1 Rome 1984 (2)
2 Rome return 2001 (4)
3 Barcelona, Celtic, Monaco, Marseilles & Istanbul 2005 (6)
4 Japan (17)
5 Lisbon (Benfica) (23)
Wales (Cardiff 5 times)
Bordeaux & Barcelona again
6 Athens 2007 (37)
7 Porto (41)
8 Istanbul (Beskitas) (43)
9 Marseilles (45)
10 Milan (47)
11 Chelsea (50)
12 Glasgow Rangers (55)
13 Standard Liege (59)
14 Marseilles (61)
15 Madrid (Atletico Madrid) (63)
16 PSV Eindhoven (66)
17 Real Madrid (70)
18 Chelsea (again) (77)
19 Vienna & Espanyol (91)
20 Fiorentina (Florence) (101)
21 Lyon (109)
22 Budapest (Debreceni) (114)
23 Bucharest Unirea Urziceni (119)
24 Lille (125)
25 Madrid Atletico) (132)
26 Utrecht (Holland) (143)
27 Napoli (Naples Italy) (147)
28 Vincy’s (first) visit (155)
29 SC Braga (173)
30 Vincy’s return visit!? (179)
31 (195) TBC
1 Rome 25/May/1984
In sunny Rome
Opponents were at home
And so my European adventures began a first trip abroad except as a school child and what a start to see my team win the European Cup Final in there opponents back yard even before I had been to a FA cup final.
All the way to Roma ion the 25th May!
I think I saw the package that I booked in the paper, I recall my mother enquiring in the local travel agents and I believe they encountered other enquiries. I recall her saying the agent commented about other enquiries and decide they should look into it. Any way I booked paid and one match ticket was included I also got one via Liverpool just in case.
My journey To Heathrow was uneventful as I recall. I was a frequent train traveller and the only nuisance was the suitcase I carried. I arrived at the airport to find where I had to check in and relieved of my suitcase entered the security lounge. Security in those days was not who it is today but still a chore and it was my first ever encounter.
Time passed slowly but soon my flight was ready I boarded found my seat next to some South Africans as I recall and nervously waited for take off. It was my first experience of flying but holding conversation with my adjacent passengers made it more bearable. Soon the flight was over and eventually I said goodbye as I left the airplane via the steep gangway. It was a calm day and on setting foot on Italian soil many of the red followers kissed the ground aka Pope John Paul the then new Pope. That fact also proved to be significant 21 years later when a new Pope proved to be a good omen for a victorious Liverpool team.
I was due to meet up with the travel agent when we got through Passport control however for what ever reason it was not to be and I soon found myself with fellow travellers in the same boat. One of them was Chris Allen who took with him a friend. Chris was later to become and remains a life long friend and too this day we travel together to home matches. There was a father and son from Wales who later sent me photos they had taken. The Father new Gloucestershire and had lived in Stonehouse where I began my train journey that morning. A husband & wife complete our Italian group they were from Brighton and she worked for American Express so we had something in common a financial background.
We waited long into the night not sure what to do or where to go eventually with the help of a friendly Italian taxi driver we found our way to the Hotel King where our travel organiser Paul Ross had rooms booked. It was not without some incident for on route the first hotel we went to was booked and while waiting some local fans were driving by with ROMA flags waiving from the car. Loud and unfriendly as they where we ignored them.
Next morning we enjoyed Breakfast together and later went off to find our travel agent. He was apologetic and gave us money towards our Taxi fare. He also advised on when and where we could pick up the coach to take us to the ground. Our welsh friends found a local American restaurant where we enjoyed a hearty lunch and later that afternoon we took a stroll round the American area of the city to get some stamps and enjoy the afternoon sunshine. I recall passing the heavily guarded American Embassy we approached the local Polize with caution as they were heavily armed and looked as if they would take no nonsense.
I travelled to the Match with my new Welsh friends a supporter on the coach translated for the driver and we dropped off a short walk from the ground. As we walked round together a number of Liverpool fans enquired if we needed tickets and even Paul Ross was trying to sell his supply. An Italian tout approached me and upon getting a reply in English called me an “ugly man” As we waited we sat down and chatted to a local drink seller he was a Napoli fan wished us well and said he might get in. I decided not to offer my spare ticket and wrote it off
Fans arrived by the coach load but not any coach these were real cattle trucks fit only for the lowest of the low. Heads squeezed through the narrow windows singing the current red anthem of the day as the passengers if they could be called that were herded towards the ground. Al least they were not going to be slaughtered! (Or so we thought at the time)
After what seemed an eternity we eventually were allowed in and took our seats in the upper tear. We were standing in the open end on a calm spring/summer evening. The whole ground was open and our half full section was witness to a full and fanatical crowd of Italian supporters displaying a big banner. RIP Liverpool FC had been very much in vogue that day and the flats all around on the trip to the stadium displayed AS Roma banners. The sky was blue and remained so long into the evening prior to the darkness of the night to come it was warm hot even over bearing but what a night it was to be!
The Match is widely available and should be unique as the first and only game where on of the competing sides were playing on home ground not only home city. I say should be it has happened since and I know could happen again. Liverpool took the lead through a Phil Neal goal only for the white shirts of Roma to come back with an equaliser just before half time. It was a poachers goal that Neal scored one which Rushie or later Fowler would be proud of and we where delirious as the home supporters where silenced for a few minutes. Bad timing we thought when they equalized but that proved to be the end of the goal scoring as the mighty red men defended with great courage until Extra time and penalties.
