It wasn’t the result I broke the bank and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean for, but Tuesday’s 0-0 between England and Montenegro was the experience I so desired as months of planning and patience finally paid off. Beautiful Wembley stadium, the tube to Wembley Park station, a cool October evening, and enough English journalists to make your head spin were all at the forefront of my senses as the afternoon curtsied to the night.
Having arrived early enough to secure my press credentials, find a seat in the lounge for a quick coffee and breeze past Henry Winter, Patrick Barclay and Martin Samuel, I soon found myself in the wrong seat in the media section just moments before kickoff. While relocating left, the Guardian’s Kevin McCarra was hard at work in my row which also housed quite a few Montenegrin journalists.
As the last few seconds of God Save the Queen echoed through the stadium, I soon felt an overwhelming sense of pride, not as an Englishman, but as a football fan. Yes, my loyalties lie with the Three Lions, but it was the grand idea that for those few special moments, I was simply a part of something bigger, something new in my often times menial 9-5. I had arrived somewhere, this was the moment I had wished for during all those Monday morning sales meetings. In a way I was experiencing my calling, or at least my passion.
The first half progressed as England dominated large spells of the match. In particular, I thought both of England’s wingers, Ashley Young on the left and Adam Johnson on the right enjoyed some decent play while England failed to be sharp or effective in front of goal. Peter Crouch didn’t impress, Wayne Rooney is still searching for his best form and Steven Gerrard was far too reserved while England’s central defensive pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Joleon Lescott were largely untested.
Still, Montenegro kept their shape throughout and defended well. They only troubled England minimally on the break but did enough to earn a tough point and stay top of Group G. Milan Jovanovic’s brilliant volley late on could have secured all three points and a commanding lead in the table for the visitors but Joe Hart’s crossbar saved the blushes for England.
As much as I would have loved to witness a meaningful England victory, the experience of shaking hands with Patrick Barclay on behalf of Laurence McKenna and the VIP treatment placed me on cloud nine long enough for the draw to take a back seat. Tuesday’s outing will become a cherished memory in the grand scheme of my life while it will always be remembered as my first live experience of English football after so many years watching from the States.
While the international break gives way to club football, the Chula train begins to make its way to Manchester for the weekend. More sights, more football and more stories are sure to emerge as the North West awaits. As always, stay close to EPL Talk for developments as they unfold.
Special thanks to The Gaffer and certain members of The FA for making my attendance possible.