1st of March 2014 - 3rd of March 2014
Capital One League Cup final
Manchester City - Sunderland
score: 3-1 (10' min Fabio Borini 0-1, 55' min Yaya Touré 1-1, 56' min Nasri 2-1, 90' min Navas 3-1)
Wednesday night, 22nd of January 2014. We're just back home for a week after a great Sunderland trip away at Fulham when the Lads beat Manchester United in the semi-final of the Capital One League Cup after a thrilling penalty serie. The Lads go to Wembley for a cup final. The last time this happened was 22 years ago. This in so unique that we have to be a part of this. So even though the costs of the last trip haven't been earned back after a couple of months work, I will try to do my best to get my hand on some tickets for this special occasion. But the chance to get tickets won't be that big. There will be around 35.000 tickets available and there's already 30.000 season ticket holders that all will get one for sure. But like Dutch legend Johan Cruijff always says: "If you don't shoot, you cannot score" so I will try to get advise and help from every contact that I know. The first ticket arrived quickly. So that was very good news. But it is always more fun to go with some friends, so I kept trying. On the 6th of February I got a message. I got another three tickets for the final. Great news. Ofcourse I decided to inform the Lads that were with me on the Fulham game. Frido and Tim definitely wanted to go. Peur and Nilis had to skip this one. So I had one ticket left. The lucky person to go with us was Sven who accepted the invitation immediately. Preparations could get started.
A mail followed with all possible options. We could go by plane, by car and ferry, by train and ferry, fly over and back again on the same day, but after a group discussion and all pros and cons we decided to do it like this:
- Saturday afternoon 3 PM departure from Hillegom to Amsterdam Schiphol. Arrival at Gatwick 5 PM
- 2 nights at Blackheath Clarendon Hotel just south of London
- Monday afternoon 2 PM departure from Gatwick back to Amsterdam Schiphol.
Everything was well planned and booked. All we had to do now was wait until the 1st of March.
And before we could blink with our eyes it was the 1st of March. Lenneke and me arrived at Sven while Nienke and Tim arrived at Frido to drive us to Amsterdam where the four of us would meet. The airport was unbelievable empty. We could almost run through customs and we even had time for a pint at the airport. After that we went to the gate. It was a short flight and we got on the train from Gatwick to London Bridge where we had to change on the train to Blackheath. We arrived at 6 PM in our hotel for the two nights, and on exactly the same time a full coach of yelling women from Wales arrived to check in (was Tom Jones playing at the O2 arena that night?) After the hotel check-in we walked to O'Neill's Irish pub where I had a table booked for some food and some drinks. The pub was crowded and we had to search for our table. After a short while we saw a piece of paper on a table with the text: "this table is reserved for Nick from 8.00 PM". The couple that sat on the table asked if we were Nick so they left. The first pints arrived and after that the four Ultimate Burgers. And Ultimate they were. Tim tried to eat one like you can do at McDonalds, but this was impossible for this one so we had to use our cuttlery. Delicious. After our meal the pints were even better, but at 11 PM we decided to get back to the hotel. The next morning we had to leave early.
Sunday the 2nd of March: Matchday. We had to get the train at 8.40 from Blackheath to get back to London Bridge. After that the Jubilee line tube direct to Wembley Park. Just across the road of Wembley Stadium is an Indian restaurant situated that opened their doors for Sunderland supporters from 10 AM. One of our Sunderland friends Tony had worked for some years at Wembley and knew the owner. So we had a chance to meet him and other Sunderland friends like Jonathan, Pottsy, Chris, David, Roger, Steve etc. All of them were there. This was an event not to be missed. Even Brian and Eileen arrived. It got more and more crowded, but the English beer draft isn't that quick. So the barstaff had to do their best to serve everyone. After a couple we decided to get some food and go to the stadium. We wanted to taste the atmosphere outside. We got in queue for a burger and it was one of the worst ever. But it was well needed. After that we walked to the bridge and that was where our ways parted. Frido, Tim and Sven were in a different part of the ground than me. 75 minutes before kick-off I was on my chair and I was not the first one. The Sunderland half of the ground was already getting full while the Man City end was completely empty. It was great to see the looks on all the faces. Old men looking proud but also fathers with their young sons who were stunned by the size of the ground and the atmosphere. But every single one of them with a big smile on their faces. So glad that they were there to experience this Cup Final. Pre match entertainment started. Highlights of the previous rounds on the big screens, the warm-up of the players and even the FA Cup legends of 1973 got on the pitch. After that the Cup was presented, some firework and "God save the Queen". Let's start the match.
