As we count down the hour to England v Austria, we cast an eye back to the #Lionesses’ last World Cup qualifier on home soil last month and get a light-hearted flavour of what it was like to attend as a member of the press as…
UCFB ‘She Kicks Scholarship’ student Grace Crispin writes about: ‘My Super-Chaotic First Day in the Wembley Media Box.’
October 23rd 2021, a day so jam packed, that the plans couldn’t be physically contained on my calendar.
12:30 – Chelsea v Norwich at Stamford Bridge
15:45 – Media access to the ground
17:15 – England v Northern Ireland at Wembley
For such a momentous day, I had roughly six alarms set. I’m a heavy sleeper and the tube ride to Stamford Bridge is deceivingly long, especially if you’re running late. It’s a pretty grey and windy day, the normal for London, but I decided that the outfit my mum helped pick over FaceTime would still do, a pair of tights added for the chill.
My dad is meeting me at Stamford Bridge, he’s got the coach up to London amidst all the fuel chaos, and has to get the tube. My dad and the tube map simply do not mix.
“I’ve got this all under control.” Famous last words.
My journey is considerably more difficult than his, spanning many lines and changes.
Wembley Park – Metropolitan Line (Southbound) ➡️
Change at Baker Street
Baker Street – Bakerloo Line (Northbound) ➡️
Change at Paddington
Paddington – District Line (Eastbound) ➡️
Finish at Fulham Broadway
The ride to Stamford Bridge was stress-free, I spent most of my time praying that no player would start a mass brawl or break their leg, I wanted as little added time as humanly possible.
The game itself turned out to be nothing less of a banger, the first time I’ve witnessed such a thrashing since the Ancelotti days. The stress was getting to me, though. The child in the box behind me’s screams of joy were jarring. The American next to me’s weird and oddly-specific insults weren’t funny anymore. The sooner I was in that media box in Wembley, the better.
The full-time whistle went, no time to visit the toilet, the 100m dash to Fulham Broadway was underway. Finally being short had come in handy as I pushed through the hoards at the Eastbound entrance. Tower Hill on the sign, and I feel a little better. We pushed onto the first train into the platform, my hair dangerously close to being caught in the doors.
I don’t let myself grovel about my personal space being heinously violated, at least I’m on the way back to Wembley. I left my dad at Victoria and marched on to Westminster. From Westminster I had the gruellingly long stretch on the noisy and slow Jubilee Line. Thirteen stops.
Finally, the home land. 🏟️
I practically ran back to my flat, I should’ve changed, I knew this, but time was of the essence. Orla [Sutton, fellow UCFB/She Kicks student] was waiting on Wembley Way and then the real guessing game started. Wembley Stadium is a maze for anyone who has never been there, and despite going there for lectures every week, I still didn’t know much better.
The media entrance was set up like airport security, bag scanners and full body metal detectors. Orla and I complained about our ID photos all the way up to “M”, despite choosing them ourselves. We were situated in the Danny Fullbrook Lounge, a place where I had lectures in my first year.
Unfortunately, for two hungry university students, the impressive lounge was secondary to the main focus. The hot plate. Roasted chicken, potatoes, carrots and gravy. Heaven for a student who can barely cook eggs. We grabbed a hot drink and a complimentary cookie and went out into the stand.
The mini televisions were a definite highlight, but after demolishing the food, the real entertainment started.
The first half was quite boring, to be completely honest. Other than a few shots that smacked the cross bar, it passed without any sort of note. A free brownie and a toilet break later, the real fun started. A stroke of absolute brilliance from Sarina Wiegman. The introduction of Beth Mead and Beth England completely changed the game.
A 14-minute hat-trick for the Arsenal star, brought the game to life and stunned a well-organised and spirited Northern Ireland. Two right-foot beauties and an aerobic stunner cemented Mead’s instant impact for the Lionesses.
Chelsea forward Beth England also showed her class with a close range header from a Lauren Hemp ball. Hemp probably felt a little hard done by, her ball looking sure to find the back of the net – but England had to be sure.
As 23,225 fans poured out of Wembley, Orla and I settled in for the post-match virtual press conference. Still as chilly as ever, we eagerly awaited the Zoom call. Sarina Wiegman is joined by Manchester City starlet Lauren Hemp, and they answer the questions from the journalists surrounding us in the press box.
With the conference coming to a close, we prepare to enter the warm haven of the lounge. However, the Wembley food was just so exquisite, I thought it would be rude to leave just one meal alone – and the student lifestyle is not the most forgiving. A roast for the road, just enough to prevent scurvy for another month!
A brisk walk back to my flat in the London breeze, a successful day comes to an end with big thanks to She Kicks.