Day 27 – London Part 2!
So, halfway through London and still a huge way to go before I conquer the capital. What a weekend I’ve had. I have A LOT of people to thank, including the clubs who have been absolutely brilliant to me.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, we got some completely different football experiences to get through.
Let’s start where I left off, Stamford Bridge, home to super rich Roman Abramovic’ Chelsea Football Club (www.justgiving.com/team/mindrush – cheers Roman)
Managed by club legend Frank Lampard (www.justgiving.com/team/mindrush – cheers Frank), the team are having an overhaul in the transfer window with Lampard being able to lend Romans wallet for the summer. Like giving your children your credit card to buy some sweets, Frank went wild spending £222,000,000 on players. It is justified though as they were banned from signing players for two transfer windows after Fifa found them guilty of a serious and systemic breach of the rules regarding their dealings with overseas players under the age of 18. So to be fair to the club its like not having Christmas presents for 2 years and having to play with what you got whilst the kid next door gets a new x-box or something.
The Chelsea Hotel where I stayed was incredible, with my room next to the ‘Shed End’ stand and i literally went all out and did something i never thought id ever be able to do, the ultimate football fan experience if you like, due to the addresse, I can now actually say I’ve ordered a Just Eat and had it delivered to Laz, C/O Chelsea Football Club, Stamford Bridge 👍 Such a momentous occasion I deemed it to be, I decided to hold a press conference about it.
The ground is incredible, but not as incredible as mr Abramovic’ yacht, which we were told wouldn’t actually fit into the ground itself. Its that big. And there’s me stuck on a lilo on holiday to Pontins. How the other half live.
Now Chelsea has a lot of modern heroes. The Zolas, the Terrys, the Lampards, the Drogbas, the Hazards etc, so for the prominent statue out front to be that of a player who’s career at Chelsea was at its peak between 1964 and 1974 is quite incredible. Peter Osgood, a man who tore up his trial contract with rivals Arsenal because he preferred working on a building site, scored103 goals in 279 appearances for Chelsea. As a teenager he even made Sir Alf Ramsays World Cup preliminary 40 man squad, but wasn’t selected for the finals, mind you competition for places was hardly scarce up front for a team that won the world Cup, lets be honest.
If not for a broken leg and new manager Dave Sexton preferring to play him in midfield, I think its fair to assume his goal rate would have been even higher. Before stints at Southampton and in America with Philidelphia Fury, he finished his career with a year at Chelsea before retiring in 1979. Ken Bates actually banned him from the ground in the 90s for criticism against the regime, but Abramovich obviously recognises the important part legends play at a club.
The away dressing room was apparently rubbish. Like a real state, just to wind the opposition up. But when Carlo Ancellotti took over he had it tarted up nice because psychology says that players having to share a bucket to pee in before matches wound them up so much that they would play better and want to kick lumps out of the opposition, leading them to build the biggest away changing room in league football. So I’m assuming they have bidets round the back now and everything.
The home dressing room is absolutely incredible and apparently the coolest player in the team gets to sit next to the TV as the CD player is there so they get to control the music. By coolest I probably mean hardest. Like the kids who sat at the back of the bus on school trips. The dressing room is set out differently than others, instead of in numerical order like ive seen at a lot of grounds, John Terry brought in the rule as captain that players are sat in groups corresponding to which language they spoke, so they’d feel more at home. Nice touch Mr Terry (www.justgiving.com/team/mindrush – cheers John).
They are knocking it down and starting again soon to make it even better, Romans upgrading everything. The team, the stadium, the lot, maybe to keep up with their neighbours, who we will come to later. Because for now, if Lampard doesn’t deliver the dream, I’m ready to take over.
But first, time to take a trip across to a club famous for their ferocity as a club, it was time to take a trip across to Bermondsey and the New Den of Millwall.
Decked out in my Cardiff top and Cardiff City bobble hat I approached….yeah course I did. Lets Marty McFly and wind back a couple of seconds. Approaching the ground, its difficult to get a proper opinion of what its like up too close as it literally was like a lions den and penned off by fences.
Although I did find a couple of doors i wouldn’t want to chill out in front of for too long.
