What a day out- actually more of a weekend. Went up on Saturday morning as my wife thought that she’s like a nice weekend in London so we could go shopping. It wasn’t as bad as it sounded as Barca were in town, so there was a carnival atmosphere throughout the weekend with the Spaniards dancing and singing throughout the centre of London, and United fans also singing- although less tunefully outside pubs. The difference in cultures was plain to see although for the most part United were in good humour and enjoying the weekend.
Sunday was a bit more cultural with some museum and visits and then taking the kids to the cinema in the evening. Monday morning we had a lie in followed by a hearty breakfast, and then thought about the game. We drove up to Hillingdon tube station by about 12.30 to find that the car park was already 80% full with more arriving by the second. I was surprised to see more Jacks here than Reading fans as it was naturally on the route in for many Royals. Stopped to meet friends in the pub at the station- the Swallow were we had a couple of pints before the game and then catching the tube in. The train had quite a few Jacks on who were all happy and smiling, but reasonably quiet. At every stop a few dozen more got on until we reached Ruislip when hundreds more joined us including a herd of what appeared to be Friesians accompanied by a sizeable contingent of prisoners who appeared to be on the run from justice. These had apparently been sampling the delights of a club in Ruislip for a few hours and were predictably in good voice. The general public (and the few Reading fans on the train)looked on with a mixture of amazement and bewilderment.
The first sight of the stadium made the tension and atmosphere tangible in our carriage and when the doors opened hundreds poured out singing their hearts out. As we got to the top of the steps at Wembley park station we were greeted by the scene on Wembley Way, with tens of thousands of fans in black, white and blue all marching towards the stadium together without a hint of friction- that wouldn’t have happened 12-15 years ago!
The families were out in force and everyone was in their colours with kids waving flags and an assortment of people in fancy dress, including one guy in an all white skin tight lycra thing (my descriptive powers wouldn’t do it justice, so I won’t try) who looked like a ski jumper who’d hopped onto the nearest plane and adorned a black and white jesters hat. The closer you got to the stadium, the more the pressure built up. After a bag search which failed to uncover my camera fortunately, we went onto the concourse before stepping out into the stadium itself. I’ve been to the old Wembley about 10 or 12 times, but this was different. Walking out from the concourse into the ground, I felt like I was a child of 10 again and really brought home what a special occasion this really was.
Although the stadium was far from full at 2.25, it was still a mass of colour, and the atmosphere kept building up until the players returned after warming up in their full kits. We sung and sung, and then things seemed to become a little disjointed. It seemed the nerves were getting to all of us. I won’t describe the game as numerous newspapers and others better at match reports than me will do that, and in any case, I wasn’t truly enjoying it as I was simply too tense. The relief at our penalty and subsequent goal brought huge relief and when Sinclair got his second, our end erupted. When the third came, we were in raptures courtesy of Dobbie’s superb finish. At half time, people were talking as if we were already in the Premiership. I was still as nervous as a kitten in the Rottweiler kennels at Crufts though. I’ve been watching us too long to trust the Swans when it comes to things like that and been bitten too many times.
We all knew atht Reading would come at us after half time- and they did. They really shook us and our end which had sent Hymns and Arias ringing around the stadium before half time was incredibly subdued. Reading had their tails up and were coming at us in the belief they would get an equaliser- I believed them, especially when they hit the post and had a man running onto the rebound.
Brendan’s men are made of sterner stuff than I gave them credit for though and when Sinclair slotted home his third and our fourth after Borini had been fouled in the box, even my pessimistic nature was starting to disappear.
When the final whistle went, we all just went crazy- I don’t think we could take on the enormity of what we’d achieved, not just over the previous 90 minutes, but over the previous 8 years. That road from Hull has been long and at times difficult- but the ride has been wonderful and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!
Premiership next, and the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up as I type this.
Well done the Swans!