Oh no we thought as the local armed police stood in front of our terrace guarded by a wide moat. Penalties we’ve got no chance having the often told story how the youth team had beat us in a practice penalty shoot out. Steve Nichol a substitute volunteered to take the first pen as his legs were fresh. Me I couldn’t watch in a never to be repeated occurrence ever since that day I watch every Liverpool penalty why because of what happened Nichol missed and fell to his knees n disbelief. Me I think it is an omen so now all Penalties even Owen and Gerrard where watched in full no eyes closed ever again. During what followed two Rome born & bred players missed for them while for us Phil Neal, Graham Souness and Ian Rush scored from the spot. Although it will never appear in any record books to Rushie that was his 50th goal for reds and international level that season.
On ITV Jimmy Greaves was in a bubble on the set complaining how all these Penalty shoot out (Spurs won on prior to this in the EUFA cup final) put him in this position. In the centre spot Hansen & Lawrenson talked to each one saying score this we win oh no its Alan Kennedy.
In the far end of the stadium as far as us Liverpool fans were concerned history was to be made. Calmly Kennedy took his effort and the ball flew past the Roma keeper into the net. He turned round and ran as fast as he could. Legend and he will tell you he meant to do a rolly poly but all he could muster was a jump before the boys in red jumped on him. In our end I was in disbelief victory I had not expected my joy was to last an eternity I was on a high which would eventually come down and result in depression. I like many others could not believe we had won the European cup.
Graham Souness Captain that season but soon to leave for sunny Sampdoria led the reds up to collect the European cup for the red men lifting it high into the clear Italian night air. The boys ran round the pitch with it and enjoyed a sign song grouped together. I recalled how I had seen Brian and Steve two friends and fellow supporters from Cheltenham prior to kick off and wondered how they were feeling. As we left the ground to attempt to find our bus thousands of singing supporters surrounded me. We could not get far as the Italian police held us back Tear gas was being shot into the air as in the distance I could see local youths chucking whatever they could at us. I cannot recall how long it was till it was over but eventually myself plus companions father and son got back to a half empty bus before it decided to part for our hotel. I cannot recall more than a dozen fans on the bus our scarves hidden as it trawled through the thousands of disappointed locals, Whether we were lucky or they didn’t care we don’t know but we eventually got back to our hotel & I enjoyed an alcoholic drink my first and last for a long time as I was TT. I think the husband and wife got back safely and Chris arrived back eventually with tales of where he had been, He presented me with a ROMA scarf which I still have to this day, He expressed concerns over his friend who later turned up safely the next morning. It was long into the night probable the next day when I eventually got to sleep.
The next morning the father and son went off to the Vatican City I saw the Taxi driver from the first night and again it was not long before we departed for the airport. I sat next to the wife but offered to swap with the husband. She declined they obviously had some disagreement and I never saw them again. We arrived and said our goodbye Chris as I said met me later and we travelled together on a regular basis. I did receive the pictures from Wales but did not keep in touch. I think I may have there old address somewhere but can’t recall the name. I travelled home by train to be met by my parents at Stonehouse I recall saying something to fellow passengers and reading about the game in a discarded paper. Nothing was mentioned about the trouble so the phone call I had made the night before was unnecessary. It was to be a long time before I was able to make another similar journey my job and difficulty getting sufficient time off when I wanted it prevented this. I was able to enjoy years of great joy and sadness (Hilsborough and the 1989 Arsenal defeat amongst them). In 1985 we were kicked out of Europe after trouble at the European final in Brussels when we faced Juventus I was watching on TV although Chris went. In 1986 we came back to win our first League & Cup double. 1984 was better as we won the first treble. Me I went from Notts County (with good friend Ian Cleave) to see us win the league to Rome & wining the European cup. In the new season I saw Weymouth play at home went back to Wembley for the Charity shield before returning to the shrine called Anfield with my newly renewed season ticket.
Good fortune and maybe a little luck combined for me to return to Rome in Feb 2001, it was to be on my birthday and was my own personal birthday present to myself. I had just returned to working in Wotton under Edge (for LloydsTSB) as a result of staff shortages there. With good planning and by getting in quick I arranged a week’s leave for the match week which they were obliged to hold. Stroud (my previous branch) would have to provide cover and I ensured this was the case.
On the Friday my final working day before the trip I arranged for cakes to be bought on my birthday while I was away and wished my colleagues farewell who responded with bon voyage.
Rome is the scene of what I view as Liverpool’s greatest triumph despite later having gone to Istanbul. Older fans will say 1977 was the best but for me 84 pre the 86 (and my first) cup final was unbeatable The flight out of Liverpool was an early morning scheduled flight and my plan was to drive up to Liverpool to arrive around about midnight and kip a little in the airport. This was in the days before I had a mobile phone and only an alarm on my watch. In preparation I changed my sleeping pattern in the day’s pre travelling for the Thursday match so from Saturday to and including Wednesday I slept during the day.
On the Wednesday I slept as best I could despite the excitement and nervousness I felt until about five when I rose from my bed as if it was the start of a new day. I eat a prepared meal and enjoyed a smashing sweet before gathering a few possessions ensuring I had the all important items. Passport, money air ticket, match ticket anything else no I thought. I took a flask with me for the journey and throughout the drive I would gentle touch the inside of my coat ensuring at least the passport was still on me.
I staggered my drive using a route I acquired on route master, the early bit I knew well from my coach trips it was only after I left the M6 and headed over the Runcorn bridge that I would be in new territory. I staggered the journey stopping at two service stations for a break and fresh air. The dark night was calm and cold with very few drivers and people around. As I stopped in the first service station I imagined a group of young travellers in adjacent cars with red tops and red and white scarves just like the one I was taking. Mine was new a faded and ancient one soon to be kept as a souvenir but is was the one I wore to Rome in 1984 so I considered it lucky though was not going to display it prominently when in Rome.
