Fearing the worst yet still going along with the momentum, in other news the League has started.

15 08 2010
England 2 Hungary 1
International Friendly

A couple of months ago the Jet Set decided to go to London. Due to the availability of stuff  the date we picked coincided with international friendly week. Last year we also chose international friendly week to visit London but England were playing away on that occasion. This was really lucky as we were staying in a hotel that was literally next to Wembley Stadium, the prospect of being surrounded by a load of shaven-headed geezers didn’t really fill us with gladness.

As the Jet Set are Wales fans you could possibly think that we should go and watch Wales, especially  as they were also playing on these particular August Wednesdays , but there are extenuating circumstances; last year Wales were playing in Montenegro and that was far too complicated to even bother considering. This year Wales were playing at home in Llanelli, against Luxembourg. To the outside observer my off-hand dismissal of  watching Wales probably doesn’t seem right. Let me explain the situation. First there are the practicalities; the bloody game was being played a tortuous 5 hour journey away from north Wales in bloody Llanelli. The timing of the match meant that I wouldn’t get to Cardiff until after midnight and this is too late to do anything civilised. Then consider the fact that  we’ve been to Parc-Y-Scarlets anyway plus throw in  the political protest we’ve decided to make against the Football Association of Wales.

Our protest has one basic beef; the FAW don’t make it particularly easy for those in the north to follow football. First they insist that all Welsh Cup Finals are played in Llanelli, then they schedule 4 out of 5 of Wales’  home qualifiers for Friday nights, then they schedule England away for a Tuesday night, then, to top it all, all international friendlies are now held in south Wales. The FAW could have scheduled this match for Wrexham even if it only has three sides, because Wales are PLAYING FUCKING LUXEMBOURG. 

The decision is not a surprise because since 1999 the FAW have decided to play a total 4 international matches at the Racecourse, all of the matches were friendlies. To rub salt in the wound the 4 matches they chose to reward the north Walean football public with involved the following titans of world football; Canada, New Zealand, Liechtenstein and Norway.  The meagre selection failed to put off the north Walean, even the games against Canada and New Zealand were sellouts. The best thing you can say about the decision to hold the game in Llanelli is that Swansea’s Loyalists don’t get to put their flags up.

Therefore we booked our trip to London. Just before we departed for the metropolis we found out that it was only £20 for a ticket for England v Hungary at Wembley. This looked too good to turn down; we’ve never been to Wembley and it’s usually about £60 for any sort of ticket there. We pushed misgivings about the character of England’s fans to the back of our minds and ordered tickets.

London is really great when you’re a tourist.  We arrived on Tuesday and it rained all of Tuesday, the tourist traps are particularly charming in the rain. The rain was also was really great for our guided walk around St. Paul’s. London has so much to offer on Wednesdays as well, we spent the morning surrounded by Americans in shorts and the rest of the day surrounded by mute tourists in a hurry. We tried to imbibe culture but Van Gogh’s Sunflowers were constantly obscured by mute tourists spending whole nanoseconds in contemplation. At other times our main activity was avoiding eye contact with commuters, people much more important than the likes of us, as they barged past.  Thankfully we made it to Marlybone station in time for the train to the ground.

After buying the match tickets we doubted the wisdom of such a move. We knew we’d be stuck behind the band, or surrounded by knuckle-draggers, or morons, or idiots, or even worse the arriviste nouveau-fans. Just after we set foot on to the train these misgivings seemed misplaced as the atmosphere was very sedate. Then one bloke uttered his opinion. This utterance resulted in a frank exchange of views.

We can never work out how people develop such vehement positions with such little information at their disposal, but that’s the beauty of football fans. One bloke, possibly a disgruntled Arsenal fan, maybe a bitter Spurs fan, had one idea in his head and it wouldn’t shift; Arsene Wenger was crap. It didn’t matter what any one else said or what evidence they used, they couldn’t shake him free of the idea. Wenger couldn’t handle the best players, he’ll never win the league again, he was crap, crap, crap. The more evidence his mates, and those dragged into the maelstrom,  pointed out the louder he became.

When there was a lull in the conversation some bloke attempted to start the “No Surrender to the IRA” but thankfully the song died a death. We held hopes that a couple of sophisticates opposite, a WAG-esque young lady and a besuited banker-type, might inject a touch of decorum but their visages radiated contempt. Hell is other people, as someone once said. About ten minutes into the journey Wembley loomed into view and it wasn’t a moment too soon. Man Wembley was a big place.

The arch was massive, the sides of Wembley were massive, the amount of people rushing past was massive. We were all slightly late. Just outside the turnstiles we were greeted by charming young stewards. They warned about the use of cameras, yes that’s right warned, not told, not ordered, just warned. And to think that we thought people living in London were rude!!! Wembley is so big we had to use three escalators to get to our tier. As we rushed to our seats we felt safe in the knowledge we were the last two places in the row, a fact we’d double-checked when booking. We found the right row but shock horror!!!!  The seat numbers on our tickets were the seat numbers of  seats  in  the middle of the row. Needless to say some people were already sitting in them. Luckily the two seats at the end of the row were free, which was nice.

