In just a few days Chelsea head to their second home in their eighth FA Cup semi-final in just 13 years. That record is only just better than mine because come Sunday I’ll be travelling to my eighth game at Wembley in 15 years. Here are my Wembley days.
My first trip was to the old Wembley for the 1998 Coca Cola Cup final against Middlesbrough. The 1997/98 season was my first for going to matches. And having been to the FA Cup final with our dad the year before, my brother graciously did what every big brother should do – he gave up his ticket to a Wembley cup final for me. I don’t remember too much about that trip. It was over 15 years ago to be fair! I do remember standing on my seat the entire game. I usually had a pretty good view at The Bridge if I sat with the chair up (I hope you can picture that), but there was no chance of that that day. We were about a quarter of the way up in the West end. Brilliant view for the goals! At half time I remember an unparalleled queue for the toilets. To a six-year old boy it seemed like the entire stadium descended on those toilets.
Two years later I was back! This time with Mum, Dad and brother for the FA Cup semi-final win against Newcastle. This time we were near the back on the South side. I don’t know whether I was too young to remember in 98’ but I can picture the old rickety seats. Those two goals from Poyet meant a brilliant day! My dad was adamant that we stuck around after every match hoping to see the players (he still does it every now and again these days). We took a little football and we spent an hour or so after the match kicking it against the old wall in front of the twin towers, convinced we weren’t going to see anyone. What do you know, along walks Dennis Wise!
It would be another seven years before I saw another match at Wembley – by the way, the trip to Cardiff was much easier for me coming from Newport! – By that time I was 15 and I can remember so much more. The 2007 Community Shield against Man United with my dad and brother. The game was drab and ended in defeat on penalties. That meant highlights of the day were my dad questioning whether sun lotion would make his (rapidly receding) hair go ginger, him paying almost £20 for day tickets for all zones instead of returns from Zone 2 to Zone 1 and cooling off from the 30*C heat in the fountains outside the arena.
The next trip wasn’t any better. Another loss. This time in the Carling Cup final at the hands of Spurs. We spent most of the game questioning Avram’s team selection and watching Spurs hit us on the break. Oh, and the referee blow the final whistle moments before Kalou was about to shoot from a few yards out. It didn’t matter anyway, it hit the post. It was Kalou after all! This time on a mild, cloud covered February Sunday there was no room for water fountains and sun lotion fun.
We were starting to think of ourselves as a little bit of a jinx. Chelsea never lost when our family went to games at the old Wembley. Now we were 0-2. Our first win came in the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal in 2009. Ahhhhhh Drogba. Loved a goal against Arsenal. And at Wembley, actually. He was always going to score wasn’t he? After goals from Walcott and Malouda, Didier skipped past Fabianski to put us through to another final. The streak losing streak was over. A new streak was about to begin. We always hang around a bit for the Wembley Way queue to die down. This time, a random Arsenal fan started talking to us about whether we preferred Drogba or Adebayor (we were being linked with him at the time). He thought Drogba too. Amazingly, that conversation lasted about an hour.
The next trip came a few months later at the Community Shield against Man United, again. This time, no dad. Just brother and brother…and a ball. We decided to take a football with us and take photos every step of the way. Don’t ask because I don’t know the answer. On another lovely summer’s day, things seemed to go much smoother without Dad. No potential gingers and no use of the entire London Underground for the entire day. There was the small matter of seeing a coach go up in flames in the car park before the game. The game went well though! New manager, new shape and we beat United on penalties. That was the third time we’d seen a Community Shield and the second time we’d won. There was something about that day – we saw a burning Ranger Rover on the M4 on the way home as well.
Our final trip came later that season for another FA Cup semi-final. This time we saw off Aston Villa en route to our first league and cup double (double double, John Terry has won the double!). Another lovely day, another win at Wembley. I almost didn’t see the game though. As my dad handed me my ticket outside, a gush of wind blew the ticket out of my hand. I rushed to get it and lost it again. The odd thing is I’m not normally clumsy! Anyway, I did see the game. I saw us ease to a 3-0 victory and into another FA Cup final.
We’re on a streak of three consecutive wins. And the only two defeats in our seven games have come in the Community Shield and Carling Cup. No FA Cup defeats for us! Sunday will be bit of a different day for us though. I’m driving up for the first time, we’re sat much closer (we’re always in the heavens) and it’s my girlfriend’s first trip to Wembley. Heck, it’s only her second ever match! It’s alright for some, isn’t it!?
My Wembley days are always special in some way, whether it’s another win, getting soaked in the fountains on a boiling day or kicking a ball around beneath the Twin Towers. I’m sure the trips to Wembley are special for all of us. It is our second home after all. So, let’s make Sunday another special Wembley trip for Chelsea by helping the team into yet another FA Cup final.
Come on Chels!
Jonathan Davies @JonathanCDavies