York City v Macclesfield Town – the FA Trophy Final

Buildbase FA Trophy
Another week, another trip to Wembley. Actually, May has become our month of football. This time it was for my home team York City, who despite being relegated two seasons in a row, made it to the FA Trophy Final.

The FA Trophy Final is held at Wembley every year, a cup for the lower league clubs. All the lower leagues get to compete in the FA Cup (remember Sutton United’s great run this season just gone?) but this is their cup.

We headed back to Wembley to cheer on York. This time tickets were again very reasonable – and cheaper than the Women’s FA Cup Final. Only just though – my friend from York booked us in as a group booking (he bought about 50 tickets for friends). For the three of us it came in at around £18.

Buildbase Game Face

Watching the men’s game again it made me realise how different it is atmosphere-wise to the women’s game. There are differences… singing songs goading or taunting the opposition (especially if they used to play for you). None so much about our actual opposition though from what I could hear.

More swearing. A lot more swearing. Most of it went way over H’s head! (thankfully)

Buildbase FA Trophy Final York v Macclesfield

But it has made me think. The Women’s FA Cup Final got 3,000 more supporters than the games on Sunday. That’s games (plural) as prior to York’s game there was another trophy for the lower leagues. So I think it’s quite impressive the women’s attendance was higher.

Sure, you could say that people have to travel – but then the women’s game had teams from Nottingham and Manchester…

Wembley

It was an interesting parallel anyway.

York did me proud. It was an exciting game. We played well, we were the first team to score with Macclesfield equalising each time. Just as the 90 minutes was coming up and I was dreading the idea of extra time and H having a late night on a day before school we got the crucial third goal. Ohh it was great.

By the time the final whistle came, everyone cheered and the York players came running to our end yelling “f***ing YESSSS!” which again is a massive contrast to the women’s game. We were still delighted and I was glad H hasn’t developed any lipreading skills!

York City win the FA Trophy

Ultimately I was proud of my team because we were the underdogs. You could tell who was sticking around and who loved York (hello Jon Parkin) and who was playing their final game. We haven’t had the best season, but it finished in a good way and a good start to the next.

There weren’t any Mexican waves this time! H didn’t notice too much, she was too busy getting into the game and loving all the goals. We all had a good time, and it was fun being right behind the goal too.

Seeing as all of York’s games next season will be up north, it’s likely that we won’t see any unless we go back. But at least now H has seen York at Wembley – the last time they played there she was in my tummy!

Wembley way

The FA Trophy Final was a fun afternoon and it was good to be a part of it. It was much louder atmosphere-wise too.

Our next game is on Sunday 28th May at The Valley, watching Tottenham Ladies try to gain promotion to the WSL2!

SSE Women’s FA Cup Final 2017 – Manchester City v Birmingham City

Yesterday was the SSE Women’s FA Cup Final 2017, the third time we’ve been and the third time it has been played at Wembley. If you want an afternoon of affordable football then a trip to the home of football is what you need.

Wembley FA Cup display

The SSE Women’s FA Cup Final 2017 happened yesterday, Manchester City Women v Birmingham City Ladies. We go every year, as I’ve found it’s a really affordable way to watch football at Wembley. Plus there is a great atmosphere!

This year the FA ran the Kids go Free promotion again, so we were able to buy tickets for the three of us for £20.00. One adult, one student and one child.

What a day it was! Last week we found out we will be working with the FA to help promote Women’s football and football for girls. If you’ve followed our footballing journey you may remember H was playing every Saturday at Carshalton Athletic (who let girls play for free). We stopped around the time we had our gas leak and we got out of the habit of going. Well, we’re starting again.. and there’ll be more on that in the future.

SSE Women's FA Cup Final 2017 tickets, FA Cup Final 2017

Back to Wembley and the SSE Women’s FA Cup Final 2017. We received hospitality tickets for the Bobby Moore Suite. The posh part of Wembley – and we were right next to the Man City Women bench. We were also right next to the steps the players ascend to be presented with the FA Cup and medals.

Comfy Wembley seats

The seats were AMAZING. Funnily enough, the ones we had bought were on the next block along, a row behind! But those were plastic seats, not padded comfort ones.

Manchester City Women are on a roll at the moment. In the Women’s Super League you have a lot of teams who don’t seem to get the support from their Men’s team and you can tell. This isn’t the case for Man City Women, who dominated the game. I’m happy that Birmingham City Ladies also got a goal as they deserved it.

H loved seeing England players Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Lucy Bronze, Toni Duggan and Isabel Christansen play. It was great seeing Carli Lloyd play too – she’s playing for Man City Women until the end of the current FA WSL Spring Series. She’s one serious US Women’s footballer and the FIFA World Player of the Year.

