Friday, 28 May 2010

The March to the Arch!!

Well, the waiting is nearly over, and you can almost feel the excitement and anticipation in the air. By this time tomorrow I will be at Wembley Stadium to see Swindon Town take on Millwall in the final of the League One Play-Offs.

The New Wembley Stadium

It has been 17 years since the Town were last at Wembley, when it was the old Wembley Stadium. A victory beneath the Twin Towers that day saw Swindon claim a place at the top table of English football – the Premiership. Now the old stadium has been demolished and a shiny new one built in its place with a huge steel arch taking over the mantle of iconic architecture from the Towers.

I have already been to the new stadium twice (it was opened in 2007), but this will be the first time that Swindon have played there since the redevelopment. There will be something like 100 or more coaches making the trek along the motorway from Swindon to London, with many more people getting there by car, train or whatever. More than 31,000 Town fans will be making the journey, and we will all be cheering on the team to (hopefully) a great victory.

Swindon Town have only ever played at Wembley three times – the 1969 League Cup Final and the play-off finals of 1990 and 1993 for a place in the top division of English football. My Dad went to all three matches, and took me with him for the last two. Sadly he passed away three years ago, but I know he will be looking down on the match this time – he wouldn’t miss this for the world. I will take something of his along with me tomorrow, maybe his old watch, so that his spirit will make the journey even he can’t be there in person :-)

Swindon Town win the 1993 Play-Offs to book a place in the Premiership

Swindon have never lost at Wembley, beating Arsenal in ’69, Sunderland in ’90 and Leicester City in ’93. The ’93 match was one of the best ever seen at the famous old ground, and I am hoping that tomorrow’s game will be equally as entertaining, although frankly, so long as the Town win I don’t care!! The nerves are starting to jangle.

Now, where did I put my flag.....

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Spring Clean

As Dori mentioned on Saturday, we have been having a bit of a Spring Clean here in the Yellow House this last week or so. We have also been doing some rearranging of the furniture, which always freshens up the feel of a place, don’t you think? It is almost like we are living in a different house after just moving a few items of furniture from one side of the room to the other! :-) We both like the new layout, and it seems to be working well so far.

We have also taken the opportunity to get rid of some old junk that we are never likely to use again, as well as some books and DVDs that we will be donating to charity. It is like clearing out all the old stuff frees up the space for new, and better, things to come into our lives – physically and spiritually. Right now the house feels almost spacious, which is some feat believe me! The spring clean has given the whole place a fresh and revitalising feel to it, and I think we both feel better for it :-)

On Monday we also had a filing cabinet delivered, which was another driver in getting everything cleared out and rearranged. Sadly, the cabinet came as a flat-pack and I had the task, with help from Dori, of putting the dumb thing together. You may guess that I am not a fan of self-assembly furniture! LOL I am a complete klutz when it comes to anything practical like that, which may be a little surprising when you know that my brother is a carpenter/joiner. I guess he got the practical gene and I was left with the brains and the beauty ;-)

Anyhoo, I set about trying to fathom the instructions to assemble the cabinet. To be fair, I have seen many worse instructions than those given. These at least had diagrams that (mostly) showed what should be done and what went where. We did have one panicky moment when the cabinet had been assembled to the point that the sides, back and top were all fitted, and the runners for the drawers had been screwed in and then we looked at the diagram and it seemed to suggest that the runners had been put in the wrong way round. Eek! As it happened, the diagram was wrong and we were right, so the crisis was averted.

It was a hot day, and for a klutz it was hard work. But after about 3 hours and having stabbed myself at least 4 or 5 times with a screwdriver, the thing was complete! Hurrah! It is now sitting in the corner of the room, having already been almost filled to overflowing with various bits of detritus and paperwork from elsewhere in the house. Today is a shredding day, as we will be going through all our old files to see what we can get rid of and free up some space in the already groaning new cabinet.

Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Wembley, Here We Come!!

