Wednesday, 3 March 2010


Off to Wembley today to see England play Egypt and despite all the football I've seen over many years I am really excited about this. It's my first visit to the new Wembley.

First visit to the old Wembley was in the spring of 1967 when my dad took me to see England - reigning world champions - play Spain. I remember gazing up at the massive concrete ramparts. And that was only Jack Charlton. The stadium seemed pretty imposing too. We won, as we tended to in those days.

My stand-out professional memory of the old Wembley is my first commentary from there - the 1984 FA Cup Final in which Everton beat Watford 2-0. Funniest moment was the replay of the 1983 final. This was the year Steve Foster, captain of Brighton, went to court to overturn an FA ban which kept him out of the game against Manchester United. Foster lost but without him his team-mates held out for a 0-0 draw. This gave Foster the chance to play in a final after all, only for United to stroll the replay 4-0. "Stevie Foster, Stevie Foster, what a difference you have made!" came the chant from the United end. Wickedly funny.

It was always my dream to see Chester play at Wembley. It used to bug me, as a young fan, that small teams like Skelmersdale Utd had a better chance of appearing at Wembley than we did because they could play in the FA Amateur Cup. Then the Associate Members Cup was invented - aka the Johnstone's Paint Trophy - and I figured this was our big chance.

Well, if it was we never took it. We did reach the Northern Final one year, losing to Mansfield, an event I remember best for the handbrake cable snapping on my much-loved Ford Capri. And there was a famous near-miss when we reached the League Cup semi-final in 1975.

But Wembley is still the place to be and England will just have to cope with the added pressure of carrying all my Wembley dreams from now on.

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