Manchester City Women and the FA Cup, FA Cup Final 2017

The atmosphere in the ground made the game for me. We had mexican waves (of course) and noise. Teams weren’t too segregated, so you could watch as a neutral or for one of the teams and enjoy yourself. It’s a brilliant place to play and when the game ended you could see how much winning the FA Cup meant to Man City Women – it was their first time. They really deserved it.

For me, seeing the game gain in popularity can only be a good thing. Women’s football has always felt like it’s at the level of lower league football which is fine – but now things seem to be moving in a very positive way. In an interview I read recently Casey Stoney said, the opportunities are now there – you might not get to play for England but you get to play. Players like Casey and the teams we watched yesterday are making this happen for future generations of girls.

I find myself mellowing towards teams that I would never in a billion years follow the men’s version of. That has to be a positive thing!

It’s a really exciting time to follow Women’s football. We’ll be watching Tottenham against Blackburn Rovers in a couple of weeks. Tottenham recently completed the treble in their league, though are still an amateur side. We’re keeping everything crossed that they gain promotion to the Women’s Super League and become a dominant football team. So much of that is down to the support of the main club.

H at Wembley, FA Cup Final 2017

With a record attendance yesterday of 35,271 and them opening the upper levels of Wembley, Women’s football is so affordable, accessible and brilliant. Trust me when I say this, buy a ticket for the 2018 final when they go on sale around September-October time. You will not regret it.

Women’s football has been around for years. There’s a lot of information over at The FA’s site. Birmingham Ladies were formed in 1969.

We bought tickets and also received tickets for the SSE Women’s FA Cup Final 2017 from BritMums as part of the FA Project. This does not affect our opinion in any way. We will receive a fee for our work. Thank you to Britmums and the FA for yesterday, we had a wonderful day. 

The SSE Women's FA Cup Final 2017, FA Cup Final 2017

Our previous trips to Wembley for the Women’s FA Cup Final in 2015 and 2016.

2016 in Review

What can I say about 2016? It has been a strange year, but one where we got things done. A year when friendships got stronger or just disappeared completely. Where we did things and they actually happened. It has been a good year with plenty of memories, and as a family, one I know we’ll remember. Especially H now she’s at the age where your memories stick with you.

Here’s our 2016 in review.

The 1st January was spent in Brighton. We traditionally go to the seaside at the start of the year to get some cold air and breathe again. We usually alternate between Brighton, Eastbourne and Bognor Regis and it’s usually very closed and quiet apart from the odd Fish & Chips place. I like it because it’s cold, closed, dark and fresh and crisp; nothing like bringing in a new year that way every year.

We took out Historic Royal Palaces membership and headed to Hampton Court early on in the year, showing H somewhere I used to love going when I was her age. My Auntie Florrie lived in Teddington and that whole area was somewhere we spent a lot of time when we visited London back in the seventies.

H had her first horse riding lesson. It’s too expensive to keep up, unfortunately. She loved it though.

Horse Riding at Deen City Farm

I had always wanted to visit Kensington Palace as it intrigues me. You’re visiting somewhere next door to the almost-untouchable current Royals. Anyway, it was an interesting place. HRP membership covered that.

Hampton Court

March and we were back to Hampton Court as my friend got an invite to preview the Magic Garden, so we popped along. It didn’t disappoint!

Hampton Court Magic Garden dragon and water sand play area

March also brought H’s first proper gig – Adele at the O2. It was both of our first time going there. I booked us a hotel nearby so we didn’t have to get all the way home afterwards – and had a brilliant evening. H loved it too! Adele is one of her favourites and I’ve enjoyed working on her records for these last few years.

The following day we took the Thames Ferry to the Tower of London using our HRP membership to get in free. Again, loads of fun and we got our money’s worth.

Easter was an Emmett’s Gardens and Chartwell visit, as our National Trust membership was getting a bit unused, and National Trust always have the best Easter Egg trails. It didn’t disappoint.

Our Merlin Passes were also quite neglected so we made our first trip to Legoland, choosing a rainy day which was a bit cold. It seemed to work, and we got on most rides without a queue. We even managed Mia’s Riding School three or four times in a row before I had to stop.

When your gas boiler is switched off for safety reasons, Leaky Flue Safety Warning Gas Boiler

April brought the weird stuff. We found out we had a carbon monoxide leak at home, which explained a lot of things. Forgetfulness? Tick. Feeling sick a lot? Definitely. Just being sick without any reason? Been there, done that. Our boiler was taken out of action and a plan was set, to get central heating put in when we went on holiday in July. Mainly as it would be so disruptive so we wanted to be away from it all. Every morning I had staggered to work like I was hungover, wondering when the virus would shift. It had never occurred to me it was this. Once the boiler was shut off I never felt like it again. We’ve since bought more carbon monoxide alarms. Too close a call. But why did it affect just H and I? I think because Shaun falls asleep downstairs and would often leave the heating on. I’d go to bed at 11pm and eventually come downstairs to shut off the heating at 2am. Because the leak was in the loft, both H and I were exposed to it more than Shaun as he was downstairs.

