Slav to the rhythm – A Balkan adventure – Part 2

After our sedate start to the weekend it was time for the main event – THE Eternal Derby (I know we say that whenever we see Roma v Lazio, AIK v Djurgarden and Canvey Island v Concord Rangers).

Game 4 – Partizan Belgrade 0 Red Star Belgrade 1 – Saturday 5th May 2012 – Partizan Stadium
Let’s face it – who wouldn’t have wanted to be in the thick of thousands of fanatical fans holding up their flares at this one?  Well, having suffered with a chest infection for a week, it wasn’t the wisest idea for me to be taking in huge lung-fulls of acrid smoke, but that is why God created Amoxicillin right?  Once you have experienced the atmosphere at one of these games you cannot wait for your next fix.  It is like a drug and your dealer is Danny Last.

The police presence around the ground was organised and very visible.  The riot police had been deployed in units of ten at almost every junction, meaning a very quick reaction to any trouble if it kicked off.  Entry into the ground was also smooth without any of the hassle we have experienced elsewhere in the world.

So to the game itself.  Partizan had won the league the previous week and had agreed to keep any celebrations low-key in such a tinderbox atmosphere.  Fat chance of that with the fans organising their own celebration with banners mocking their opponents as well as more than a few digs at manager Avram Grant.  Ah, Avram (and by digs I mean coins, lighters and kitchen sinks being thrown at him as he exited the pitch at half time).  How we miss your wonderful cheery personality and clueless tactics from East London.  It is good to see you retain your popularity oversees.

The game itself wasn’t a classic.  In fact it was a shocker.  Neither team could improve their league position and so with Champions League qualification already sorted it became a bit of a bore draw, only livened up by the antics of the fans at either end.  In fact you could have quite easily suggested (as we did) that a 0-0 draw had been agreed beforehand just to keep all of the natives happy. Continue reading

Don’t believe the hype

Every Monday I look at my email account with trepidation.  Since the first week of the season around 3pm I get that “ping” sound signifying the arrival of the latest excuse from the pen of Avram Grant.  Although it is obviously not from Avram, but rather from someone employed in the club to make such trivial facts such as we are bottom of the Premier League with just three games to go seem inconsequential.

Got the hint yet Avram?

We have had such classics in recent weeks as :- “We don’t have any intention to give up. We will fight. I think we need nine points more or less to stay in the league. It will be difficult but it is not impossible” or “We are not far from safety and we all need to go forward together for the next game. We have always shown we have come back well from every bad situation we have had this season and we will do it again.”

I am not sure what the purpose of these emails is.  I have seen enough games this season to make my own judgements.

1. Grant has no idea what his “best” team is and even when he has been able to field the same team, he hasn’t;

2. The spirit of the team suggests they are not behind the manager.  The story of Scott Parker giving the half time team talk to inspire the team to pull back a 3-0 deficit against West Brom is a classic example. Continue reading

Giggles galore with a Bishop, a Rook and Avram Grant

Now here was a turn up for the books.  Me, in London, on a Tuesday?  Well too bloomin’ right.  And lo and behold not just one game this week, but TWO!  First up was a trip up the M11 to watch the mighty Rooks trying to extend their 3 match unbeaten run under Tim O’Shea at Bishop’s Stortford and then just 24 hours later I was making my long heralded return to Upton Park to see Giggles Grant’s team take on West Brom.

Confidence was obviously high in the Rooks camp after their biggest, in fact, only away win of the season at Weston-super-Mare on Saturday.  The team had discovered a hard belly, being prepared to fight to the death for their points.  Exactly what the team had lacked in previous seasons, but a little over the top after mass brawls against Bromley, Dartford and Weston had resulted in two red cards and countless bookings. Continue reading