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Sunday, May 13, 2007

FA Vase Final

AFC Totton 1 Truro City 3
FA Vase Final
Wembley Stadium, Wembley, Middlesex

FA Vase FinalAs a frequent spectator at Wessex League games this season, and last, as you will perhaps have gathered from this blog, today I was up in London to lend the full weight of my support behind this seasons Wessex Premier Division runners-up, AFC Totton, as they took on the Pride of Cornwall, and 2006-07 Western Division Champions, Truro City. I confess though that the main attraction for me today was the chance to watch a game inside the brand spanking new Wembley Stadium. But would it worth the seven yeat wait!

Journeying down from Suffolk I made my way across to King's Cross and out along the Metropolitan line towards Wembley Park Station. About a mile or so out from the later the new stadium looms into view on your left. And its big. The iconic arch is its main feature and at 400 feet high, and with a span of 1040 feet, dominates the skyline. The stadium underneath it is four times the height of the old Wembley.

FA Vase Final

The tube station itself has been completely revamped as part of a £38.2 Million project to improve the transport infrastructure around the stadium. £17.2 Million of which was stumped up by WNSL (Wembley National Stadium Ltd).

FA Vase FinalWembley Way is pretty much as it was, as is the two-pronged pedestrian ramp/bridge that takes you over the coach park onto the brand new concourse which allows you to walk around the full perimeter of the new Wembley - which I can't remember being able to do at the old one. The exterior of the stadium is faced with glass, steel and concrete - all to a high spec - lots to take pictures of, including the tasteful statue of Bobby Moore at the main entrance. Many liked minded soles were wandering around doing just that.

And then the sky's opened and it tipped it down, and so with an hour to go before kick-off I scurried for cover inside. Passing through the turnstiles you enter the main, and very spacious, concourse behind the lower level seating. Decorated with pictures of famous moments from the old stadium it has plenty of food, drink and merchandise outlets on either side. Minimal queuing. All very civilised

FA Vase Final

The stadium boasts 2,618 toilets, more than any other building in the world. Apparently. Not quite sure where they're all hidden as I still had to queue at half-time to use one, but it was a comparatively pleasant experience, certainly when compared to the old Wembley and its infamous plumbing problems. The WC was clean and tastefully decorated as much as a public lav can be (nice slate effect washstands btw!).

FA Vase FinalAnd now to the seating area and stadium proper. It may be brand new but oddly if has retained the feel of the old Wembley. It's cavernous (two rings of seating for the common man broken by two smaller rings of VIP and club seating) and very very red. The letters W-E-M-B-L-E-Y are picked out in black and white in the seating behind each goal in an identical style to that used in the old place. But all 89,900 of the remaining seats are bright bright red. Row upon undulating row of red plastic. In this modern age of commercialism, with the exception of pitch side hoardings, surprisingly no sign of a sponsors ad or logo anywhere.

I sat in row five right behind the eastern goal with the large Totton supporting contingent that had made the trek up from Hampshire. According to some blurb I read somewhere there is more leg room in every seat than in the Royal Box at the old stadium. At 6' 6" plus I was more than comfortable although a bit more space on either side wouldn't have gone a miss. Overall though, pretty comfortable.

FA Vase Final

Be warned. Just because there is a roof capable of covering the entire stadium doesn't mean it will be closed for an event or that the 11 acres of it (four of which are retractable) will protect you from the rain if you have seats in first few rows. Those who those sat in rows 1 and 2 today looked a bit wet to me. Oddly, the stadium's arch or "tiara" (as principal architect Norman Fosters refers to it) can't be seen from inside the stadium - or at least not from my view point.

FA Vase FinalThere are two huge scoreboards/video screens at each end. These showed replay's of goal mouth action during the game and ads and assorted stuff before kick-off and at half-time. An FA video that was screened before the match purported to be highlights of famous games at the old stadium but curiously finished with Beckham scoring "that" free kick against the Greeks at Old Trafford in 2003.

The 15,000 "Stags" fans, along with a slightly lesser number of Cornish supporters, in the 27,000 crowd created a fun and festive atmosphere with Mexicans waves, flag waving, etc., etc., giving the gangs of hired security personal, or "Response Teams" resplendant in Sky Blue bib's, who patrolled both inside and out very little to do although they were quick to act at even the slightest hint of trouble which included confiscating Klaxon horns from a group of Totton youngsters.

FA Vase Final

There was also a high profile Police presence - lots of bobby's on the way to, around and inside the stadium. Many on horse back too with their mounts providing numerous fecal obstacles on the way back to Wembley Park tube post match. Clearly yesterday's FA Trophy final and today's Vase match are seen by WNSL, the FA, and other interested parties as Dress Rehearsal's for the main event next Saturday, and while it was all good natured today it will be a tad bit more tense, I suspect, next weekend when Manchester United take on Chelsea in the first FA Cup Final to be held in London since 2000!

FA Vase FinalOops, almost forgot the game but you can read about that here, here and here.

So was it worth the £798 Million and the prolonged wait? Well it has certainly won me over.

Wem-ber-ley, Wem-ber-ley!

Match Number: 1374

posted by chevblue at 11:35 pm






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IFK Goteborg
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Chicago Sting
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Chicago Sting
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Chicago Sting
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Chicago Sting
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Chicago Vultures
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Milwaukee Bavarians
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Schwaben AC
(Schwaben Center)

Tampa Bay Rowdies
(Tampa Bay Stadium)