Well, what a night! Yesterday evening saw the second leg of Swindon Town’s play-off semi-final against Charlton Athletic. Swindon had won the first leg 2-1 on Friday night at The County Ground and so travelled to London needing just a draw to book their place in the final at Wembley.

I was unable to travel to the game myself, but it was televised live on Sky Sports, so I scooted round to my mum’s house to watch the excitement unfold. I won’t bore you all with all the details but suffice to say that it was a very, very dramatic evening’s entertainment that had my blood pressure going through the roof! Close to the end of the match Swindon were 2-0 down, had lost their goalkeeper to injury in the first minute and had seen their captain sent off leaving them with ten men. At that stage all hope looked lost.

But this Swindon side are nothing if not battlers, and a very well taken goal levelled the overall scores at 3-3 and pushed the game into 30 minutes of extra-time. No more goals were scored during that time and so the tie had to be settled on a penalty shoot-out. Now, Swindon’s record in penalty shoot-outs is a little like England’s, ie they don’t win ‘em!! But last night, under the greatest of pressure, all 5 Town players scored their penalties and, as Charlton missed one of theirs, Swindon incredibly won the tie and secured their place at Wembley a week on Saturday.

Town players celebrate their win

So, Swindon will be deserted in 11 days time – a burglar’s paradise! It has been 17 years since Town last played at the home of English football and the recollections of that day are still very vivid. Hopefully this month will see the creation of some more good memories!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Tension Time

It is now less than a month to go until the start of the World Cup when all the best players from around the globe will come together to compete for the greatest prize in football.

Before that, though, the club season still has a few notable matches to play out. Last weekend saw Chelsea claim the English Premiership title, and yesterday the final of the Europa League saw Atletico Madrid squeeze a win against Fulham by virtue of a goal deep into Extra-Time. On Saturday, Chelsea will be aiming to complete “the double” when they meet Portsmouth in the FA Cup Final. And then next Saturday (22nd) will see the biggest single club game in the world when Bayern Munich take on Inter Milan in the Champions League Final.

But I’m not actually writing this post about any of those matches. If you have a very good memory, then you may remember that I mentioned how my team, Swindon Town, had been heavily defeated on the opening day of the season. At that point the prospects for the season ahead looked bleak, and 9 months of struggle loomed. But, just to show that “one swallow does not a summer make”, the form shown by the team since that day couldn’t have been more different. So much so that, if the results on the final day of the regular season this last weekend had gone slightly differently, then Swindon would have finished second in their league and been promoted to the Championship (that’s one level below the Premiership).

Swindon Town club crest
But all is not lost. Having actually finished 5th in the league, Town are now taking part in the end of season play-offs, the winner of which will be promoted along with the teams who finished 1st and 2nd. The semi-finals of the play-offs take place this weekend, with Swindon playing Charlton at home tomorrow night and then away on Monday night. If they win the semi-final then they will go forward to play either Millwall or Huddersfield at Wembley Stadium in two weeks time. So the next few days will be full of nail-biting and lots of frayed nerves. Hopefully the results will go the right way and I will be going on a trip to Wembley at the end of the month! Fingers crossed.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Election Day

So today is the big day. Britain has gone to the polls to decide who should lead the country for the next few years.

I went round to the polling station after getting back home from work. It was very quick and easy, and I was out again in less than 2 minutes. In the UK you vote to elect your local Member of Parliament (MP) and whichever party has the majority of MPs will form the next Government. If the polls are to be believed, and frankly they’re not, but if they are right then we could be heading to a position where no one party will have enough MPs to command a majority. This could lead to all sorts of pacts and alliances between various political parties or even a second General Election in the near future. But that’s all for another day.

This campaign has been defined by the TV debates – the first ever in the UK. Before the campaign kicked off it was thought that this would be the “internet election”, but the debates have so captured the public imagination that it has turned out to be very much a TV campaign. And it is because of the debates that this looks like being one of the closest elections in the last 40 years.

The results will come in from all over the country overnight, and Dori and I are planning to stay awake for as long as we can to watch the drama unfold. It could be a very long night!
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