Posts tagged: Wembley

Wednesday 9th September 2009

I took a half day today, to go and catch the crucial World Cup Qualifier at Wembley with Chris. While I perhaps could have just asked to leave earlier but it is not the same rushing to the stadium with everyone else leaving work. I would much rather head over and have plenty of time on our hands. However, as it panned I had a few jobs to do in Newbury before I headed over to Henley. The masterplan, which I had formulated, involved driving to Wycombe station and catching the train from there into London. From there we would be able to catch the direct train back to Wycombe from the stadium and then off home. There was no flaw in my plan. We got to Wycombe station, parked up and then headed to the ticket machine. You could hear the eerie music in the background (or more likely the theme from Tales Of The Unexpected. If you are clueless, just ask your parents!). As you may or may not know, Chris and I have a poor history when it comes to car parks, parking tickets and ticket machines. Here was another case in point. We were waiting for the clock to tick over to 16:00 so that we could pay the reduced half day rate rather than the full day rate. So as Chris had his pound coin ready to insert, I snapped a few pictures on my E65 for old times sake.


We went to Leicester Square and got a bite to eat at the Wetherspoon’s Pub underneath Capital FM studios, Moon Under The Water. I ordered some food but Chris had already eaten but ordered some deserts. They were two for one, so I thought I might as well help myself to the chocoolate pudding. So there I was, eating this pudding for on only my main meal to arrive. Presented by a waitress who looked very similar to Edna Mode but more on that later. “Wrong order…” I said but only got a frained smile from the lady before she disappeared. It was around 6pm now and we decided to head over to Wembley as soon as we could to ensure we got there in plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere.

Sunset over Wembley

The sun was setting in the distance as we made our way down Wembley Way through up to our gate. It was busy and there was a sense of optimism in the air. England were going to qualify with two games to spare and actually not make a meal of leaving it to the last group game. Once we got our progammes and found our fantastic seats, Chris got his flag out and put it on as a cape. Oh no, he was going against the advise of Edna Mode. Please tell me you have seen The Incredibles. If not you have missed out one of the best Disney Pixar animated movies ever. Edna plays the role of costume designer to the superheroes and has a stringent policy of “No Capes”. Chris updated his Facebook status, via his iPhone. Of course, the moment I wanted to update my Facebook status, the iPhone became a glorified mp3 player. The 3G signal was dead and there was no other airwave to jump on, even the Wembley wifi was chargeable. I thought best to leave it for now. We settled down for the match.

A great game to watch, I did not expect Croatia to just crumble, roll over and die like they did. Just hope the country does not get carried away by the result. We are far from world beaters but it is important to make sure you are at the finals and we are. The next stage is fine tuning the team in preparations for those games. The next stage for me is to organise myself to be there for the final. Anyone up for a trip to South Africa?

Sunday 28th October 2007

England versus Croatia

Wednesday 4th July 2007

After watching Sky News, I feel asleep around 2am. I got up early and Dave was awake soon after and in his smart work clothes. It was around 8.30am on Sunday morning. I declined the offer of tea and breakfast, opting to get the car packed and head out onto the road. I set the TomTom as I reversed out of the parking space, saying goodbye to Dave and thanking him for a great weekend. The ETA for High Wycombe was 12:00 exactly, the current time was 9.06am. I had a long busy journey ahead of me. My objective was to get back before midday and I try to make sure throughout the journey the estimated time of arrival reduced as much as possible. The sun was shining as I left Wrexham, I listened to the tail end of Nehal on BBC Radio One. He played the new Kanye West track, “Stronger” and I put the volume up a little. The listener chosen for the New Music Generator liked a diverse collection of music. From MJ, ‘Billie Jean’ to BeyoncĂ© ‘Irreplaceable’. The song chosen for him was Foundations by Kate Nash. Her style is similar to Lilly Allen, quite urban and street. At 10am, it was time for Vernon. The drive was fine, a little rain but nothing drastic. I overtook a few trucks and slow drivers and was happy with my progress. I got stuck behind a tanker of some kind on the single carriageway A5. However by the time I hit the M54, I was plain sailing. Of course, I wish I had my A3, to switch over into the fast lane and tear past the cars but had to make do with the ability of the courtesy car. I had music, which for is the most important ingredient of any long journey. If I had no radio or cassette, I would seriously have been insane behind the wheel. By the time I got onto the M6 heading south bound the heavens opened and it was very difficult to see vehicles up ahead. Taking no risks, whatsoever, I switched to the inside lane and crawled at a lousy 60 miles an hour. This would be the pattern as I hit the final two motorways on my journey, the M42 and finally the M40, which to me will always symbolise the home straight. On the radio, Newsbeat was mentioning the concert and this perhaps is a fitting time for me to explain all the secrecy.

