TF scribbler, EMMA THOMPSON (@Jowse) swapped pease pudding stotties for jellied eels back in 2007, and here are her handy tips for Mags making the trip south on this historic weekend.
IT’S WEMBLEY WEEK.
Still sounds surreal, doesn’t it?! In a matter of days, Christ-knows-how-many tens of thousands of black and whites will descend on the capital from far and wide. Trains, planes, coaches and Lord knows what else have been sold out since long before Longstaff put the semi final to bed, and the travelling Toon Army rightfully expects a weekend for the ages. But what to expect from London Town and Wembley Stadium, aside from terrifyingly priced lager? Read on for an exiled Geordie’s guide to getting around and getting the most out of the weekend we’ve all been waiting for.
First things first – when you’re from the friendliest city on the planet like we are, visiting anywhere else can leave you somewhat cold. Having called the capital home for 16 years, however, I’m here to tell you that the rumours of universally rude and unwelcoming Londoners aren’t true by a long shot. Much of Zone 1 – the likes of Oxford Circus – is best avoided as the constant overcrowding admittedly tends to test most locals’ patience, but other than that, you’ll find the vast majority of people pretty friendly, eager to show off their city, and willing to help with directions etc. I don’t foresee any issues there at all, and in my experience, the usual rules of fascinated delight at real-life Toon accents definitely apply.
In terms of areas to maximise the weekend watering, my advice would be to not try and cover too much ground. London is bloody brilliant fun, but it’s massive and can feel like an overwhelming melting pot of dozens of mini town centres to visitors. You don’t want to spend precious drinking time trekking from place to place on the Tube, which can also be a bit iffy at the weekends. I would recommend picking one or two areas – maximum – and sticking to those. Allow plenty of travel time when moving around, and especially when getting up to Wembley itself.
London Bridge, Waterloo, Baker Street, Swiss Cottage, Finchley Road, West Hampstead and Kilburn all have decent options for pubs and have good, direct links up to the stadium on the Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines. My list of areas to avoid would include Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Oxford Circus: overpriced, full of tourists, and replete with cheesy, sleazy, chain bars.
There is in fact an adopted Toon pub near King’s Cross called The Dolphin which will be unimaginably great craic, but I’d imagine getting anywhere near the bar might be a struggle. That area in general is no longer the shithole it once was, and there are decent bars and pubs either towards Euston or around Granary Square.
And so on to the main event…Wemberleeeey. I’m up a height just writing that. Now, admittedly, my Wembley Stadium experiences since I moved here in 2007 have been more Beyonce and Spice Girls than domestic finals, but I’ve questioned my life choices while standing in a never-ending post-event Tube queue enough times to be able to share a couple of pointers.
On your way up, if you’re belting out WE’VE GOT BRUNO IN THE MIDDLE on the Jubilee Line, you’ll save tons of time by changing onto the Met Line at Finchley Road. Cuts out loads of annoying stops and whisks you straight to Wembley Park, which spits you right out on to Wembley Way.
We won’t think about the possibility of confronting the journey home on the losing side (IN KARIUS WE TRUST), but I am here to tell you it will NOT be quick. Plan for it to take ages. There are three Tube/Overground/Rail stations that serve the stadium, but they’re all totally deluged by the tens of thousands of people trying to access them at once, and even with staggering the two sets of fans, I would expect you’ll be queueing for at least an hour to get on any mode of transport. I would allow at least 90 minutes to get back into Central London. Taxis are nigh-on impossible: if you absolutely would prefer to book one in advance, I would suggest booking it for a station or two away from Wembley on foot, and expect Ubers to be about as effective as a Steve Bruce tactical briefing.
Depending on how tired and emotional the local dibble have decided we are post-match, I would recommend hanging back and getting a drink whilst the crowds die down. I seem to recall it working particularly well after a gig a few years ago, when ‘one’ in the Hilton somehow resulted in a 1am ice-cube chucking battle at a wedding to which we were definitely not invited. Hopefully we’ll be celebrating…
I’ll end by saying that I hope some of this can be of vague use, but let’s be honest…it’s going to be the weekend of a lifetime no matter where you are. Enjoy every second. Please let it be our turn. HTL!
EMMA THOMPSON @Jowse