Its an imposing ground, not least because of the volatile history and stereotypes attributed to the club as being fierce players back in the days when hooliganism and football pretty much were synonymous with each other. If you wanted a dust up, you’d find one here, with their main rivalries being noted as West Ham and nearby Charlton. The history between them and West Ham is well documented, even ending up as the inspiration behind the movie Green Street, featuring the kid from the Hobbit fighting his way through Millwall fans, which is like casting Mr. Bean in the next Rocky film.In fact they apparently came 8th out of the 92 clubs in terms of most rivalries in football. Meaning they don’t care who they hate, as long as they love their own team. People who don’t understand will scoff at the tribalism the sport offers, but it has a definite part to play in the history of football. So does graffiti art apparently with an absolute abundance of it throughout london, Millwalls offering outside the ground is pretty cool.
The offering outside Arsenal’s ground however, isn’t as creative.
Moving on from there I reached The Valley, home to Charlton Athletic.
The ‘Addiks’ as they are known are managed by controversial, former on field nutter Lee Bowyer, who actually made 46 appearances for the club scoring 8 goals right at the start of his career. So he’s a man who knows the club inside out.
The ground features pictures of historical players across the front and a homage to former goalkeeper Sam Bartram in front of the main entrance, a club legend who made an incredible 579 appearances in 21 years at the club and became the clubs oldest player too after retiring at 42. Oh and he was never dropped in his time at the club.
Incredible. But nothings that perfect in football. He went down in infamy during a game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, where thick fog engulfed the pitch. I mean proper thick. So much so that it meant players could hardly see each other, let alone the actuall ball for that matter. Literally the worst conditions for a goalkeeper to play in. But Bartram stood firm on the edge of his box. As it was, such harsh conditions meant not many strikes on goal were recorded and the keeper was undisturbed for most of the game. In fact the first player he saw way into the second half was a policeman who walked up to inform him the game had been abandoned a quarter of an hour ago.
I for the life of me wondered why they were called the Addicks. I initially thought maybe the fans all had a history of substance abuse or something but digging into the club is quite an interesting concept. The most likely origin of this name is from a local fishmonger, Arthur “Ikey” Bryan, who rewarded the team with meals of haddock and chips. Just say haddock in a Cockney accent. There, you learn something new everyday in these blogs. Also, Rodney Trotter from Only Fools and Horses’ middle name is Charlton. These pieces of club history, however, are overcast by the story of how this club were actually created.
You see Charlton, before the first World War actually played in youth leagues, as the club were actually created by a group of 15-17 year olds having a kick about in nearby East Street in 1905. Think about that, its incredible. No word of a lie, this mound is apparently their first pitch
Which must be like trying to play snooker on a bouncy castle. They then became a senior side in 1913 and the rest as they say is history.
So it was time to swap the league one of Charlton for the Premiership and the London Stadium, now home to cockney outfit West Ham United.
And boy is this some stadium.
Heres some stats for you, lets go to the all important tale of the tape. It houses no less than 60,000 spectators on match days, 80,000 fans at the concerts they hold there, it’s had £760 million pounds spent on it in building and renovations and from personal experience, its that big, it takes approximately 4 days to walk around completely. If you’re going to take in the whole stadium, take a tent with you.
The ‘Olympic Stadium’ as it was born was created for the 2012 spectacular that was London playing host to the Olympic games. Noteable happenings in this stadium include Usain Bolt running the second fastest 100 metres in history. Still took him 3 days to run around the outside though. The likes of AC/DC, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Robbie Williams and The Rolling Stones have all grced the stadium for huge concerts, the Rugby World Cup had a lend and saw several matches take place here in 2015, including South Africa smashing the back doors out of USA 64-0 and as if the Americans hadn’t had enough bad luck here, Major League Baseball signed a deal over 2019-20 to hold baseball games here. Ouch.
Ouch is a great word to sum up the current feeling between many supporters and the ones running the club, the two Davids, Sullivan and Gold. Many fans are still disgruntled with what some have described as a shambolic transition from Upton Park to the new stadium. Many are unhappy with what they see as fractured guidance and leadership from above when it comes to what they see on the pitch. Many feel both. One thing for sure, West Ham fans are an extremely passionate bunch of fans who care deeply about history, tradition and transparency when it comes to their club.
Its clear to see the owners have tried to incorporate many aspects of the clubs yesteryear around the stadium. Adorning the walls are a whole host of former club legends such as Geoff Hurst, Clyde Best, Martin Peters, Rio Ferdinando and dare I say it, Dmitri Payet.
