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Wembley Stadium
FA Trophy Final
  York City v Newport County
Saturday, May 12th, 2012, 3pm
& Championship Play Off Final West Ham v Blackpool
By Owen Robson


1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):

My first visit to the new Wembley as a spectator (I had a look around a few years ago just after it opened). Born in York, I am nevertheless a West Ham fan, but I see York now and again and became an official part-timer for the day!

2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?

A friend drove five of us down. He had booked a car parking space at the stadium in advance (for £30!). The ground is a little like an optical illusion. It’s further away than you think when you approach it by car. Several local traders offered cheaper parking at their (presumably) premises, but they looked well iffy.

3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?

We went to a pub called the Torch. Typical pub near a football ground. Strangely, they claimed to have run out of draught bitter just after 12 noon. There are several fast food outlets between the pub and the Wembley Park tube, although pricey compared to home. The locals seemed rather indifferent about the match.

4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?

I would defy anyone not to be impressed by the size of the stadium. We went through the automated turnstiles, to be met by several stewards who insisted on searching us. This consisted of a quick pat on the arms. One of us had a rucksack with him, and although no search was made, he had a plastic bottle of water in an outside pocket. This was confiscated, and the contents put in plastic cup for him to drink. No matter where you looked, there was a steward of some description. The toilets were a little better than your average Prem ground, but not much. The beer was expensive (£4.70) and it was extremely poor quality.

We were at the back of the lower tier next to the press box. An excellent view, plenty of legroom, and the stadium looked magnificent. Just under 20,000 were dwarfed.

5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, facilities etc..

An excellent game. Newport missed a good chance early on, but York got stronger as the half progressed and had some good chances themselves. York improved in the second half, and the result was never really in doubt, Newport looked toothless up front after the break, even though they hit the post late on. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the presentation from our seats, so some of the fans climbed into the front of the empty press box to get a better view. A Jobsworth steward started trying to stop this, but I think he eventually let them move (I watched the presentation on the big screen).

6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:

I assume it must be a nightmare getting away. We stayed until the players left the pitch, and we decided to go back to the pub for another drink to let the crowds disperse. Once we were clear of the car park , we were funnelled to Wembley Park tube, with no possibility of going anywhere else. We left the tube station and returned to the pub and they now had bitter back on. Strange.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

The ground is a million miles better than the old Wembley, and I’m looking forward to going back to see it hopefully full for the play-off final. I can imagine the atmosphere being something special when ‘Bubbles’ or any other clubs’ song is being belted out. If I have a couple of criticisms, the PA, like at a lot of grounds, was hopeless. If the fans were quiet, you could just about hear it, but the clarity and quantity was terrible. And the ticket price. £30 for a game between two Conference sides was a bit steep.

Championship Play Off Final
West Ham United v Blackpool
Saturday, May 19th, 2012, 3pm

1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):

My first visit to the new Wembley as a West Ham United fan. I went to the 1980 FA Cup Final but I was in the Arsenal end. I was looking forward to watching a big match with my own fellow supporters with me.

2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?

I live in York. My journey was uneventful. Simple day return on the train.

3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?

I knew it was going to be exceptionally busy, so I went to central London for a drink or 4. A quick 30 minute ride on the tube brought me to a seething mass of people at 2pm. I regret to say that on the way to the stadium people were urinating quite openly. There doesn’t seem to be any toilets between the tube and the ground, but you’d think people would have some dignity. I must have seen well over 50 people doing this. It took me half an hour to get to the stadium, purely because of the amount of people there.

4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?

This time I was in the upper tier. The view was very similar to the Newcastle away end. The Blackpool end wasn’t full. Apparently, because they had sold their full allocation the last time they were there, they asked for the same allocation. Because of the segregation policy, they couldn’t return any unsold tickets. This was Blackpool’s fault, since they sold tickets randomly. If they had sold the tickets in blocks, they could have returned a few thousand seats to let more Hammers into the ground. As such, the crowd was a little over 10,000 below capacity. The atmosphere was a pleasure to behold. Everyone I saw stood up during the entire game, and none of the stewards made any attempt to ask us to sit.

5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, facilities etc..

For some rather odd reason (this is West Ham after all!), I was extremely confident we would win, and win easily. We could have been 3 down within 20 minutes, but we got better, and when Carlton Cole put us ahead, I looked forward to my hopes being proved right for a change. Amusingly, the guy next to me missed the goal, as he had to go to the toilet. Blackpool equalised shortly after the break, and then caused us a few anxious moments. Three minutes from the end Ricardo Vaz Te scored and the West Ham end went ballistic. Almost straight from the restart a cross went across the West Ham box and to safety, and a half hearted penalty appeal later we had won. Cue celebrations that will last in my memory forever. Overall, swap the strikers around and Blackpool would have won. The tannoy belted out several songs we could clap and sing along to, and an impromptu party started.

I tried to join the queue for the toilets at half time, but I had no chance unless I had half an hour to spare. So (sorry all), I sneaked in through one of the exits. People were ram packed waiting to go. A fan next to me said ‘Here we are in what is supposed to be one of the premier stadiums in the world, and we are four deep waiting to go to the toilet.’

6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:

Because of the party, most of the West Ham fans stayed for a good 30 minutes after the final whistle. On leaving, everyone was funnelled up to the Wembley Park tube station. When I got to the platform, after about another half an hour, I had to wait a good 10 minutes for a train (why don’t they put on extra trains for big events?), and we were all packed like the proverbial sardines. I got back to central London in about 20 minutes.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

Unforgettable. I keep watching the DVD and still get quite emotional. My ticket cost me £58, which I think was too expensive. Something between £40-£50 would have been more acceptable. Having said that, it was one of the best £58 pounds that I’ve ever spent!


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