Thankfully we’d missed the plea for our deity to come and save our medieval institution of social control so  all we had to do was take in the enormity of our surroundings. Watching matches on TV doesn’t quite prepare you for the size of the place. If we thought it looked big on the outside on the inside Wembley was even bigger. Yes Wembley definitely was big, and when we say big, we mean B-I-G. First of all there’s the span of the roof, it feels like there’s half a mile between opposite sides.  The size of the place wasn’t the only impressive thing; even though we were far from the action we had a clear view. Each seat has enough leg room to provide very comfortable viewing, this probably explains the size of Wembley.

Just after we settled into our seats we were still worried about the crowd but they didn’t turn out to be too bad. Firstly we may have been placed in the same end as the England fans band worse but the stadium acoustics meant that we could hear the 500 or so Hungarian fans as well. There was an equalisation of noise if you like. The fans around the Jet Set were none of the feared, we noticed ex-public schoolboys (to judge from their accents), middle-aged normal people and a smattering of Hungarians. The biggest noise we heard wasn’t Loyalist anthem but posh moaning in an accent that is probably used to order the butler around, if I hadn’t heard such constant moaning about something or other my Wembley experience would have been less annoying.

The fucker in question had a bee in his bonnet about Jack Wilshire. He kept reminding us every 3 minutes that “Jack” was on the bench. I don’t know why Fabio was ignoring our football expert, I’m not sure he needed reminding which players he had on the bench. The fucker kept reminding everyone that “Jack” should be seen at the earliest possible opportunity, he was unrelenting, unyielding, unending. The Jet Set couldn’t help thinking  of the arriviste Arsenal fan stereotype that appears from time to time on the WSC messageboard or that twat Jack Whitehall (he told Metro that his favourite possession was an Arsenal season ticket.).

The Jet Set may have doubted our self-control in the past but if we can spend nearly two hours in close proximity with one of the biggest corrosive phenomena for football culture (the people who replace the old fans – They may be able to afford the luxury of being a modern fan but deep down they don’t have the same feeling for football as the old fans. Their support is simply fashion-led) then we’re not doing too badly. Thankfully we could focus on the match when his moaning became part of the ambient noise.

England were quite good and they could pass the ball well when they tried. They even looked quite lively although this didn’t rouse the crowd very much. The first half didn’t really contain much action however. We missed a disallowed goal because of our need to slake a thirst. Whilst we were at the bar being deprived of £3 for a “medium” coke we noticed that if you happened to be hungry you could add a hot dog to the medium drink. You would be charged £7.20 for the privilege of consuming this “great deal”. We popped over to the merchandise counter to buy a programme, £6 they wanted. We suddenly found we  could do without a programme. Ah ha Watson!! We’re slowly paying for Wembley!

The second half saw some goals and it wasn’t too difficult to suppress a chuckle when Hungary scored. The crowd may have turned on your humble narrator but  just as we were getting used to idea of  telling people “Oh yes we’ve seen England lose at home, it was just like ’53!!” Steven Gerrard smashed the ball in. Then just as we were getting used to the equaliser Stevie dribbled the ball around the area by slaloming through the despairing lunges of  Hungarian defenders and then smashed the ball home. Curses! At fulltime, we rushed for the station moving cheek by jowl with the suits from the Club Wembley seats.

 

Bangor City 2 Neath Athletic 1
Welsh Premier League

Lee Trundle, Soccer AM’s favourite showboater, was back in the Welsh Premier League and playing for Neath. Hurrah!!! By all accounts, he was said to be earning roughly £3000 a week. Someone at Neath was obviously splashing the cash around down there because Trundle was just one of several new signings for the boys from the Gnoll. Last time they were rumoured to have spent loads they got a hammering from Bangor, we all hoped the same would happen again.

There was a flurry of furious activity in the club shop today as the fabulously stylish new kits were on sale. We arrived on to the terracing to see Bangor with all their metaphorical guns blazing. We were playing some lovely stuff, the passes were stroked, runs were made and the ball was doing most of the work. Then we got a penalty and Dave Morley stroked the ball home, this was going to be a good day!

Then Neath scored and this wasn’t quite so good. It didn’t get any better before half time when Bangor had a clear penalty waved away. In fact several challenges that should have resulted in Bangor free kicks were waved away. We got used to this pattern. By the by Trundle didn’t do much in the first half.

During the second half the play was mostly Bangor’s, in fact it was all Bangor. We pushed them back and back. All Neath could offer were sporadic attacks as Trundle cut an increasingly forlorn figure up front. The first half story of fouls without free kicks continued during the second half. We  could have had another penalty for a clear-cut foul yet nothing was given. Bangor continued to press but the Farrar Road faithful began to lose heart as another goal seemed far off. Then Bangor’s pressure finally paid off, we earned a penalty. Yes we finally had another penalty!

Dave Morley strode calmly towards the ball and calmly kicked the ball goalward, the keeper guessed correctly and made a good save. Luckily for us Sion was on to the rebound quickly and crossed the ball back to Eddie Jebb. Eddie controlled the ball and smashed it past the defenders. With that Bangor won the game and we could celebrate a satisfying win.

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