Saturday, 4 September 2010

England see some light at Wembley

Please forgive me. I couldn't resist this September sunset over London last night, especially as it cast a fierce flaming light on Wembley Stadium's famous bronze statue of Bobby Moore, England's great football captain, and one of my boyhood heroes.

Wembley's vast stadium bowl easily swallowed 73,246 souls eagerly anticipating England's European Championship qualifier against Bulgaria. The relaxed and good humoured Friday night crowd warmly greeted soldiers from the Household Calvalry, Parachute Regiment and the Royal Horse Artillery who paraded the English and Bulgarian flags before kick-off. All of the soldiers are due to be deployed in Afghanistan soon.

After politely booing the Bulgarian national anthem, the nerves of England's long-suffering fans were settled by an early Jermaine Defoe goal. As the first half match action on Wembley's green expanse dwindled, the livelier western end crowd kicked off a series of Mexican waves.

England's confident new goalkeeper Joe Hart laughed off one hairy moment when team-mate Glen Johnson, trying to sweep a cross safely behind for a corner, clumsily deflected the ball towards Hart's far post. Fortunately, Hart plunged smartly down to clutch the ball before it crossed the line, depriving Johnson of an embarassing own goal. Hart stood up, the ball safely cradled in his arms, and chuckled at a much relieved Johnson. The old adage says 'goalkeepers must be crazy'. Hart brings his own brand of cheeky lunacy to England's goalmouth. Early days, of course, but Hart could become a cult hero.

Further Hart saves helped England defence survive some shaky second half moments before Defoe's third goal sealed a 4-0 win. Defoe's hat-trick earned him the match ball and sparked memories of Jimmy Greaves in his goal-scoring heydays in the 1960s. Wayne Rooney unselfishly prompted Defoe from midfield, an interesting role for Rooney reminiscent of Paul Gascoigne in Gazza's 1990s pomp.

To their credit, Bulgaria's bellowing fans, boys and girls, coralled in the south-eastern section, continuously hollered macho support for their team but their 'ov' team - including Angelov, Ivanov, two Petrovs and a Popov - suffered an 'off' night. A weary Zhivko Milanov unceremoniously chinned England's James Milner close to the corner flag.

After the final whistle, happy kids ran shrieking through illuminated fountains outside the Wembley Arena, watched by contented mums and dads. With no work and no school tomorrow, there was little need for that mad rush to pack the tube trains and tuck the kids in bed. Pubs, kebab shops and Indian restaurants around Wembley Park station enjoyed a roaring trade.

Flags bearing the Three Lions crests flapped happily too. England's breeze had blown away Bulgaria's mild threat - and Wembley Stadium's famous arch lit up London's skyline. Perhaps, somewhere, Bobby Moore was smiling too.

Photos: Paul Coleman
(Click on images to enlarge)

Paul Coleman, London, September 2010.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the Sept sunset pic! Good post.