Walsall fan Graeme Brookes shares with us his final day as he reached his goal of £5,000 and walked from Walsall to Wembley in seven days!
So at this point, I suppose today`s blog entry needs to have a Forrest Gump style narrative in the sense – we know the present and that is that we bloody well lost. We lost. I don`t see a point starting at the start of the day with everyone reading knowing that we lost – let`s acknowledge the loss then go backwards. 2-0. TWO-NIL. Ho hum. There really isn`t much more to say. The solid 3,000 that go to the Bezzla week in, week out know that this game was going to be tough and there was a reason we were the considerable underdog. Brizzle to their credit are a very good team and appear to be Championship bound. With their infrastructure, squad depth and fan support – it`s to be expected. When you can bring on Jay-Emmanuel Thomas as a sub for the last ten minutes, this speaks volumes. They were the better team. We didn`t seem to settle, I think that`s the most disappointing thing from my perspective. I really thought that we were on a big pitch, a pitch in phenomenal condition and against a team that can play football – I thought that would lead to us playing football and that is when we shine, however it just wasn`t the case. I don`t really see the point in being negative in regards to particular players and the such because at this point, what`s is going to achieve? The only part of frustration I have is because their fans were just so arrogant with it prior to the game – ‘Long way to walk to lose` was something I heard at least 3 times before kick-off. Not to worry, I am a Saddler. I was born a Saddler, I will die a Saddler. In celebration or disappointment – I will be a Saddler. We are better than that, that`s why we are such a tight club, a club that sticks together and a club that will still support the lads regardless, even on a Tuesday next month in the rain when 90% of today`s Saddlers don`t choose to follow us (and if you left after 75 minutes today, you suck! I found that really disappointing!). Also, we don`t sound like farmers, so that`s a positive too.
Now that`s out the way (for a bit) – today. I could NOT sleep at all. It was like Christmas. I have gone from all of these beautiful houses and annexes and the such into a Best Western in Harrow that was grose! I had to use all my Vaseline just to force myself into the shower. Regardless I couldn`t sleep until at least 2am, then was up at 7am singing! I couldn`t help myself. I did a BBC Breakfast interview with a Brizzle fan who sounded as excited on the phone as would for colonic irrigation! Then I had to get ready to walk. I had 6.5 miles to walk and I was ready to walk that day, in fact I think I may have floated.
I left Stanmore Common at 10.45 and I was on a mission to see the Wembley Arch that I failed in yesterday. ½ MILE – NOPE. 1 MILE – NOPE. 2 MILE – NOPE. I was genuinely getting rather worried and then BOOM! I saw it, looking at me and as soon as I saw it, it disappeared again. Then I saw that I had walked 3 miles in an hour but had to walk 3.5 miles in 50 minutes to get to the Green Man in time to have a cheeky pint before finishing the walk officially at the Stadium. The foot was officially put down, I really felt for Rob (the director/cameraman from Indictus Films who was having to stay in front of me for the most part) as he was having to run back and forward like a beast. Then KABOOM – The Arch just opened up and I saw it clear as day. I took a picture and Rob asked how I felt and it happened – I cried. I have a good old leak. I`m not the crying type. I was just so happy that I was there, I could see it. I had walked 140 miles to see something that was raising money for a charity that I wanted to help and more importantly would let my granddads legacy shine even brighter. It wasn`t just Wembley. It wasn`t just a game. It was symbolic. That Arch represented my Grandad, my love for him and my fight to make him proud of me even when he has long gone the way of the Dodo. After having a blart, then I was on. Rockets on the back. I was joined by my lovely niece and nephew for around a mile or so, but again I was walking so fast I felt sorry for them. They were almost having to jog. I was running off adrenaline. That`s when I started seeing Saddlers for the first time (beside my mate just before Watford who I now know is a UTS`er which makes me happier!) and the cheers were awesome.
Then hit the Green Man, which was great. As I walked in, I was met by a round of applause from a number of folk which was pretty cool! Met the brains behind Walsall`s greatest podcast: One Pod Beyond (sorry it was so brief mate!) along with a few other folk. Managed to have a pint and shake many a hand. That 15 minutes went quickly and then I was off to Wembley Way, I was getting loads of calls from folk wanting to talk but I just couldn`t focus and had to leave my phone ringing because it was driving me a little insane. Again – I bumped into a number of Saddlers and they were so lovely! Shaking hands, throwing donations into my bag – just phenomenal and then I hit Wembley Way. Wow. Looking down Wembley Way and seeing the red and white. I got to meet so many folk, shake hands, get more donations and as I walked closer I could see my family in the distance and a huge crowd of folk and a banner, I got rather choked up to say that least. As I walked closer – people parted and cheered, whooped, shook my hand, high fived me – all sorts. It felt very much like the end of Cool Running`s – ‘See you in 4 year, huh Jamaica?`, ‘Yeah man`! I had done it, I hit the point and I made it to Wembley. Hugs were shared all round. It was amazing. Just amazing.
