Going to Cardiff, We’re on our Way!

How we get there I don’t know? How we get there I don’t care. In just a matter of hours we’ll find out who we face in the next 16 Champions League draw.
[Edit – We’ve been drawn against Bayern Munich, again!]

“We’re on our way, We’re on our way! Going to…” as the song goes. If you didn’t know the next word and the destination of this years Champions League final is Cardiff.

I love our trips to Cardiff. I have a dream or a romantic wish that maybe we could add to another trip to Wales this year.  It was loosely said that the then Millennium Stadium, now Principality Stadium, was Liverpool’s second home due to the amount of visits they made. This is incorrect.

In the seasons that the ‘old Wembley’ was out of use Liverpool visited 9 times. Winning 2 FA Cups, 2 League cups & 2 Charity Shields. However as we’re talking about “2nd homes” we need to look at how many times each club made the trip to Cardiff.

Liverpool’s record:

  • 2 FA Cup finals
  • 4 League Cup visits
  • 3 Charity Shields

A total of 9 finals.

Arsenal also played in 9 finals

  • 4 FA Cup finals
  • 1 League Cup visit
  • 4 Charity Shields

If you wanted to know how many victories each club had at the Millennium Stadium the answer is we both won 6 games apiece.
Notice I said “games” there and not finals. One of those 6 games was not a final, but a semi-final.

In 2005 both FA Cup semi-finals were also held in Cardiff. Manchester United, our eventual losing finalists, beat Newcastle in their semi-final. We beat Blackburn in ours. This crucially gives us another, 10th, visit over Liverpool.

I think you find that makes the Principality Stadium Arsenal’s 2nd home!

As I mentioned I loved the visits to the Millennium Stadium but that semi-final visit in 2005 stands out for several humorous of reasons.

I went with 2 of my mates, Nik & Gary. I arranged that we would head down the night before staying nearby.
I don’t recall what time we agreed on that Friday night to meet but already Gary, our driver for the weekend, was an hour late! Nik & Gary both live quite near each other in Angel & Clerkenwell. So when Gary finally arrives to pick me up there’s no sign off Nik in the car! I believe I was living in Highbury at the time so off we drove back into Islington to pick up Nik. Once we get to Nik’s home, now around 90 minutes after our original time of leaving, guess what?? He’s not ready. For fucks sake!

Eventually deep into the Friday night we set off. I still occasionally travel down the M4 motoway now and I’m fully aware that it can take around an hour just to get out of London. We get to Brentford, on the outskirts of London, and the start of the M4 motorway. After being bumper to bumper for an hour now’s finally a chance to now put the gas down, get some millage under our belts and forget about collection cock-up. 6 minutes of motorway driving Gary indicates to come off. Heston services!

“Why are we pulling in to the service station?”
“Oh, we need supplies”
Jesus Christ!
We bought snacks and beer. I wasn’t hungry and didn’t really want to drink either. Especially as Gary couldn’t drink whilst driving. I did have a drink but I think these two muppets (love you really!) drove me too it.

Match day was a lot better. After a hearty breakfast we went for a few pre-match drinks. We left a pub to make our way to the stadium but as we were still a bit early we picked up a few cans. Close to the stadium we plotted against a sloped wall.

Happily drinking and enjoying the day a when man with a camera asked us if the 3 of us fancied being part of a picture. He was flanked by 2 glamour models that looked out of place and looked like they should be holding the Round cards in a boxing ring. Each girl was sporting the home kit of the 2 teams. Before I had a time to think both Nik & Gary were off this wall and with the girls for the photo. With the sight of 2 scantily clad women we were quickly joined by other nearby supporters for the photo. The camera man thanked us all and the crowds disbursed on their way. However a twist was to come. Obviously planned in advanced one of the girls looked over her shoulder to ensure the coast was clear, said “ready?” to her partner and they both looked at the camera with the lead girl quickly saying “ 3, 2, 1” and as they reached “1” out came their tits!

The few that remained were still looking at the girls wondering what was going on before the reveal. Then as they lifted their shirts there’s the surprise element before you quickly realise that you need to be looking back at the camera!!
The weekend was a blast. As were most of the other visits.

The Liverpool FA Cup final defeat was one of the longest coach journies back. Purely as the game, even today, simply made no sense. I believe they call it character building?

Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira lifts the FA Cup in front of the fans

The Southampton final was a great match as I recall but the Chelsea (Ray Parlour) final was brilliant. The party was excellent.

I’ve many memories of the city of Cardiff and its wonderful Principality Stadium. I certainly hope and wish that maybe this year we could be going back in June 2017

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