The big screen at Wembley read: ‘Attendance: 87,695’.
I turned to my brother and laughed as we sat in two spare seats that we had by pure luck managed to find in the East stand at Wembley in amongst a mixture of United and Barcelona fans.
If you’re a regular reader of RFFH you would have seen Steve Crabtree’s round-up of the team’s thoughts ahead of the final. When I was asked where I would be watching the final I was quietly confident that I would get into the stadium somehow, some way.
My first thought, like many was to purchase a ticket from a tout but when I heard a friend of mine coughed up £1200 I realised that was just a tad over my budget so Plan B was to get into Wembley ticketless. I mentioned the idea to a few friends before the game that I’d give it a go as I had nothing to lose and they all laughed the idea off, citing it as Mission Impossible. Nonetheless, I went for it. The 15-minute walk from my house to the stadium was used as a strategy pep-talk with my younger brother to get our game plan right; where we’d go, how we’d do it and what technique we’d use.
Little did we know that there were hundreds of Reds who had a very similar mentality.
One fan said to me: “It’s a joke. This is our team in our country and we’ve followed them home and away all season to be turned away at the biggest game of the season?
“It’s just not fair and UEFA are absolute hypocrites with their Financial Fair Play nonsense when they are excluding the working-class fans that are the backbone of most clubs.”
Hearing these words encouraged me that it was my right to be in the stadium supporting my team and that the occasion wouldn’t be ruined by UEFA bigwigs who are pricing fans out of historic moments like a European Cup final.
So after my brother and I had soaked up the carnival atmosphere outside the ground, it was time for us to have a go.
It was 6.30pm now and with just over an hour to kick-off we had to get a move-on because if we didn’t manage to get in we had to find somewhere that was showing the game.
We had a look around the turnstiles in the United end and were discouraged by the amount of stewards, security and police were around so we had to bide our time and re-evaluate the situation.
Whilst taking a step back a group of United fans sprinted past and more and more followed until a huge crowd formed. Needless to say, we followed the crowd.
It turned out these fans were jumping the turnstiles in their droves and there was little the stewards could do to stop them. From that crowd, about 50 managed to get in. I didn’t. Police came in so I moved away from the scene. I wasn’t in but it was a clear sign that it could be done.
It was now 7pm and the clock was ticking so we needed to make a move. I did. Not brave enough to jump the turnstiles alone, I went for the sly tactic of slipping in behind somebody with a ticket. I also thought it would be wise of me to take a ticket with me as a distraction for stewards and security. However, this ticket I had was from the Community Shield against Chelsea last August. So I went for it and thought I’d gone in unnoticed. I tried to compose myself as my brother watched events unfold from outside. I was in the stadium, but not for long. A security guard marched towards me and I knew my game was up. He asked to see my ticket and I handed him the Community Shield one. He called his colleagues and they escorted me towards a door. I thought I’d be kept somewhere, some sort of cell and I’d miss the game. It turned out that the door was an exit door. Thank God.
My brother was waiting outside and he was equally surprised that no further action had been taken. It was the green light we needed. Our thought was to keep doing the same thing until we got in undetected.