I am 19 years of age now, still only a young one however there are some things at my age I am completely ashamed of. One of the main ones is I have never watched a football match at Wembley before – shocking right? I class myself as a groundhopper but I’ve never seen a game at the home of English football. I always knew that this wouldn’t last but until the last 18 months or so I hadn’t had any opportunities to do so – I haven’t got a massive footballing family so that cut out my younger years, I was on holiday when Bristol City lost against Hull City in 2008 & I decided against both the JPT Final last year and the National League Play-Off Final also. This is all change now. I have decided that as I get a bit older I want to follow England home and away so I need to start sometime. My plan at the moment is to go to all home qualifiers for the World Cup in 2018 and maybe try for Scotland away with the Travel Club followed by going to all qualifiers for Euro 2020. That’s the plan, we’ll see if it comes off!
I booked this Netherlands friendly all the way back in November but never anticipated it would be part of 10 matches in 8 days… I had already enjoyed the previous 5 days of football heaven but I was about to take it to the next level. From Guildford City to Aldershot and Millwall to Wembley – what a comparison! To be fair, what a sight that is in the morning…
Due to arriving in London the previous day it was easy to sort out my travel and accommodation. Drive to Wembley Park tube station and park there for £5 a day (absolute bargain!). I was staying at my friends flat who lives literally next door to Wembley in her student accommodation, to say I am making the most of it would be an understatement and I will be gutted to see her move elsewhere next year (it was also good to see Hannah and her friends too!!!) To start the day it was time for yet another game, this time at The Valley for Charlton U21s vs. Birmingham City U21s. The Addicks, managed by former hero Jason Euell were boasting an unbeaten run stretching all the way back to September. Unfortunately though, they lost this time – is it me? I am starting to think it is! Birmingham snuck a last minute winner at The Valley to clinch the win. It was also really great meeting some new people at the game. Quite scary also though, the Swedehoppers recognising me in the stands – I didn’t know I was that recognisable! Really good blokes who have spent a hell of a lot of time, effort and money watching the beautiful game in England.
After an enjoyable early afternoon at Charlton Athletic it was time to head back across London to Wembley to meet Hannah for some dinner before meeting fellow Groundhopper Richard Serowka who had just got back from Berlin for Germany 2-3 England. To say I was jealous wouldn’t be anywhere near cutting it. I look forward to starting following England home and away in the near future. To start with, it was my first ever visit to Wembley for an International Friendly against Netherlands. I expect that when it was booked it was an assumption that it would be two teams who could potentially meet in Euro 2016 in France, but with the poor showing from Netherlands in the qualifiers it has resulted in them missing out, in their place was Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey.
Dinner time. I always find that T.G.I Friday’s is one of those places that you cannot go wrong, I always get decent service, really nice food but unfortunately sometimes (normally) an empty wallet as it can be on the pricey side. Even at 16:30 the queue was a long one, a 40 minute wait had to be endured but it wasn’t too bad, the only problem is that it is annoying and always will be annoying having a beer in a plastic cup but I’m pretty much use to drinking from those now! Once I’d finished my meal it was time to go meet Richard & his mate Dan so we could go to see the European Championship Trophy. Unfortunately we’d just missed Teddy Sheringham.
To the ground! I was so excited to see the magic of Wembley. I’d seen the ground on a stadium tour but I wouldn’t consider judging it on that at all. Something special happened whist I was waiting to go in and that was I found out I had passed my final Project Management exam which meant I’m basically a qualified Project Manager at 19. Scary that. What better way to celebrate than watching England?! Many things probably but there we are… Time to find my seat, which I was worried about because I’d bought the cheapest seats so I was scared I’d be in the sky without being able to see anything but I was totally wrong! I was high but I loved it. Some people enjoy being low down, some enjoy the half way line, then there is me, I love being middle/high up and behind the goal so this seat was perfect. Bring on the game and the atmosphere (not). I must admit, Wembley is a special arena, absolutely stunning but I’m just disappointed by the atmosphere in it.
I believe that the vast majority of the stadium (well, the parts filled with actual football fans…) would have been filled with optimism following the brilliant performance in Berlin a few days before but we should have been expecting what was to follow. One of the most boring performances I’ve seen as an England fan. This, alongside the most silent crowd I’ve ever witnessed at a football stadium didn’t make it the most fun of events to be a part of. The first 40 minutes had approximately 0 chances. It was the 41st minute when the game finally kicked into life and it was the man of the season, Jamie Vardy. This man was playing in Non-League a few years back & he is now scoring for England, at Wembley in front of 82,823 people. Wow, just wow. It was a very good goal, brilliant quick passes around the Netherlands defence which left Vardy with a tap in at the near post. 1-0 to Three Lions.
Judging on the opening 45 minutes, England probably just about deserved the lead but they would need to kick on in the second to maintain some momentum heading towards the Euro’s this summer but that wasn’t the case. The team who shockingly failed to qualify for the summers tournament came out on top with a 2-1 win which was slightly aided by the referee. Netherlands equalised with just 5 minutes played in the second half from the penalty spot following a hand ball by England left back, Danny Rose. It was a tad harsh but it was obvious why it had been given and Janssen made the most of it by smashing it into the roof of the net to make the scores level at 1-1. Fast forward 20 or so minutes and it was 2-1 to the visitors. It was one of those goals in which Holland managed to make something from nothing. A powerful challenge by that man Jenssen again on Phil Jagielka which put the Everton man on the floor and allowed them to capitalise with a square ball to Luciano Narsingh who hit the ball high into the empty net with 13 minutes to go which handed them the game to the delight of the small amount of travelling fans.
The final whistle brought to an end my 8th match of my Easter extravaganza before it finishes at Southend tomorrow & Cheltenham Town on Friday. My god I love my hobby. The best thing about tonight however was probably the hanging around after the game before strolling across the road to Hannah’s flat next door to Wembley Stadium which meant I didn’t have to stand in that ridiculous Wembley Way queue for the Tube. I will be doing this soon though with a number of trips to Wembley booked in April & May.
What Were The Statistics?
England 1-2 Netherlands
Attendance – 82,823
Price of ticket – £25
Programme – Free
Car Parking – £5 a day at Wembley Park Underground Station
Miles Travelled – 0 (Staying in Wembley)
Southend United vs. Sheffield United – 30/03/2016
Cheltenham Town vs. Grimsby Town – 01/04/2016