The Pilgrimage (Part 2) – 05/10/2017
Theo and I headed to our first football match of the trip – England v Slovenia at Wembley – after a full day of tourist stuff. I wasn’t sure that was the best of plans (the amount of tourist stuff) only a couple of days after arriving, but we managed remarkably well.
The tube ride from Westminster Station to Wembley Park went quickly, even in rush hour, and we made it to the ground in good time. Apparently a tube strike had been scheduled for match day and was set to cause all sorts of disruption, but the crisis was averted late on and we didn’t have or notice any transport problems.
Wembley’s arch is impressive and we took the obligatory pic in front of it as we walked up Wembley Way. A visit to the Stadium store saw Theo buy himself an England scarf to remember the match by. I wasn’t convinced by the largely red and white colour scheme, but it more than paid for itself as the evening cooled down.
We got ourselves inside the stadium right on opening time. Security presence was strong but not overbearing. I was curious to see how that played out as in London itself it is far more overt than I’ve ever seen. At just about every key tourist spot we went to there was a pair of armed cops in light body armour and with big guns making sure, I guess, that terrorists knew they were on notice. Many of the bridges also now have barriers between road and footpath and the entrances to some of the parks are guarded by concrete barriers large enough to stop cars but not the flow of people.
It’s quite sobering, actually.
Anyway, the game wasn’t up to all that much. The teams ran around a bit, created a few half chances and, well, not too much else. You could tell the crowd was bored as about midway through the second half the place was raining paper planes. The highlight of the evening was the plane that languidly drifted down from the top tier, eased itself into Joe Hart’s 18 yard box, banked right in front of goal and flew into the back of the net. A great effort!
At the time it looked like that would be the only goal of the night.
We decided to take off a few minutes before the end to avoid the ‘rush’. Unfortunately, it seemed, most of the 61,000 at Wembley had the same idea. Half way down Wembley Way we heard a muted cheer. Of course – a goal. Scored by Spurs’ own Harry Kane, by now Theo’s first confirmed hero.
It was late, though, and it was England so I wasn’t that bothered. We certainly won’t be leaving early when we’re back at Wembley for our upcoming Tottenham games, though.
There was a slight squeeze at Wembley Park station as we made our way to our train back to London but, once on board, it was remarkably free of people. The trip back to town went quickly and we were back in the hotel before 10.30pm, which was the greatest result of the night.
This match, as always intended, was a nice little taster of what’s to come. We’re off to Ireland now and hopefully we’ll be able to some local football over there with ex-Swifts Marcus Woods. I’m interested to see how that compares to what we have at home.