The doors display the clubs traditional singalong ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’ and their cup wins throughout history are proudly displayed on the lampposts outside the ground.
They even brand there bins. Im assuming its like when people paint their number on their bins in the street so their neighbours don’t nick them for their own, although I can’t imagine even lower league nearby club Leyton Orient are that strapped for cash during these financially hard times that they have to send their staff down wearing camouflage in the dead of night in some ‘covert during covid’ raid to Rob a couple of wheelie bins.
This week though, we have a much happier bunch of Hammers, with big scoring wins against Wolves and former Premier Leaguel Champions and table toppers Liecester, two wins after a shaky start which coincided with manager David Moyes having to self isolate at home leaving his assistant in charge of the team. This is interesting. Its like your best mate falling in love with your missus and making her smile. No pressure Dave….
I hope the West Ham fans get some peace with their situation. Its a shame to have such beautiful facilities but not move feel at home like they did in the Boleyn ground. I went there to watch a European night and the atmosphere was electric. Its like when Cardiff owner Vincent Tan changed us to playing in red. Yes we went up to the premier league but it didn’t feel like the club we knew. All of a sudden after that, we got relegated, went back to playing in blue and became crap again. See that felt like my team. That sense of familiarity realy resonates as a fan and keeps that identity you have with it. Obviously West Ham can’t change back to the Boleyn like we did shirts but I hope they find some repetition of familiarity. Because I’d rather be playing in the old ground, even at the saje of revenue but thats just me and i suppose football has a need to move on for financial reasons where owners are concerned. Good luck Hammers.
Next up, was the short trip to a club that wanted to share the London Stadium with West Ham during the tenancy proposals, Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road, or for sponsorship purposes, the ‘Brewers Group Stadium’.
Holding 9,271 capacity, its not quite the 60,000 across the park but similarly, they are obviously not working with the multi millions their neighbours are currently paying for their players either. As a result, its evident the owners dont have much faith in their own players with the greatest, yet condescending sign ive ever seen in a football ground.
Most people will be familiar with outspoken former owner Barry Hearn, who bought the club for £5. Yeah you read that right, if you get to see the documentary ‘club for a fiver’ watch it, its brilliant. Orient main rivals are Southend United, with the two clubs making up the ‘A13 derby’. This must be a serious rivalry the fans have tapped into because its long way to travel to go and punch someone, trust me, I’ve bloody cycled it.
Once again we are at a proper community stadium, which i think some of the clubs who have upped and moved ground miss. The club have also teamed up with one half of our charities Mind, which I’ve only seen at Cambridge so far,
so well done Leyton Orient, you get absolute thumbs up from me, top club 👍
Next up on this epic journey of clubs around London is the ‘Gunners’ of North London, Arsenal Football club. Who, after Spurs signed Gareth Bale, decided they wanted a Welshman too so signed me up.
Ok, Where to start.
With a woman being shot out of a cannon obviously.This, is beautiful, beautiful football stadium.
From the start.
They literally have celebrated their history from when they played at Highbury with statues of the likes of Tony Adams, Thierry Henry and former manager Herbert Chapman.
Thats just outside. Inside the ground is beautiful.
The pitch is immaculate and the home changing room is looking sweet.They made me wait 5 minutes before letting me loose in there so I reckon they were putting the hoover round quickly.
The walk down the tunnel to the pitch is something else. Not least because against all odds, it wasn’t raining, which before today, there was more chance of me marrying a Spice Girl than seeing some sun down here. Have a look for yourself.
The media room, the interview room, immaculate.
But as you saw in the first pic, I have to say this because I’m a player here now. God help them. Taking over from Metsut Özil I reckon, who today had some positive press after Arsenal had to let their dinosaur mascot go due to covid wage cuts and Özil kindly stepped in and offered assistance to pay for his wages to keep him in a job. Which must be his first assist in 2020.
I want at this point to thank the entire staff at Arsenal. They were all brilliant with me, from looking after my bike to being extremely accommodating throughout. It makes a hell of a difference on the road to receive the welcoming I did so genuinely, thank you.Now the ride through London today was lush. Because Boris likes riding bikes. So he’s put a couple of quid into cycling conditions. He probably travels outside of London in a private jet or something and can’t be arsed to cycle because he hasn’t put money into cycleways anywhere else in the UK to this extent i can bloody tell you. London is primed for bike riding because of this, to the extent the motorists are extremely well versed to having cyclists on their roads down here. You can tell because they wave you on with a whole hand and not two fingers.
