What a great, long-weekend and day at Wembley! Enjoyed it immensely…but it’s a tiring one and I’m still recovering in many ways today.
And I can’t believe it’s March already!
Okay, our weekend ‘in brief’…
Dog put into kennels on Friday morning; attended a funeral of a friend in the afternoon. Not too much drink in the after-events of the funeral; big weekend ahead of course. Mostly packed on the Friday, finished-off on the Saturday morning.
Departure / travel…
We were staying in a village in Buckinghamshire on Saturday & Sunday night (travelling by train to & from Wembley on the Sunday) and intended to set off in the car from home at 10:00am. Bit of a lazy, slow morning ‘coming round’ and actually set off just before 11:00am; stopping-off locally to get a couple of supplies, top-up the petrol and check the tyre pressures. Sat Nav on and we were away for about 11:20am with the Sat Nav showing an estimated arrival time of about 2:35pm. Stopped off once, arrived ‘down South’ just before 3:00pm.
Arrival / settling in…
Lovely welcome, lovely hotel, lovely area.
Got into a pub for just-turned 4:00pm and got crackin’ seats just in front of a big screen to, hopefully, watch the Premier League results filter in whilst sampling a few real ales. Pub was filling-up nicely and as the Norwich City v Leicester City game was showing 0-0 with a couple of minutes to go – CLICK! Over the channel went to the start of the England v Ireland rugby match, which both my wife & I had no idea was on. Didn’t find out the ‘0-1 to Leicester’ score until the next morning…
My wife, supporting Ireland [me England] along with another 2, possibly 3 other green, white & golds, ended up staying in the now cram-packed pub for the whole game. Afterwards we supped-up, moved onto the pub attached to our hotel, had another beer (my wife a fizzy water) and an evening meal and then ‘crashed out’ asleep about a very reasonable 10:15pm.
Before we left the first pub, however, I got talking to some locals and when they discovered the route I was planning (and was given by National Rail when I was investigating and booking our train tickets weeks ago) to Wembley; they strongly suggested that we get the Metro Underground service to Wembley Park station, rather than the train line to Wembley Stadium via Marylebone.
Well I wasn’t to know where we were staying was in ‘Zone 9’; the final zone covered by the underground system for London! Fortunately, our pre-bought tickets covered all systems / networks…
I also picked up some useful, local knowledge about which of the two curry houses to go to for our post-match meal (celebratory or otherwise) the next day…
The next morning…
Decent night’s sleep, showered, dressed and down for breakfast about 8:45am. Went back to the room for a brief period but shortly decided to do a drive-reccy to the train station not-only to see if it was ‘walkable’ but also due to the previous night’s train information.
The very kind information given to us in the pub actually caused us to look on-line the next morning and to our utter dismay the internet was showing signs that there were some fairly messy service interruptions due to signal failures in the early hours of Sunday morning!
So…we drove there – wasn’t really walkable, especially as I was suffering a little with a sore ankle – and got the exact same advice from the information desk as we were given the previous night in the pub. Underground system it was then (even though it didn’t ACTUALLY go underground at any point) and we had a direct service that stopped only 5 times and took a mere 35 minutes; as opposed to our earlier train option that took about an hour with one change.
We dropped the car back off at the hotel, got changed into our colours (more to follow on that) and meandered around the town in the cold, sunny morning to ‘take in some air’, see more of the place…and to wait for a pub to open (hopefully by 11:00am). As if pulled by the gravity of a black hole; we drifted to the pub where we had watched the rugby game, which was not only open but already had 5 or 6 blues in who had clearly just finished a pub breakfast and, who, were already on tea, coffee, lagers, ales and Guinness. A family of Liverpool fans entered about 30 minutes later.
Ever-so-very-slightly sluggish from the previous day’s / night’s drinking, I managed to ‘down’ 3 lagers in just 1 hour and 15 minutes as ‘a cure’, before ordering a rather expensive taxi [for a short, steep drive] to take us to the train station. Once there, we got chatting to a Leeds United fan on the platform whose brother lived in the town and, who, was ‘going corporate’ for the match through work. As a neutral he said he was looking forward to a good, entertaining game…and some quality football, he bemoaned; referring to his own team.
Wembley ‘here we come’…
In the final 10 minutes of our journey to Wembley Park station I got a text from my mate, Steve, who said that he’d just arrived at the Wembley Tavern; giving us directions from, fortunately, the station we were now arriving at.
I’d chosen to wear a 1960s, replica red & black top with a red & black scarf. Why? Well I knew it’d be mostly a sea of blue & white on our side and, so, why not bring another colour into it. And, more importantly, it’s an almost forgotten, classic Manchester City away colour in addition to an equally almost forgotten, classic maroon.
