Thursday, 19 August 2010

Icon #64 (The Old) Wembley

The most iconic football ground ever.

You were all expecting Anfield huh?  That's a whole other post for another day, but even I would be hard pushed to say it's the most iconic ever.  You guys that suggested it get a little mention at the end of the post though*.

The new Wembley is a shiny bright stadium that no one seems to enjoy playing at.  The pitch is generally awful and even the position that the camera gallery is sat at seems all wrong (it's too low).  But the old Wembley, despite poor views of the pitch and terrible facilities, was something truly special.  Players from all over the World wanted to play there, it's pitch was nearly always perfect and the FA Cup Final always felt like an occasion.

As a structure it wasn't beautiful and the setting, in darkest North London, is about as gloomy as you can get. Even on a glorious sunny day it felt a bit dirty but the Twin Towers bowl like shape made it seem special.

History helps of course.  You could go to a concert (as I did a few times) and think, 'Yep, this is just about where Geoff Hurst was when he hit the bar/scored.'  Or, 'I'm stood exactly where Gazza was when he lifted the ball over Colin Hendry and buried it in the Scotland goal.'  As a Liverpool fan it was always a bit gutting that every goal we ever seemed to score at Wembley was at the end they stuck the stage at so it was always, 'I'm probably just where Bruce was when he tipped that header from Sharpe over the bar in '86.'  Brilliant feeling though, to just be steeped in that much history.  All those finals, all those goals.  Lovely.

That Wembley has never been affiliated to a club helps too, apart from that odd faze when Arsenal played their Champions League games there.  Remember that?  Went well didn't it?  It just stood apart (still does in that respect) as something special although slowly but surely it's importance became more and more diluted as more competitions ended there.  Once the FA Cup started having semi-finals at Wembley the whole big deal of getting to the 'big stage' was tarnished and the competition has suffered along with that.

It was the heartbeat of our National game and in 1996 when England got to the semi of the Euro's it looked alive.  It's such a shame that it had to go, the new stadium is impressive but like so many new grounds something of the soul of the place has been lost, maybe never to be recovered.  Or maybe it just needs one great game, one moment that everyone will remember to give it the iconic status that the previous incarnation had.  Still, it does have a nice arch.

Tonight's post is dedicated to (from twitter) @tipyourhat, @SoulIsTheGoal, @DarrenWHU, @Guisep03, @Fyb3r_Optic, @ RoOkin, @middle7, @maverick99sback, @comedyfish, @lmlc and @RickHarwood (and from facebook) Ricky, Bundy and Toby.

And also the Koppites @EatMyHalo, @whitespider, @jezzalc, @dougwild (who might actually support Villa) and @alecjj.

*Because you were right really.