I heard that the Princes’ were arranging a concert to celebrate the memory of their late mother. I booked tickets literally the second they became available in early December. I however, did not tell anyone at the time. A few weeks later my Dad was in the living room and it was mentioned in the news and I explained I had bought tickets and smiled. We spoke nothing more about it until a few weeks ago, when the tickets arrived Special Delivery on a Friday morning in mid June. My plan had always been to take my Mum and elder two sisters. I wanted to take my Mum for her first trip to Wembley and also to a concert. Something she has never experienced before. It was not to be. When I called after the Doctor credits, I asked my Mum to pick up the tickets which I had left with a letter under the computer keyboard in my room. She passed the letter to my sister, Natalie read and I heard cheers in the background. My youngest sister, Julie was upset as she could not go. My Dad had said he would take her to the cinema. It was one of those unfortunate circumstances where I could only get four tickets, if I could have got more I would have. In any case, I was really looking forward to the concert, for the amazing set list and the fact that it would be one of the first handful of concerts to be held at the new Wembley. So here I was, hours away and many hundred of miles away from the main event and perhaps a milestone of my weekend.

I pulled up outside my house at 11:53am, I remember noting the clock on my dash. The train was at 12:55pm and I shouted to get my sisters to get ready. My parents were out with Natalie, so I hoped they would get back soon. I had a shower and changed and was ready by 12.30pm. My parents and my Mum gave up her ticket for Julie. I was upset but knew something like this would have happened. My sister grabbed her company Astra and we headed down to the station. We were be lucky to catch the train, but I bought tickets from the FastTicket machine while they parked the car. The train arrived on time on platform three and I looked at the clock on the platform as we left. Within an hour, I had come back from Wales, got ready and on the way to Wembley. Truly a rock and roll weekend. My sister, Natalie had a group she wanted me to listen to. Acappella songs, so she said. I have always liked acappella music, from the Flying Pickets to more recently, Rockapella and Noorkuu. This however was something different. My sister told me there name and got me to listen to the song. It was Desert Rose by Sting. The band were called, Penn Masala. I was impressed, they were a talent group. Skipping across the tracks on the iPod Shuffle. They played a mixture of Hindi / Bhangra songs combined with Western songs. We tried to hunt down Kangna but my sister could not find it. I was rather impressed with “Show Me The Meaning of Being Desi”, which is a take on the Backstreet Boys hit song but rewritten for an Asian audience. I wanted to hear more and would do, on the way back.

When we got off at Wembley Stadium our tickets were checked before we walked up the stairs to the stadium. Everything had been cordoned off and we had to walk to the far side, even while our seats were to the left. We then joined a queue, it was before 2pm so I did not expect to wait for more than a few minutes. I explained to my sister Samantha, as she began to moan after just a few minutes that I had to wait nearly five hours back in November. I took a photo as we queued.


I decided against taking either of my digital cameras. The heighten security situation and then the nagging headache of having yet another thing to look after. My N73 was more than capable of taking a few photographs and overall did a stern job, even though I did not use it constantly. There were other people there with professional cameras and one guy to our right with a telescopic lenses! We eventually were allowed through, some twenty minutes later and had all our bags checked and were padded down by the security guards. The recent events over the weekend in London and Glasgow had made security a top priority, which was understandable. We rushed around to our entrance, K and went through the turnstiles. We headed up the escalator and went to find our seats. Then Natalie and myself went to get some food but nothing hot apart from chips was ready so we opted to wait a little while. On our second trip, I noticed the terrace bar and went to take a look. It was the same place we had seen so many England fans, exactly a month earlier for the friendly against Brazil. I decided to take some photos and once again, the sun shone behind the arch.


