The
WALTER
PILKINGTON
COLUMN

THE WEMBLEY WAY

 - ITíS A FAN THING.

 

It was so good to be walking down the road to Wembley again. It had been far too long since last we were there for a Cup Final. And the changes were clear to see. Getting out of the tube station was no easier, but there was a nice mosaic on the wall of the tunnel as you came out onto Olympic Way. This seemed to depict a man drinking from a bottle (of beer - it was the Worthington Cup after all), a man with a large knife, two men in white fighting on the floor and some dogs which had been let loose and were racing after their prey. All in all a true life depiction of the 1993 FA Cup semi-final at the stadium or Millwallís appearance there in the forthcoming Auto Windshield Trophy perhaps. Well, in actuality, the scenes depicted were supposed to represent the glorious sporting heritage of the National Stadium, from the Olympics to greyhound racing. I do think they should have thought harder about exactly which images they were going to use to portray these pictures.

Leicesterís local newspaper were handing out free balloons to their fans. This is perhaps one of the most ridiculous acts to be perpetrated on the day. The match would be totally spoiled by these bright blue balloons floating around the stadium and onto the pitch, causing the stewards to form a line like police looking for evidence in a murder case at half time, as they tried to rid the pitch of the burst remains. Is it some sort of West Midlands rubber fetish they have ??

Walking up the stairs to our seat, it seemed like there had been more added since 91. Or maybe I am just getting old. The feeling as you get to the top and look out over the pitch hadnít changed though and a thrill of excitement runs through you. For all the improvements to the outside, the inside still remains the crowded old mess it ever was. The other addition that was unpalatable (and I donít mean the new items on the fast food menu) was the announcer who got on everybodyís nerves as the countdown to kick-off got closer. His "Youíve got your ticket. Youíre here. Itís the Worthington Cup Final 1999" was perhaps his most cringe-worthy contribution to the dayís events.

The Coca Cola Cup used to greet the two teams by having fireworks and confetti and I had hoped that as Worthington proclaim it to be a "fan thing" that they would realise the fans want something more traditional - like the teams walking out of the tunnel to line up in front of the Royal Box without having to walk through a thick plume of eye-stinging smoke and loud bomb blasts. Sol had to rub his eyes after getting to the pitch. Not in disbelief of what he had just experienced, but because the acrid smoke had tried to blind him. Another thing that had not changed was the fact that the National Anthem could not keep up with the fansí rendition.

The game will be covered in depth elsewhere and frankly, itís better for all concerned to skip to the end. The celebrations were long and hard. The funniest sights after the game were Sol having to get his shirt back from a Leicester player to go and collect the trophy, Ramon and Freund going mental with delight, the official who tried to get the players to go on the rostrum to have their photo taken but couldnít stop Sol and the boys taking the cup to the fans (after all, itís a fan thing) and the eight years of drudgery being swept away on a tide of joy and emotion. The only drawback (to a certain extent) was the playing over the PA of Tottenham songs. This meant that we had to sing along with them, rather than sing songs of praise for our current heroes. They even managed to drown out the choruses of "One George Graham." The manager waved to the Spurs fans after this had been brought to his attention. The team, subs, coaches, backroom staff, everyone on the pitch were all having such fun it seemed ages before they finally disappeared down the tunnel and out of sight.

Filing out into the light it was like we had never been away. It was enjoyable just to soak it up. You never know when it might happen again - could be May, it could be another eight years, but whenever it is, you can bet that Tottenham will always find a hard way to do it.

"When Sol went up,
To lift the Worthington Cup,
We were there, We were there."

 

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