Wembley Trip – Friday 10th November 2017 – England v Germany

All the names of the walking football regulars went into the hat and the lucky four came out, winning a trip to Wembley, by courtesy of the Tigers Trust, to see England play Germany, with transport provided. It doesn’t get much better, does it, playing the four times, and current, world champions, on home turf.

So, the gang of four – Dave Jackson, Denis Mills, Clive Musson and your writer, Rob Milner – met up just after midday and set off on the journey to the capital.

Our mode of transport was an EYMS coach – well, a large minibus to be more accurate, that looked like it had been to the moon and back!! No on-board toilet which, of course, removes that safety net needed on long journeys, for anyone who may not have 100% bladder control – normally the very young, the very old and ….. the very drunk!! As this was a ‘dry’ trip and our young travelling companions appeared to have at least reached puberty, the group most at risk was the four pensioners at the front of the bus!! Collectively we wished there was a plumber on board – to deal with any leaks!!

We need not have worried, our two drivers were happy to make pit-stops as required, so we had an incident-free drive to Wembley, arriving at the Pink Parking Zone in good time. When getting off the bus, Denis commented on how cold it was, expecting a Mediterranean climate, as we were 200 miles further south. My friends were also concerned that I was able to negotiate the rough surface of the car park, even with aid of a walking stick. No problem I reassured them, before we made our way to the stadium, up several flights of steps to get to the concourse, whereupon I purchased my usual four programmes, plus an extra one.

We waited outside the appropriate turnstiles for the best part of an hour, until they were opened at 6.30pm. Denis was still feeling the chill night, but Clive kept us all warmed up with his many stories of experiences working overseas for many years. It was like having Rudyard Kipling or Alan Whicker at our side!! Eventually, after waiting patiently like a bunch of drinkers waiting for the pub to open, or a group of benefit claimants waiting for the post office to open its doors so that they could cash their ‘giros’, we were allowed in and were quickly frisked before going up several escalators to the upper concourse.

After completing all the forms to get a loan, we bought a well-earned ‘refresher’ from the bar, before making our way to our seats. We didn’t know how far up Row 35 was going to, but we soon found out – in our section, Row 35 was at the very top!! Yes, we were close to heaven and at risk of having nose-bleeds!! (For those not familiar with the national stadium, think the away fans’ section at St. James’ Park, Newcastle; for those not familiar with either stadium, think …… very high and very steep). We certainly had a panoramic view to watch the game.

The match was preceded by a well observed acknowledgement of our armed forces, and war dead and injured. The trumpeted last post was followed by a short silence and the national anthems. Interestingly, both teams wore poppies on their shirts and participated jointly in the remembrance commemorations, which shows clearly that we are as one, when it comes to putting past conflicts aside, whilst honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice … on both sides.

So, the match kicked off – the first international football game to feature a video assistant referee, who had an easy evening, not being called upon once to use the technology. The game ended as it began – goalless, although, as Denis said on the journey home it could have been 3 -3. Yes, it could, if both teams had taken all their chances, including England’s best chance with more or less the last kick of the game. Whilst it’s great to see a couple of former Hull City players in our national side – Maguire and Livermore – there is also some sadness, as it makes you reflect on how many talented footballers have been allowed to move on, since we first entered the elite league almost ten years ago.

So, off we trundled, fairly happy with the result and performance, and I had another goalless draw to add to the only other full international I have attended (Malta 0 Moldova 0). I know I should have taken the lift back down or looked for the ‘down’ escalator, but we found ourselves going down the stairs, and Denis kept me company as I took them one at a time.

We returned to the coach and our exit from Wembley was as smooth and speedy as I have experienced; in fact our drivers did an excellent job there and back. We were all feeling a bit sleepy on the return journey but it was difficult to find a comfortable position due to the tightness of the seating, so there was only limited nodding off, once we had analysed the game. This situation at least gave Dave the chance to practice his Russian, in the hope that he will get another chance to interview Leo!!

The party arrived back at the Airco Arena at around 3.00am and we were all eagerly anticipating some shut-eye.

Rob Milner