We grabbed some food and then headed for our seats. This is where I would sit for the next six and half hours of entertainment. I was excited. I was looking forward to the show. I was looking forward to being able to re-watch the whole thing in full via the MythTV recording MightyMouse had scheduled at home. My favourite performance of the evening was P.Diddy with his rendition of “I’ll Be Missing You“. It was a fitting tribute to Princess Diana and the star has amazing stage presence. Kanye West who performed before Diddy, was very good but played only a seven minute set which was a medley of old songs and his new single. I was frankly slightly disappointed. Other highlights including Fergie with Glamorous (although she had to ad lib the rap part of Ludicrous herself, to limited affect). Elton John, Tom Jones and Rod Stewart never disappointed. The Scotsman kicking several footballs into the crowd. Take That were fantastic, and a girl of around 17 from Newcastle, sitting behind me, went absolutely crazy the minute they came on stage. The screaming from girls was just too much. Roger Hodgson, was great with his SuperTramp medley, particularly as younger fans would know his music (myself included) from Scooter – The Logical Song and Cupid’s Chokehold by Gym Class Heroes. The full list of performers and speakers can be found over on Wikipedia. When we left around 10.15pm, we did not have to wait long for a train. It was the walk all around and against the flow of other punters which was annoying. The first train at the platform was heading stopping at Wycombe. We got some seats, my sister gave me her Shuffle and I put it on. How ironic, Penn Masala started playing acapella version of Every Breath You Take. The perfect way, to end a perfect evening and more so, a perfect weekend.

Saturday 2nd June 2007

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!

Friday 20th April 2007

Friday had come around again, and I realised as I was getting ready in the morning that a week ago at the same time I was on the BMI flight to Edinburgh. Strange how different things can be, just seven days later. Work itself has been busy but I am enjoying all the challenges as they come (thick and fast recently).

I had made a note in my diary for midday, tickets for the full international friendly between England and Brazil at Wembley would go on sale. I logged onto the englandfans web site with ten minutes to go and logged in. Eventually I got in but was placed in a queue with an estimated wait of 23 minutes. However I was placed over 2000 in the queue and there were over 4000 people behind me. I waited, I was confident that I would get through and order my tickets. However, the estimate was a joke, so my colleague Chris tried calling the ticket hotline, the phone just rang and and rang. Ten minutes in constant attempts, someone did answer the phone but within a split second hung up. Great(!). I by this time was minutes away from entering the site but had been waiting for over half an hour. I got in, put in my credentials and placed the order. Fantastic. We had potentially some of the best seats in the house. However as I went to confirm the order, the site crashed and an error had occurred. I had to go back and place an order again. You can appreciate my frustration at this point, so I picked up the phone and called the hotline myself. I was put through to the queuing system and after about ten minutes was put through to an operative. It was only then I realised that the FA were having tickets sold by Ticket Master but only via the englandfans web site and phone number. The guy on the phone was extremely helpful and I explained that I had already placed an order and it had crashed. He then took all the details from me and attempted to place an order but it was rejected as the englandfan numbers had been used already. So I just had to wait. It was touch and go as to whether my order had gone through, because there was no confirmation on their system and I had yet to receive an e-mail. If you are a diehard football fan, you can possibly understand how I felt. I went to my web mail account and kept refreshing the page every few minutes. I let Chris know and his frown spoke volumes. I felt bad but we were victims of the system. I could not place another order online and by then most of the good tickets would have gone. About an hour and a half later, I got the confirmation e-mail and I was over the moon. I went and filled out a holiday form straight away, strange to have a international friendly on a Friday evening but I think it best to make a day off it, rather than dash over from work, even with a half day. So, here I am, about to see Brazil play football in England for the third time. The first time was back in October 2003 when I saw them take on Jamaica at Walkers Stadium. Something so important, I forgot to blog about it, would you believe! The second time was as recently as last September when they played arch rivals Argentina at The Emirates. What more can I say, apart from the fact that 1st June cannot come around soon enough!

One Friday evening, several weeks ago I was wondering why a comedy programme had not reappeared on our screens for a second series. I am of course referring to The IT Crowd. My former manager had been the one to mention it to me in January last year, sending an e-mail and link to the Channel 4 web site around the select group of IT obsessed people in the office. I knew a second series had been commissioned, but surely if it was screened in February last year, they would get it back again for a similar time slot this year? I did some digging and ended up at Wikipedia (perhaps my second favourite resource after BBC News) to discover that they were filming the second series in April and May. More than this alone, I could apply to be in the audience for a showing, so I applied at Standing Room Only web site. I received a confirmation e-mail and was told that I would received a further e-mail if I had been lucky enough to be selected to attend. Last week, late on Wednesday evening, I picked up said e-mail. Fantastic! I invited Chris and my old helpdesk manager and asked around the office. I had four tickets, so potentially someone else could come along to. When I asked our finance colleague, his response was, “I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a pencil!”. Great. I know the show was an acquired taste but it was a comedy and not just for the geeky computer people. In any case, in the end, it was just myself and Chris going. I was really looking forward to it, and after getting our England tickets semi-secured (waiting for them to be posted out) it was a something nice and not stressful to enjoy.

