I fell out of love with football years ago, the antics and avarice of the players, the ever rising prices for a seat when I wanted to stand, the lack of success for both my local and national team. It was the perfect storm of deterrents. Plus I’d been to the old Wembley and one visit was enough, the angle of the roof prevented me seeing the other side of the pitch without stooping. This in our national stadium. Plus inadequate toilets, shocking food and drink prices and huge queues on exiting the stadium.
I do love iconic buildings though be they ancient or new, the Pyramids, Eiffel Tower, Guggenheim and Shard to name but a few. And anything costing a billion pounds at today’s prices has to be something special. I decided to visit next time I was in London and then fate played a hand. My team reached the Championship play-off final and 40,000 tickets were available. I was hardly going to look a gift horse in the mouth and promptly booked five nights in the capital. Not only would I see the interior of this vast stadium and take it all in relatively undistracted, but days later I’d witness it bursting at the seams with an almost capacity crowd roaring the two teams on.
My ticket was a real challenge to pocket but I eventually obtained one through a friend for £52. The train was organised and off I went.
It was surreal being on W embley Way (really Olympic Way but no sports fan calls it that) with hardly a soul about , just the odd worker from the locality. Last time I was here it was a mass of red and blue and raucous. This time it would soon be red and yellow but every bit as noisy and energetic. First though I had my stadium tour to enjoy. It’s £17 for adults and £10 for children and senior citizens. I think that’s quite good value for a London attraction and so it proved to be. An excellent host who really knew his stuff, a very knowledgable guy. And he showed us around a stadium that is quite simply fantastic, surely one of the world’s best. 90,000 seats yet a compactness that is surprising and an architectural wonder. Apparently the fans have more leg room now than patrons of the Royal box had in the old Wembley.
We went up to the new Royal box, into the changing rooms and around other interesting areas of the stadium. But the pinnacle for me was walking out of the tunnel and imagining what it’s like for the players when the noise and colour of those 90,000 fans hits you. I didn’t bother getting my photograph taken with a replica FA Cup, I’m a bit long-in-the-tooth for that. Plenty did pay £10 for this fun extra though.
The following Monday I was back, this time with another 40,000 from my own town. Norwich likewise had 40,000 of their own supporters. What can I say except, WOW !! What a spectacle, what an occasion. Wembley way was awash with noise, bonhomie, colour, energy, fun. It was how I was told the 2012 Olympics were. Fans mixed, had banter, swopped team momentoes and drank. And then drank some more. By kick off the noise reached an even greater crescendo and the atmosphere in the stadium was electric. They haven’t just got the visuals right, the acoustics are first class. My team lost, indeed they were played off the park. But that’s not important, it was a thoroughly memorable and special day in an awe inspiring arena.
Any bad bits, well just that the refreshments haven’t got any better or cheaper as compared with old Wembley. £5.40 for a hot-dog made of rubber, £8.50 for the smallest fish ever caught in the North Sea and chips, £5 for a pint of warmish beer and £1.50 for a bag of crisps. At least the toilets could cope now though. Maybe at £5 a pint nobody was drinking much.
And the queues on the way out didn’t seem that bad either. I guess seeings how the other fans stayed behind to celebrate their win as we slunk off dejectedly, they wouldn’t be.
There’s always next time and if I get the chance I’ll certainly be back. And those who think Wembley is just for Football, Rugby and Gridiron fans, think again, It’s a stadium we can all be proud of and worth a spot on anyones London itinerary.