Football Is Alive and Well On A Coach Trip To Wembley

Families sitting together. Parties of young people singing. Women and girls. Happy stewards laughing along with the crowd. I’m at a football match but it will never catch on.

This weekend I forsook Spurs for the Petts Wood Under 10s girls’ team. Called in as a late sub for my lovely daughter, I took my midfield schemer of a granddaughter to the women’s international between England v Germany. If nothing else, it’s most probably the only way I’ll get to Wembley this year.

My last Tottenham On My Mind piece characterised Spurs as a club without a heart, the Tin Man of football. I found the heart of football beating hard not in the Premier League, the supposed pinnacle of the British game, but at a women’s football match.

You probably know this was a record crowd for women’s football in this country, over 50,000 in the bottom two tiers at Wembley, despite the FA and Transport for London predictably conspiring to make it as difficult as possible to get there by choosing to hold the game on a day of a planned closure of Wembley Park station.

That was the only thing that was typical of a big football match in the capital. The ground was full of families and children. It was hard to see who was more excited, the children or their parents. 99% of them would not be able to identify any of the players if they sat next to them on the team coach, including me. But that didn’t matter. They were here to watch a football match, together, for its own sake.

My granddaughter doesn’t take outings and treats for granted but being part of an extended family who love the game, she’s been to Wembley three times already, once for the Olympic football and for two internationals. Even she was impressed though by the historic nature of this fixture, the first ever England women’s international at the new Wembley. She and her friends wanted to be part of something. They didn’t know the players or the tactics, they didn’t care it was a friendly or even who won, but they knew it was a good place to be on a Sunday afternoon. It was important and they were there.

What it must be to discover the enthralling, compelling fascination of football for the first time. The ebb and flow of the game, the welcoming comfort of the crowd. These days it’s hard to find that at a Premier League match, a league which sometimes feels as if they make it as difficult as possible to enjoy a day out. You want to secure the involvement of another generation in the game we love? Group discount for football clubs, adults £7.50, children £1.

A different experience in many ways. We went by coach and parked about 6 feet from the ground, under cover. I pined for the 45 minute queue for Wembley Park, well almost. Dutifully in full school trip mode we followed our group leader off the coach. It took 10 minutes to realise that he had no intention of going in the ground but was looking for a leisurely meal in the shopping centre. It had never occurred to me that Wembley had a shopping centre, let alone eat beforehand.

We turned round and went in to watch and feel the crowd build up. I’m proud to say my granddaughter has been well taught in the ways of being a proper supporter. She knows that the most memorable aspect of her last Wembley trip, for the international versus Peru, was the paper plane thrown from the top tier that hit a player on the head. Regarding half and half scarves, she’s as disapproving as only a 9 year old can be. But nobody cared this time. Kids wanted souvenir of the match and wore their scarves proudly. Things were so different, I even joined in the Mexican wave.

Back in the coach, radio on, second half from Hull and I’m back to normal, hunched in my seat, stomach turning over, gloomy then relieved. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but then again I learned to love the club game from an early age whereas I can’t help feeling Spurs sometimes make themselves hard to love.

No detailed match discussion this week. It was the first game this season I’ve not seen as it happened, no chance to write in the middle of a 14 hour day yesterday and anyway the time is past. Maybe just re-read the Villa piece. I’ve seen it now and relief rather than elation sums it up. Credit to the fightback and to the way the side kept pushing for the winner. Delighted that Eriksen was prominent in that resurgence, taking command and using the extra space very well. The late winner was a re-resurgence because Hull had successfully broken the play up to take away our momentum.

I’m conscious of being critical of the team recently. Honest is another word for it. I take no pleasure in pointing out how poorly we have played and the total absence of leadership from anyone within the club, on or off the field. Regular readers will know how much it hurts.

So enjoy the win, always, and the Spurs away support came through loud and clear on the radio, which is never taken for granted even though it happens every away match. Credit must go to Pochettino, who has given several players a run in the side but rightly made changes for this one, including changes in the spine of the side where he seemed to have settled on his best options.

But we were awful, simply awful, for much of the first half. I was open-mouthed at times even though I knew what to expect. Harking back to my last piece, this didn’t answer the question of heart, of being able to find the strength from within to make progress rather than expecting something outside our power to lift us. We had to wait for a red card again. Let’s leave it there with the comforting thought that if an infinite number of monkeys at typewriters for an infinite amount of time can produce the complete works of Shakespeare, surely Soldado is bound to score this century.

14 thoughts on “Football Is Alive and Well On A Coach Trip To Wembley

    • Thanks Joe.