I faced the Runcorn Bridge with deep anxiety as water either walking by a river or crossing over on a bridge gave me the “willies”. I am much better now and have learnt to control my fear with a technique I have developed but in those days the plan was to get across as quick as I could. I was nervous as I approached the bridge the bright lights of Runcorn could be seen in the distance as could the bridge which appeared to disappear and reappear. Once heading for the bridge with the final junction passed I had no choice there was no turning back so I focussed on the road ahead looked neither left or right even though I realised when I was half way across then two thirds of the way and final with a deep breath and much relief completely over and getting closer to my destination Liverpool Airport. Speke airport as it was then named although later it became John Lennon airport was only a few miles away and I could here the sound of late night airplanes flying through the air. The bright light still lit up the roads as I drove to and found the car park where my car was booked in for the stay. It was eerie and unreal to me like no where on earth. I paid for my parking and was driven the short walk able distance to the airport where I was dropped off and found my way in. Check in was early that morning as it was now past midnight so I settled down for what ever sleep I could get setting my alarm.
Check in time came and I joined the queue this was a new experience for me as I had no memories of my experiences from 1984 not even vague. Once my all important boarding pass was gained I headed for security which I passed through quickly and the area where I was to wait. It was packed but I did manage to see and meet up with Kevin Doran and old friend with whom I travelled on the train many times although due to work commitments and myself going by coach we had not seen each other for many months.
We chatted at the bar he had drink in hand, before I headed off my plane as he was on a different flight. We took off late which was no surprise as with the number of chattered flights heading to Rome with 6000 reds fan all there to “celebrate my birthday” (ok the were going to see the might reds play Rome).
Food consumed on the plane I got an extra hours sleep waking as we were landing at Rome’s Cappuccino airport I recall although I may be wrong. Heading through customs the local Police where in presence and I noticed one tall female officer with long thin truncheon running down the right side of her long legs. “Wouldn’t want to get into trouble with her” was the comment I heard spoken fortunately her English was not good enough to understand.
Outside our coaches were waiting for us to take us to central Rome. A predetermined area had been set out for us in the American area of the city. There must have been a dozen coaches each packed full of Liverpool supporters when mine arrived. I left the newspaper a copy of the independent February 15th 2001 on the coach as I departed and took a first look round in the bright Rome air. In one direction I could see a fun fair with a few Italians around it. To the side of the coach was a green area where a few lads had already started a kick about. As I followed the crowd I noticed the groups of soldiers/police chatting to each other. Each had a gun in a side pocket and they took no notice of the well behaved and perhaps fearful Liverpool fans marching by. They were to stay all day guarding our coaches from rival fans. I followed the fans as they spread out leaving longer gaps between each. Seeing a fellow supporter on his own and strolled up to him starting chatting and without saying anything tagged along. We never exchanged names or had much conversation although on a later trip to Barcelona he was also there and remembered me. We were companions for the day especially as his friends had disappeared. We found a bar a place to eat and drank I was polite to the Italian waitress who was much surprised and could not understand. When as the evening drew on and glasses started to be smashed accidentally at first I think the bar was shut no more drink was served and we eventually returned to our coaches in time to be taken to the stadium.
A game of football was now in full swing when we returned to the coaches, more locals were down the end of the park by the funfair although no one was riding it and the armed guards in there small groups watched over us and our coaches. Some noticed our every moves others where not interested. As I boarded my coach returning to my seat to read my paper, recently purchased can in hand the anticipation and nerves were getting greater. It was now gloomy and would be dark by the time our coaches arrived at the Olympic stadium Rome for the traditional searches and entry into the ground. I could not see much as we passed through the city but I remembered when we drove in the flats and rows of Satellite dishes that were positioned on almost every flat and the side of each house. In many ways it was no different to London.
Entry into the ground was slow with each fan stopped for the body search I held some items up high including car keys on display in case found during the thorough search. It was unnatural to me at the time but now is part of the experience. Once in the stadium and followed the crowd up the steps into the refreshment area only stopping to purchase a programme which is now one of my treasured souvenirs of that day. I bought and devoured a pizza for although I wasn’t hungry the excitement saw to that I new it could be some time before I got to eat and the crowd would get bigger later making the que’s longer and wait for food overbearing. I noticed Kevin again and we had another chat he was accompanied by a friend who I had met before and arrived with Barnes travel.
With kick off getting ever nearer I decided to leave Kevin Doran consuming whatever food and drink he could devour and enter the main arena. It was not as I recalled from 17 years earlier a roof covered the whole of the stadium and to me it was ordinary and unimpressive. A few items were thrown in our direction mainly coins I believe as the red army sang and taunted our rivals. None fortunately came any where near me.
I looked around the ground from my standing point somewhere in amongst 6000 reds it was not my allocated seat but as was to become a red in Europe tradition we sat or stood were ever we wanted.
As the teams lined up the reds in four-four-two formation with Michael Owen leading our attack the anticipation was almost over and now in a match I expected us to loose my nerves forgotten as I concentrated on the match ahead. It was an uninspiring encounter with the Romans more concerned about a future league game as they were still in a good position for the Italian series ‘A’ title. There leading goal scorer was on the bench only to come on late in the game. At half time a dull nil-nil encounter was the score as before teams trundled off the pitch to return fifteen or so minutes later for battle to recommence.
The second half was a more exciting affair with the first of a Michael Owen brace enthralling the travelling army from Liverpool and silencing the locals. A stunned Roman crown started jeering there own team while the red army was in full voice soon chanting “we always win in Rome” and were to be singing long into the night. The final whistle came to conclude a stunning two nil away win and give the reds high hopes of progress. The Italians viewed the EUFA cup as a minor irritant and were not disappointed although there fans expressed there displeasure at us. Bravado is easy when you have ten foot high fences plus a wide area of terraces and numerous armed Roman police to stop you or protect you from rival fans. After about 90 minutes we were let out and in the dark night not daring to ask any local police for assistance to find my coach I struggled but luckily found it after following a gentleman and his young daughter who I remembered being on our flight. She must have been of school age and must have bunked off school.
