The Pilgrimage – 09/10/2014
This was my first trip to Wembley so the game itself was less relevant than actually turning up and watching it.
The fact that San Marino were the visitors was far from a turn off as it meant this was the cheapest game of the Pilgrimage so far (30 quid for the two of us) and the place wasn’t overloaded. Only 55,000 people were there so it was relatively easy to get in and out.
Wembley is one of the world’s iconic venues and, while I’d never been to the original, the new one is a pretty cool place to watch football. It’s a vast arena, but the viewing is good, the amenities are what you’d expect in a modern venue and in the arch it has its signature structure. Everything you’d want in a football ground.
We arrived about two and a half hours before kick-off, just to be on the safe side. I had to find the box office as we had to get our tickets re-printed – the originals had arrived in NZ a couple of days after we left. Wembley’s big, so we had a fair bit of walking to do from the train station to find what we were looking for.
After picking up the tickets we went to the England store and got a programme and a half-and-half scarf, then hung around the Club Wembley entrance celebrity spotting… although the only celebrity we spotted before we got bored was Trevor Brooking, who signed a few autographs within touching distance (no, we didn’t touch).
Soon enough we were allowed in so we headed to our seats to soak up the atmosphere of an empty stadium. The marching band did their bit, the players warmed up, the ground slowly filled up and then it was time for kick-off. The most impressive thing in the build up was the massive banners with the two teams’ logos held up by gigantic inflatable sponsors cylinders.
The game itself wasn’t a stunner, as expected. England had the ball for most of it, and when they didn’t they pretty much got it back straight away. It finished 5-0 and should really have been a few more but no-one cared too much. The first Mexican Wave started less than half an hour in, which pretty much said it all.
The highlight for me was Andros Townsend, of Spurs reserves, cutting inside and drilling home the goal of the game right in front of us. Danny Welbeck also finished neatly down our end. Oh, and the brilliantly clear almost full moon rose over the stadium near the end to make for a decent photo.
There wasn’t much atmosphere to speak of as there was no stress on the pitch. The match felt like just another one of London’s many tourist attractions and Nathan and I certainly weren’t the only people at Wembley for the first time. There were a lot of phones out taking photos. Most of the upper tier was empty and, while there was a supporters band in attendance, they were really just going through the motions. They didn’t need to do much more.
It was a bit of a struggle to get away from the stadium, with the good old English rail system running reliably late. That meant the queues were more pronounced than I’d have hoped. Thankfully it wasn’t a full house otherwise it would have been a very late night indeed.