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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Wembley awaits facelift
Weeds cover a bin outside Wembley Stadium
Once-proud Wembley Stadium has been left in limbo

A crane sits between Wembley Stadium's Twin Towers.

A crane that stands listless - a symbol of the inertia that has gripped this once famous landmark.

Almost two years after the stadium hosted its last game - England's World Cup qualifying defeat to Germany - a trip to Wembley is like visiting a graveyard.

Though at least graveyards are well looked after - relatives come and pay their respects, tidy up and replace dying flowers with new blooms.

These days, as the stadium waits for the bulldozers to start work the only people who look after Wembley are the security guards who usher away trespassers from a site that has become a vast sarcophagus.

"It is very, very quiet," says car park attendant Harry Nanna, who used to guide the team coaches into the stadium on FA Cup final day.

Outside the stadium's main entrance it is just possible to make out the words on a dilapidated advertising hoarding: "Welcome to Wembley: Venue of Legends."

A venue whose facade is now riddled with sprouting weeds and concrete rubble.

Rusting beer cans are also scattered about. A yellow hard hat rests precariously on a piece of concrete. Unused and unwanted, much like Wembley has been since 2000.

Wembley Stadium
A crane waits to crank into action

Amid the weeds a dozen or so discarded old blue seats from the terraces lie behind steel bars.

The stadium is surrounded by a green fence along which intermittently are dispersed yellow signs that read, "Construction Site: Keep Out."

On a match day, be it an FA Cup final, a European Cup final or an international, Wembley used to be home to a heaving mass of humanity.

Over the years millions of fans have been carried along Olympic Way, more commonly known as Wembley Way, as they came to pay homage at one of the world's great sporting arenas.

An arena that, like the Maracana in Brazil and the Bernabeu and the Nou Camp in Spain, evokes countless historical memories and emotions.

The stadium where the magical Magyar Ferenc Puskas's drag-back left Billy Wright floundered, and where Manchester United beat Benfica to claim the European Cup for the first time.

The stadium where Ronald Koeman's scorching free kick against Sampdoria in 1992 handed Barcelona their one and only European Cup.

Most famously of all the stadium where England won the World Cup in 1966.

Even two years after the stadium was closed people still come to pay homage says car park attendant Tony Harding, who has been working at Wembley since the the mid-1960s.

Wembley Stadium
The new Wembley should be ready by 2006

"Each day we get a few cars turning up wanting to have a look around. We just have to send them on their way."

Now the only sign of activity is whirring security cameras, placed sporadically around the ground, monitoring any activity aroud the green perimeter.

"It's looking a bit grim, isn't it," says service centre manager Michael Clifford, who as a 17-year-old got to watch the 1966 World Cup final.

These days rather than coming to football matches at Wembley, Clifford walks down Olympic Way to Wembley's antiques market which is being held in one of the Exhibition Halls.

Over the last two years he says Wembley has become more and more "dishevelled."

He shakes his head as he casts his eyes towards the famous Twin Towers, which if the the rest of the stadium looks on its uppers, somehow appear more pristine.

"Everyone associates Wembley with the Twin Towers," adds Clifford. "It is one of the symbols of this country and it is part of our fabric."

Some seats from the Stadium lie unused and unwanted outside
Seating room only

For another antiques daytripper, bricklayer Michael Clifford, who has watched six FA Cup finals, one European Cup final and countless internationals at Wembley, the Twin Towers also stir the strongest emotions.

"When you walk towards the stadium the Towers are the first thing that hits you. Wembley represents so many memories for me.

"What really upsets me is that nothing has been done. It should have been renovated and finished by now.

"Look at what they've done at Cardiff and at what price as well."


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31 May 02 | Search for a New Wembley
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