While waiting the Liverpool fans were entertained on the big screen by a rerun of the away victory at Old Trafford. A Danny Murphy free kick settled that one. By far the biggest cheer was saved for two BBC panellists who were escaping from the box in the now empty area of the stadium that had earlier been frequented by ROMA fans. To the sound of “nanana Alan Hansen” “ Mark Mark mark Lawrenson” the two former players waived as we applauded our heroes of yesterday. Having met Mark a few years earlier I felt humbled although was unable to attract his attention.
The coach journey to the airport was one of the best in terms of smoothness and organisation with Police at every roundabout and junction stopping cars joining our convey or getting in our way. It was only exceeded if that was possible by our Porto trip some years later.
After quickly getting through security an easy task in those pre 911 days I boarded the aircraft for the return journey in jubilant mood. Despite our tiredness there was much joviality and also the traditional light snack or Supper was most welcome before I fell asleep. Arriving at Liverpool airport I quickly got out and phoned to be picked up so I could be in my car and enduring the three hour drive home. After crossing the Runcorn Bridge I managed to stop at a service station for some kip in the car waking up to have some breakfast before proceeding onwards and to my bed for some more much needed sleep. Even the ringing phone could not wake me that Friday morning and if I had managed to answer it I would have been no more than a zombie albeit it a happy one waiting for his delayed birthday presents.
Barcelona, Celtic, Monaco, Marseilles & Istanbul 2005
Following the great night in Rome the previous year I had got the bug intending to follow the reds at least once away in Europe every season. In 2002/3 Liverpool qualified for the Champions League and it was now very popular having won the Milk cup, FA cup and EUFA cup in 2001. Chris my good friend and fellow kopite who sits next to me in the ground had been at the EUFA cup final in Germany to witness the latest European triumph and was keen to visit Barcelona when we were paired with them in the draw.
The Nou Camp is a big attraction when grounds are talked about and where you want to go to this unique stadium in the heartland of Catalan is on every ones list. Barcelona as Spain’s second city is still defenatly more popular than England’s equivalent Birmingham.
Chris arranged to take his then girlfriend Jenny (who he later married) while I travelled alone having to pay the single supplement. The flight ticket were sent to me and I stayed the night before with Chris in his Hungerford end of terrace home before the next morning Jenny drove us to Gatwick airport and our flight. In a mix up we were on a later scheduled flight but as I pointed out to Laura later that was the tickets we were sent.
This was to be my first memorable meeting with her although she was in Rome organising everything. She was a tall elegant lady full of confidence easy on the eye and very soon popular with Chris. She spent most of the first day shopping in Barcelona’s very popular city centre.
For the first night Chris Jenny and myself discovered a Debenhams’s style retailer complete with restaurant only a short walk from our hotel. In fact the Nou Camp was not far away and the only major obstacle was the Rambles a famous road in the city with Four lanes much traffic and requiring a lot of determination and bravery to cross. There was no walk over bridge and of course as the Spanish drive on the wrong side of the road plus have strange (to me and the un initiated foreigner) rules re traffic lights it was an experience.
After an enjoyable meal we returned in the evening darkness to our hotel rooms and settled down for the night. I was able to catch another game on my tele.
Breakfast was a traditional Buffet with the waiter being called Manwell and certainly had some of the characteristics of the Fawlty Towers misfit played so admirable by Andrew Sachs! Joined by Chris and Jenny we arranged to stroll to the ground for our first viewing myself I took a very old Camera I had for years on its first outing in a long time and probable its farewell. It looked out of place compared to those others in our party but to me that didn’t matter I rarely took photos so didn’t need a sucked! up modern model.
We arrived and walked down one side of the stadium with its massive stand staring down upon us it certainly was impressive on that match day morning. A few other Liverpool fans were mingling about some looking for tickets and I was especially pleased I had left mine safely in my hotel room. Jenny was unwell so Chris and her returned to the hotel while I completed my walk round the ground taking a few photos as I passed and interjecting with some of the fans one of whom tried to suss out were my match ticket was.
Being on my own but not fearing the area I strolled down the famous Rambos away from the ground and hotel and to my personal delight found a Lloyds TSB branch. Naturally as an ex employee who had benefited and enjoyed a redundancy package a few months earlier I took a photo to reveal to my ex colleagues some time later. A plaque with opening times was on the wall and I was intrigued to see the extra long lunch break they had for a siesta although as it was the winter then I think that did not apply and the workers could finish early.
I think I grabbed something to eat before returning to our hotel where in anticipation of the evening I had a kip before meeting up with Chris and the Liverpool followers for the match. Jenny stayed behind to baby sit or watch in the bar while we were taken on foot to the ground by a safe route and a meeting point, This trip was also the first time I met a couple who I was to see regularly on future trips and in fact some Cup Finals in the Millennium stadium although I didn’t know then or there name at the time. The Warburton’s had travelled together and were a friendly couple especially Jinny.
In the bars around the ground the noise of signing scousers filled the surrounding area and made one feel proud to be a reds fan. Outside the ground and near our entrance Barcelona and Liverpool fans mingled but did not hold conversation. I noticed a couple of home supporters eyeing Chris and myself up. Carrying our red and white scarves and being isolated Chris noticed it too and wishing to avoid any confrontation we moved swiftly into the ground. Passing through the security checks we climbed the steps to the refreshment area and enjoyed a drink a bite to eat. While there we bumped into an old acquaintance to both of us Kevin Doran who did not see Chris at first but as I pointed out I had brought him along.
With Kick off approaching Chris and myself followed directions into the viewing area and our first inside sight of the ground.
