Inspired by DidIt and BR’s Dortmund travelogue, I thought I might have a crack at writing a post about a day out at Wembley in 1998. Ant wrote a summary at the time so it shouldn’t be too difficult. I hope you enjoy it.
The day begins early for my old man and his ex-work colleague, JC, as they leave Edmonton, North London for Wembley at 8.30am for the 3.00pm kick-off. Whereas my brother, Ant and I leave Nottingham (100 miles further away) at 8.00am, still there’s nothing like being prepared.
Nottingham station still being built
We arrive at The Century at 11am to find Dad, JC and our nephew Matt already installed. (The Century on Forty Avenue, up from Wembley Park had become a bit of a family tradition with trips to Wembley in the late 1970s and 1987 versus Liverpool. It’s now a Texaco garage I believe).
The day is a bit of a scorcher and JC has decided early on to dispense with any sartorial elegance and protect his pate with a knotted handkerchief.
I’d made a whole loaf of mushroom and garlic pate sandwiches to soak up the early beers but there were a few noses turned up at the prospect of them at first. After the 3rd pint kicked in, they all disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Ant decides a few fan photos might be in order, including a group of Terry McDermotts in full kit.
Dad looks quite red by midday and confronts Ant in the toilets with, ‘At my age, you have to hunt around for a while to find it and it drops off!’ This comment was later explained, ‘Well you have to remember that I was in the Navy and all the nice girls love a sailor and I’ve been married twice as well’. Both the beer and the sun were having an effect! N.b. if you ever wonder why Ant and me occasionally indulge in strange behaviour; well the answer is, ‘It’s genetic’!
I’d made some red cardboard fez hats and once on, my old man doesn’t take his off the whole day along with a shirt, cardigan and coat in 80 degrees of heat. The old boys decide the sandwiches aren’t sufficient and depart for the local cafe. It later transpires that my Dad refused to have any of JC’s fresh hot chips despite being offered them on several occasions but then proceeded to finish off someone else’s stone cold chips from another table. Filthy hound.
Ant, Matt and me enjoy the pre-match build-up with more beer, some rousing singing and a cavalcade of stretch limos, jags and an Arsenal open topped bus.
We get in the ground early, as was the tradition in those days, Ant and me in separate seats from Dad, JC and Matt (poor Matt). Having blown up dozens of red and white balloons, we realise we have no idea of the team line-ups, who’s fit or anything. I suppose 1998 was almost pre-internet days, certainly pre-blogs and 24 hour sports news coverage. Things seemed so much simpler even 15 short years back. The chap behind us was very complimentary about Mr Durkin, the referee and the whole Newcastle team, ‘ginger midget…..homosexual fish-face’ etc etc. Homophobia, what’s that?
Meanwhile, Matt and the old codgers are having a terrific time in their seats. After the game my Dad said ‘People kept jumping up anticipating a goal and I didn’t see either of ours’. Matt said, ‘Grandad nearly had a fight with the bloke in front when he was singing, ‘Stand up if you hate Man U’.
The match passes in a blur. Overmars scores in the first half. The half time chat seems to centre around how far out Marc was when he scored. Wembley at that time had no big screen. Blink and you missed it. It’s so different now at the Emirates, where you immediately see a reply from three different angles. Super Nic Anelka gets the second, but was he offside?, we’ll have to find out when we watch the highlights later. ‘We’ve Got that Double feeling’ and ‘Arsene Wenger’s Magic Hat’ are sung over and over again, joy abounds.
We meet up with Matt and the scrotes after the game and my old man has now added a Champions T shirt to his other 6 layers of clothing.
Those twin towers- ahhhhhhhhhhh.
The plan was to go back to The Century but the queues for the tube make this impossible. We decide to walk to The Greyhound on Wembley High Road. My Dad doesn’t like the idea of walking, especially as he’s going to have to walk back to the tube later. Even Arsenal’s second double can’t cheer the old bugger up! Eventually we arrive and the beer flows. The Geordies are excellent in defeat, determined to enjoy their day out at Wembley regardless of the result. A fire Engine in Newcastle livery turns up outside the boozer and a photo opportunity ensues.
Spot the Cockney
Spot the Muppets
Matt and the old boys call it a day at 7.15pm. Ant and me have until 10pm before our train is due to leave St Pancras. Several more beers ensue. We manage to find the highlights in one of the pubs and finally get to see how far out Overmars was and whether Nic was offside. We finally set off for the tube station at 9pm but Ant finds needing the toilet a problem, so we dive into an Irish pub. It’s full of Geordies singing away so we decide to have a swift one. The Geordies invite the ‘Cockneys’ to sing a song, so we bellow out ‘Arsene Wenger’s magic, he wears a magic hat’. Leaving the pub, we feel peckish again and decide to dambust a large doner kebab.
Getting to the train on time suddenly becomes an issue and we look to be doing ok until I get stuck at an automatic ticket barrier and am in too much of a state to leap it with the grace of a gazelle. Safe to say, getting on the platform to see the last train to Nottingham pulling out of the station wasn’t one of my highlights of the day!
We phone my Dad’s house and speak to my sister to arrange an overnight stop in North London. Apparently my sister struggled to explain to my old man what had happened. He apparently said, ‘Well, that takes the edge off it’ and ‘…but how did they miss the train, we left them at a quarter past seven? I really didn’t expect the day to end like this’…………………..and neither did we!
Written by chas