Wembley Stadium – England

12 Sep

England – 1

Wales – 0

Euro 2012 Qualifying Group G – 6th September 2011

A wonderful sense of timing that my fiftieth ground I visited was Wembley Stadium, the supposed “Home of Football”.

I tell a lie, I had been to Wembley Stadium before, to watch an American Football game between the Tampa Bay Bucaneers and the New England Patriots, but this was the fiftieth ground I had seen a game of football played. I made a concious decision last year that as Liverpool nor Colwyn Bay was ever going to play a game in Europe, the only way I’d care for a game abroad would be to follow Wales on their travels.

Wales fans were in good voice

I’ll be honest, I really only joined the Wales Travel Gold Club for one game, the game against Switzerland which Switzerland beat Wales 4-1. I was in Switzerland as a time so I thought I’d extend my holiday to see that game, but as time went on, and I got literature and spoke to people, one game was looming on the horizon and I thought I could go. The game was against the Auld Enemy. The game was against England.

I’ll be honest, as country goes, I quite like England. It’s provided me with an education and a career. As a football team, they are up there as one of the most hated. As Englishmen may struggle to appreciate, but the consistant self congratulatory and celebratory support, at the expense of the other home nations, is frustrating. Even more so when the coverage on the television on Tuesday was all about how England were going to negotiate Wales like we were an entity like Lithuania, a lot of eyes were opened on how bad the “British” media’s coverage of the national game is.

Reason #230 why I hate England - Club Wembley

But I wasn’t watching it on the television, I was there.

Or I was planning on. You see, London has this wide range of underground railways known as “The Tube”. The FA, in their infinite wisdom, has built Wembley in a location that’s only served by one of the underground railway lines – known as “The Metropolitan Line”. This line was closed due to flooding, meaning that everybody had to arrive at the overground line, or go on the tube to the Jubilee Line to a station that’s a bit of a walk away. I switched to the overground line to get to the stadium, and was running late. It was embarrassing, for the first time ever I’d missed the start of the game.

As I took my seat, we were 30 seconds in. Amazingly, Wales hadn’t conceded yet (joke), but the noise was incredible. With the 75,000 odd England fans and the 1,500 odd Welsh fans all singing and cheering their teams on. There was also duelling bands, with the mainstay of the England band that plays the Great Escape being drowned out by the new entity of a Welsh Tuba – a tuba – playing Men of Harlech. After 5 minutes, the 75,000 English fans died down. The Welsh didn’t, willing their team along to what would be an amazing upset.

England Rarely Attacked, leaving Wales to soak up balls

The game began with England pressing without really threatening, and Wales attacking the flanks and through the centre with Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsay. Bale was targetted by the English defence, with him getting chopped down by Milner on the 30 minute mark being the only noticeable moment. Wales fans were in great voice, so it was with cruel irony that the only chance they had of the game. Stewart Downing managed to get behind the Wales defence and pull the ball back to Ashley Young, who buried the ball past Wayne Hennessey to send the England crowd into ecstasy and Welsh fans silent.

For about 20 seconds.

Welsh fans soon found their voices again,and England fans soon sat down and watched the match in silence. This brought out a chant of “You call it Wembley, we call it Library”, which continued until half time.

Half time came and as I was full I didn’t get to experience the wonderful Wembley catering at £9 a hamburger, so settled on a meagre £2.20 bottle of water. I returned to my seat to sit down for the first time since I left Wagamama’s outside Liverpool Street Station. I watched the half time presentation (to a deserving ex-servicemen about to compete in the paralympics), noted at the evacuation of the “Club Wembley Seats”, before standing up for the second half.

A rare England attack. Alas, the one they scored one.

Second half began and England began threatening again with deathly silence. After a while, with the Barry Horns ably providing the background music, along with 1,800 fans singing their hearts out, Wales pressured, creating half chance, after half chance. Then the moment came that I’ll probably replay in my nightmares forever.

The ball broke to Robert Earnshaw inside the 6 yard box, with Joe Hart scrambling back. All he had to do was put the ball in the back of the net and Wales would have the draw that they deserved. Unfortunately, he leant back to far and put the ball over the bar. This brought some ironic cheers from the silent majority in the stadium, but – to be fair to Earnie – I thought he was flagged offside. Nothing would’ve been worse than him slotting the ball in only for it to be ruled offside. Then again, I could’ve just been making that up.

Wales pressed for a winner, but it didn’t come. England had one opportunity, they scored, they won the match. I was resigned to defeat and when I returned to work on the Thursday I’d be wearing an England top. Am I disappointed? No. England won the points, but Wales won the plaudits. The England fans left early, we couldn’t hear them sneaking out. The Barry Horns treated us to one last blast of their repetoire. Considering we lost, we were in a surprisingly good mood.

Insert Derogatory Comment on Ashley Cole Here.

Wembley is an impressive stadium, but watching a football match there was so disappointing. With corporates, extortionate prices, a booze ban and being located in a stupid area, it’s no wonder that the famous cauldron atomosphere at the stadium no longer exists. Instead football there is rather tepid, with the possible exception of an FA Cup final. Not that we didn’t try to help it spur on.

Tragically, when we returned home (about hour and a half later), we heard the story that overshowed the evening’s events. The brutal murder of Cardiff, Wales & football fan Mike Dye at the young age of 44 would be the impending memory of the game. As it stands right now, nobody has been charged with his murder, and as I write this, nobody is in custody. Disappointingly, the gutter press of The Sun & The Daily Mail took the route that they so often do, digging up a reported hooligan conviction from 20 years ago (Dye was part of a pitch invasion – well lock me up and throw away the key, I’ve been part of one too! There’s pictures of me when Colwyn Bay beat FC United as well!), which has seemingly covered up the most important fact – that a man died going to a football match.

It’s a damn shame, as at Wembley there was no trouble, open light hearted teasing between the Auld Enemy, and a spirited performance in a game of football that had one yellow card. This should have been the story of the match, not poor Mike Dye.

Rest in Peace Mike, my condolances to your family.

About Rhys Wynne

Rhys Wynne is the editor & creator of You're Supposed To Be At Home. For his sins, he is a Colwyn Bay & Liverpool fan, and a serial blog creator. You can follow Rhys on twitter here.

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