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A first view of the New Wembley


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Paul Barnes was lucky enough to be at the New Wembley stadium today. Here's his tale, the jammy git :)

You want tickets for anything? Then meet my friend Roberto. He’s a bonafide Brummie/German-Italian (Don’t ask for explanations, its a long story).

As soon as I realised that I wouldn’t get tickets through legitimate means it was time to give Roberto a call.

‘Si, no problemo. Your friend Roberto will take care of you, I speak to my man at the Italian federation’.

A couple of days later he was back on the phone ‘Ok Paulo. I have good news and bad news’. I asked for the bad news first

‘You have to drive to team hotel and pick up tickets’. Oh I thought, I guess the good news must mean that he’s got one for me and one for George.

‘No even better Paulo, I gotta four tickets for you and your lovely wife’.

Thats the other thing about Roberto; he’s pure Italian charm.

So on the day of the game there I am amongst the best dressed football team in the world at the hotel. But no tickets have appeared. A desperate series of text messages go back and forth. I am in luck; Roberto has actually got up and fuelled by his sixth espresso, he says he will call someone, who knows the right man.

I am impatient - should I just go up to one of the Italians? I try to remember the little Italian I had learnt - But would the directions to the train station be of any help?

Damn. It looks like they're leaving. Roberto texts back. Its a woman I want. That's great - there is only one with the Italians. I approach and with a little charm and a kiss on each cheek and the mention of Roberto’s firm the tickets are secured.

Three hours later and we are walking from the station; I of course had screwed up. It was the station furthest away the ground.

Its at this point that you realise that for all the expense this is still one of the worst places to build a football stadium, let alone the national one.

How I loathe this part of London, its what makes people think the whole place is ugly and dirty.

Apart from that, the stadium is impressive in the way that football stadiums can be. Its big, but somehow it doesn’t feel like £700 million worth (or how ever much it was). And even worse, it still feels unfinished around the ground. From the rumour I've heard, the stadium was finished a long time ago. The problem was that they couldn’t agree how much it was or who was going to pay for it. Nothing would surprise me with the FA.

We found our seats. Roberto had done well, we were in the "Club Wembley" seats, which are in the middle ring of the stadium and offer a fantastic view of the pitch and give you a real sense of the game.

The pitch looked in pretty poor shape after just a few test games; much worse than a lot of premiership grounds that have had twenty or so games played on them already. I've heard that during the winter the pitch receives little direct sunshine; how strange.

The players came on to a good reception. Though there were 55,000 fans, I must admit that there wasn’t that much noise, or rather the acoustics didn’t build up the noise. What was great was that for once English fans didn’t boo the Italian national anthem and even better, with the full national team elsewhere, there was no annoying band playing "The Great Escape".

Most of you will have seen the game; what can you say? Six goals, including some pretty good ones made it enjoyable. It was clear that the Italians who enjoyed much less of the ball, actually made better use of it.

Time and time again England were wasteful with it; no one more so than Kierian Richardson, who seems to be about as selfish as they get. Every time he got the ball he seemed to have the idea that it was his to keep and then to plant a shot anywhere he felt it. Ferdinard and Reo-Coker were poor - you can see West Ham's problem. Both of them seem to think they have made it when quite clearly they haven’t. Bentley was good, but the rest of the team were average. Milner didn’t look the same player who has been doing so well at Newcastle in the last few months, and I saw nothing that would suggest that he should be a target for Villa.

I was surprised that Young only made a short outing as a sub late on, but was delighted that Cahill and Gabby played. Time and time again people have asked for Gabby to be played up front, and I could feel real frustration that he was placed on the left wing (though the BBC tells me he was upfront, he seemed to be hugging the left side); maybe this will make him want to play for Nigeria.

Whatever the criticisms of Gabby I felt that in this position he was onto a no win situation. With Richardson refusing to pass to him time and time again, he had little to show or do and England failed to utilise his pace effectively throughout his 45 minutes.

Gary Cahill I thought looked pretty good, nothing remarkable, though he must have been constantly worried about his partner who was wondering what time China Whites was going to open. The Italians, as I said, looked comfortable, though they followed an all too traditional path. Time and time again they were cynical in the challenge, which was very frustrating. The Italian hat trick scorer Pazzini was excellent. His first goal was an utter stunner (which even I clapped), his other two goals were well taken and his positioning was outstanding. Maybe we should sign him up.

Anyway we all came away pretty happy; it had been a good opener for the new stadium. We walked past the champagne and seafood bar (will we ever see one of those at Villa?!) and out into the cold north London air and back to the reality of where we were.

I was left with the same old question; why would anyone want to build a stadium in this place in this part of the country? At least when Villa make it here it won’t be too long a journey home for me.

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Just got back myself.

Firstly wembley - absolutely loved the new stadium, they have done a great job there. We got seats near the half way line opposite the players tunnel. Bad bits - catering - disgusting prices 3.50 per pint 7 quid for fish and chips. Service there made VP look like they could win the queens award for industry, again very poor. One other bad thing when you go through the turnstiles they search you, they had no woman there and as I had my 17 year old daughter with me I politely (ahem touch her and I will kill you) told them that if there was no woman she would not be searched.

As for the game, I thought Gaz did pretty well, played the ball on the ground to a team mate - note no hoof !. Gabby he really is not a winger, will people realise that. Mr Young not really on for long enough.

Other players of note, Reo-Coker, he does like to get stuck in and is capable of delivering a good pass. If we are to sign him like so many have said, he will be (at the right price) a good buy.

Two players I wish we could sign though, Bentley and Lita - very very good both of them

All in all a good day out, bloody freezing though, but can't wait until I go back with Villa for a cup final and / or the Charity Shield

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