Wednesday 20th February 2009. That’s a date I will never forget. Toothache can strike at any time, but when it starts suddenly whilst on a high-speed train cutting through the barren lands of Castilla La Mancha in Spain you really are stuffed. No access to a dentist there, no pharmacies selling painkillers and none of those old fashion door handles where you can loop a shoelace around to yank the offending tooth out with.
I was heading to Andalusia, Seville to be more precise, to watch England take on European Champions and World Cup favourites, Spain. It was also the last time I would travel to watch England abroad I had decided. I had grown weary of the endless suspicion, the security checks, the hassle of travelling abroad following a team involves. I’d also got fed up of the way our own FA had been running the game at all levels for years so just decided to give it up. The toothache, whilst I can never blame John Terry personally for my current condition, was the last straw. Away trips couldn’t get any worse, could they?
There had been good times. Representing (and managing) my country in Macedonia as the England Fans Veterans XI lost 5-1 to a team LIVE on Balkan TV who would later that same season qualify for the then UEFA Cup. Of course Germany 2006 was probably the pinnacle for most fans. It couldn’t get any better than that. And it didn’t. Zagreb in October 2006 was a nightmare – poorly organised, terribly treated and an awful performance. Paying the best part of £500 to go on a day trip to Tel Aviv to watch one of the dullest games of football ever didn’t help my mood either. For every Minsk there was a Barcelona, Berlin a Moscow. Slowly the other fans I used to travel with also started giving it up. Rob the Red, Paul Knight and even Dagenham Dan. When he gives something football related up you know it’s time to re-assess the future.
I saw the game last year in Copenhagen but that doesn’t really count as a) I was in the press section and b) I was living a 15 minute walk away from Parken at the time. Oh no, come renewal time in July I kept the cheque book in the drawer.
But then a little voice in that same drawer started talking to me. “Mmmmm…new stadium in Warsaw. Shiny and new. Stockholm…the new Friends Arena. Just a goal kick away from the office – you have to go there to do some training. And Airmiles. You have thousands of them. Hundreds of thousands…waiting to use on venues like, well Warsaw and Stockholm to start.” And then the email arrived…”It’s still not too late to be cheering on Roy’s Boys in the new National Stadium in Warsaw.” I swear that the email had hidden HTML subliminal advertising because before I knew I had paid my £70 renewal fee, booked my flights and dug out my Zloty’s. Time to broach the subject with CMF – extra special petrol station flowers for this one I felt. Continue reading