As becomes traditional in European away matches we found two seats together high up in the forth tier of the five tear stadium. Across the side of the stadium in a far corner but on the same side of the stadium as ourselves I could see the fifth tier open to the elements filling with fellow reds. We were separated by a fence and a long area running the length of the pitch soon to be filled with Barcelona supporters.
The views of the city were magnificent in the open Nou camp only one partial stand where the President and directors sat. The Planes that flew over could be clearly seen and even maybe the passengers. Despite the darkness of the evening fantastic views of the city with the bright light shinning all around could be seen from my perfect vantage point.
On the Pitch we were so high up that the players almost did look like ants as our hero’s ran out to polite applause from the Catalan crowd.
With Gerard Houllier still recovering from a heart condition Phil Thompson was in charge for what was going to be his final European match in charge of team affairs before the master returned. In our team the keeper due to his green shirt, The ginger haired Rise and our black striker were easy to pick out. Steve Gerrard because of his unique running style was another noticeable participant in what was a dreary encounter.
Half time arrived with the match goal less and so it continued in the second half with a few possible chances going begging noticeable Gerrard had a good opportunity missed late in the second half. A draw was a fair result and meant that a win by two goals against ROMA when Houlier was due to return to the hot seat would see us progress. This was later achieved although not without some discomfort.
After the lock in finally we were released and marching down the long and winding stairway out of the ground to the sound of oley oley Gerrard Houlier sang by hundreds including yours truly was so memorable that it is one of my proudest moments as a red fan. We really where like an army marching and celebrating that night.
Chris and myself decided to walk back on our own without meeting our guide as we had an idea of where I hotel was it was close by and it appeared to us both a better option than walking round the ground to the meeting point through the remaining Barca fans and who knows if our guide would be there when we arrived.
A good night was had by the Liverpool followers that night plus we all slept well myself like a log eager to enjoy the city and visit the Nou Camp again.
The next morning Chris, Jenny and myself went in different directions while they took the tram to the city I joined a group of fans who strolled back to the scene of our great night less than twelve hours earlier to tour the stadium and enjoy all parts of the ground. It was fantastic and our Spanish guides were most helpful. The high light for me was outside the away dressing room where the Liverpool team chalked on the wall remained. The great names were captured on camera and this was followed by the second highlight sitting in the visitor’s dressing room. We were not allowed on the Pitch where some of the Barcelona squad were training but our tour concluded as all these tours do with a visit to the club shop and a chance to part with our money. It was in the pre EURO days so Spanish Peseta where the order of the day.
After a drink I departed from the group to look further a field enjoy a burger and return to the hotel for our homeward journey.
The bus journey to the airport was short though gave us a final chance to view the city only then checking in at the airport, waiting was a long while the flight home was even longer although this time I had more companions. Soon we were in Gatwick saying our goodbyes and heading for the car park. One car trip would be followed by a change of cars at Hungerford where I quickly loaded my luggage in to my own vehicle waived Chris farewell and started on the two hour journey to my home ready for work the next morning. I was soon to start working in a call centre for an agency the first step on my road back to a proper job.
Another match this time in the EUFA cup with an opportunity to travel within the UK. Glasgow was my final destination as I set off in my car heading for Liverpool airport. The journey was pretty much as normal although this time I went via Warrington intending to avoid Runcorn Bridge. I still had to cross over the Canal and did not find this journey made late at night and in sheer black darkness any more an enjoyable an experience than going via Runcorn.
I was better prepared for the eeriness as I drove into Speke Boulevard the strange lighting that dominated the area didn’t make the journey any more comfortable. On arriving and parking up I consumed a pasty and apple before heading for the departure area. Once inside I found a quite bench set my alarm watch and attempted to get some kip. Despite being inside and the midnight hours very little sleep was enjoyed and my slumbers was much disturbed. I eventually got up as the airport check outs was opening and joined the queue.
Ticket in hand I headed for an early breakfast and was joined by Douggie who I was to later spend most of the day with. Also in departures I noticed Jinny Warburton and husband Jim we exchanged greetings. The flight was a short 45 minute one barely enough time for a meal and on arrival in Glasgow the party headed for our buses to be dropped off in the centre. Douggie and myself joined up there and enjoyed a stroll round the city heading near a rough area before moving back into the shopping precinct. He insisted on paying for all drinks a very generous offer which I found a little embarrassing even though I knew he could easily afford it. My offers to purchase him a drink was refused. We again saw the Warburton’s and were directed to the Celtic in town store where we went and purchased a few items including a programme.
After returning and ambling round quite by chance Douggie walked into Kenny Daglish almost bumping into him. Hello he said Kenny looked back at us and headed for the car to quick for me to get out pen and paper to request an autograph. Too late I got out a pen & paper for autographs. Later we also came across Paul Daglish his son though sadly we did not meet a third member of the Daglish clan Kelly. As the evening drew on and light started to fade we returned to our coaches for the trip to Celtic Park waving goodbye to a big issue vendor as we passed.
The East End of Glasgow is drab and full of concrete flats 13 or more stories high. Our coaches were parked in a grass area under the impressive Parkhead (or Celtic park depending on preference) still newly reconstructed looking out of place among the slums.
Rather than hang about we entered the stadium Douggie heading for his seat in the impressive stadium as he told me it was while I purchased a Pizza and bravely consumed it while it was rather hot. Mervin and a few members of the Bristol Branch (Liverpool supporters club) had travelled up by car and was among the crowd. We had a chat and exchanged pleasantries before heading for our seats in the ground. I was impressed and the atmosphere was cordial only a ribbon separated the two fans if it had been Celtic versus Ranges this would have been a greater divide with rows of Police officers and Stewards at each end of no mans land. Your never Walk alone was sung in great voice by both sets of fans and applause rang round the whole ground as it ended and the battle on the Pitch began.
