My first game trip of 2016 didn’t start the way I’d liked after my youngest daughter picked up a bug from school on the Friday and spent most of Saturday throwing up…which was nice, not! My wife wanted to go out and get a load of shopping done before I started out on my journey to London as she wouldn’t now be able to take our daughter with her. I had to delay my trip whilst all this domestic stuff got in the way. I was intending to set off early so I could spend as much time as possible in central London but didn’t get to set off until about 11am.
As soon as domestic duties were done, I was away. I went to pick my mate up, who lets me drag him to these games even though he’d rather spend his time watching car or bike racing. He just likes to come along for the West End pub-crawls we always seem to end up on. We live in Leicester and he lives not too far from the M1 junction we get on at to make our merry way down south. I was expecting the journey to take between 2-2.5 hours but was pleasantly suprised when the satnav told me it would be less than that. I think it was about a 1 hour 45 minute trip down the M1 and a little way down the North Circular once we got to London.
For this game we’d decided to stay over on the Saturday and Sunday nights as we love spending the day in London on the Saturday before the game and hate the journey home from the tube to the hotel then the car to home on the Sunday after the game. I’d booked us a couple of nights in the Fox and Goose hotel on Hanger Lane as I saw on Booking.com that it had a customer review rating of 8.4/10 from over 1800 reviews.
We arrived a bit early as check-in was from 2pm but the staff were great and checked to see if the room was ready, which it was. So off we went to the room.
The room was nothing special but at the price we’d paid, £184 for 2 people for 2 nights, I wasn’t expecting it to be. It was, however, a lot better than rooms I’ve stayed in before in London whilst down for the games. It was spacious enough and clean. We had plenty of towels in the bathroom as well as tea, coffee, heir-dryer, trouser-press which has been missing in previous rooms. The hotel in general was very clean and the staff were very nice and helpful.
On our way out of the hotel on the Saturday to make our way into central London and the Regent Street Fan Rally, we asked about tube times as I thought they were running 24-hours per day now. We were told by the reception staff that they were on weekends, however, the nearest tube station to us was Hanger Lane which is on the Central Line and trains stopped going there after a certain time. We didn’t actually get anymore information from them as to what times they stopped going there, but all we’d have to do is get on the same train as we would to get back to the hotel but get off at Ealing Broadway then get a taxi from there which would cost about £11 back to the hotel or get on the number 83 bus which ran 24-hours. We decided we’d figure it out and went off into town.
Getting into Central London on the tube from the hotel is super easy as you just get on at Hanger Lane and a few stops later your there. No need to change trains. We got off at Oxford Circus as this puts you right at the top of Regent Street where the NFL Fan Rally is happening.
We had a wander down Regent St and took in the sights of the Fan Rally but were soon bored after spending a bit of time at the main stage. The rest of the stuff that goes on down there doesn’t really grab me as the queues just always seem huge. The Saturday Fan Rally activities are all there again outside the stadium on the Sunday anyway, so we knew we wouldn’t be missing anything. It’s just a lot of throwing a ball through a hole or run to there and back again blah blah. The vertical jump, as per the NFL scouting combine, looked ok but my achilles tendons are knackered so I didn’t bother with it. Perhaps that’s why the Fan Rally doesn’t really appeal to me now; because I’m just a bit worn out and knackered from the waist down after years of playing sports.
We’d downloaded the NFL Fan Rally app and saw that some of the bars and shops on and around Regent Street had joined in and were doing various deals for people who showed their Fan Pass on purchase. I wasn’t too bothered about the shops or the many bottles of Prosecco that seemed to be getting given away but I did like the 25% off food and 2 for 1 drinks between 5-8pm at the Gem Bar just off Regent Street. By that time we were hungry so headed there to get some beer and food. Whilst ordering we asked the barman if we got the discount and showed him the code. He didn’t have a clue what we were on about but said that it was the food discount and 2 for 1 on drinks anyway at that time. Me and my mate just looked at each other and shrugged.
That was pretty much it for us on the Saturday, except for heading off to the Covent Garden/Leicester Square area for our now annual pub crawl and dinner at the american style bar/restaurant, Joe’s, in Covent Garden.
My day started with a leisurely start as I don’t think there’s a big reason to get to the stadium too early. We decided to walk as I’d worked out it would probably take about 30-minutes from the hotel and we both felt like we could do with the walk. If you’re in the market for NFL gear or for food and drink from the stands they have at the stadium then, yes, I’d get there early as the queues get very long (obviously seeing as there’s 80,000+ people about). If you can’t be bothered to queue but want some food and/or drink then the easiest thing to do is to walk through the shopping complex right by the stadium and the tailgate party/events and out the other side. Up there you’ll find a little Tesco store or, on the other side of the road and down a bit, a mini-mart. We got to the stadium, this time, long after the queues had started forming so went to the mini-mart for our beer and a few snacks. A more reasonable price and no queues, perfect. Then we were off back to the stadium to soak up the atmosphere which was buzzing as usual on gameday. After spending sometime around the main stage, located just outside the Wembley Arena building, watching the guys talking and enjoying watching the fans get up and get involved, we made our way round to the back side of the stadium to see if we could nip in and buy anything from the NFL gear marquees round there. Nothing took my fancy this year so we just sat around watching the world go by and chatting to other fans of this great game.