From there I kind of got a little bombarded. By TV people, Radio, Newspapers – it was a bit heavy and hectic. I kind of lost that moment to give a kiss and a cuddle to all my loved ones who were there. That was a real shame. Any potential blubbing moments died instantly. Then after that I had to go to Wembley as they kindly offered me and Rob hospitality in return for an interview for their magazine/website. Cool with me. I managed to have 3 beers, pop outside – get a big wave and thumbs up from Dean Smith (AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHH!), bump into the Moose from Talksport, do an impromptu live interview on 5 Live (which led to at least a £100 in donations) and have a security guard say – Walsall to Wembley in 7 days, you could`ve done it quicker. I was too tired to acknowledge or laugh at his cock-er-ney-ness. Knees up guv`nor! Walking around to see 30,000 Walsall fans in Wembley was amazing. Just the moment of walking into Wembley. Seeing the bombast, the flames, the everything. It was so special. The only moments I can liken it to were Cardiff and Old Trafford but even greater. Walsall at Wembley was amazing. Regardless of the result, just the spectacle, the pomp and circumstance. We are Walsall, we aren`t used to this. I am used to Balti Pies or dipping my Burger Bun into Tomato Soup at London Rd, because that`s all they had left to sell. I`m not used to gourmet Pizza. I don`t know. It was confusing but beautiful at the same time. I`m sure I will bang on about all this tomorrow once it has had time to sink in.
I have done a few daft things in my life, nothing huge if I am honest. From a charity perspective, I have abseiled down a 100ft building when I was 15, I raised money to go on a foreign services type thing – I may have done other things too, I really can`t remember but I probably didn`t raise much. Now – I have raised thousands. Just me and my old size 13`s! That blows me away. Knowing that once I have collected all the money in and the internet donations finally stop (it won`t for the next week – I know pay day falls this week – come on! Don`t forget that verbal commitment! Ha ha!) then I can combine it all and walk into Walsall Society for the Blind and present them with a cheque or what or not (I don`t actually know how it works) of thousands of pounds. That blows me away. People`s generosity has been amazing. It has superseded all my expectations – people have been so bloody lovely. For me, I admit I can be rather cynical and at times negative, often preparing for the worse but if I have personally taken anything from this experience is, you give someone the opportunity to help and they will. That`s something I will have to remember and additionally put into practice. I can tell you a few things like – I will NEVER take tarmacking for granted, when I see those boys laying it – I will nod approvingly and even congratulate them. I will NEVER drop rubbish on the floor again – because it blows somewhere and that will most likely be the lowest point which is usually, ‘the cut`. Lastly – I will always remember how sad I felt seeing the state of the canals and perhaps I can help out in the future when it comes to cleaning them up and making them a wee bit more presentable. I wish the old Pleck Canal that I spend a LOT of my childhood in – could look as beautiful as it did around Gayton and Berkhamsted.
I am going to stop here I think because I am getting a little bit soft. I will do another blog tomorrow but I apologise in advance that it will be more about thanking people. I will try and drop in a few comedy stories that I may not have mentioned during the previous blogs to make it a little appealing.
May I also say that it is NOT too late to donate? I am trying to get to 5k via online donations and I still have NOT hit that. I am so so close, less than £400 last time I checked. Please I am begging you, I have done all the hard work now. I even walked 143 miles to watch my team bloody well lose! If you have a heart surely you will sympathise with me for that! Please! I am begging you as much as I can capable. Please let me hit that because any additional monies will be on top of the 5k that I can provide, additionally ALL the money you have donated goes DIRECTLY to Walsall Society for the Blind, that is direct to young people and adults who need help. You can do that. Just scroll up to the top of the page and click donate. It will take 2-3 minutes at a max. Thank you. I appreciate it.
Distance: 7.4 miles. Time: 2 hours, 47 minutes. MPH: 2.55
0 miles to go. 143.2 miles walked
Wembley completed. Hopefully it won`t be 127 years until we return (and that time, I will drive).
Thank you. Graeme. x
Graeme it has been a pleasure to follow you on your journey from Walsall to Wembley.
From everyone at Vital Walsall we congratulate you on your astonishing journey that has humoured us and inspired us! YOUR REACHED YOUR GOAL OF £5,000 (at time of writing he has raised £5,546 – You my friend are a legend! Your grandad would be proud of you.