So, Tottenham Hotspur. Where in the absolute hell do I start here? Home to the greatest player ever to grace world football, Gareth Bale, it also houses so many other facets of activity its unreal. Lets start, at the top. Literally.
So theyve got this thing they like to do in this stadium and its called the ‘Dare Skywalk’. Or ‘scaring the sh*t out of yourself as I like to call it. The basis is, you walk cross the top of the stadium. Yep, thats literally the synopsis. Literally right across the bloody roof.
Let me explain about heights. I’d rather watch my last girlfriend win the lottery than clean my bedroom windows from the outside on a ladder. I get a nosebleed walking upstairs. But as it was a gift and I’m proving that stepping out of your comfort zone like many people are dealing with across the country with their mental health struggles is conquerable then I just had to take it head on.
Even for me struggling this much, it was an absolutely unbelievable experience. You can pretty much see the whole of London. If you love exhilarating experiences, beautiful panoramic views and an unforgettable experience, then do this. If you suffer from vertigo like me though, unlike me, I suggest wearing a nappy.
The tour guide was brilliant and if you have any reservations, they are there to walk you through it. But head on I had to go and walked across the top of the stadium, overlooking the pitch all on my own. Thats something I will never forget. God help me.
Seriously, if you’re in London, even if you’re not football fan, go visit the stadium and do it. You can thank me for the tip in donations.
Next up, was the stadium itself. Home to players such as the greatest player who ever played the beautiful game, Gareth Bale, its an upgrade on their old haunt, White Hart Lane. Literally, because its built on the same spot, which probably would have helped the Davids out at West Ham if they did just that.
And what an upgrade.
Everything. From the facilities to the changing rooms to every bloody thing. Here, let me show you.
Incredible dressing room aint it.
Oh and not a bad pairing this is it, lets be honest…..
And the facilities, how posh is this? I used to send my little brother to queue up inside a tent for a pint whilst I went for a pee in a portacabin when I grew up watching my club. Look at what Spurs have to offer. Bloody hell.
Oh yeah, back to the changing rooms before I forget. Yeah that room with a hook for the greatest player who ever laced up a pair of football boots, Gareth Bale.
(www.justgiving.com/team/mindrush – cheers Gareth)Spurs players own up, now I’m not naming names or pointing fingers, but at least two of you have asked for these to be installed in your dressing room.
I mean. I know Fergie gave the hairdryer treatment in the changing rooms but this is literally on another level.
Owing to the stadium doubling up as pretty much the home to NFL in the UK now The football pitch had been removed and slid under the stand at the far end (amazing I know) as they were tending to the NFL pitch, which is underneath the footy surface permanently as its own entity. and as well as their own turf the American football franchise even have their own plush dressing rooms at the stadium.
And there literally is not a bad view from any seat in the ground. Trust me, even from the bloody roof.
The acoustics have been worked on and they get you to shout so you can hear the echo in the stadium so when its full the sound bounces off everything. Its incredible.
What an experience, like I said, even if youre not a spurs fan, get up and do the skywalk. You may even have the chance to catch up with José whilst you’re at it.
The two girls next to me on the skywalk gave me a tenner to donate to charity, an awesome gesture but the generosity didn’t end there, id like to thank the girl who prints out the photos in the club shop, apologies, I didn’t catch your name, but she asked about the cause and made a donation herself. Which is incredible, so thank you ❤🔥. To Mr Levy (www.justgiving.com/team/mindrush – cheers Dan) and the shop manager, please give her a well deserved thank you from me, incredible gesture by someone who’s given up wages to donate to the cause.
To the entire staff at Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs, thank you so much for your hospitality, its made a brilliant difference, owners you should all be proud of your staff, they really made me feel welcome, priceless stuff so 👏
To everyone donating and shouting the word out, you’re doing incredible stuff for these charities, its literally priceless what you are doing to drum up support for these two vital charities at this time.
This is one adventure I’m glad you are part of because everyone’s been exceptional.
Keep fighting the stigma.
Because its ok not to be ok.
Together we got this.