Season 3 - Wales PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark W   
Sunday, 27 March 2011 21:38

Wales v England – Euro 2012 Qualifier

Millenium Stadium, Cardiff

Saturday 26 March 2011, 15.00 K.O.

Teams come out

When the draw was made for Euro 2012 qualifying, this was the stand out fixture. It’s a rare event that England get to travel to face another home nation. For me, it was an even more appetising fixture as I had missed the previous meeting 6 years ago. That game came at a time when I didn’t have sufficient caps to guarantee myself a ticket and I’d been neither successful in the ballot nor quick enough on the ‘fastest finger’ second sale.

For a while, it looked like I might miss out on my first trip to the Millenium Stadium once again as the Welsh FA insisted that they would be sticking to their current policy of playing internationals away from the National Stadium. Realistically, though, this was never going to happen. Wales games were being played on the road for one reason and one reason only, they couldn’t fill the Mill Stad. For this game, that was not going to be an issue. Sure enough, after a lot of ‘um’ing and ‘ah’ing, the venue was confirmed.

This ticket allocation, though was still far from straight forward. Luckily, the number of games I have attended ensured that I didn’t need to worry about any ballot this time, but after purchasing my ticket along with over 8,000 fellow England fans, an announcement was made by the Welsh FA. They had sold too many tickets! Yes, you read that correctly, they sold TOO MANY. It is difficult to understand how such a cock up could possibly occur but appears that they forgot that they would need some segregation. Now, I know they haven’t used the ground for a while but surely someone considered that the police might not be too happy if St George was sitting next to the dragons. Anyone who had bought tickets in the section that was now to be closed received an email informing them that their tickets had been cancelled and they would receive a full refund. I can’t imagine how I would have reacted had that been me.

Ticket

I’d drawn the short straw and was designated driver for the journey south. I’d got a car full with Alan, Phil and Sean joining me so at quarter to eight, I arrived at Sean’s where we were to meet. We wanted to get down fairly early and with reasonable traffic, this should see us in Cardiff before twelve. This calculation may have been slightly flawed.

Al, Phil and Sean

With three Latics fans and a City fan in the car, there was only ever going to be one person taking most of the stick on the way down. To enhance this even further, this was the day that City put their tickets on sale for the FA Cup Semi-Final against United next month. I think it is fair to say that Sean was quite excited about this. We were still on the M60 and he was on the phone to various people in the queue at Eastlands. The other three of us didn’t quite get this. Tickets were only on sale to a small number of fans who qualified through their loyalty points, therefore everyone was guaranteed to get tickets. This didn’t seem to have stopped a large number of them from starting queuing at 4am. Sean was much more logical though, his view was “I’m not bothered what time they pick up my ticket”. He demonstrated this by ringing round everyone he could think of to see whether they could see the girl picking his ticket up anywhere in the queue!

We were making very good progress and were soon on the M5 and then the M50. On a clear run and a sunny day it’s not a bad drive and once you get onto the A40 past Ross-on-Wye and Monmouth, the scenery is superb.

Monmouth

Sean was still on about his Wembley ticket and being suitably wound up about the fact that it was City’s cup final when he made the cardinal sin. “It’s doesn’t matter” he responded to one taunt “I’ve got my final ticket”. Dear dear, “It’s not actually the final though, is it Sean?” It was too late now, he was left to regret that slip of the tongue for the rest of the day.

By the time we joined the M4 it was clear that we would be much earlier than anticipated as it was only about ten. The signs on the motorway directed the English cars, English coaches and Welsh fans to all use different exits but from past experience, Sean knew where was best to park so we followed the signs for the coaches. He was spot on too, as we breezed into Cardiff and parked up before we reached the castle.

Castle

The carpark was still quite empty but a minibus full of Welsh fans pulled up a few spaces down from us and drove straight into the barrier separating the carpark from the pavement. It was difficult to keep a straight face as we heard the huge crunch but I think we got away with it.

Being my first visit to the ground, I had no idea where we were going but once we reached the town centre we decided that we could do to find somewhere for some breakfast. Weatherspoons is always a decent option for a full English so we went on a search. As we walked along the main shopping street, I couldn’t help but comment that it was all quite modern. I’m used to going to some fairly backwards places watching England but Wales seemed almost Westernised!

Cardiff City 2

Our search was looking fruitless so I decided to try and speak to a local. To my surprise he spoke English and pointed us in the direction of the castle referring to a parallel road. We followed his directions and to my surprise, from nowhere, the stadium appeared, and next to it the aforementioned pub. As we were still early and there weren’t many people around it seemed the perfect opportunity to get the customary flag photo. As we lined up, two Japanese girls ran over and asked if they could have their pictures taken with it to and we were happy to oblige. Sean then took out his City flag and you can imagine our reaction when the girls decided that they didn’t like the look of that and quickly realised they had somewhere they needed to be.

Flag Photo

We’d been hoping for a fairly quiet pub well away from the ground for a bit of grub but it was fairly obvious that we were not going to get much sustinance here. Luckily we met up with Keith who directed us to a ‘burger van’ by the FSF Free Lions temporary home. What a good call that was too. As good a roast beef butty as I’ve had in a long time. Maybe not what I planned on having for breakfast but it hit the spot. Here we also met Anne-Marie who was busy making wrapping paper out of pages from the Free Lions. You see some strange stuff watching England.