The Lads started well. No panic at all, the ball was passed round and we had lots of possession. In the 10th minute a long ball from Sunderland's half by Adam Johnson. It was picked up by Fabio Borini who controlled it and he outpaced Vincent Kompany. He directed the ball past Pantilimon in the back of the net and the Sunderland part of Wembley exploded. Unbelievable! We are 1-0 up in the League Cup final! The looks on the faces of the Sunderland supporters were amazing. Was this actually happening. We all started the Poznan, but it was sill that early in the game. After the goal City took control, but they didn't create that much. Their biggest chance was a cross that had to be headed over his own goal by Borini. It was Sunderland that got the biggest chance of the first half. It was Borini again who again who raced clear after a pass by Larsson. But this time Kompany was right in time to slide the ball behind. Half time and 1-0 up. During half time I started to realise that we could really win this. From that moment I could not stop shaking on my seat.
At the start of the second half Sunderland played like they did in the first half. Ki tried a long range effort but it was punched away by Pantilimon. Manchester City could only score with a moment of magic. And that moment came too soon. And not just once, but twice in the space of 105 seconds. In the 55th minute it was Yaya Touré who got the ball outside the area and I still don't know if it was a fluke but it ended high in the corner of the goal. And moments later it was Nasri who also shot from outside the box and it also went unstoppable in the corner of the goal. Pfff and we were 2-1 behind. But instead of getting back to their seats, all Sunderland fans stood up and sang their hearts out for the Lads. The players responded to this and Sunderland had a lot of possession. A serie of corners followed, but the ball didn't get in the goal. Until the 90th minute. Sunderland were dispossessed in the City half with almost every player up front and City broke away and Navas scored the killer 3-1. That was it. The Lads had tried everything they could, but it didn't work out. All the fans stayed inside and applauded to the players. They were the heroes of the day. Everyone was still there when they received the runners-up medal and "things can only get better" was sung by the Sunderland faithful. Even all supporters stayed to show their respect for Man City when they received the cup and after that we went back to Moore Spice (1966) where we would meet each other again. The place was packed again and everyone felt proud for what they'd seen that afternoon. With our heads up high we can look back to a League Cup final and an opposition with a budget way bigger that Sunderland's. As we knew the trains and tubes would be full we decided to have some pints in here and after another 1,5 hours we decided to get the tube back to London Bridge and the train back to Blackheath for some food and drinks.
In Blackheath we decided to try the Railway pub first. This one was closest to the station. It looked not too busy and we saw a nice table where we had a pint. But there was an instrumental live jazz-band playing, and they played WAY TOO LOUD. So we finished our pint and left immediately. Back to O'Neills again. Just past O'Neills we saw a nice looking place to get something to eat. It was called Giraffe and we got inside. We all had the BBQ Chicken & Smoked Cheddar Quesedilla and it was awesome. The lady that served us was a good businesswoman because she also sold onion-rings and fries to us and all dishes were empty when we left. We went for one more pint in O'Neills and after that the Kittie was empty. Back to the hotel for a coffee and Match of the Day on TV. But the day had been that excited that no-one stayed awake until the last match on Match of the Day. It was Frido who pressed the red button.
Monday the 3rd of March. It was our idea to stay in bed until 10 AM, but we aren't like that at all. Before 9 AM we were showered and ready for breakfast. We decided to take a morning walk. The weather was nice and the ground of Charlton Athletic was within walking distance of the hotel. We left our bags at the reception and walked to the Valley. And a Valley it was. The ground was way low and all roads and houses around the ground were higher situated. We met a groundsman who took us inside. He excused himself for the fact that the pitch was in terrible condition because of the heavy rain from the last months. And because of the way the ground was situated the pitch was very wet. But football grounds are always nice to visit and the groundsman was proud of his club. After this visit we walked back to the hotel to pick up our bags, and straight to the train to get back to Gatwick. Everything worked out as it was planned and after another good flight we arrived at Schiphol airport at 4.30 PM where we were picked up by Ralph who drove us back to Hillegom.
A big thank you again to everybody who was involved in this Wembley adventure. It was unforgettable again. But most of all I am proud of all Sunderland supporters. It turned out into one great party and they showed that it is possible to lose a game but still show respect to your own team but also to the opponent. I am proud to be a Dutch Mackem!
(written by Nick)