Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: How the other half live a different view of the other code

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Visiting Twickenham delivers different reactions. Most have been agreeable after watching an All Black success.

It is a bit of a hike out to the ground and if you go by train, there is a tidy little walk in often trying weather.

The forecast for tomorrow is fine and pretty icy but most of the patrons will be sodden only on the inside.

Perhaps because of Twickenham's location or maybe it is a reaction to the way rugby is played here, but the Brits like to get to Twickenham early to open the beer or sauvignon blanc and wash down lunch.

Several pints there and a couple inside the park as an international saunters on, is a grand antidote if the red rose wilts under fire.

Sometimes post-match jousts erupt with officials who think they have shares in the Old Cabbage Patch and want you to understand they are in charge and this is their park.

Generally brinkmanship and manners prevail as 81,000 trundle in and out of Twickers.

About half that number filed into Stamford Bridge the other night when Chelsea played Fulham in the premiership local derby.

By chance - oh all right, good luck and a bit of pestering - an invitation came my way. An offer to sit in the Millennium Suite was not to be ignored.

Stamford Bridge used to be my football venue many years ago because of its proximity to the nearby flat a swag of us inhabited.

Rocking up to the ground then had a touch of guerrilla warfare about it, especially if Millwall or West Ham was the opposition.

Nearby pubs overflowed with patrons and police, and spectators who inhabited standing room only in The Shed, had to divest their Doc Martens of laces before they were allowed through the turnstiles.

Even in the supposed safety of the lower stands, the atmosphere could be menacing, like one FA Cup match at which Chelsea supporters broke up the concrete terraces and heaved pieces into the caged Liverpool fans.

The singing was spikey, the taunting more edgy and there was often a whiff of aggression.

But not the other night when my ticket ushered me into a suite in the top level, just a couple along from owner Roman Abramovich's lounge.

There were appetisers, conversation and a gargle before we were ushered to our balcony seats.

Halftime was a main course before the teams battled to a scoreless deadlock and we attacked supper.

It was a lifetime experience. The view was outstanding, the crowd was in decent voice and gave new coach Rafael Benitez beans for his team's lack of enterprise.

The crowd is all seated now and the visiting Fulham mob were protected and then let go 30 minutes after the final whistle. All very civilised and passionate, like Twickers will be tomorrow.

New Zealand can play footy but the Brits do know how to have a good time.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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