We left work at 5pm and headed over to my house were both changed and then hopped into my car to head down to Iver. I had my TomTom with me to make sure we got to Pinewood Studios but we also had written directions on the e-mail. We made it by ten past six and were quite early in our minds. However after parking the car and being shown to the entrance, there was a queue of at least sixty people ahead of us. Glad we did rush over, rather than stop on the way for a bite to eat. While waiting in the queue, we called Peter. He used to work on the helpdesk with us and would constantly give the line, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” in a strong Irish accent, which has become a catchphrase from the show. He was disappointed that we hadn’t invited him but him being over in Kent was partly to blame. A few minutes later, the audience company representatives came over and checked my name off the list. We explained there were only us two and not four to which the response was, “We don’t care because your both beautiful!”. Now I can understand why people that work in television have inflated egos if the people they work with a constantly coming out with overblown compliments like that. We were given red bands to put on and explained we would be let through shortly. The group behind us were given green bands and told to go right through. Annoying is not the word, particularly as the next forty odd people were all given green bands, then they switched to red bands. About fifteen minutes later we were allowed in. We walked through, looking up across at the rebuilt James Bond Sound stage. We then had to queue for a few minutes outside studio TV One which is also used to record The Weakest Link. On the wall was a noticed that the producer was recording a documentary of the audience participation in the filming of the series and we had waived all our rights for compensation or payment. Great! There was an Irish telephone number at the moment if we had any queries. I expect the documentary to appear on the DVD release by Christmas. We walked around the corner to the studio and were presented with three sets, but in theory only two as one was the chairman’s office and the other basement, with manager’s adjoining office. We were ushered to seats at the back on the far right hand side, directly in front of the desks Moss and Roy sit at. After a few minutes, when the rest of the audience took their seats we were introduced to the floor manager, Rob.

This was my first time at a studio for filming of a television series. A great experience, as we watched the show projected on three big plasma screens above the stage as our views were obstructed by cameraman (I mean camera people) on moving trolleys. There was a considerable delay between takes and many scenes had to be repeated and “picked up”. During pauses we were entertained by a Geordie called Patrick. He was hilarious, taking the mickey out of members of the audience and generally just fooling around. He even convinced a guy in the front row to do some rapping as he had mentioned he was a up and coming MC from Hemel Hempstead. He mentioned his MySpace address but I cannot recall it exactly. His rap or rather contemporary poetry was exceptional, as he talked about leaving his drape sales job.

The show was excellent and I am looking forward to seeing the show on television later this year. We saw a full episode but the filming was split over VT which had been shot on location earlier in the day. Chris enjoyed it too and we were very pleased as we left the studio. Three hundred people had been handpicked but over one thousand people had applied for tickets. There were some diehard fans in the building as they screened to be given signed magazines from the set. Some stayed behind to speak to Noel Fielding after filming. Some lucky people in reserved named seats (green band wearers perhaps?). As we headed back, we were starving so stopped at the Pizza Hut at Wycombe Retail Park for a quick bite to eat. We would have got there sooner but junction 3 exit was closed for Wycombe East, so I had to drive down into town from junction 4. All in all, a great night out and a change from the usual pub or club venue. The best part? It was all free!

My friend Sudhir is running the London Marathon on Sunday. You may notice him on television, he will be in the Spiderman costume! If you want to donate to his nomated charity (Diabeties UK) feel free to do so, he has nearly hit his target! I wish him all the best and I am sure he will stroll down the finish line within the four hour mark.

Sunday 25th March 2007

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!

Wembley StadiumThe ArchArch

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.

Fabric London

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.

Saturday 17th March 2007

I never went to the original Wembley. It sits as one of my greatest regrets of all time, but I do not want to make this a pessimistic posting. The closest I got, was planning a trip to see England play Saudi Arabia in a friendly back in late May 1998. I was going to organise a trip down with some of my college friends, but it just did not happen. In the end, I remember watching the match on Sky and then going online to have a major argument with an Arab in some chat room. For the final game at Wembley, I was at University, in Leicester, so not really in a position to make the pilgrimage down to North London.