After sitting around for a while and chatting we decided to make our way into the stadium. Before we went to our seats we thought we’d get a few beers. We hoped this would allow us to miss Robin Thicke (or whatever his name is) who was doing the pre-game show. Our timing was perfect as I didn’t even realise he’s been on. After queuing for quite a while and watching in amazement, and amusement if I’m honest, as our barman, Ahmed, pocketed the £20 he charged us for the 4 beers (it should have been £22 if it was going in the cash till) we went to the stands. Last year we were right up in the gods at about the 40-yard line. This year I decided to give up my season ticket I had previously and try to get a better view. I think I went for the same price range but got much better seats. We’re on the 10-yard line but are so much closer to the field. This year at Wembley I sit level with the camera area and just off to their right. Give us a wave 😉 The image below actually makes it look much further away than it really is.
The game itself was decent for all the neutrals in the stadium. I massively miss a genuine home team atmosphere you get in the states. At Wembley it just seems like a quick cheer and polite clapping when something exciting happens. It’s a bit embarrassing really in my opinion. I watched the game on Gamepass when I got back and you could hear a pin drop for far too long periods of the game. Anyway, that’s for another blog post when I bang on about why we could do with a franchise over here even though there seems to be many many people on social media thinking they’re hardcore genuine fans of the US-based team they’ve adopted and they think they aren’t interested in a UK-based team….crazy. Anyway, like I said, that’s for another time.
It seemed to me like a game of two halves with the Jaguars doing well in the first half then the Colts fighting back and being in with a chance of clinching it at the end. I’m a Browns fan but have taken on supporting the Jacksonville Jaguars when they are at Wembley so them getting their first victory of this season over here in the UK was a great thing to have happen.
Even though it was a good game with highlights throughout, I’m still amazed at how quiet most of the people were around me throughout the 4 quarters. I’m sure a couple of the guys sitting in the row in front of me actually fell asleep, unbelievable! Such a crap atmosphere from 83,000+ people in an enclosed space if I’m honest.
At the conclusion of the game I was pretty pumped that the day had been as good as usual (hey, I was watching an NFL game at Wembley, what’s not to love) and wanted to watch more football. I’d been watching and commenting in a few UK-based Facebook groups to see where to go after. There were a few suggestions but the ones that grabbed me were the Green Man pub and the Hippodrome Casino. The Green Man pub is a short walk’s distance from the stadium so we went there first. We got there pretty quickly and made straight for the burger van in the beer garden for hotdogs and chips. A bit of a ripoff price-wise but that’s what I expected. We then made our way inside to the bar and the TV screens. It’s a good sized pub but does get rammed. It’s still possible to get to the bar without much trouble though so that’s good. There are a number of screens around the pub all showing Redzone. This Redzone is kind of like a live highlights show that switches from game to game as the action hots up close to the goal lines of different games. With everyone in the pub supporting different teams, this makes perfect sense and can spark conversations with like-minded NFL fans stood around you.
We stayed in the Green Man pub for about an hour then decided to move on. The funniest part of being in this pub was when the American guy in a Jags jersey decided to try and spark a conversation with me by asking why I was a Dolphins fan. I was wearing a Jags jersey the same as he was although mine was the away one. Now, I’m 6’4″ and he was about 5’4″ and drunk. I assume he could only see as high as the numbers on the front of my jersey and in his drunken state thought it was Dolphins colours. When I told him I was a Browns fan wearing a Jaguars jersey that obviously looked like a Dolphins jersey to him I could see his mind just give up trying to work it out just by the confused series of looks on his face. I guess you had to be there.
We jumped on the tube at the Wembley station and made our ways into town and Leicester Square. I wanted to try the Hippodrome at least once to see if it’s any good. I couldn’t believe that we could get in seeing as we’d already been drinking and were wearing NFL jerseys. We just walked straight in, no problem. After a quick walk around the ground floor not knowing where the football party was I looked up to the balcony level and saw that that’s where it was. After not being allowed up the main stairs to the balcony level by some smug, pain in the ass member of staff who just put his arm across the stairs and didn’t even look at me even when he was explaining it was a bit full up there, we just went round the back and used the back stairs instead. The guy on the stairs told us to go down to the under ground level but that was a bit seedy and dark. There were roulette tables and the like dotted around, which was fair enough, and a female dancer in a cage setup in the middle of the room and some random NFL fans dotted around pretending to be watching the Ravens – Raiders game. It was amusing and a little weird. The barman was crap down here as well so we just went to the balcony.
If I could choose only one place to go after the game on a Sunday it would be the Hippodrome. Despite the guy on the stairs really annoying me with his crap attitude it was actually quite good once we got up to where the football was on. The main game was on in the cellar bar bit of the club but up here you at various screens to watch. Either side of the bar they have two screens. On the top screen, both sides, they had the Patriots vs Bills game and on the lower screens they had Redzone. In the seated area away from the bar just off to the right they had the Ravens vs Raiders game on a big screen. I thought this was good but then heard a cheer come from the lounge just off to the left of the bar down a short corridor. In here they had the Broncos vs Buccaneers game on (I think. I just popped my head in quickly to see what it was like). They also had their own Draft Kings fantasy league running, by the looks of the screen at the entrance to this short corridor, but I have no idea how you entered that. I assume you had to get there early before the 6pm GMT games kicked off…maybe.
It was rammed in this parted of the casino during the first evening games but did clear a little once they’d finished. It was hot as well but I did find a water dispenser that had free ice cold water in it which was a god-send. If I stay over on the Sunday again, this is where I’ll be heading straight from the game. For the next two games I’ll be heading home after they’ve ended though 🙁
So, that was me in London for the weekend of the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars NFL game. It was awesome as usual and I can’t wait for the next game at Twickenham. GO RAMS!