Middlesbrough v Norwich City, Monday 25th May 2015, 3pm


Well, would you believe it? I’d had a week-long trip to the UK booked since last September and it ended up coinciding with a trip to Wembley. Not just any trip to Wembley either, but the Boro in the play-off final.

I’d been hoping that we’d go up automatically but realistically there were eight teams that had similar prospects. Derby failing to even make the play-offs showed how tight it was at the top and in the end fourth place was fair enough.

Getting tickets wasn’t too difficult and within an hour of them going on general sale I had the four I needed for myself, my son and two of his mates. They were all heading down a day early for the Trafalgar Square pre-match party but as I’d rented a house in Whitby and had four generations of family staying I limited myself to driving there and back on the day of the game.

The grandkids.

The grandkids.

A pre-5am start to beat the Bank Holiday traffic meant that I was parked up in what looked like the last remaining spot at Stanmore Station by around half-past nine and a contactless credit card meant that I could skip the queues of fans buying their day-return tickets.

As I wasn’t drinking I had no intention of arriving at Wembley five hours in advance of the game and so I stayed on the tube until West Hampstead instead, as that seemed like the sort of place that I might be able to while away some time.

It was as I’d anticipated and I spent a couple of hours reading the paper in what I presumed was a trendy coffee shop, although as far as I know Flat Whites and Tall Blacks might have gone out of fashion five years ago. Maybe they are even ironically offered retro-drinks these days.

With a bit more time to kill I had a wander in the direction of Swiss cottage. It’s a nice enough leafy suburb and the sort of place that I’d have been content to have lived at sometime if I‘d ever had the spare two or three million quid necessary for a house there. I spotted an old Volvo parked outside of one of the houses. It was the same model that I’d owned in the last days of my first marriage twenty odd years ago. Some lives you never get around to living, others you are happy to leave behind.

Mine was slightly older than that one.

Mine was slightly older than that one.

Before long it was time to get back on the tube to Wembley. My carriage was full this time, mainly with Norwich fans singing anti-Ipswich songs. I paused at the subway exit and looked down Wembley Way, partly to take in the view but mainly to try to reconcile what I could see with my recollections of the place.

View from the station

View from the station

As hard as I tried I couldn’t match the current surroundings with my memories. I first went to the national stadium in 1975 on a school trip to watch England schoolboys before taking in a few full internationals in the eighties. I’d been to the previous four Boro games at the stadium but I suppose the last of those was seventeen years ago and so maybe it’s no wonder that the surroundings seemed unfamiliar. Perhaps I was approaching from a different direction.

View from 1975.

View from 1975.

A quick lap of the ground and I was in my seat in block 538 for a pie and a coffee, the kids warm up game and Me Mark Page. It seems as if there is no respite from that fuckwit. If only someone could find him a Saturday daytime slot on hospital radio somewhere.

Tom and his mates arrived shortly before kick-off having spent the previous twenty-four hours preparing for the game in a manner that I don’t think my liver is cut out for these days. He thinks he’s a bit of a Jonah having seen us lose four finals. I had to remind him that a lot of the Boro fans in the crowd will have seen those plus the Zenith Data Systems game twenty-five years ago. He was only six months old when we’d lost that one so I’d thought it sensible to leave him at home that time.

View from Block 538.

View from Block 538.

And the game? If I said it was Typical Boro then you‘ll know how it went. We didn’t play as well as Norwich and they deserved their victory. We’ve struggled this season to get back into games whenever we’ve gone behind and overcoming a two goal deficit was never on the cards.

I left as the clock ticked around to ninety minutes and was on the M1 by half past five, leaving the defeat further behind me with every passing mile. It was time to look to next season.


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One Response to “Middlesbrough v Norwich City, Monday 25th May 2015, 3pm”

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