Three reasons to never go to an England friendly
A trip to Wembley to watch England take on Germany cost me over £40 without food or drink thrown into the equation.
Had I known what we inside Wembley were going to witness on Tuesday night, I might have turned down the trip.
Zero shots on target, some disastrous forward play from Daniel Sturridge and brief moments of competency from Wayne Rooney and Adam Lallana hardly warranted the £35 ticket - plus booking fee - especially when viewed from the second to top row of England's multimillion pound home of football.
The quality of the game, however, is almost acceptable because, as all fans know, part of the thrill of watching the beautiful game is that you never know what you're going to see. It's possible that, had Rooney tied up his shoelace five minute earlier before the game, or had Sturridge dared to find a shred of the form he's shown at Liverpool over the past 10 months, the 85,000 or so fans packed inside Wembley stadium might have seen a end-to-end contest of flowing football.
There are, however, a number of other factors that led to Tuesday night's outing being such a miserable affair. Here are the three reasons why I shan't be paying to watch another England friendly.
1. The Fans
This country has worked wonders in attempting to stamp out foul and abusive behaviour in football grounds and is streets ahead of a number of countries when it comes to clamping down on racism in the stands.
Unfortunately, there are still plenty of people in our country and in our football grounds that seek to send football viewing back to the Stone Age. Stepping out of Wembley Central tube station into the crisp night air, I was full of optimism about the evening ahead. Part of that optimism in me died, though, when I heard the first screams from a group of fans ahead of me singing, "there were ten German bombers in the air."
No doubt the chant was meant in jest, but with the callus lyrics being chanted so soon after Remembrance Sunday, and with such little thought for what they were saying, the evening instantly had some of the shine taken off it. There were also a few fans in the ground that decided to boo the German national anthem which did little more than serve as a reminder that even on a night that was meant to celebrate 150 years of English football, the mindless few can cast a dark shadow on a grand occasion.
2. The Atmosphere
One of the best things about the Premier League is the atmosphere. When they want to be, English football fans can be create, noisy and fantastically funny. I still remember a hilarious tube journey to Craven Cottage with a mob of Liverpool fans as they sang their homage to Luis Suarez to the tune of Depeche Mode's 'Just Can't Get Enough'. Football clubs across the country are littered with chants like this yet when they unite under the England banner this delicious banter isn't pooled into a melting pot to create an intense cacophony of noise.
Instead England fans can only muster a handful of chants and songs, droned out throughout the evening like a police car siren recorded by a handful of herding cows.
The same four trumpet notes played out to the chants of "come on England" or the low beat of the drum before the short sharp inevitable chorus chant of of "England" hardly stretch the vocal chords, nor the imagination of those around the ground. If the football is uninspiring on the pitch, the atmosphere off it hardly helps to haul us back in to the spectacle.
A palace of English football or a characterless monstrosity. While the latter description may be a little over the top, the fact is that, for a stadium that cost around £750 million to build, Wembley is by no means the greatest football ground in the world, and possibly not even the country.
The facilities in the ground are fantastic, that much is true, but those who care more about using the ground to watch sport rather than shop and eating are left feeling distant from the action on the pitch. Wembley's first tier stretches back far from the pitch at a low angle of elevation. This means that the second and third tier seats are even further removed from the pitch, both vertically and horizontally and, unlike the top row of the Allianz Arena or the Santiago Bernabèu, where you feel almost on top of the action, Wembley's cheap seats suck you right out of the action.
Combined with an outer shell that, were it not for the quite laughable giant arch that rises into the sky from its room, lacks any unique architectural qualities, Wembley pales in comparison to some of the worlds grander venues such as the aforementioned Munich and Madrid based stadiums, the beautiful Stade de France in Paris or even classic stadiums from years past such as the San Siro in Milan.
Friendly international games can so often disappoint on the pitch with the lack of intensity and purpose but when watching your country drag their heels through a dire 90 minutes in a lacklustre, flaccid atmosphere, it's time to call it a day and decide to wait for a game with some meaning. That or for tickets to be reduced by 50%.
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