Monday, 25 May 2015


You can say what you want about the game of football. You can call the fans thugs and the players overpaid Prima Donnas but in my eyes football is is the greatest sport in the world and you'd be hard pushed to convince me otherwise.

I don't play football anymore. It's been a long time since I even just had a bit of a kick about and I don't get to go and see that many games either. However, when I do, I always leave wondering why I don't go and see a game every week. Unfortunately it's not that simple. Going to a football match doesn't come cheap and I also work a lot over the weekend. However, yesterday there was a very special game that I didn't want to miss if I could help it. Yesterday I went to Wembley Stadium to see Preston North End play in the SkyBet League 1 Playoff Final.

Now the thing is that this isn't really a Year31Project blog post because it isn't really a first. Although I haven't actually seen Preston play at Wembley before and yes I was hopeful that it would be the first time in ten attempts that Preston have been promoted through the Playoffs. It did't feel like a first because I have been to watch a game at Wembley before - I watched England qualify for the 2010 World Cup by beating Croatia 5:1 in September 2009 - and I've watched Preston play many times (just never at Wembley).

However, yesterday was very much a Year31Project adventure. Or maybe that should simply be an Anthony Hett adventure. So let me tell you the story of yesterday and my little trip to Wembley.

So obviously I didn't buy a ticket in advance. That would be way too organised! Instead I got up and went to work for a couple of hours and then jumped on the tube to Wembley Park, hopeful that there would still be tickets on sale. Failing that I would then try and buy a ticket from your local friendly tout.

Now the thing is that it's reaching the end of the month and so I'm a little on the poor side of things. I get paid on Wednesday but I don't have a lot of money to last me until then. In fact, all I had yesterday was enough money in my bank to cover a bill that is going out on Tuesday and £60 in my wallet that I saved from my Friday tutoring jobs. So I leave work at around 2.30pm, buy a sandwich for £2.99, put £5.00 on my Oyster card and with £52.01 in my wallet, I jump the train to Wembley Park. (It definitely felt a little like when I decided to hitchhike from Walthamstow to Wales with only £8.61 in my wallet. Read about that epic adventure here).

Arriving at Wembley Park at about 3.30pm - two hours before kick off - I find two touts waiting outside the station. Our interaction goes something like this:

Me: How much for a ticket?
Tout 1: Forty notes (he didn't actually say notes but I thought I'd cockney him up a bit haha)
Me: Thats in the Preston end?
Tout 1: Yeah (calls his mate over).
Me: It's definitely in the Preston end?
Tout 2: Looks at the ticket. Well it doesn't actually say.
Tout 1: But the fella who sold it to me was wearing a Preston t-shirt so you know.
Me: Yeah I just don't want to be in with the Swindon end.
Tout 2: Why don't you just get amongst them (imitates fighting).
I laugh and think: yeah that might be alright for stocky tough nuts like you but...
Tout 1: Yeah, the "geezer" was definitely wearing a Preston t-shirt. (He didn't say geezer either haha)
Me: But what if it's wrong? What if I go and it's for the Swindon end? What do I do? I mean you're not going to be here for me to get my money back.
Tout 2: Yeah we'll be here.

I look at the ticket. But I can't see where it says which end it's for. What do I do? Maybe I should be sensible? Asif! I take a leap of faith, pay the tout and start walking down Wembley Way towards the stadium. Then after about 10 yards, I look down at the bottom of the ticket and it clearly states - in quite small letters but still - Sheffield United or Swindon. So - feeling slightly nervous - I turn around and go back to the touts. They're all apologetic saying things like: We didn't see that. It's a good job you did. Now we know. He was wearing a Preston t-shirt etc. Like they didn't know what they were doing all along! But they give me my money back and I head towards the stadium.

I don't see any other touts as I make my way to the stadium but that's ok because I'm hopeful if not completely confident that it won't be a sell out. Preston had over 30,000 tickets to sell and although the area surrounding the stadium is extremely busy and PNE have great support, I don't think they'll sell out their allocation.

With a little help from a woman with a coat that says "I'm here to help" I find my way to the ticket office. Ominously the collections queue is huge but the queue for sales is basically nonexistent. But people do seem to be buying tickets so happy days! After a short - nerve-wracking wait - I step up to the window and enquire about a ticket. There are two options left. 1: £62.00 (I don't have enough! It looks like I might be watching the game at home on the TV) and 2: £52.00 (amazing! That's almost exactly how much I have. Somebody up there must like me today!) I had over the money and practically snatch the ticket out of her hand.

Here it is, my mach day ticket:

Leaving me with a whole 1p in my wallet:

No money for a hotdog - £5 for a hotdog! - but I'm just happy to be in the stadium and also quite happy to save the money/keep up the healthy diet.

There's a bit of a wait for kick off but I soak up the atmosphere. Take some pictures, play with the time-lapse video function on my iPad and generally drain it's limited battery, after forgetting to charge it the night before.

Here's a picture of me looking very excited I'm sure you'll agree haha:

I find my seat:

Which has a pretty good view:

And then finally at around 5.30pm they're off. And boy are they off! Preston score in the 3rd minute and then again in the 13th. What a way to start the game! And from then on - at least from where I was watching - they completely dominated the game. In fact the stats tell a slightly different story with Swindon "enjoying" 68% of the procession but - as somebody just said to me - the only stat that counts is goals scored and Preston ran out 4:0 winners. It was a a amazing game and a fantastic and well deserve victory. I had an amazing time! I'm so glad that I could be there to witness a little piece of history. It was definitely worth every penny (that I had).

Here are the players celebrating after the game:

Unfortunately I drained the battery of my iPad shooting pointless videos - none of which include any of the goals - so I don't have any pictures of them celebrating with the trophy haha. Never mind!

Preston will be playing Championship football again next season and deservedly so. They have played very well all season and only missed out on automatic promotion on the last day of the season. However, you don't get a trophy or a fun day out a Wembley Stadium for finishing second do you MK Dons! Well done Preston! You did it the hard way, but you did it and you won some silverware.

"Now you're going to believe us, the whites are going up!"


Have fun. I'm off to a BBQ.

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