Have we only had one of each for one season in the last 10 years? I think so. And I hate that – I hate that the club brings out all blacks, all navy blues and an array of truly awful luminous yellows & greens.
Red & Black is not only a classic Manchester City kit but also a classic Neil Young Wembley kit too and, so, ‘why not?’ I thought – I’ve worn it at Wembley before.
Did I think for one moment about Liverpool fans wearing red & white? Of course I didn’t…and as I approached the “City fans only” Wembley Tavern, the door-person gave me a quick look up 7 down and said, “Red? Really?”, before smiling and letting me in.
Got in there, met Steve…and it was PACKED! A really narrow, longish pub and, with us both desperately needing the loo, it seemed to take for ever to fight our way through to the small toilets.
Had a chat; a bit of a sing-song, which was instigated by the head barman, sank a couple of beers and moved towards Wembley and to one of the outdoor kiosk bars. I enjoyed meeting our friend who had travelled over from Spain for the match and it was a good atmos in the tavern but…what a good move getting out was! Not only could I hear what anyone was saying to me; not only was it far less claustrophobic, not only could you get served far quicker but we were entertained to some fine cockney-style tunes by a couple of lads called ‘The Gents’. Really good fun tunes in the crisp sunshine before we set-off inside about 3:10pm.
Before getting into this cordoned-off entertainment area, however, I was met by two security fellows. With a smile on his face he gave my shirt a bit of a stare and said I thought they were Liverpool colours for a moment. It’s a good flippin’ job our fans knew a Manchester City top at first sight – it was definitely causing confusion that I found both amusing and a little sad [that it was hardly being recognised as a Manchester City shirt].
We had brought our own food; my wife ate her sandwich outside and was insisting that I ate something before I went in (orrr…bless her for looking after me). However, the breakfast and 7 pints that I’d already consumed over the last 4-and-a-bit hours had filled me up. So we snuck-inside a cheese sandwich and veggie sausage roll; both wrapped in foil but, thankfully, didn’t trigger the metal detection searches just beyond the turnstiles.
Half-way-up the many, many escalators a Steward held out his hand across my chest area and, again with a smile, said for one moment, “I thought you were a Liverpool fan then”.
We were in, did a quick reccy of our seats, had one more pint (and I shoved my veggie sausage roll down me) and we played the usual, ‘who could we spot first who we knew’ game.
Every Wembley trip - and without arranging it - we’ve ALWAYS bumped into people from my work, people from my wife’s work, people we’ve known for years / have been on holiday with (on two or three occasions), mates (on two or three occasions) and people from our local. In a City crowd of around 30,000, depending on the game, it’s quite incredible really.
On this occasion meeting Steve didn’t count, as he’d text / sort of pre-arranged that one. Whilst we were enjoying ‘The Gents’, Paul Power was stood amongst the crowd doing likewise, but he didn’t know us and so that doesn’t count either.
Therefore, on this occasion, we were a little shocked that we hadn’t met someone outside that we knew. However, it took less than 45 seconds from the start of our search for my wife to spot the 3 people who sit right next to us at the Etihad (who were then sat just 10 rows or so below us at Wembley)! That must have been very long odds indeed. Before the game we then bumped into Steve again, which was unplanned this time.
The game itself…
Although I thought we looked confident and better than Liverpool, it was a slow, almost chess-like game in the first half; with neither team seemingly willing to ‘sacrifice’ / ‘commit’ too much going forward…and I say that even though we had plenty of chances (far more than Liverpool) to go ahead and then go FURTHER ahead before the break.
So…0-0 at half time and not feeling too nervous at all.
Got a “free” pint at half time due to the massive confusion at one of the smaller kiosk and that was despite (honestly) waving a fiver around like a flag TRYING to pay. I wasn’t the only one who got a freebie, which felt like a real treat at a fiver-a-go! My wife, by then, just wanted a soft drink, which I couldn't find at the bar I went to.
The queue for the gents was ‘the’ worst I have ever known! Why so bad on this occasion I just don’t know. But I was desperate and just had to go before we took our seats for the second half. My wife waiting very patiently for me...
So what do you do when crammed in a gents’ toilets? Well…all you CAN do is have a bit of a laugh to break the otherwise silence and occasional groans of relief. One bloke said something amusing, another responded; another added something and before we knew it, it was a toilet filled with comedians and we were all having a right good laugh (probably not a good thing, in a way, when needing a wee so very badly).