In a matter of minutes and down the end of the ground at which I stood despite having a seat Celtic secured an early lead, This was to be short lived as Heskey grabbed an equalizes for the reds and the rest of the game dulled into a steady one – one draw. With the exception of one incident when it later turned out that Duoff our turbulent African striker spat at a member of the crowd and was hastily withdrawn by our then manager Houllier. It was later reported on the Radio as we listened while travelling from the match to the Airport but the full repercussions did not dawn on me till weeks later when he was fined and banned. Laura (lovely Laura as I was later to refer to her) was at the airport directing us to our terminal and the short flight home. I remember her helpfulness clearly and made a point of commentating and expressing my pleasure to her later. After the short flight to Liverpool airport I waived goodbye to Douggie as I was going to sleep in the airport before taking the opportunity to complete the Anfield stadium tour and stay a night in a local B&B
I woke up early the early morning sun shining through the front window of my car. In an unshaven state I headed for the breakfast area in the airport and indulged myself. Soon I was heading for Anfield in my car and found myself a spot near the ground to park. The centenary car park was often to be used later in my life. As I strolled around the area so well known to me thought’s returned to the night before and the return leg in two weeks time although I would not be among the crowd then. I found the entrance to the museum and purchased my ticket showing my fan card ensuring a small reduction. At t 11:00 I joined the small party led by a local tour guide on the tour starting in the main entrance. We were led through the famous tunnel where “This is Anfield” was displayed on the tunnel head to send shivers down the legs of opposition players. From the edge of the pitch in the then dugout area we were not allowed on to the hallowed turf as grounds man would have us and tour guide shot. I was able to look up into the famous Kop to were my regular seat is. We returned inside to see the Visitors dressing room, the Referees room and famous boot room. Finally concluding with the Trophy cabinet and a little discussion including the Celtic events. Entrance was free into the Museum which concluded the tour and in the darkened area memories of past triumphs and great players were honoured to be treasured for eternity. With lunchtime well past and my stomach rumbling I left the museum to purchase a sandwich and drink which I quickly consumed. I was soon heading for my room at a local B&B in a home once inhabited by Pete Best and family an unknown early member of a group that later became known as the Beatles with a slightly adjusted membership. A good nights rest was needed and it was late the next morning that I headed home on what is always a sad part of that trip. The return journey is subdued especially when driving with no passenger and I often feel depressed and low. Never mind there will be another trip.
Marseilles march 2004
March 2004 and Liverpool were in the later stages of the EUFA cup not as important as the Champions league but still a chance to visit European cities enjoy the culture with the biggest thrill to see the mighty reds winning in Europe. After a one all draw at home a better performance was expected especially as I wished to see the reds win this competition with the Cup winners cup no more this is and remains the only trophy I have not seen the reds win. I am yet to attend a EUFA cup final even a home tie in the two legged days was beyond my scope.
As usual I planned meticulously for this trip arranging a few days leave and even phoning Douggie in what was a hapless attempt to get a lift promised by him. He never returned my call so although I saw him at the airport I never mentioned it as he attempted to cuddle up to some new friends he hoped to acquire.
As usual the lights that greeted me in Speke Boulevard continued to give me the creeps. The eeriness of the road made me feel I was visiting another planet it certainly felt like no where on earth as I turned left on a minor road a housing estate on my left, business and car parks on my right. I proceeded into the car park of the renamed John Lennon Airport but still Liverpool or Speke airport to its many visitors. In the departure lounge a statute of John Lennon dominated the area although it is questionable whether the great man would have welcomed this honour. A poster upstairs as I climbed to the first floor read “Above us only sky” in home age from the song “Imagine” written in the post Beatles days.
As usual having arrived at about eleven for the early morning flight I attempted to get comfy in the seated area that was reserved for visitors and get some kip. Constant announcements didn’t help and although very few people were around
as the next outward flight were in the morning a disturb and fruitless attempt failed.
As dawn broke bringing light to the runway the glimmering River Mersey could be seen on the far side of the airport landing strip. It glittered a little even in the dimness with no sunshine and only light blue sky with the puff of white cloud.
Check in was followed by breakfast and then I moved on to join the queue for the flight. Douggie who was in it and had seen me choose to ignore me attempting to “cuddle up” to some fellow supporters he viewed as friends. There appeared to be no conversation although everyone new Douggie he watched the reds home & abroad everywhere even including following the England team as well.
The flight was unremarkable with the usual breakfast brought down but I do recall the announcer at the end of the flight bring the group of sleepy passengers to laughter and applause as she changed from a French accent to Scouse announcing first “welcome to my home city of Marseiile” in French accent before changing to Scouse “ Come on your reds” and enjoy you stay.
The trek through customs and onto our coach was arduous as usual even though I was becoming a seasoned traveller but I did manage a bit of kip on the flight. At the other end in Marseille near the front Port area we were dropped off. I hoped to meet Douglas there however he done a runner and after speaking to Laura I strolled to a nearby bar and joined a group of drinkers.
This was to be my first meeting with Paul who was there with his father. An intelligent lad with unfortunate arm disabilities which made drinking and consuming food difficult for him. He did make friends easily many of whom I met on future visits. Among the group was John a green keeper from Widnes and we spent the day strolling round the bars enjoying the pleasant air and discovered a café in the prescient which with the assistance of a local interrupter and kind café owner enjoyed a pasta dish.
I was nervous strolling round town especially as we had our scarves in arms and there was some unsavoury characters about. John was bravery but noticing my unease succumbed to my wishes of moving to a safer area back among the large number of red fans following the team. As the day light faded a few glasses were broken perhaps unintentionally at first although fortunately things did not turn nasty and it was not long before we boarded our coaches and headed for the stadium.
