Frans for the memories

It must have been a good day yesterday at the Spakenburg as I woke up with my feet in the mini bar and a Ijsselmeervogels temporary tattoo on my arm.  How did I get here?  It is all a bit of a blur but I do remember a man with a goat at some point and a taxi driver called Willem who claimed he was once an extra in Coronation Street, buying a bag of bomboms from Mavis Riley no less. I remember a school disco, a bloke dressed as a pope, Stoffers walking around with 25 beer glasses on his head and finally Smullers spicy crockets.  Danny Last helps me remember some of the events in his report here but I still cannot fill in the blanks.  I remembered I was in Utrecht, Holland’s 4th largest city and home to the Museum of Automatically Playing Musical Instruments.  And why were we here? – for another game of course.

There is no point in having an European Football Weekend and only getting one game in.  Granted the trip was arranged to take in the surreal atmosphere in Spakenburg but some kind scheduling had meant that just down the road FC Utrecht were taking on PSV Eindhoven on Sunday afternoon.  Would we be there?  Too bloody right.  Tickets to see games in Holland aren’t easy to get – that is unless you have friends like Football Fans Frans and Hubert who sorted out our seats for us with a nod and a wink.

Want to know a bit about FC Utrecht?  Well any good football fan will know they were formed on the 1st July 1970.  I was supposed to be a Sixties child but I stubbornly refused to make an appearance until the 6th day of 1970.  Looking back now I think there would have been much more kudos to say I was born in the 1960’s but nature decided I should be born in the Seventies – just like FC Utrecht.  The owners of three local teams DOS FC (Denial of Service?), USV Elinkwijk and FC Velox had a bit of a chat and decided that one club would be better than three so they agreed to merge.  Hmm, now where to play and what to call themselves?  Well as they all in the city of Utrecht one bright spark came up with the name FC Utrecht – genius!  And a ground?  Well what about that unused football pitch to the south of the ring road?  You know that Stadion Galgenwaard? Sorted.  One professional team sir.

The 70’s wasn’t the best time to be a new professional club in Holland.  Ajax dominated the game domestically and across the continent winning 5 Eredivisie titles and 3 European Cups, whilst the other 5 titles were shared by PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord – sound familiar?  Apart from a third place finish in 1981, in the only season in over thirty years where the title had gone to a team outside the big three (AZ 67 were the winners) and three KNVB Cup wins honours have been a bit thin on the ground.  Last season the club exceeded expectations and a Europa League spot was grabbed, catapulting them into a tough group with ex-European Cup winners Steaua Bucharest, Liverpool and former Italian giants Napoli.  Four games in and three draws has seen the club still in with a chance of progressing, assuming they can beat Napoli in December.

The club have one of the most impressive home forms in Holland, having dropped just two points so far at the Galgenwaard but they were up against PSV Eindhoven who had only scored ten just two weeks previously against Feyenoord.  Small potatoes then.  PSV disappointing had only sold about 1,000 tickets for a game than was about an hour away (everywhere in Holland is “about” an hour away – as we continue to discover by talking to the locals) and once we had reached the ground and been ushered up a secret staircase into a bar than not only had a great view of the away fans turnstiles, but had no less than 6 screens showing Speed Skating.  They know how to keep us entertained.

We were joined by some of the finest bloggers known to man. Frans, as a PSV diehard was obviously there and we were also joined by Abby, a masters student from down the road who is a Seattle Sounders fan and knows more about European football than your average TV pundit (a classic quote was “Mario Balotteli has only once scored twice and been sent off in his career before today and that was against Brescia in the Italian Cup in 2006” or something like that!) and Josh Pedley who occasionally writes for EPLTalk.

Pre-match drinks out of the way we piled into the stadium, ensuring that all Bombs were disposed of before we entered, and that we would not be tickling anyone below the knee (see photo here for more explanations).  We changed our cash for Utrectian Munts, a kind of plastic currently that could be used in poker tournaments and waited around for the teams to emerge.  Now I am no “tunnel” aficionado but Utrecht’s was certainly unique.  The players descend a glass staircase which runs across the concourse, so that the fans can press themselves up against the windows and leer at the teams.  Apparently last season in the game versus Ajax one buxom young lady whipped her top off and exposed her breasts with the words (in Dutch of course) “Ajax suck on these”…the kick off was delayed whilst the squad formed an orderly queue.

The Galgenwaard is similar in design to the “My name is Dave Whelan and I saved this football club so I am going to name the stadium after my great achievements” that Wigan play at, with one exception.  This one had an atmosphere.  The PSV fans made some noise as the teams came out, knowing that a win here coupled with Ajax’s shock defeat at home to ADo Den Haag would put some light between them and the chasing pack.

FC Utrecht 1 PSV Eindhoven 2 – Stadion Gelgenwaard – Sunday 7th November 2010
The first twenty minutes wasn’t particularly exciting.  Utrecht tried to play the long diagonal balls, but the PSV defence was well marshalled enough to cope.  It was no surprise that they eventually took the lead on 24 minutes when Afellay delivered a cross from the right and Toivonen forced Utrecht keeper Vorm into a diving save with a glancing header. The rebound fell to Dzsudzsák who produced a low left-footed dipping shot that squirmed under the body of Vorm into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

Ten minutes later and it was the turn of the home fans to celebrate as PSV’s Jonathan Reis received a straight red for an elbow on Utrecht’s Schut.  Harsh perhaps but as Alan Hansen would say “If you lead with your elbow you are asking for a red card”.

The second half saw Utrecht throw the literal kitchen sink at the PSV defence.  They had gone to a 4-5-1 and looked dangerous on the break.  Of course it is always harder to play against ten men, because that makes logical sense to everyone apart from the manager whose team cannot beat a team with ten men.

In this instance PSV soaked up the pressure, broke with speed, Toivonen wriggled his way into the box and fell over the leg of Lensky. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and showed Lensky a straight red card, failing to consult with the linesman who was up with play and had a much better view. Dzsudzsák stepped up to convert the resulting spot kick and enraged the home fans by talking over two minutes to walk back to the centre spot.

The crowd noise was notched up by ten, although this was due to Utrecht drowning out any natural crowd noise by recorded sound over the loudspeakers, apparently to stop the abuse being heard by the referee as they are sensitive chaps here in Holland and may start to cry.  A few minutes later Demouge scored for the home side with a overhead kick, which then started two debates – 1) What is the difference between a bicycle kick and an overhead kick, and 2) what is the best example of either you have seen (Nobody has answered point 1 yet but the overwhelming Twitter poll winner of number 2 is Trevor Sinclair for QPR v Barnsley in the FA Cup in 1997).  Time was up for Utrecht.  PSV had been the big winners of the weekend and their fans celebrated in the only way they knew how by trying to tear down the fences in the stadium.

After a few more drinks in the supporters bar where thankfully the Speed Skating was still on and we hadn’t missed any action on the ice, we headed off into the centre of Utrecht for some Liverpool v Chelsea action.  But do you know what, nobody really cared about John Terry or Ashley Cole continuing their spiral into self depreciation, or Fernando Torres’s miracle return to form.  We had good old fashion football talk and a plate full of potato crockets.

Another successful trip, expertly organised by the TBIR/EFW team and enjoyed by many.  Thanks of course to Pat and Stephen for picking us up and taking us to Spakenburg, Wim for his hospitality, Shep, Darren and Stoffers for the japes and of course Frans and Humbert for their willingness to embrace the EFW spirit.  Dutch masters one and all!

Want to watch the official video?  Click here or if you want to view all of the pictures then head off to our Flickr gallery here.

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