      I should point out for the benefit of our readers that Joe, a regular reader and commenter, won a prestigious national Children and Young People Now award last week for his work on an app that enables children and young people in care to speak up for themselves at meetings. So TOMM has its first award winner! Well played sir.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  1. Took my 12 year old nephew to see England women beat Brazil at Wembley in the Olympics. My, and his, first experience of watching women’s ‘international’ football, although I did go out with an England female footballer back in the mid 1980s (I digress). Big crowd in 2012 (60,000 or more) and a wonderful occasion ..just how sporting occasions should be. Got down to the tunnel area at the end and took a photo of the England goalkeeper with her arm around my nephew’s shoulders, and great to see everyone else, even the Brazilian fans, celebrating in a joyous manner. Fantastic and very memorable.
    Compare this with the first time I took my 10 year old daughter to see my beloved Spurs 11 years ago ..playing Sunderland at the bottom of the PL and winning the game 3-2. A 40 something scumbag sitting directly behind us obviously thought we were playing Arsenal, and even then he magnified the hatred ten fold. There were other parents sitting with their kids in the row I was in, and they all tried to concentrate on not hearing the stream of F and C words coming out of this low life’s mouth. My poor daughter kept saying ‘don’t keep turning around, daddy ..it’s Ok’ (it wasn’t, and as if it did any good appealing for reason in the man anyway), and right there, at that moment, in moments I really wanted my daughter to cherish, I wished this excuse for a man severe harm. Other hard looking types looked at me sympathetically (although he wouldn’t make eye contact) and you could feel that, with kids around, there was still restraint from many in swearing too much and too often (yes, I know we all do it at games ..but this was unremitting, and he appeared completely ignorant of his bile’s effects on children, and indeed women, nearby). No stewards to ask him to tone his language down, or throw him out if he persisted. This incident put me off taking her again for a long time, and I lost that feeling of being as one with all Spurs fans for ever. And again, compare this episode with my first match at Easter 1964, when, aged 12, the crowd in the old east stand lifted me overhead down to the front to see my heroes play Liverpool (we lost 3-1). The countless ‘bloodies’ were everywhere but few and intermittent were any stronger words where women and children may have heard. A different world today? A worse one, except when you go to sporting occasions NOT driven by desperation and hatred.

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    • Good and bad. It was good to see a game with no danger of being stuck near an idiot. That was another advantage of stadning areas – unless it was totally rammed you could move away from the lowlife.

      Hope your daughter is still a Spur nonetheless. Cheers, Alan

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  2. Alan, I watch the little kids play year round here in CA and it is joyful. I’m over the moon about my hometown Newport County being back in the League (with passionate crowds of 3,000, where fans are not that removed from the players in terms of money and lifestyle), and competing for a playoff position, and that is joyous. I saw almost 100,000 peeps joyously celebrate the USWNT win the WC in 1999. As for Spurs, it’s not all bad with our team. Without a heart? Yet, somehow, only 2P off fourth, one win away from KO round of Europa, and in QF of LC…No heart? Looked like a lot of heart with the away fans and the team dogpile after Eriksen’s winner), so not so bad after all… 😉

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    • Clubs like Newport deserve the success. Many fans turning their backs on the PL in favour of the experience you describe.

      As to the heart, the fans have it but I stand by recent pieces re the team and the club. Our league position reflects not good form but the low standards in the PL. We’re great agaisnt 10 men,talk about damn with faint praise. To me it’s a real worry, short and long term. And as you know, I take no pleasure in saying that and would be more delighted than anyone to be proved wrong.

      Regards, Alan

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      • Well, Alan, for the greater good, let’s hope you are proved wrong, even if you’re right! Here’s thanks for your Blogs from over here on Thanksgiving Eve, Spurs are playing on T-day but I’ll be at Venice Beach, getting distracted! 😉

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  3. Keep up the good writing Alan and reflections. This article is about Tottenham. Its hard to see anything in a vacumn and so it offers a different perspective. Watching Tottenham and seeing the same thing over and over again is a trial. Izts good to get out and breathe the air. Wembley with your grandaughter is great. My daughter gave me a grandson 4 months ago. I look at him and see the world newly as he sees everything newly.
    We are offered every autumn a chance to renew our faith in Tottenham. But for the longest time it doesnt grow,the same things happen. The Grandkids bring hope.I would like my Grandson to look and see why we fail to get the ball into the final third over and over again and then all of a sudden something happens that changes things,players get renewed energy.
    Womens soccer is a new born baby,the games have life. They are not stuck with the labels of who they think they are.They just do.Children just do. Our team to many times hasn’t. Next time please Alan take some of them to one of these games they mighjt find some of the emotion they need even to get the game started.

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    • I reread what I wrote and apart from the obvious typos,it sounds like Im almost validation for someone like Sherwood to bring back life back to Tottenham,but its not. Unbridled immaturity can bring a new lease on life,it can also bring chaos. Some perspective is good.Some balance.A breather is good. Thank goodness for International breaks and Womens soccer,

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    • Thanks Ron, as you say it is about Tottenham and my concerns about the relationship between supporters and the club. Also a relief to get away from tactics and pressing for at least a week, probably a relief for my readers too!

      Best, Alan

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  4. Thought we had a great flow tonite. About 90% of our games so far I’ve hated.Lack of effort,little flow or by the time we wake up I am asleep and have no interest.
    Stamboulli understands the game and positioning and is a good DM and yet fluid.Played well tonite.Paulinho made one terrible play but for most of the game was excellent and added to the flow.Feel sorry for Soldado. He is down in the depths but I think if he gets a few one of these games he will be fine. It cant go forever can it? Lamela had a few really good shots and kept pushing still looks like a gangly legged kid but he does have talent. Kane just gets into it. He is a natural.Lennon did well.
    Yes it was Partizan. But we have been victims of many this year.We came to play at least and we did.

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  5. Lovely piece. I must confess to owning a half and half Spurs / Benfica scarf but I consider myself a Benfiquista as well as a Spurs supporter. It’s lovely sometimes just to go and watch a match where it doesn’t really matter.

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