After the usual hold ups searches and via a holding area I was soon on the corner allocated to visiting fans standing alongside John viewing the green pitch below. Home fans were to our left and predominately our right but the high fencing that surrounded us meant they could not get at the small group of visiting fans or so we thought! Well later during the game various object rained down on us narrowly missing John and myself. One nearby fan a female from our group who Laura later checked was ok after being hit by a nut or bolt. Fortunately it was not serious and any injury was minor.
The Stade de Veldrome is open on all sides and the local flat lights on could be easily viewed from within the ground. The openness enhanced it for me although had it been a cold winter night or even a wet April evening I would not have been so thrilled.
To much applause our team strolled on Houllier had chosen to play Biscan in central defence partnering Hypia a long established and reliable defender. This was much criticized by myself and the entourage of supporters as Honchez formed a great partnership with Sammy was experienced and a natural defender where as Biscan was a defensive midfielder who had covered during injuring but was unspectacular. I am of the opinion that Stephan must have upset Gerard for he was outspoken unlike the reliable Sammy Hypia who was calm and collective even when the captaincy was taken away from him. Sammy has stayed a long time at the club while Stephan was soon to leave and retired early partly due to injury.
To wild cheers and much Joy Emile Heskey grabbed an early lead for the reds at the end where our fans was cheering. This gave advantage to us however it was to be short lived as just before half time the unsure Biscan pulled a Marseille attacker down in the penalty box. It was a harsh decision and proved costly as Biscan was sent off leaving the reds to fight with ten pen plus the subsequent Penalty gave the home side an undeserved equaliser.
From that point it was one way traffic as the French team powered there way to a second goal giving them a lead and overall tie. Despite much heroics especially by the 100% committed Steve Gerrard the tie could not be saved an equalizing goal would have put us through to potential glory. It was not to be.
As we eventually departed the stadium I passed Yvonne & Mac two members of the Bristol branch although Mac (husband) only goes on European trips away nowadays. I also passed other fellow members who despite the result were not disheartened as we new and believed there was more to come.
The flight home was again uneventful as I sat all the way next to my new friend and companion John who gave me his contact number for future reference. A line of Police officers greeted us on landing clearly visible through the port hole window as I peered through it on landing. I questioned in my mind why his was especially as we walked pass them before saying our goodbyes they appeared to do nothing. There presence seemed pointless?
I saw John leave the airport and settled down for what was a better sleep as I was clearly tired and unfit to drive the 100 miles home to Gloucestershire. In the morning refreshed I enjoyed breakfast before departing passing on the way much to my surprise a couple who I recognised from the night before. I think they were local to the airport and clearly the short dark haired female recognised me as she pointed me out to her male companion.
Another European trip completed although disappointing result I was soon on the long depressing drive home over the Runcorn Bridge onto the M6 & M5 motorways stopping once for a short break. Home again as I turned into my drive way scarf still round my neck soon to be carefully folded a safely put aside waiting for the next European trip.
Monaco November 2004
A struggling team but still in Europe and in the group stages of the Champions league I chose the Monaco match as a new place for me to visit. Due to the expense of accommodation only a day trip was available flying in to Nice and then coach over the border to Monaco. As was now my common practice I drove up the night before arriving at about 11.00 in the evening enduring more comfortable the drive across Runcorn Bridge. I was now used to the Boulevard area the strange lighting that lit up the road before turning left towards the Airport in a now dark round with only the street lamp shining through the darkness.
The bright red sign showing the airport name was now a familiar landmark as was the trademark John Lennon statute and poster with “above us only sky” Yes it was dark black with no sign of the moon or a twinkling star. I again attempted to settle down for some sleep but as usual failed but rose early to check in and join the crowd awaiting in departures. I did see a fellow Bristol branch traveller while waiting although I didn’t know his name at the time. Brian was a regular often boarding the coach at Hilton Park and he was with his then girlfriend an attractive short lady who I recalled was in Rome a few years earlier when we won two nil. I don’t think they ever saw me on trip although I later asked him if they enjoyed the trip despite the result which he gladly responded with a positive yes.
I sat near the emergency exit a rare occurrence for me near by was a fellow regular Janet who I had seen before and we shared a chat and a sweet. A Steward also sat nearby and I was interested to hear his view on club issues. Without being a rubber necker I listened in to his talk of the club players especially his tale of Hamman a heavy smoker and drinker who also arrived on time for training and ensured he retained high levels of fitness.
From Nice our coaches took us through the French countryside and into Monaco where we received a Police escort. The variety and style of the houses adjacent and in the distant enthralled me even when the coach was on the narrow and windy road that took us up and down into the main part of Monaco. The coaches were parked near a helicopter pad and not far away from the sea. It was narrow but with care the driver parked the coach and I got my first opportunity to view Monaco and the area I read about that had been reclaimed from the sea. Tower blocks dominated the strip of land and there was more building to be completed and in the mountains high above the city (if I can call it that) where other houses almost on top of each other built into the cliff face. The famous Monte Carlos area was a few miles away and I had no intention of heading in that direction instead I looked around for someone I knew to team up with and seeing Janet Bennett also on her own approached her and suggested we look round. She readily agreed and it was probable our best option as we headed for the main shopping area for a drink and light snack.
After lunch we took a stroll round the area discovering the steps that led to the Palace where the then monarchs resided. They still do but some have passed away in the intervening years. As we rose higher and higher Janet despite her excessive weight not struggling magnificent views of the harbour and even the Football ground could be enjoyed. The palace was a castle that we viewed from a distance with its own guards just like our own Buckingham palace with a couple of centuries posted in two little huts.
We were able to witness the changing of the guard though it didn’t reach the high standards set by our own London version it was a poor imitation as the ‘Sergeant Major’ approached each retiring guard to be replaced by two newbie’s.
