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Saturday, May 19, 2007

FA Cup Final

Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0 (after extra time)
FA Cup Final
Wembley Stadium, Wembley, Middlesex

FA Cup FinalMy second visit to English football's new home in the space of a week and today I had the privilege of attending the first FA Cup Final to be held at the new Wembley. Game aside (a stupendously tedious affair which you can read about elsewhere) this was a pretty special day out. My first FA Cup Final for 29 years (can you guess who won it then?). I remember being somewhat taken aback all those years ago at stumping up the fiver or whatever my ticket cost (1978: Ipswich 1 Arsenal 0, by the way), but not as taken aback as Mrs. Extreme Groundhopping was at my shelling out 80 quid today. I suspect a revenge shopping trip will be undertaken by my long suffering wife in the course of the next few weeks. I'll try not to go over ground I covered in last weeks report, so with that in mind here's my take on today's visit ...

FA Cup Final

Last week I was in row five behind the eastern goal, but today up with the Gods, seven rows back in the Upper Tier, level with the eastern goal line, on the opposite side from the Royal Box. Not a bad view it must be said although identifying a number of players proved to be difficult, as for reading the names on their backs - forget it. Entering through the Gate A turnstiles, stewards directed us towards the first of three shiny escalators (which are a total of 1310 feet in length) that take you up to the stadium's fifth level concourse (stairs are used to get punters down after the game).

FA Cup FinalNot as wide as it's counterpart at ground level - indeed it was quite congested as kick-off approached and also at the half-time break. Plenty of concession stands for food and drink (no sign of the mythical £8 burger) but toilets pretty packed out again and I managed to miss the opening exchanges of the second period while I patiently waited for a free urinal. The new stadium has apparently set a world record for the number of toilets in a public building - 2,618 of them. Where are they all?

Anyway. Seat definitely more comfortable than last week - something to do with the rake of the upper tier perhaps - giving a glorious view of the stadium, if not the players, and (contrary to what I had said last week about not being able to see the arch from inside the stadium) a fantastic view of the arch too (see panoramas). Also a closer hand view of the 7,000 ton roof structure - quite awesome. You really do have to be on the inside to appreciate the scale and magnitude of the place.

FA Cup Final

Pre-match entertainment included three huge balloons which floated over the pitch with acrobats suspended below. Names of all the previous winners of the world's most famous cup competition had been tastefully placed on hoardings at the front the upper tier, the first of three references to the Tractor Boys famous victory. The kit's of all the winning sides were also paraded around the pitch (by a group of school kids) while Kevin Beattie (the former Town and England international centre-back who played in Town's 1-0 triumph over the Gunners) was presented to the crowd along with other players who had competed in finals since the 1950's - a nice touch.

FA Cup Final

The acoustics of the stadium have been designed to cut down on sound pollution in the surrounding area so that the stadium "swallows" its own roar during matches. And that it does. The noise was quite incredible at some points during the game - despite the miserable fare being offered up on the pitch. There were periods in the second half when I thought my head was going to explode. The old Wembley roar, which was certainly up there decibel wise, has nothing on Wembley II.

FA Cup Final

Down below ninety minutes of the dullest football I've seen in quite sometime took place, followed by an extra thirty minutes of not quite such dull football, four minutes from the end of which the Premier League's leading marksman scored to give Chelsea a 1-0 victory. And the less said about all of that the better.

FA Cup Final

Both teams then did the 107 step climb up to the Royal Box (compared to 39 at the old place), to collect the silverware, with Chelsea following this up by bouncing up and down to loud music and fireworks on a stage to wrap up proceedings. The 107 steps are a bit of an oddity. The Royal Box is on the second tier so the stairs go up through the lower tier (either side of the fancy seats in the Corinthians Club area - which were by no means full today), the players then disappear for a few seconds while they zigzag up some internal steps, and then magically reappear on the walkway in front of the Royals (Prince Willy on show today) and VIP's to collect their medals and the cup. It takes some time to do this so by the time Chelsea got round to going up, coming down and walking across to the stage over toward the far touchline, the Manchester United end was pretty empty. Whatever happened to the simple medal and cup presentation and the lap of honour!

FA Cup FinalTube organization and crowd marshalling both pre- and post-match was excellent - a very good natured crowd playing their part in the smooth running of all of this. We pulled out of Wembley Park tube on a Jubilee line train around 45 minutes after we had left the stadium, and when you consider that perhaps half the 90,000 crowd were all trying to do the same thing that's pretty good. So hat's off to Tfl and the Met Police. By 7:30pm we were flying up the A1(M), away from our parking spot in Borehamwood, listening to former England manager Graham Taylor complaining on 606 about how long it was going to take him to get away after he'd finished his gig for the BBC! Try public transport perhaps?

Match Number: 1375

posted by chevblue at 9:12 pm

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extreme groundhopping

a (mainly) pictorial account of one man's obsession with football stadia, floodlight pylon's and ipswich town football club

recent posts

Wembley Panoramas
FA Vase Final
New Stadium for Portsmouth
Russell Cotes Cup Final
Ipswich Town
Panorama Mania!
Havant & Waterlooville
The Humble Turnstile
Fareham Town


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