September 27, 2022

Adventures in Football #64: Wembley Stadium (England) 

Adventures in Football #64: Wembley Stadium (England) 


September 26, 2022 


ENGLAND vs. GERMANY (UEFA Nation’s League) 


When I booked tickets to this game England still had a fighting chance of staying in the top tier of the Nation’s League but defeat in Italy has them relegated and only competing for pride against the Germans. It didn’t help that back in June they got stuffed 4-0 at home by Hungary. I had been waiting for a special occasion to tick Wembley off my grounds list but this, sort of, counts. My brother Andy is over from the USA. He’s lived out in Texas since 1992 and has never been to an England game. When we were looking at grounds we could do while he was here this jumped out at me as special, so we’re doing it!  


New Wembley, now teenage Wembley, opened in 2007. I have been to Old Wembley, back in June 1999 I was there for an Aerosmith gig. It was pretty fantastic. You could feel the history. Supporting act Lenny Kravitz made the mistake of saying “there are things more important than a game of football” and was soundly booed. Behind me someone yelled “just play Are You Gonna Go My Way and fuck off”.  


New Wembley has a capacity of 90,000 making it the largest stadium I’ve ever been into, breaking the record held by Old Trafford for all of three months. Normally I’d go into the history of the team that plays at the grounds we go to. However, Wembley is the national stadium and isn’t only for England but also for cup finals. It’s already seen a fair amount of excitement in its 15 years on the planet. Including such diverse teams as Portsmouth and Wigan winning the FA Cup and England making the finals of Euro 2020 there, only to lose to Italy on penalties. 


It’s also hosted the Rugby League Challenge Cup, Four Nations games and the Rugby World Cup, as well as NFL games and boxing events. When Anthony Joshua fought Wladimir Klitschko in 2017 the attendance was a whopping 90,000. Wembley has also hosted music events from artists such as Adele, Green Day, the Foo Fighters, Oasis, Coldplay, AC/DC and the Spice Girls.  


Wembley is easily accessible via public transport but after the Old Trafford experience I’ve opted for a parking spot around a mile from the ground, which hopefully doesn’t result in us getting bogged down in traffic leaving the area. That’s through the JustPark app. We used this when we went to West Ham, and it worked a charm. We could see the ground from the parking spot. Game day rolled around, and we all piled into Maria’s new car* and headed off to Oxford. A little halfway stop off for lunch and whatnot.


*we’ve got a Toyota Yaris Cross, which is much bigger than the previous Aygo and allows us to take five people in one go


With me today are my brother Andy, his wife (from America) Anna Rae and their son/my nephew Harrison. We have a nice little trip down to Oxford and a walk around. After that it’s off to London and around 1h15m of driving. We’ve secured a parking spot on the estate just south of Wembley. I thought I was being clever in selecting something fairly close but the opposite end to the main entrance.  


I was not. 

The problem with the estate (see map above) is that it can only be accessed from one side. To the north is a train track and Wembley itself and off to the east is the River Brent. That leaves two possible entry points. One takes you right past Wembley train station, the other just off the North Circular. Naturally we picked the North Circular and fuck me, was this is a disaster. We sat on the exit lane for the North Circular for around 45-55 minutes. I was getting flashbacks to West Brom as we barely moved. All my groundhopping experience has dealt with smaller crowds than this. Maria bullied her way into the queue further up and we squeaked into the parking spot around 6.50pm. The tickets wanted us to enter the stadium between 6.15-6.45pm. So, not ideal.  

After parking up, it was a pleasant enough stroll from the car to the ground. From the estate (off Harrow Road) you can see the stadium and I think a fair few people rent out their driveways for England games. I paid £20 to park there during the game, which is steep but better than getting your car towed for parking illegally. Wembley being hemmed in by train tracks isn’t ideal and I’ll have to re-assess my options the next time I’m at the stadium.  

As we’re walking along the road Wembley rises up over the houses like the spaceships over New York in Independence Day. The grim grey clouds just add to the effect. You can hear the music they’re playing in the stadium from here. If I lived here, I’m not convinced this would be a good time.  


On the way there we spot a gaggle of Germans being escorted to the stadium by police. Apparently, they’d attacked England fans at the Green Man pub. You can just about see the Green Man on the map above. Bizarre behaviour. I’m walking with Maria, and we suddenly realise we’ve not seen the rest of the family for a while. It’s a good job we gave them their tickets as I have no idea where they are. Did I abandon my family? Errrm.  

I wanted to get a look at the stadium from Olympic Way. Get one for the ‘Gram. Unfortunately, the flow of people heading up the steps made it impossible to get the classic shot from the bottom looking up. Here’s one at an angle. We have airport style security after the standard turnstile action (all automated, QR codes and that). At West Ham they did bag checks and whatnot outside. Here it’s just through the turnstiles. I think this works better as the people get funnelled into the security.  

