How many people can honestly say they have seen football history being made in the flesh? It is amazing to think just how many people today in their 60’s were at Wembley on the 30th July 1966 when England won the Jules Rimet trophy considering the official attendance was only 98,000, or how many Scottish fans sat on the crossbars at Wembley in 1977. We have all seen remarkable games in our time – West Ham United 8 Newcastle United 1 in March 1986 was one that sticks in my memory, as too does the 2006 FA Cup final when West Ham came within a misguided kick into touch of beating Liverpool in Cardiff. But two games for me are really special. And if I offered up a prize of a million pounds (which I am not I hasten to add) you would never for the life of you guess them.
Back in 2002 I stumbled across a book that changed the way I watched football. I was browsing in Borders in Charing Cross Road one day after work and I picked up a book by Charlie Connelly called Stamping Grounds. The first thing I noted was that it appeared Charlie came from my neck of the woods – South East London, the second was it was a book about travelling to watch football, which just so happened to be my favourite past time. In the previous two years I had “done” Barcelona, Milan, Madrid, the European Championships and had the World Cup in South Korea on the horizon. I was an old hand at it. But this book was about travelling to watch football in a place I could not even locate on a map – Liechtenstein. It was his story of deciding to follow the tiny Alpine nation in their quest to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. Few books in life truly inspire you but here was one that did just that. I was by now a seasoned European traveller, having been to the San Siro, Camp Nou and Olympic Stadium in Munich but the booked opened my eyes into the intimacy in following the underdog, the teams no one had heard of. Continue reading