Have you ever been to Wembley Stadium? To see your team, to hear the roar, to drink in the atmosphere (and the overpriced beer of course) to hear the chants and cheers or to simply be part of the game – it truly feels fantastic. If you have read some of my other posts you will know that Mr ESLT and I are both avid Rugby League fans however we support different team. I am a Hull FC fan (black and white) and Mr ESLT a Hull Kingston Rovers fan (red and white). So when Mr ESLT’s team made it to the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final against the Leeds Rhinos (another Yorkshire team) I had to think long and hard about going with him. Could I handle the sea of red and white and biting my tongue every time they scored? If it meant a trip to our national stadium, of course I could.
Wembley is situated in northwest London in the borough of Brent. The original Wembley was demolished in between 2002 and 2003 to make way for shiny new stadium that stands on the same site today. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to visit the old stadium however friends and family did and I love to hear their stories of the stadium, especially my nana who visited a couple of times with Hull FC in the 1980s. The ‘new’ Wembley was opened in 2007 and seats 90,000 people for football and rugby matches which makes it the largest stadium in England and the second largest in Europe. My team was lucky enough to get to the Challenge Cup final themselves in 2008 so I made the journey down. Back then the budget was slightly tighter so our seats were up in the gods! If you suffer from vertigo I would probably dig deeper in your pockets and buy better seats as I’m sure there is the chance of a nosebleed up there. I regret to say we lost and the coach journey home was a very long one!
Mr ESLT was elated when his team won the semi-final and it was confirmed that they were to make the journey down to London. Especially because it was to be the first time they had played at Wembley since 1986. Tickets were available to buy at various prices depending on where you wanted to sit in the stadium and because Mr ESLT had waited 19 years to return to Wembley he pushed the boat out for us and bought the top tier tickets at £80 each. This gave us awesome seats in the stadium, 17 rows from the front on the 40 meter line.
Any sports fan in England who gets the chance to see their team play at Wembley will tell you about the pride that they feel as they walk up Wembley Way. Wembley Way connects Wembley Park tube station and the stadium. Before any match you will find people singing and dancing all the way up it – anticipation replaced with excitement and elation about being there in the first place. Here you will find a number of food vans and stalls together with street hawkers selling Wembley memorabilia of the day and the usual idiots who started drinking on the train down at 8.00am who probably won’t remember a second of the game!
The Wembley Arch that stretches over the stadium is probably the first thing you will see and in my opinion is the most recognisable feature of Wembley together with the statue of Bobby Moore (who captained the only England side ever to win the World Cup, in 1966) which stands at the main entrance Wembley still looks brand new near 10 years on. It also has a lot of escalators up to and down from the upper tiers which is great is you are not the most mobile or fittest person. Even at capacity you will never struggle to get a beer or a pie on the concourse, there are loads of stalls. At rugby matches you can take your drinks to your seats, I’m not sure about other sports. If you are carrying a big bag with you it will be searched, primarily for booze, taking your own food in is allowed.
Despite the excitement and build up unfortunately for Mr ESLT his team lost (in record fashion) which of course put a slight downer on the whole experience, however he was still very pleased that his team had made it there in the first place and he is keeping his fingers crossed for next season. Even at the best of times the tubes in London are always chocker block, so I’m sure you can imagine what Wembley Park station is like when 90,000 people have piled out of the stadium. We found a pub to drink away Mr ESLT’s sorrows until the crowds had died down. So as the title suggests, win or lose Wembley is a great stadium and well worth the visit even if it’s to see a sport you aren’t particularly interested in – I’m visiting again in November to see the Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs NFL game even though I’ve never seen a game in my life and don’t even know one rule. Who cares what sport or who wins – I’m sure the atmosphere will be intoxicating!