be taken, my colleague said that there was no chance he would score from there. In the next second, the ball was in the back of the net and he was eating his words.
We left at 85 minutes, which although goes against the very fabric of my football skin, had to be done to avoid the crowds. Our seats were in the middle of the row, so we had to annoy a group of people to get out. One of our colleagues (the non-football fan) decided to stay until the final whistle. We were not alone, thousands were leaving as we got to the stairs and headed out. There were arctic winds in the air as we were directed down the ramp around the back towards Olympic Way. There was barrier after barrier of police and we were stopped just before Wembley Park station to let the crowds die down. I jumped up to look behind. The crowds stretched back all the way back to the stadium. We had left just in time. Eventually we were allowed through and got down to platform two. The next train left in 13 minutes, it arrived, we got seats and were on our way home.
I got home around 4pm and after about 30 minutes on the computer, decided to have a quick power nap. My Dad woke me up before he left, it was 6.30pm, I was missing the England match. I switched on Five Live and quickly started to get ready. I had a long night ahead of me and loads of things to do, pack, shower, get ready and head off to Reading. Plus, I had to be there by 8pm. It was a mad rush as I got everything together, dumped clothes into my overnight bag, got some clothes out to wear. Then after a quick shower, it was about 7.30pm when I left. Just over an hour earlier, I had been fast asleep.
I got to Pav’s place around 8.15pm to discover he was not home yet. A few other people going to Fabric had arrived but no Pav. Then a few minutes later, he walked through the door. At 8.30pm, the mini bus driver arrived, we waited for the final few people to get ready and then were on the road. Michael, our driver was a great guy and we were lucky to have him. He normally drove the limos but had been given our pick up tonight. Plus, he was an Arsenal fan (“Only one team in London!”). We had to pick up a few friends in Slough before heading down the M4 into the City. We had originally planned to go into Leicester Square, to a few bars before heading to Fabric. It was late as we got into town, so we headed directly to Fabric and were going to pop to a bar next door. The bar was called Beduin but the bouncer would not let Pav and a few our friends in. Their trainers were against the dress policy. Paul came out to convince the bouncer to let them in, explaining we had just bought a round of drinks. We were let off this time around. We headed downstairs and the night began. After a few drinks, we walked next door to Fabric. I had ordered my ticket beforehand, and had it delivered via post, rather than taking the option to keep a code on e-mail. There was a separate queue for me and the rest of us, so I went straight in. I have to admit, I was frisked quite strongly by the bouncer before being allowed through. I waited for the rest of us to gather before going through, down the stairs and into the club.
As you probably know, I am not a big clubber, but do enjoy going out with my friends. It was a great night out and the music was great. The club was big, with three rooms playing a range of music. It was busy, extremely busy and smoky too. You can judge for yourself, the photos have been uploaded by Pav, over on his gallery. We got picked up by Michael at 4.30am (BST) after I gave him a call. We were on our way back eventually, once everyone got back to the minibus. The club is actually open until 7am and Pav late told me that he would have loved to have danced the morning away! We got back to Pav’s around 6am. I do not remember much, apart from finding a nice seat on the sofa for my sleeping bag and cheesy toasties that Pav made for me. A great way to end a wonderful night and excellent weekend. I had a really weird dream, as I often do when I’m sleeping away from my familiar bed at home. However, I cannot remember much, apart from waking up at 11am and deciding it was time I got up, got ready and headed home.