While the new Wembley Stadium is undoubtedly a magnificent piece of architecture, many football fans will look back with greater nostalgia at the old Wembley that opened its doors back in 1923. But how has the history of this most famous of football arenas evolved and just why is it held in such affection by fans and players alike?
When the original stadium was built, the whole project cost around £750,000 which was an immense figure at the time. Football however was growing in popularity and it seemed a racing certainty that Wembley would comfortably recoup that money in a very short space of time.
The increase in popularity that football was enjoying was evidenced perfectly when Wembley staged its first game – the 1923 FA Cup final between West Ham United and Bolton Wanderers. While the FA Cup had been in existence since 1872, the final was a nomadic affair with the game being held at various venues such as Stamford Bridge and Kennington Oval, which is better known as an international cricket ground.
Increasing crowds had exacerbated a problem and the need for a new, purpose built stadium was evident. Wembley fitted the bill perfectly but even its vast capacity couldn`t hold the huge numbers of crowds that arrived for the 1923 Final.
With the pitch finally cleared of spectators, many watched from the perimeter of the pitch as Bolton and West Ham made history. Other than the interruption for World War II, Wembley played host to the FA Cup final right up until the year 2000, after which the stadium was closed for its extensive makeover.
In the 77 years that elapsed from 1923 to 2000, some truly memorable games took place at the old Wembley, including the 1968 European Cup final where, on an emotional night, Matt Busby took his Manchester United side to victory over Benfica by four goals to one.
Two years prior to that, the 1966 World Cup Finals were held in England and the host nation played all of their group games at Wembley before qualifying for the final itself. On route to the final, there were historic games against Argentina and Portugal but the 1966 World Cup final was arguably the greatest game to be played at either the new or the old Wembley.
After 90 minutes, England and Germany were locked at 2-2 but in extra time, two goals from Geoff Hurst completed his hat trick and saw the hosts run out as 4-2 victors.
30 years later, England almost repeated their feat in the 1996 European Championships but after good performances in the earlier rounds, their hopes were dashed by Germany in the semi-final.
By 1996, the facilities were becoming seriously outdated and in 2000, the decision was made to close the stadium and renovate it completely. Fittingly, the Germans were the opponents in the last game at the old stadium and they spoiled the party once again, running out 1-0 winners over Kevin Keegan`s England.
When the new stadium opened its doors for the 2007 cup final, the famous twin towers had gone and were replaced by the incredible Wembley arch that can be seen for miles. It`s still an amazing stadium however and by undertaking a Wembley tour you can experience the incredible atmosphere for yourself.