Then there’s a weird process of escalators that lead you onto the concourse. Where obviously some chuds have stood right in front of the exit and everyone is falling over each other. The concourses are enormous. You could have a decent time hanging around on the concourse for an hour or so. Not that concourses have ever been my bag. Despite the size of everything it’s heaving. There’s no room to move. Maria goes for a piddle, and we take up our seats. Swiftly followed by the rest of the family who negotiated the turnstiles quicker than expected.  

And fuck me, this is some view. This is the first time I’ve walked up those little steps into the stadium and just felt overwhelmed. I’ve been to some pretty big stadiums but none of them can touch Wembley. It’s unbelievable. The stadium is only 15 years old, so everything is immaculate. I didn’t think I’d feel this way about it, but it almost felt like a religious experience.  

Once I’d gotten mentally adjusted to being in this building, I took a look around. Good news on legroom. It’s spacious but not massive like at the Olympic Stadium. I had to stand up when people wanted to pass me but I was never irritated at the lack of space. Although the Chinese kid in front of me did headbutt my knee. I had three kids in front us, barely watching the game, feeding each other popcorn for two hours. I legitimately don’t know why you’d take kids that young to games. The house was packed. 78,000+ for a dead rubber match against the Germans in the Nation’s League. It shows the love and support that exists for the team, compared to Italy where they played to a half full ground. 

The two ends of the ground have those paper squares to display, and England flags appear at each end during the National Anthem. The German anthem is, naturally, booed. When the teams are read out Harry Maguire gets booed too, along with every single German player. Do they think he’s German? Maguire’s name is sung by the fans during the game so there’s clearly a split there. Personally, I don’t think you can play him and Dier. It’s either one or the other.  

Before the game they dim the lights, leaving them on in the centre circle, and respectfully observe a silence for the fallen monarch. Dropping the stadium into near darkness created an eerie visual, which I’ve sadly not been able to replicate here.  

We kick off and it’s a lively first half with England playing some decent attacking football but making suspect decisions at the back. Nick Pope looks very nervy with the ball at his feet and almost gets caught out. Despite that we go in at half time cautiously optimistic. England have had the better chances. The game needs a goal.  

I’ve taken this picture to show how many people are behind us up here. It’s ridiculous. Even up here though, the view is excellent and while the stairs are quite steep it creates a tremendous angle to watch the football at. The second half is…a bit lively. Harry Maguire concedes an early penalty, somehow unpunished until VAR step in. It was blatant. Kai Havertz then curled in a second with the England defence not bothering to close him down. Shaw and Maguire both watching for a runner instead of closing the space. Just over 20 minutes to play and England are losing 2-0. The German fans start to chant “football’s coming home”.  


It’s been a bit of a downer, but England don’t want to disappoint their fans here. A double change introduces Bukayo Saka and Mason Mount and the fresh legs make the difference. Shaw scrambles one in at the far post and Germany, aware of the issue, decide to have Kimmich lie on the floor for a bit and delay the game. England come firing back anyway and Mount curls one in from outside the box. Limbs! A Harry Kane shot looks destined for the top hand corner only to be saved. VAR brings us back for a foul and England score a penalty through Kane. Top bins. It’s a beauty. Not content to give us a happy ending Pope fumbles a tame shot and Havertz stabs in the rebound. 3-3.  



My American family got to experience the highs and lows of professional football with this one. If they don’t love the game after this, there’s really no hope for them. On the way out we hit the same congestion issues. Trying to escape a tiny estate covered in football traffic. It takes a while and Harrison hops out to roll himself a cigarette.  

Once we’re off the estate it’s plain sailing and we’re back home before 1am. What an experience this was though. Time for some ratings.  



While this wasn’t blow away or anything, the crowd was lively and the banter from the Germans was fun. The noise in Wembley when a goal goes in is amazing. **** 



Tickets for this were £60. That’s what you’d pay for a Premier League game, which doesn’t have the same sense of importance as a game at Wembley. I’d say this was fine. *** 



Immaculate. Sensational entertainment. One of the best games I’ve seen in person. I loved every minute…after 70’. ****½  



Obviously driving in is hard and getting out on the train looked like a fucking nightmare. However, once you’re at the ground getting in was way, way easier than Arsenal (for example). **½.  



It’s Wembley. I’ve never had the sense of awe that you get with Wembley with any other ground. Not Old Trafford, Anfield, West Ham, Goodison. None of those has that Wembley feel when you walk into it. The only thing I can compare it to is the Grand Canyon and when I saw that for the first time. It’s just unspeakably huge and you have to respect it. ***** 



The score reflects my personal feeling about the stadium; top. Top this season, top all time. Aided by a cracking game and a memorable all-around experience. If I went back, I’d have to plan parking differently. Access is obviously the big downfall of Wembley and yet it still felt easier to get into than Arsenal and easier to get out of than Man Utd.  


Also, it looks like this.  

Leave a Reply