Wembley, “The Home of Football” - what a load of b*llocks.
Wembley, a non-descript home to warehouses and office blocks always seemed to me to be the home of nothing but defeat and misery. None of the original football league clubs were in London, so how can it be football’s home?
Between 1985 and our last visit in 2014 we have been to the home of football six times if you include The Mercantile Credit Football Festival - which I won’t because I wasn’t there - but like many supporters my age I experienced each of the others.
Five matches played at one ground over nearly 30 years. Five matches against five different opponents for three different prizes and we won not one of them - own goals, missed penalties, chances to score missed, penalty shoot outs, daft mistakes, outclassed, unlucky, plucky... just Sunderland.
Five matches when linked together bring Steve Berry and Yaya Toure into the same conversation. Gary Bennett played in three of the matches, a number of others including Brian Atkinson played in two. Wembley the pinnacle - the Home of Football. David Corner and Sergio Aguero, 30 years apart.
1985 at the Old Wembley, the very old Wembley.
The Twin Towers, the hallowed turf... all b*llocks.
2014 was the new Wembley, the magnificently expensive modern stadium with atmosphere and prices to match, the new home of football. 2014 and forty odd thousand red and whites making a noise and showing their colours.
1985 was a different era. Countless - some say 60 or 70 thousand Sunderland, too many to know, too many to count - in the creaking crumbling stadium. Peter Daniel versus Asa Hartford... 2014, Fabio Borini versus Vincent Kompany.
In between was a game against Swindon, the glamourous Swindon at the home of football, lead by World Cup winner Ossie Ardiles. They had Fraser Digby in goal and Steve White up front. Then, two years later, David Rush played on the right wing against Liverpool’s John Barnes and Steve McManaman - different competitions, same result, both games lost.
Let Me Entertain you rang out in 1998... Kevin Phillips and Clive Mendonca... Abide with me in 1992, Kevin Ball and Ian Rush... a fire work display and white noise in 2014, Wes Brown and David Silva... 1990 I was too wasted to know or recall... 1985 there was just the roar, the Roker Roar - Barry Venison and Steve Bruce...
Red and white in 1985 and again in 2014, gold and blue in 1998, royal blue in 1990, white and blue Hummel in 1992 - we won the battle of the strips on each occasion, we won the battle of the singing and passion and noise on each occasion, we won peoples hearts in 2014. We lost each match at the home of football.
It hurt in 1985. I was 14. It hurt in 1990 but we won a few weeks later anyway, which extinguished the pain. It didn’t hurt in 1992 - we expected to lose. 1998 was a killer but the bond was strengthened, and we triumphed for a few years after. 2014 we won everything except the match and came home proud - we lost everything for a time after that.
Wembley, the home of football... what times we had at each visit.
I wonder when we’ll be back?
I wonder if we’ll ever see a win at the home of football.