But it passed the time and as I got to the urinal…GOAL! I had missed Fernandinho’s goal and our opener! Damn those inadequately-sized toilets…
The second half from ‘minute 50’ onwards…
Much faster-paced, even MORE chances for us and a few for them. I couldn’t sense a Liverpool goal coming – I wasn’t too nervous – and, therefore, didn’t see it coming. But as it slammed the base of our left-hand-post and came back out…the ball was then placed neatly into the back of our net.
As the final whistle ‘on the 90’ approached, I noted to my wife that Liverpool had used all 3 subs and that we hadn’t used one; adding that appeared to be very wise of our Engineer manager. And I think that proved just so – as was the case during most of the game; we seemed slightly fresher & livelier than our opponents in the extra-time-period too.
Extra time over – penalties it is…
Now I was nervous – not just the ‘anything can happen’ / ‘will our penalty takers hold their nerve’ thing but rather…what we’d all been talking about most of the time, which was about to be tested to the max! Would Pellegrini rue sticking-with Willy Caballero in the League Cup over Joe Hart.
Willy, in fairness, had kept his cool; looked sharp and had made a couple of really, really good saves in open play - at one stage in extra time he even remained calm & focussed at a shot that took TWO deflections before reaching him and his fixated stare.
Coin flipped – our end.
Coin flipped – Liverpool chose to go first.
First pen and Emre Can feigned slightly; sending Caballero to his knees and to his right as the cheeky Liverpool player chipped it into the middle.
Up stepped Fernandinho, a fairly confident striker of the ball from open play but one who can be a little erratic. A very good season so far from the Brazilian, he stepped up and…CRACKED THE POST!
But from there on in it was the “Willy Caballero show”! WHAT a time to put a fairly jittery City career, performance-wise, behind you and (go out?) in a blaze of City-folk, heroism glory! He was BRILLIANT!
Now…where do they sell family-size humble pie? I like to cook and, so, if someone out there can find me the recipe I don’t mind making it myself. Why? Because I need a massive slice of it! I’m not the only one of course; in fact, I didn’t meet anyone on the various ‘chat forums’ nor in person who disagreed with me when I said that we should play Joe Hart for this one.
But I did stick it in my pre-match Blog posting to a large degree and, so, it feels worse and I feel, therefore, like my slice of the humble pie should be a little bigger.
Well done – well done indeed Mr Caballero!
Heading back “home”…
Got a little lost for which direction to head back to Wembley Park station; asked a couple of high-vis guys who directed us correctly and met a MASSIVE, Police & Steward, sign-controlled crowd. Everyone – bar two, arrogant, argumentative City idiots – were in good spirits & voice and what must have been 40 minutes to get a few hundred yards passed in good time. Needed another big wee though…
Didn’t particularly like the song some Blues were repeatedly signing on the way out of the ground and whilst waiting in the escort area about us, ”…winning the cup with a pedo on the wing”; making reference to when the not-yet-convicted (at time of publication AND when the pillocks were signing it at Wembley) Adam Johnson played for us.
I did, however, like the song,
“There’s only onnnnnne Caballero;
He used to be sh**e but now’s he alright;
walking in a Willy wonderland.
So into the station, onto the platform and nearly everyone – and I’m MEAN nearly everyone – appeared to get on their trains / tube-trains…apart from us. It was cold, I STILL needed the loo and I must have spoken to the platform staff 3 times in the 30-minutes we were there as train, after train, after train left and the platform emptied of Blues.
Eventually it arrived; it stopped at every stop possible before our, ‘end stop’. We got a rather ridiculously, even more-expensive taxi back to the pub, I sank my 10th pint of the day (my wife had a pint of lime & soda with ice) and we bobbed over to the curry house. I had a veggie Jalfrezi as a main with my 11th and final pint (it was over 12 hours!) and my wife a lamb Rogan Josh with a more-sensible glass of coke (she was driving home the next day).
Heading and getting home…
Got home Monday afternoon and just in time to pick our doggy up a day earlier (didn’t expect that) and slipped into a more mellow-paced, post-celebration, afternoon session of alcoholic beverages.
Spoke to a neighbour soon after getting back who had done the day-trip, ‘coach there & back’ thing to & from Wembley and due to the extra time & pens; she arrived home about 1:00am.
She told me that when they’d stopped off at some ‘services’ in the Birmingham area some Liverpool moron let off a red flare inside, setting off the alarms and half-chocking several people in the process. Numpty.
She then enquired as to how-the-hell Liverpool fans had managed to sneak-in and then let off 4 or 5 flares in Wembley when they scored their goal? I shook my head and told her I was worried about them finding a veggie sausage roll as I entered the ground!
Great game, great win, great weekend in general and, hopefully, now a springboard to giving our Premier League campaign a morale-boosting rev-up; starting with…a trip to Liverpool tomorrow!
C’mon (again) City!