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Wembley Stadium, London
FA Trophy Final
Ebbsfleet United v Torquay United

Saturday, May 10th, 2008, 3pm
By Martin Hart

If someone at the start of this year had said to me, 'Martin, you'll be going to the FA Trophy Final at Wembley on May 10th' I would have lamped them, but that became reality last weekend as I was one of an estimated 25,000 Ebbsfleet United supporters in a very respectable 40,186 crowd at the stunning Wembley Stadium now, for a Scottish bloke to say that Wembley is stunning is impressive!)

This whole story came about through my recent alignment with the website www.myfootballclub.co.uk - where we the paying members) basically own a major share in the running of Ebbsfleet United, so to be a part of a special day at Wembley only a month after paying 35 for a year's membership to MyFC was quite something special.

The journey south was comfortable, I left late Friday evening and took the Sleeper train down to London, arrived at Euston at 7:45am Saturday morning, headed up to base camp for the weekend (Lea Valley Youth Hostel in Cheshunt), dumped my suitcase then headed on the first train back into London. I was back at Liverpool Street station by 11am - armed with my Ebbsfleet United scarf and match ticket for the biggest game of my season.

This was to be a particularly memorable day for me, purely because it was my first visit to Wembley, I also met so many nice people and fellow MyFC'ers and got the result on the park that I wanted.... more about that last point later.

The journey to the ground was simple. Some of the MyFC guys had arranged a pre & post-match party at Wembley Park sports club, five minutes walk from the ground, and I knew where I was going anyway but it was still a case of following the crowds and chatting to my fellow MyFC members whilst looking in awe at the feat of engineering genius called Wembley Stadium.

As I just eluded to, the pre-match entertainment consisted of a meeting of several hundred MyFC members from all over the world at Wembley Park. I ended up speaking to fans from afar a field as Scotland, England, Ireland, Canada, Spain and even two guys who had come all the way from Boston for the game.... that's Boston, USA and not Boston in Lincolnshire .

The Torquay fans were easy to mix with before the game, I think both sets of fans went to Wembley with the same intention - to have a great day out. I have to give them credit for making the day so memorable, their fans brought passion, colour and contributed to a spectacular atmosphere on the day.

My first thoughts on seeing the ground... "wow", but this wasn't the first time I had been to the Wembley area, it was though the closest I had got to the stadium - and it is simply a magnificent stadium both inside and outside. Wembley truly is an amazing stadium - it took a lot longer and cost a lot more than expected, but it was well worth the wait... even for a Scottish bloke

The game wasn't a classic, but I guess that's the type of game to expect of a Wembley cup final. Torquay dominated the first 20 minutes and should have been a goal up by the time Ebbsfleet won a penalty four minutes before the break. Chris McPhee missed it (or you could argue that it was well-saved by Martin Rice in The Gulls goal), but his pain would only last 3 minutes as he would pop up to slot in at the back post a minute before the break after terrific work by the impressive John Akinde. The man relegated from the Football League with Torquay last season had come back to haunt them at Wembley... a classic tale that one. The second half was largely non-eventful and when the final whistle went I could feel the trickle of a tear running down my face. Ebbsfleet United had won 1-0 and given me a wonderful day out too.
The atmosphere was absolutely amazing. The 40,000-odd crowd was the second biggest in the 29-year history of the trophy (only bettered by the 54,000+ at the 2007 Final), and it really felt like there were that many fans there.

The stewarding was very relaxed. I was probably quite fortunate given that I was sitting on the second row from the front, I didn't see any heavy-handedness from the Old Bill. I think the Police had the same intentions as everyone else - to have as relaxed a day as possible.
People who say that Wembley is over-priced in terms of food have hit the nail on the head. I can't remember how much everything cost, but I chose not to eat inside the ground because it is so pricey. Saying that though, a match programme only cost 3... compare that to a programme for the FA Cup Final this weekend (12), and you see the difference depending on the occasion.

Getting away after the game was something I'll never forget. Standing outside the stadium after the game watching the throng of humanity wind its way down Olympic Way is a picture that will live with me forever.... then to, 5 minutes later, actually be a part of it was remarkable. In terms of outside the ground, the Police are fabulously drilled in terms of getting fans onto the Underground at Wembley Park station. I can't say anything about the other stations as I only covered the Wembley Park route before and after the game.

After the match, it was back to Wembley Park sports club for a few more pints, and the chance to reflect on a famous Ebbsfleet victory with my fellow Fleet fans and MyFC friends. I left the meet shortly before 7pm, and was back in Cheshunt around half 8. I managed to catch some of the highlights on Sky at the youth hostel, before turning in around 10pm and preparing myself for what lay ahead the following day.

My overall thoughts of the day... It was quite simply a day that I will never forget. The only thing that I was devastated about was losing my beloved Ebbsfleet Wembley scarf at Liverpool Street station after the game, but I wouldn't have swapped the whole day for anything in the world. Cup finals are a special occasion, this was my first English cup final - and I sure as hell hope that it won't be my last.


 

 

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