Felt strange waking up this morning, knowing I would be heading back to the spiritual home of football, the national stadium, our national stadium. I got up just before 9am, and was out the door promptly at 10am. I did not want to leave it too late. I got to the station platform two, just in time to see the 10.13 service pull away from platform three. Never mind, the next train was only seven minutes, so I made my way over to platform three, only to discover the next train would not stop at Wembley Stadium. So I headed back down the subway to platform one and boarded the waiting train. The service would not depart until 10.31 but I knew it would be stopping at the right place. I plugged myself into my Zen and tried to relax. I was on my way. The carriage slowly began to fill and by the time we were at Northalt Park, there not even standing room. I put my mp3 player away at this point and just looked out of the window, waiting for the landmark to appear. It was a strange feeling. For five months I had gone past the construction site, twice a day. From time to time, I would look up and look forward to the day when I would eventually be allowed in. That was in 2004, some three years have passed and plenty of football has been played since then, along with all the talk, discussion, argument, opinion and money. I could see the Arch, it was partially lit and as the train began to slow, I felt funny. A mixture of excitement and apprehension. I got up off my seat and was surprised that most of the carriage did the same and headed off the train. Heading up the stairs, onto the new White Horse bridge. Then around the corner, I saw the stadium close up for the first time. There were thousands of people heading in the direction. I stopped by one of the street lights, coming out of the ground and got my camera out. It was time to get snapping and recording those all important memories.

Turnstile LDhol Players

As I went up the walkway, I noticed the queue for turnstile L was crazy. It was 11am, exactly, I had checked my watch the second I had got off the train. They had not yet opened, to let anyone in and the queue had worked itself around and was about 150 people deep (at least). I joined the back of the queue and waited. They had some Asian guys playing the dhols, which added a strange atmosphere to the setting. You would expect to hear the big drum banging along the score to The Great Escape but a desi vibe was different but nevertheless nice background entertainment. There was a big contingent of Asian families around. I mean the whole family, kids, grandparents and goldfish. This is understandable, consider that the tickets were mainly for Brent residents and only 30% had been issued to englandfans. On the BBC web site, it had said that they expected 60,000 football fans through the turnstiles, but it felt like there were much less outside waiting to get in. About 11.18am, we started to go in and the queue slowly started moving. I called Chris, I had text him on the way but he had not replied. Someone answer the phone but cancelled the call. Ten minutes later, he called me back. He was still half asleep and in bed. Oops. Half the day had gone and I explained that I was waiting to go back in but explained how impressive the stadium looked close up.

Not sure why but today went like clockwork, at 12pm I was through the turnstile. I was padded down and my bag checked before heading for the escalator. There are three which take you up to the upper tier. I was at block 536, which was just a few blocks down. I headed for my seat which was half the way down the tier. A couple were in my seat, they quickly realised my mistake and moved along. I was sitting next to a father with his son. They had come down all the way from Redditch this morning, which made my thirty minute train ride, feel completely insignificant. The celebrity match had just started but I was not really paying attention to the PA giving the names of the players on either side. I was too busy taking in the stadium, the structure, the television screens and the fact that it was now at 90,000 capacity. I am not in a position to compare with the original stadium, but in terms of world stadia, just the following phrase comes to mind.

What could I possibly add?

After the first match, the local school kids came onto the pitch for a soccer skills session. After this, there was another match, this time featuring a Soccer AM team. Tim Lovejoy had mentioned this to Helen Chamberlain on the show earlier this morning, the brief glimpse I had caught. The Sky Sports television show beat the Geoff Thompson Charity XI team, coming back from 1-0 down to turn it around to 2-1. After this match, there was a break and I headed onto the concourse to get my free drink. I opted for tea, but they had run out of Wembley Stadium cups, so I had to live with a large Coca Cola cup instead. Never mind. I then decided to take a walk around the stadium and take some pictures on the way. Usually the division between each quadrant would be securely closed. There were steel gates in place but they were open, giving unrestricted access to the entire upper tier. I walked around in one full circle, taking photos and stopping to take everything in. I returned to my seat to watch the final few minutes of the final match and witness Soccer AM take the crown.

TegSunshine on Wembley

The true test will be next weekend, which I am really looking forward to. Oh, did I mention, the tickets arrived this morning. Sometimes I find it very hard to truly appreciate the fact that I am such a lucky man.

England U21 v Italy U21

Tuesday 13th March 2007

This post corresponds to an entry from almost exactly one year, one month and three days ago. Back then I posted some photographs from FlickR. This morning, that dream became a reality. Seems as if I have surpassed 2006 already and three months have yet to pass by in 2007.

Wembley Stadium Community Day Ticket

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