So that was Wembley. The infamous home of football and the very hallowed ground whereupon legends were born and myths cultivated. From the 1923 White Horse final to the 1966 World Cup final and from the 1988 Wimbledon FA Cup upset to Barcelona’s master class merely a week ago, both incarnation’s of the incredibly revered stadium have witnessed many unforgettable moments in the “Beautiful Game’s” history. That said, I would venture to say that despite the illustrious events that any football fan can reel off that have taken place under either the Twin Towers or the new Arch, only one will stick out in the minds of every fan in one picturesque corner of South West Wales.
Monday 30th May 2011 will forever be a date etched in the mind of every Swansea City fan dotted all around the globe. It will be revered as the date that the 40,000-strong Jack Army invaded North West London with such passion and fire in their bellies that negative thoughts were immediately banished in favour of the feeling that destiny and fate and propelled them to this very moment. Merely 8 years ago the club couldn’t pay the electricity bill and yet now here they were on the grandest stage of all playing for an estimated £90m in a match they dared not lose. Too many glorious memories, not enough time or space to recall them all.
Having been outside Wembley before on a non-match day and being distinctly unimpressed, the transformation on game day is awe-inspiring. The stadium looms above all and the arch cuts through the sky with the ease of a knife through the softest of Welsh butter. Fresh from the constant pouring of lager down our throats in the Torch pub and being inebriated enough to not remember the walk down the road to Wembley way, the second you hit the mass of humanity on the famous walkway jolts you back to reality whilst also ensuring you realise the dream is right here and right now. Unexpectedly long, it is perhaps thankful that once off Wembley way there are escalators to take you deep into the bowl of the stadium and before you realise it the infamous glean of the red seats draw your eyes away from the bar. So highlights of the day? Where to begin? Apart from the obvious footballing aspect of the day which I’m sure have been recounted incessantly by the media since the final whistle, everyone has their treasured memories. Amongst mine would have to be the way 40,000 Jacks held their hands aloft, puffed out their chests and broke into a synchronised chorus of the well-known and well-loved Rugby song “Hymns and Arias”, a unique and spine tingling anthem that has recently worked its way into the hearts and throats of the Swansea faithful. Some even whisper it may have been the loudest song ever heard at the New Wembley. If the Welsh are known for singing, then by god let’s sing! I still have goosebumps from the moment and it evidently impressed the hierarchy at Sky as a video montage was seemingly immediately authorised and has become a Youtube favourite in West Glamorgan and beyond.
Closely following that has to be the wonderful and sombre tribute paid to tragic ex-Swan Besian Idrizaj during the post-match celebrations by a squad that by and large were fellow team-mates and indeed friends of the young Austrian. In a sport often accused of a lack of sentimentality and morals amongst the top tier of players, it is inspiring to see a collection of young men whom are still honouring and remembering Besian one year later and whom turned what could have been a hollow gesture into a fulfilled promise by securing promotion. To see Alan Tate, Gary Monk et al joyfully raise the Play-Off trophy towards the heavens adorned in Besian t-shirts ensured that a player who was only at the club for a short period will remain in the minds of Swans fans and players for a long time. A great personal touch in an ever increasingly detached society.
The third and final prominent memory of the day (amongst literally hundreds for which I have neither the time nor blog space to include) is the camaraderie of the fans themselves. Fans do regularly interact with each other during games but apart from their common hobby for all intents and purposes everyone is a stranger. During the game though, the way in which every single person jumped about, hugged, laughed and screamed with each other was incredible. It was as though an instant friendship was conjured up out of nothing but goodwill and occasion. From working in the city as well, it seems as though the goodwill is going to continue deep into the summer. A cross section of Society, bonded together for an extraordinary journey by a common interest. The good times have begun, long may the continue.