Wembley Stadium
The 2008 Blue Square Premier Play-Off Final

Ground No. 128 (return visit)
Visited - Sunday 18th May 2008
Result - Exeter City 1-0 Cambridge United
Competition - Blue Square Premier Play-Off Final
Attendance - 42,511

Finally completed and re-opened in March 2007, the media coverage of Wembley’s rebuild since closing in October 2000 had been extensive, not that that was surprising for what is arguably the most famous stadium in the world. I’d first visited back in 1993 for an England schoolboys international, and was eager to get back, making two trips within the first 6 months, firstly the Conference final, watching Morecambe gain promotion to the Football League at the expense of Exeter and for a second time to see Germany beat England in a dull, lacklustre friendly a few months later. Unfortunately my pictures from both of those games had been lost, so if just to take some new ones, then I wanted to get back and the second Conference Play-Off Final to be held there seemed an appropriate occasion, with Exeter once again appearing, this time to face Cambridge United who had swept away Burton to make it into their first appearance at the new stadium.

Unaccountably, tickets had risen £10 since last year, but despite this, I set off in a good mood, leaving the Midlands early with the journey down to London going well, before eventually heading back outwards again to Wembley Park on the tube. After exiting the station, then for those who haven’t been, just make sure you come in this way, the view is immense, possibly one of the best stadium approaches in all of football. The first time I’d come in via Wembley Stadium station, sneaking in the back way and it doesn’t compare at all. As part of the Wembley experience, then it never fails to impress standing at the top of the steps looking down Wembley Way seeing thousands of people making their way towards the stadium at the opposite end with the arch sitting centrally above the scene.

After joining the flowing crowd, I started to make the journey down towards it, and it’s at this side that the ground look most impressive, with the main entrance sitting at the top of the ramp, whilst Bobby Moore (in statue form) looks away from the ground, towards the tube station, welcoming the tens of thousands of visitors. From the outside, the exterior is mainly glass, and after walking the perimeter, it truth be told a little boring and repetitive with few redeeming features away from the main entrance, where most fans tend to gather before kick-off. With its sweeping circular walls, then it isn’t the easiest to take pictures of either, but after trying all the same, I was eventually satisfied and went in.

Last year I’d been sitting with the Exeter supporters, mainly because Morecambe weren’t selling online, but this year the Devonshire side had sold most tickets behind the goal very quickly, and there didn’t seem to be many decent views left (not wanting to sit in the corners or along the side), so I’d chosen to sit amongst the Cambridge fans at the opposite end of the stadium in the lower tier of the East Stand, having a very similar position, halfway up offering a fantastic view of the action. The ground itself is huge, both inside and out. The lower tier provided most of the capacity for this match, with the top tier closed, and the debacle of having the middle tier splitting fans last year finally over after the FA had seen sense over the matter, with fans also occupying that level this time. The lower tier itself is a fairly big bowl, with the middle tier slightly overhanging the last few rows, whilst the upper tier sits above that, again in a bowl like design, but with the middle of the side stands both rising towards the halfway line, creating an arch effect. It’s also notable for both ends having sections cut out for the scoreboard and on the North side of the ground, a small fourth tier sitting just between the middle and top one, above a row of executive boxes.

Both teams had an end each, with segregation along the halfway line, and you’re able to walk around the full length of the section, from one side to the other, so after having taken enough pictures, I eventually went downstairs into the spacious concourse to grab a pie and a pint (not that bad at £7), and to read the programme before the game eventually started.

This was the third play-off game I’d seen this weekend, having visited Stockport and Rochdale 24 hours previously. As well as the Conference final last year, I’d been in the losing section both times the day before, sitting amongst Darlington and Wycombe fans who had seen their sides knocked out, so things didn’t bode well for Cambridge with my luck mirroring that of Albert Trotter and a newly launched ship! It was just as I was starting my “during the war…” speech that Exeter put themselves into the lead, halfway through the first half when Rob Edwards nodded in a corner at the far post to put the Grecians ahead. They’d started the game the brighter, and were causing Cambridge a few problems in defence, but this was the first real clear cut chance of the game. After that, it was fairly tight, with Cambridge trying, but not really troubling Paul Jones in the Exeter goal (not the Paul Jones of Wolves/Southampton/Wales fame).

In the second half, United managed to find their feet, and made more of an impression on Exeter, but they still couldn’t force the goal that they needed, despite Matt Taylor being forced to clear Mark Peters’ shot off the line. Cambridge forced more chances as the game wore on, but nothing really seemed to fall right for them up front, and with Exeter comfortably keeping possession then the three minutes of injury time played out with no further action, to see the side from Devon regain their place in the Football League at the expense of Cambridge.

Throughout the game, the atmosphere had been quite good, helped by fans being in, and mostly filling the two lower tiers, compared to last year when they all seemed very spread out over the lower and upper tiers. It also helped that the crowd was more evenly split with both sides making up about half the 42,511 crowd unlike last year when Exeter well outnumbered Morecambe, with numbers no doubt boosted by neutrals and daytrippers making their first trip to the newly opened ground.

After leaving, I made my way back, getting away fairly quickly up Wembley Way, which had been a nightmare after the England game I’d come to, arriving back into central London about 45 minutes after the final whistle, going home a bit later on.

Overall, the day out had been good, and I was glad to return to the ground. It’s a fantastic venue which has been worth the wait (and expense), and even though I’ve seen the team I’ve been with lose on each of the three visits, then they’ve all been good experiences and the ground is deserving of its legendary status. 

Wembley Way

Rear of the North Stand

The Main Entrance

The Bobby Moore Statue

Club Wembley Entrance

Rear of the West Stand

Rear of the South Stand

Rear of the East Stand

The Arch

The Lower Tier Concourse

The South Stand

The West Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

The Scoreboard

The North Stand

The West Stand

The South Stand

Time to go home!
(looking back down Wembley Way)

Wembley Stadium Panoramic 1

Wembley Stadium Panoramic 2

Wembley Stadium Panoramic 3


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