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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007, 11:08 GMT
Inside Wembley
By Chris Charles

Alan Shearer with one of the five-a-side teams
Shearer back at Wembley

The first thing that strikes you as you stroll across the lush turf of the new Wembley is how small the place is.

OK, we're not talking Gresty Road here, but as you approach the imposing stadium from the outside you're expecting something to rival the Nou Camp.

The reality is a kind of Tardis in reverse. To the naked eye it doesn't appear much bigger than the Emirates - capacity 60,000 - even though it has taken twice as long to build, and at twice the cost.

That's not to say it isn't impressive - and Lord knows it should be - but like the difficult third album by Oasis, it doesn't quite justify the hype.

I was invited along to north west London with a group of journalists to witness the first tournament held at the new Wembley, featuring a quartet of amateur teams selected to launch the FA Umbro Fives - the country's biggest five-a-side event.

Cost: 757m
Capacity: 90,000
35 miles of power cables inside
Could hold 25,000 double decker buses
Arch weighs the same as 10 jumbo jets

Inevitably our scheduled entrance into the stadium was delayed, although 20 minutes in the great scheme of things is neither here nor there, given that work started in October 2002.

As we huddled outside, there was a hive of activity going on around us, with haulage trucks and cement mixers travelling back and forth as a flurry of site workers, police officers and firemen milled around, all wearing hard hats and those fetching luminous waistcoats that were the must-have fashion accessory at raves in the early 90s.

"So is it going to be ready in time for the FA Cup final?" I asked a man with 'supervisor' emblazoned across his back. His response? A hearty belly laugh. Draw from that what you will.

Another worker said: "To be honest we're not told that much but everyone says it's going to be ready so I'll have to say it is. I wish I knew for certain one way or the other because I'd be straight down the bookies!"

Once inside it quickly became clear there is still a lot of work to be done.

The dripping sound of a leak from a stone girder punctuated the walk to the lifts (which were not in service) while an entrance sign hastily stuck on a piece of tatty old cardboard covered a pane in the glass door.

Wembley entrance
Welcome to Wembley

One thing up and running was a burger van to provide the workers with food. When we arrived it appeared half of them were in the makeshift canteen. Just a case of bad timing perhaps.

Out on a cordoned-off area of the pitch, the four sides - including a team made up entirely of John Terrys - were relishing their place in history, particularly with the real Alan Shearer watching from the sidelines.

You could tell the great man was just itching to get involved and after a couple of minutes he decided to get a piece of the action, charging on to the field, outmuscling a defender and smashing the ball into the bottom corner before wheeling away with a trademark one-finger salute.

"Sorry lads, I couldn't help myself!" grinned the former England captain, who then fluffed two subsequent efforts - prompting new team-mate Iain Bailey to cheekily shout: "Come on Alan, head up!"

Five minutes later the 19-year-old wished he'd kept his mouth shut when the teams were changed around and he found himself on the wrong end of a Shearer nutmeg, prompting the Newcastle legend to celebrate as if he'd just scored the winning goal in the World Cup final.

Sign at Wembley
The signs are not good

Afterwards Bailey said: "I can't believe I just played with Alan Shearer at Wembley, but I have to say he only agreed to get involved if one of us would let him nutmeg him - and I drew the short straw!"

Shearer admitted he'd thoroughly enjoyed having a kickabout before the likes of Rooney and co get a look in.

"I feel privileged to have been invited along here," he said. "I think it's spectacular and everyone will be delighted with it. I have been to a lot of stadiums around the world and you won't find many better.

"Even though it's a new stadium it's still Wembley and it's still special. Let's hope the England team won't take long to adjust to playing here."

Whenever that might be.

606 DEBATE: Your comments on the new Wembley

Warm-up event for Wembley delayed
20 Feb 07 |  Football


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