New Wembley is iconic

Theory: all non-league football fans are mental. Before I’m vilified by hordes of Witton Albion and Clitheroe fans, it’s worth noting that I am a non-league football fan too. We aren’t mental in an eating-sandwiches-from-a-bin way, more slightly-mad-in-a-loveably-eccentric way. It must be the mentality of shunning the glittering lights of the Premier League and its Rupert Murdoch-backed enterprise, and choosing instead to drop down numerous divisions and watch a side consisting of players you have borrowed sugar from.

Also, I believe most non-league fans are reasonably left-wing, mainly because the non-league fan chooses to witness a poorer quality of football in order to avoid handing over vast sums of cash to overpaid, oversexed players living in the lap of luxury, while old people cannot afford to pay their heating bills. Moreover, the ability to take the piss out of yourself is much more prevalent among lefties – and at 3.30pm on a Saturday afternoon, when you’re standing in torrential rain, 3-0 down with nine men, diluted tea in hand and a salmonella burger digesting in your stomach, if you can’t take the piss out of it all, you might just cry.

Last week, a pair of Lewes FC youngsters turned out for an England Schoolboys match against France at Wembley. Seeing two players from Lewes in the starting line-up for England at Wembley was a high honour indeed, especially for a tiny club like mine. Lewes FC are such a small club that fans get to travel on the team coach, an honour you can’t see Manchester United bestowing on their fans. United already have a plethora of stupid knobheads on their match-day bus, without allowing fans a slice of the action too.

Getting there was never going to be easy, as numerous Underground services were shut for “essential repairs” – thank God they’re “essential”, I’d be seriously hacked off if they were closed to allow Big Issue sellers a place to piss for the day.

I have never been on the Tube before. It only seems to feature in murder scenes of tired dramas, introducing another dead body. As commuters piled out of carriages, me and Gareth, a fellow Lewes fan (who can also be placed in the slightly-mad bracket), pretended to know what was going on by letting ourselves get carried away with the crowd. But in the midst of sweaty carriages and frantic passengers carrying luggage that could crush a small child if caught underneath, I didn’t have the faintest idea where we were going or why.

Piling on and off trains with the frequency of Pete Doherty’s barrister being phoned for another defence case, we scrambled our way up to Wembley Central and gazed in awe at the New Wembley’s iconic archway, which loomed magnificently over a cloudy London skyline, a picturesque image only slightly spoiled by London itself. Bustling. Heaving. As difficult to navigate as the Sahara with a faulty Satnav voiced by Ozzy Osbourne, with a Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall life-sized doll spouting organic recipes in the back seat.

Coaches of enthusiastic youngsters were piling into the Wembley club shop, paying £50 for a sparkly new England jersey, by far the most ‘out there’ pricing of anything this side of Harrods, with the possible exception of the much-remarked-upon food – £6.40 for a questionable pie and medium drink. That’s right, for the cost of two meals served on plates the size of the Hubble Telescope at your local Wetherspoon’s, you can treat yourself to a flimsy pastry and not have paid enough for a large drink.

Minor grumbles aside, the place is fantastic. From Wembley Way, full of loud-mouthed cockneys dishing out cut-priced flags and bass horns to children, to the impeccable statue of Bobby Moore, it seemed so modern, simple, yet passionately crafted.

How the FA made something so beautiful remains a pertinent question; the atmosphere, charm and grandeur of Wembley have little in common with football’s governing body. I might be disillusioned with the world of Premier League moneybags but this stadium reminded me of how things could be. When everything is as spectacular as Wembley truly is, dodgy food et al, the debt seems worth it, however unfair that may be to the clobbered punter.

It’s not like England football teams to offer hope and salvation, and the Schoolboys squad didn’t disappoint, going down 4-2. Yet all that mattered was the two tiny dots on the green playing surface, who, just days ago, were playing for my non-league team. The theatre of dreams indeed.


Ten minute freeviews

It may not be the wisest move if you have guests but tuning in to the likes of Babecast on Sky is hilarious. Come 9pm, all inhibitions are lost as numerous channels start fulfilling their boob quota for the evening (and no, Vernon Kay doesn’t appear, however much it might boost Hotel Voyeur’s boob quota).

Fundamentally, these shows are funny. Aimed at the lucrative market of sweaty, 18-year-old, hormonally imbalanced young men (ie me) with limited sexual experience and untapped resources of phone credit, it does exactly what you’d expect. It’s titillating but not extreme and acts like entry-level porn.

I used to visit my Dad’s place once every three weeks, staying overnight on the Z-bed in the living room and it was there that I first observed such shows in the dead of night. Programmes like xxxBabes were playing across the Sky network. It was all very confusing for my innocent little mind.

All I could see were three arses wiggling menacingly, as the hosts kept going over to each channel, saying “Let’s see what Charlotte is getting up to on Channel three”. The screen would then be covered in Charlotte, shaking her arse as if strapped to a defribulator. Who on earth were these people talking to? And why were their clothes so finely fitted, leaving little to the imagination?

Then they began using their phone as some kind of transformed sex toy, rubbing it in all the appropriate places, forgetting their clients on the phone paying £1.50 an hour. If I was forking out £9 for my teenage kicks, I’d be pissed off if she started using the receiver to pleasure herself. “Hold on a minute, love. My trousers are round my ankles and all I can hear is a strange, muffling sound. That’s not what I’m doing a paper round for”.

Flicking through the other channels, I immersed myself in a seedy world, full of ten minute free views and live chats. The ten minute free view in particular is a poorly thought out advertising ploy, especially as it’s aimed at blokes. I mean, let’s be honest, who needs more than ten minutes?!

The formula seems pretty stoic. A half naked brunette dynamo suggests you sign up immediately to acquire many great benefits. The payment details linger for 30 seconds, before a preview clip is shown, carefully avoiding any of the good stuff, just more tit bouncing than Antony Warrell-Thompson on a trampoline.

The world of ten-minute free views remained with me longer than I expected. Freeview, which I had access to by the age of fourteen, included two adult channels. It was an added bonus upon purchasing my Freeview box that these two channels appeared on the search facility. Naturally, every trick in the book was played to stay up until 11pm when the freeviews began.

“Mum, there’s football on” I would whine, as she tells me to go to bed.

“What? At 10.45?” she would suspiciously reply.

“Yeah… its extra time” I’d wildly improvise.

“OK” she’d say, although a glance at ITV’s Champions League coverage would have shown Liverpool had beaten Olympiakos one hour previously, and that a group match can’t end in extra time; I suppose having a family totally disinterested in football really does have its advantages.

The ordinary channels were at it as well. Bravo has Sexcetra, a show as pornographic as it is silly. It’s a low-budget news show about sex, including reportage of famous stunts, porn actors etc. I remember watching a world record attempt. When thinking of world records, you might expect it to involve someone pinning pegs to their face or growing the biggest turnip in the universe. But this attempt was for a woman having sex with as many people as possible in one hour.

A group of ugly blokes were queuing outside a Santa’s grotto-like set, while inside a women was being taken from all three angles. The camera panned the scene, passing the record-breaker on a reclining bed and cutting to a quick Q&A.

“What is the record?” the reporter asked, pretending to be a real journalist, but comically lacking gravitas; for instance, I doubt whether Krishnan Guru Murphy would stare at their interviewee’s chest for the entirety of the piece.

Pausing fleetingly for breath, she said “46”.

“But there are hundreds of blokes out there” said the reporter, brow furrowed. “Exactly” she replied, helping to undo another bloke’s jeans before continuing with her record attempt.

A nation quietly weeps for its lost dignity