That’s my only explanation.

I got out to some gigs in April too – Lush reformed and I had a rare night out. Just getting onto a train and going across London was making me pretty nervous. It was a great night, I had far too much to drink, and the night was to be repeated a month or so later but with Shaun while H went on a sleepover.

Getting to work became an issue. Southern Trains were becoming increasingly rubbish and I was having a lot of palpitations. One day I got into work and burst into tears which isn’t like me at all. One word – perimenopause. I’ve done several things to calm the symptoms, they still happen especially the anxiety, but I’m learning to control it. I had a Mirena fitted which is helping a lot too. I had a journey home with the best train driver ever.

Wembley Stadium players warm up

May also brought our annual trip to Wembley to watch the Women’s FA Cup Final. It’s good fun, cheap and I’ve already bought tickets for next year – they’re on sale now – and kids go free. It’s a great atmosphere!

We also saw Horrible Histories at Hampton Court – a great setting for a great show. H and her friend M really enjoyed it.

We popped to Kew to view Kew Palace on our HRP membership. Don’t forget to print out your 2 for 1 vouchers beforehand like we did… you don’t get in free to Kew with HRP, you get a discount. 2 for 1 works out a bit cheaper too – meant we had more money to spend in the shops there!

June brought our second trip to Wembley. I bought tickets for England’s last friendly before the World Cup. H has finally seen Harry Kane play football (and Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker). Next season we’ll try a Tottenham game. We missed the National Anthem thanks to it taking forever to get into Wembley, but caught the majority of the game.

harry potter tour broom training

June also brought our trip to the WB Studio Tour. H is a fully-fledged Harry Potter convert now – she has seen all the films and knows more about each character than me. She has also read my books more than I have… We all really enjoyed it – even Shaun who tolerates it (and usually falls asleep in the films). We’ll be going back when we can save enough money – maybe for Hogwarts at Christmas in 2017.

June also brought a trip to Southampton to see the touring production of Mary Poppins on stage. The production was nowhere near London so we decided to make a night of it, and booked into the Ibis there (which H loved as it had a bunk bed over our double bed). We had seen it way before H was born, and loved it again. Zizi Strallen is an excellent Mary.

BML with mary drinking fizz

June also brought BritMums which I really enjoyed, hanging out all day with Mary who is excellent company.

July brought the Bottersnikes and Gumbles preview where we interviewed one of the characters and found out the recording didn’t work. My memory was still a bit rubbish so I can’t remember anything he said either. I fail. H was interviewed for CBBC but it wasn’t used (I thought that might happen, she was quiet).

Yurt Life at Kingsdown Centre - wonderful setting!

July was also the start of our holidays, heading to Cornwall again. We stopped in Weston Super Mare on the way down, wandered around there and made the most of late evening beach walks, donkey rides, fish & chips and relaxing.

The following day we arrived at Hallagenna Cottages in St Breward, and had a lovely week there discovering loads of new places. Up the road at Coombe Mill The Boy and Me gang were staying. H and The Boy both got on famously, so next year we’re going back to Coombe Mill to stay!

OMG We're Staying at Coombe Mill next year face

I love Cornwall. Great beaches, great weather and having a proper holiday is always a good thing.

On the way back to London we stayed in a Yurt at the Kingsmead Centre which was loads of fun!

We used our Merlin Passes and visited Weymouth Sea Life on the way back to London.

H in front of the Disneyland Castle

August arrived. We had a short break to Paris planned which didn’t break the bank. We stayed near the Eiffel Tower for a couple of nights. After that we headed to Disneyland Paris and H didn’t have a CLUE! She also got in for free as if you’re six, then that’s what happens. She was seven the following day – and it counts from check-in date. We also managed to do Jedi Training Academy. So that was her surprise 7th birthday treat. We had glorious weather and needed a month to recover afterwards.

In September H moved up to Junior school. She has settled well and is loving it. Her confidence is growing too which is great. She also started Brownies and had moved up a level in swimming at the end of summer to Stage 5.

Because it was a new school we didn’t do a huge amount in September, although made it to Hampton Court again.

H and Milo the Giant African Millipede from Wild Fangs

October was busier though, with H’s birthday party which she really enjoyed.

At the end of October we headed back to York to see my mum, staying there for the first time in a long time. H loved spending time with her nana, and I loved stopping and recharging my batteries. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the whole of half term off, so we took H out of school for two days so she won’t get her 100% attendance this term.

We visited Fountains Abbey with my sister and her boys too.

We also found time to visit Alton Towers which I’d spent plenty of time at in the eighties. I recognised parts, but not that much really, although I’d occasionally have moments where I’d say “Hang on? Wasn’t The Corkscrew there?” and be right.

