11th June, 1988
From the minute I found out we were going to be playing at Wembley Stadium I knew exactly what I was going to do – what I HAD to do! As a fanatical football fan, how can you not? The fact that I would be performing to the largest global audience in history (a live broadcast to some 900 million people worldwide) was exciting, sure – but it was nothing compared to the mind boggling kudos to be extracted from being able to phone several select mates and tell them, absolutely genuinely, without a word of a lie, that I had put one in the back of the net on the most famous football pitch in the world.
They think it’s all over……. It is now!!
For 2 or 3 years I had been playing with probably the most illustrious house band ever assembled. It was a charity band put together by Phil Collins (or was it Midge Ure?) specifically for the purpose of playing at the Prince’s Trust Concerts and included Phil on Drums, Midge, Eric Clapton & Brian May on Guitars, Mark King of Level 42 on bass, and variously Jools Holland, Elton John and Howard Jones on piano.
The idea was that we would be the house band and accompany a host of stars who were wheeled on & off to the delight of the masses, and over the 3 years we accompanied most of the world’s enormo-stars – Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison (yes, all at the same time), Peter Gabriel, The Bee Gees, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, George Michael, Labi Siffre (sorry, couldn’t resist that) and a zillion others – sadly, no Frank Zappa – another ambition unfulfilled. Anyway, it was always absolute mayhem, completely unpaid, unbelievable fun and worked very well. So well, in fact, that the band was asked to do a set at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday tribute at …….. WEMBLEY STADIUM!!!!!!!
When I got the call confirming that the gig was happening, I hadn’t put the phone down and I was already in a complete ham shank over what to do. What should it be? A penalty? A sweeping, length-of-the-pitch run, jinking past the last defender to slot it past the hapless goalie (who was rendered motionless in awe of my sublime dribbling skills)? A curling free kick, perhaps? (Beckham hadn’t been invented yet). The possibilities were endless. My one and only chance of an awesome football credential was just about the only thing I could think about in the intervening weeks. What if the security won’t let me on the pitch? What if they suspect the ball is a bomb? What if……………. I MISS!!! It was sheer torture.
Finally, the big day arrived. We had been told to get there for 10.00am as there would be tight security to clear and we must start our soundcheck on time as there were lots of artists to get through.
10 O’Clock? Pah!
8 O’Clock – Johnny pulls up in the car park! There I am – rucksack (containing full England strip) in one hand and FIFA regulation size 5 football in the other – oh, and I guess I must have had my trumpet with me too. I was a total wreck – the number of things that could go wrong. Would I? Could I pull it off? As I walked up to the artist’s entrance I felt like Michael Caine in Escape to Victory. After what seemed like hours of arsing around being security checked and explaining why my bag contained a full England strip (WHY DO YOU THINK, IDIOT?) finally I get in to the Stadium. My original plan was to emerge from the tunnel, proceed to the nearest 18 yard box, put the ball down, make like a goal kick and then effortlessly dribble the ball the length of the pitch and slot it neatly between the uprights (I’d decided I daren’t risk a full-on toe whacker – just in case I missed).
SHIT, those crew guys start work early!!!
As I came out of the tunnel I was horrified! I had mentally prepared for every eventuality – except this one. Not only was half the pitch covered in boards but the nearest goal was gone and there were a couple of guys busy dismantling the other. I tell you, I covered the length of that pitch quicker than Jairzinho in a Brazil-v-Wycombe match and begged the two guys to leave the goal just for a few minutes.
Now, crew guys are notoriously cruel and twisted – not so much the techy ones but more the ones ……… who take up goalposts – but luckily I had found two roadies who possessed a heart and soul, and once I had explained what I was up to I was able to negotiate a temporary stay. No time for the England strip, forget the elaborate scything through the opposition defence – just get on with it. I started about 30 yards out and even managed a couple of Best-like shimmies before triumphantly whacking it home between the uprights (which looked for all the world like they were being held up by 50% of Iron Maiden).
OK, I admit it............there wasn’t a net, but I refuse to let that ruin the moment. The plain fact is...........
I SCORED A GOAL AT WEMBLEY!