Last night, I took Norman Junior III to visit the new, improved Wembley stadium last night to see England play Switzerland in a friendly.
After paying homage to Sherlock Holmes, we changed at a packed Baker Street for the fast Metropolitan line to Wembley Park. We stood on the platform as one train departed and I was just contemplating whether we should ‘go for it’ when the next train arrived or step aside and wait for the next one.
A well dressed lady was complaining to a London Transport official: ‘Listen - I’ve been here for 25 minutes and I just can’t get on any train.’ ‘Well I’m awfully sorry madam but we currently have 90,000 football fans going to Wembley.’ ‘I can see that but I do need to get home. It’s an absolute disgrace. What about all the ordinary people ?’
Thankfully, my dithering indecision was abruptly removed by the late arrival of some shaven headed Ing-er-land fans who charged up the steps, ran towards the closing doors and whisked us both up and onto the underground train into a packed carriage. Well, to be fair it was positively spacious compared with the Waterloo & City line on a weekday morning.
Three Swiss lads were then subjected to a deep probing English inquisition from curious Ing-er-land fans.
‘Hey mate, what language do you speak then ?’ ‘In Switzerland, we speak Swiss-German.’
‘Hey mate, what’s the capital of Switzerland then ?’ ‘Zurich’
A brief lull and respite for the Swiss visitors before a final burst of alcohol fuelled inspiration:
‘Hey mate, can you sort a bank account out for me ?’
Cue uproarious laughter all round - well from those passengers who were able to move their ribcages.
Walked down Wembley Way watching day trippers taking photos and entered the stadium. Wondered what qualifications are needed to be an ‘Escalator Steward’ and took our seats high up in the South stand with an excellent view.
Much to my surprise, the minute’s silence for Munich was observed by the vast majority of supporters.
England appeared in yet another away kit (available from all good sports outfitters in March). The decision to play in the away strip for a home fixture was puzzling but it transpired that Capello ordered this after hearing that Ashley Cole ‘preferred playing away’.
At least, we were both cheering a team in Red with Rooney, Ferdinand and Brown (or rather Wes Orange). The game got underway, Brown endured a nightmare opening 45 minutes and Matthew Upson is undoubtedly the most one-footed player ever to don an England shirt.
Switzerland were neat and tidy and comfortable on the ball without really threatening the goal.
England were playing 4-1-4-1 and looked nervous. For the first 40 minutes I don’t think I have seen so many sideways and backwards passes since Ray Wilkins played for United.
While I didn’t hear any booing, there was the occasional Beckham chant and increasing unrest in the unpadded seats as half-time approached.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, something happened - Joe Cole remembered he was an attacker, took a defender on and Jermaine Jenas gratefully scored the first goal under Fabio Capello’s regime.
After an overpriced drink, we were staggered to head the announcer proclaim ‘Please welcome the teams back for the second half - Here they are, protecting their 1-0 lead - England !’ The Italian influence already seems to be pervasive.
The second half improved markedly until the Swiss had the temerity to score with a well taken goal. The Swiss contingent rang their cow-bells and chanted ‘La Suisse’. Ing-er-land fans responded with ‘We know you speak Swiss-German and Zurich is your capital city.’
The hard working England captain, Stevie Gerrrraaaarrrrd, got to the dead ball line and crossed for substitute Sean Wright-Phillips for another tap-in.
Peter Crouch came on, Cashley Cole went off to a solitary shout of ‘Where’s your Cheryl gone ?’ and Wayne Rooney dropped a little deeper. In fact, he was so deep he was playing at left back, conceding corners and passing balls down the line to Wayne Bridge.
England continued to press for another goal and an otherwise impressive David James made his inevitable token error, flapping at a high cross.
Die hard, loyal fans who apparently are ‘Ing-er-land till I die’ decided to avoid the queues at Wembley Park and streamed out of the stadium. When the full-time whistle blew, the stadium was half-full. Part time supporters.
The game ended 2-1 for England. The remaining Ing-er-land fans were happy and we started the long journey home via Wembley Central herded together like cattle on the station approach with a £6 program for company.