It’s difficult to know what to do when you are at a ground so early but can’t spend the day drinking but I was safe to have a couple and so we retired to the Weatherspoons. What a huge pub. It was over three floors and despite the fact that there must have been about a thousand people in there by the time I left, it didn’t feel that full. The atmosphere in there was great. There was probably a fifty-fifty mix of fans including quite a few kids and everyone seemed to me in good spirits. There was sporadic chanting but people seemed much more bothered about their pints than anything else. I rang Neil and arranged to meet up with the group of them that were travelling over from Cheltenham.

Pub

It made quite a refreshing change being at a game where demand clearly oustripped supply considering the sort of crowds I’ve been used to at Boundary Park recently.

Tickets please

About half-one I decided that I couldn’t face another Coke and so ventured towards the ground hoping to be able to secure a decent spot for the flag. I was met with a wall of police and wondered what was going on as there was no hint of trouble.

Hedlu

It soon became apparent

Team coach

Once in the ground, I was able to get one of the few remaining spots for the flag on the front of the middle tier, nowhere near where I was sat, but a decent position. The text from Mike later on saying that he’d seen the flag on TV proved me right.

Flag in stadium

From inside, the ground is as impressive as it seems from the exterior. It’s amazing to think that it was built for a fraction of what was spent on Wembley. As it started to fill up, you could feel the atmosphere building although I wasn’t sure whether it was expectation or trepidation from the Welsh fans.

Filling up

By the time the players came out and lined up for the national anthems, the stadium was buzzing. As the away team our anthem came first and from the first note, the home fans began to boo. This just made us sing louder and our corner belted out every word. The Welsh anthem was next and the England fans were not going to let the treatment of God Save The Queen pass without a response. As they began to sing we responded with chants of England. Unbelievably, despite the size of the stadium and the passion of the home fans, I didn’t hear one word of their anthem. On the way home, the treatment of the anthems was being criticized on the radio. I never have a problem with fans booing the anthem as I think it is all part of the tribal event. When the Russians booed our anthem in Moscow it was the most unbelievable atmosphere I have ever witnessed when I couldn’t even hear myself sing. That will be one of my abiding footballing memories. It would be easy to argue that we did nothing wrong in Cardiff anyway as the last time I looked, they had the same National Anthem as us. If they want to choose something different to sing on match day, that’s up to them but I don’t see why that song deserves respect. I should really mention the girl who sang the anthems at this point, but I might be better with a picture:

Singer

Within a couple of minutes of the game starting, it was clear that it was men against boys and within five, we were in front. Ashley Young managed to get goal side of his man and was dragged to the floor. Bizarrely, the Welsh complained to the ref. It was as clear a penalty as you could wish to see. As Lampard lined up the spot kick, the Welsh keeper looked huge but he dived the wrong way and Frank fired it into the back of the net. The players ran in front of the now rapturous travelling support and one look at the home fans suggested they knew that it was already game over.

After 1st goal

By the quarter of an hour mark, the match really was finished as a spectacle. England were walking through the Welsh defence at will and when Young again proved to much for his marker, his cross was finished from inches out by Darren Bent.

As you would expect, this silenced the Taffs but it also muted the atmosphere in the away end. It was just too easy. Nine times out of ten England should beat Wales. We all know that, but the least I expected was for them to show a bit of fight for their new manager in front of a full house. Instead, they didn’t look interested at all in the first half. Even when we’ve played the likes of Kazakhstan, they mightn’t have had the ability, but they had the passion. England continued to boss the game, but as we no longer needed to show bite, we didn’t.

The only excitement came with a fight in the home end. It wasn’t entirely clear what happened but I think it was Cardiff and Swansea fans having a pop at each other. It only lasted a minute or so, but there was some proper swinging going on. If they are like that at home games I hate to think what happens when Wales travel abroad. Other than that, we only managed to get any response out of their supporters each time we started up another rendition of the national anthem.

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t hear their attempt at a national anthem, but other than for the bad spelling, I think that a sign under the stand might have been the start of the first line of it.

Baa Baa

Sorry, shockingly bad joke but the sad thing is we thought it was funny at the time!

The second half was a total non-event. Wales came into it a little more and had a couple of long range shots that never troubled Joe Hart (not that they were easy for him to deal with, they went nowhere near him or the goal). We also had a couple of half chances but I felt that we could have stepped it up at any point if we’d needed to. As it was, the game petered out without the scorer being troubled again.

Game Over

After applauding the players off, I headed back to the car taking a gamble that I could cut through the park. It paid off and we were back on the road by half five. I think Mark Lawrenson must have been on a promise as he legged it past me just as I was getting back to the car.

A bit of classic Clash on the way home and even paying over £1.35 a litre for petrol couldn’t dampen my mood as the traffic was as kind as it had been on the way there. Home from an England away game by half past eight. Somehow that doesn’t feel right. At least it meant I could finally have another beer.


blog comments powered by Disqus
Last Updated on Saturday, 11 June 2011 21:19