Fireworks at Carshalton Ponds

November was Bonfire Night which was fun – we stayed by our local ponds and had great views, rather than enter the park and have some views. The end of the year is all about saving money! I booked a ticket for Blogfest earlier in the year and attended but it wasn’t the same. I don’t think I’ll be going next year.

We went to Epsom Downs and saw the supermoon which gave me lots of silhouette photos I do love to take. We planted Miffy Tulips, and got some mesh to put over our plant pot so the foxes won’t dig it up. H did her Brownie promise and remembered it, and I wore my leaders uniform for the first time and felt like I had confidence to do it.

December. We had the school fair (which H helped me on the stall with – see, this is a new confidence she’s found. She used to hide behind me), she has moved up a level at swimming to Stage 6. She has lost two more teeth taking it to 10 total, and is almost there with her handwriting at school, holding out for a pen licence.

Completely unexpected, but H was Star of the Term as voted for by her teachers. She ran up to me incredibly proud in the playground. Their note sums it up. I love that the unexpected things make everything feel even better.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

We went back to York for the York Panto which was Cinderella. H got her name read out in the shoutouts part of the production which she loved – and she got a Wagon Wheel! I am still persuading her not to eat it…

We had two visits to see Father Christmas. One was at Chessington Garden Centre and the other at Tottenham’s ground. Of the two, the Tottenham one was the best – he was really warm, fun and engaging and had H chatting. I asked him if he could make sure Tottenham win the league for my present and we all left feeling cheery (but I don’t think he’ll have much luck with that, another good season would be good).

We’re finishing the year off inviting neighbours around to our house. This is a big one for us – until now I’ve felt like our house is too small, though a friend did it last year and made me realise it could be done. Then we had H’s party which proved over 20 people could be in our house with room to spare. My biggest problem had been our heating. It was fine us living here with the crappy heating which I always hated and felt like it only warmed the landing upstairs and our front room – but now we have proper central heating. This house is welcoming again… though I suspect our 1st January trip to the seaside may need to be postponed by a day… that and I’m sure our car won’t make it there and back!

So what will 2017 bring? I know my aches and pains and anxiety aren’t going to go away, but I’ve found if I keep myself busy it helps it not be at the forefront of my mind. I’m going to progress with my training to be a Guide Leader though I’m still not sure I want to be in charge. But we’ll cross that bridge…

We’ve taken out Historic Houses Association membership so at some point we’ll get to Hever Castle which we’ve wanted to visit for a while. We’ll probably need to buy a new car as ours is on its last legs.

See you, 2016. You’ve been busy.

H Went to Wembley

We went to Wembley on Saturday to watch the Women’s FA Cup Final – Chelsea vs Notts County.

Wembley view from block 137

We went as neutrals, having no preference for either team, and trying not to let our feelings for the men’s teams cloud our judgement in any way.

We made it on time too – from Carshalton to Wembley it takes about an hour and 20 minutes (including the bus from Morden) and was a straight and easy route. Hopping onto a Metropolitan train when we got to Finchley Road made it an even faster journey.

H at Wembley

After stopping for nasty burgers and chips (my only vegetarian option, I remembered Wembley’s food being expensive), we got into the stadium. Aaaah.

A random lady who had a number one hit sang her pop song, while large inflatable things had the names of each team. Despite buying tickets way before the finalists were known, we were with all the Chelsea supporters – though you wouldn’t have known. If you watched the Women’s World Cup you may, like us, have been refreshed by how sporting it all was. Wembley had that in spades – everyone applauded everything, and indeed, when Laura Bassett’s name was called out everyone cheered loudly – except H.

“MUMMY!! LAURA BASSETT IS PLAYING!!!!!” she squealed with excitement while being amazed she was watching players she knew. If only Fran Kirby had been eligible to play!

For a five year old, watching her second ever football match, it’s a big one. You know she’ll drift off a bit due to her age, but actually, she only drifted off right at the end (when I was hoping Notts County would score, but also hoping they wouldn’t as H was so tired!).

H outside Wembley

So that’s one off the bucket list – we’ve taken H to watch a football match at Wembley! We went as neutrals, had a great time, enjoyed watching the presentation of the cup at the end, and H was especially happy as Wembley has a playground right outside the Designer Outlet part (where she got a second burst of energy).

Wemb-er-lyyyyyyy!

The England Women’s Football Team play Germany at Wembley on Sunday 23rd November – I’ve just bought us tickets. £10 for adults and £1 for under 16’s – AND only £2.50 postage on top – no fees.

If only all events were like this!

I’m so excited to take H to Wembley – she kind of has been, but she was in my tummy at the time (when York City made the playoffs back in 2009)

We’re excited, anyway!

The Early Bird offer is on for the whole of September, or until tickets sell out.