While Janet wondered round a local shop nearby selling knickknacks and tourist items I watched as the soldiers marched up and down as if providing a display for tourists. I counted the steps and studied as carefully as I could and was amused almost to laughter as they lacked co ordination or proper marching steps. Again they proved to be a poor imitation of there London counterparts and probable needed training from one of our instructors.
Only a chess set in the tourist shop interested me and neither of us desired any refreshment in the café so we headed down in a slightly different direction to complete a circuit. We continued to enjoy fantastic views and also greetings from locals who saw our scarves cried “Liverpool Liverpool” or “Monaco to win” pleasant banter was exchanged in a fair manner crime and violence was unheard of in this part of the world. A little further down we came across an imitation yellow submarine which fascinated Janet more than me as she is a devoted Beatles fanatic even more than myself. A bit further in into what I can easily describe as old Monaco with its narrow streets and outdated architecture we discovered a museum and paid the small entrance fee for a perusal. Can’t say it was a worthwhile visit or value for money but it did give us some insight into the history of the monarchy.
With darkness approaching even at 4 o’clock in the evening the grey sky quickly turned to black and darkness with twinkling stars in the clear sky. We returned for a late meal and coke as no alcohol was served in the principality that evening. In the dark we followed the crowd to the ground which was situated on the top of a car park or so legend would have you believe. There definitely was a car park and we did have to climb a flight of steps to reach our place in the stadium much to Janet’s dismay who soon went her own separate way however to what extent i.e. whether the car park is directly below the ground I am unsure and even my friend Chris Allen who saw a Super Cup game there is doubtful.
Due to injuries the Liverpool team was not as strong as we would desire and an early injury scare to Luis Garcia (later to be seen at Liverpool airport) did not help matters. The inexperienced Neil Mellor lead the Liverpool attack as lone striker for much of the ninety minutes struggling to cause any fear into the oppositions heart, Rise was returning to his old stomping ground but even his knowledge failed to assist the reds who succumbed to a one – nil defeat against a poor team. The other event during the game was a dispute that arose between two Liverpool supporters only a few rows directly behind me. In the commotion we all turned and watched as the no nonsense Police stormed in with batons and riot shields to capture the two disputing supporters and eject them. What happened to them I may never know I expect they ended up in a cell and were soon on there way home. As one steward said on the way back “they had no jurisdiction but if it had been left to them to sort out would have been achieved calmly with no repercussions”. The major issue I find when I travel abroad as a Football supporter is the local police want to aggressively show there authority language is a problem but the reputation of the English Football supporter continues to haunt us.
As I returned to my coach I had my ticket checked by a girl I later learnt was Vicky Harding an assistant to Laura in organising these extensive trips. The return journey through the dark night and twisty Monaco roads which hosted the famous grand prix was again an experience and I could understand the fatal crash of one member of the Royal Family only a few years earlier. I spent as much of this part and the flight as I could with eyes shut only awakening to ensure I didn’t miss out on Supper.
A safe landing was followed by the stroll through the arrivals area and empty customs area of John Lennon Airport. My soon to be colleagues from Customs where no where to be seen but further down on crutches Luis Garcia was being photographed with airport staff one of whom I remembered from the night before. I asked a quick question which he did not answer but the look on his face indicated his English at that time was not up to understanding and I did not pursue the issue.
In the front of the building a coach was waiting engine on with the players and manager Raphael Benitez on board. Outside cigarette in hand and being smoked as a bad example to team members and passengers David Moores then club chairman and owner (except for the minority shareholders such as at the time myself) was standing waiting for him any club officials. Janet had a quick word although from what she told me he did not have much to say. We then went our separate ways her to catch a bus home me to my car. I would spend a few hours sleeping then after breakfast refreshed and awake I drove home. Stopping on route I popped into Gloucester to visit my work colleagues where I was greeted by Becky long blonde hair standing with her smoking friend and co worker Sean who started singing nay taunting me with one –nil one nil.
Much has been said about this night and as time goes by the legend continues with new stories and tales. For members of the current generation will tell you it was Liverpool Football clubs greatest night only the older generation will tell you it was Rome 1977 or in my case Rome 1984.
For me it begins on an Anfield home night in May the opponents Chelsea it’s the second leg of the EUFA Champions league semi final I am sitting in a front row seat in the Main Stand. Below me is the seated paddock area where I once stood with my dad in days gone by. I watched the five substitutes not far away from me passing a ball around. The two senior players Cisse and Kewell are messing about, Kewell tries to show off with clever back passes while the persistently grumpy looking Cisse does nothing to set a good example to the remaining substitutes. Kewell later does nothing to further enhance his reputation when I see him waving to someone in the crown when he should be warming up in a proper manner. This lack of professionalism was the turning point for me it was far too long before he was on his way.
With three minutes gone Luis Garcia was to be our hero scoring a goal that Mourinhou the then Chelsea manager still disputes to this day. The Kop sing “in out in out” “the kop was in no doubt” “the ball was over and a goal scored” “that’s what its all about” “Oh the ball was over”! Despite much pressure and a clear cut chance in the dying minutes of the game Chelsea failed to secure the equalizer that would have sent then to Istanbul and changing history.
On returning to the coach that night I was handed my first leaflet of flight arrangements for Istanbul and prices. I shuddered when I saw the cost but then supply and demand for this was our first European cup final in twenty years. The leaflet also explained here would be no tickets with the package but said that it should be no problem as Liverpool would get a “whopping twenty thousand tickets”. That promise was correct but not enough for the demand which saw the 60 thousand stadium capacity as a sea of red with more than two thirds of the ground following the un fancied Liverpool.
This leaflet proved useful as I struggled to get through via my previous source and in desperation obtained a day trip flying with flight options from Luton airport. Getting a ticket was the next problem however I knew that I would get at least one and kept an eye on the website for selling details. Phoning from work I ordered my ticket to be collected at the final home ga