Gladbach it’s all over

Brian Parish, the man being the Daggers Diary swaps the FA Cup 1st Round potential pain with a trip to the home of proper football – Germany.

I recently completed ten years service at my current place of employment. In all that time, I’ve travelled extensively, taking in not only football, but also participating in the odd marathon here and there. One of the good things about the place is that while there are the obvious arrivals and departures in the staff, many stick around for a number of years, and so there is a wealth of experience in not only my department, but all around the company. People don’t tend to just stick for a couple of years and then move on.

Which means that most know my habits when it comes to football. They know, for example, that I will sometimes disappear into Europe for a weekend to take in a game or three. Even when the primary reason for the trip has nothing to do with football, I will try to find a game to get to. It’s the law, isn’t it?

Somehow, and despite the fact that this has happened before, when I casually announced that I was off to Germany for a game, the first question was for how long I would be gone. About twenty-eight hours or so was the reply, which bought on looks of surprise, and why on earth would you travel all that way for one game. Then I was asked what my flight times were. That’s easy, I replied. Neil’s driving.

It’s hard to describe just how much of a legend Neil is. Having driven around much of Germany during the 2006 World Cup watching games, it’s almost taken as a given that Neil will get the car out and pound the autobahn in pursuit of the beautiful game, Bundesliga style.

In fact, this is our third trip to Germany in 2012, having already been to Köln in February, as part of our four games in four countries trip (the sequel to follow soon), and then to Leverkusen in April. On that occasion, it was literally a day trip, as we left early on the Saturday and we were back in Blighty about twenty or so hours later. At least this time, we have an overnight stay, although that’s because today is Neil’s 30th birthday, hence the trip.

With Dagenham Dan proving to be a bit of a whiz when it comes to arranging tickets for our European jaunts, he was left to sort those out, while Neil booked the train, and arranged our overnight stay. As for me, I just sat back, and paid whatever it cost me to go along on the trip.

While Dortmund proved to be frustratingly out of reach once again (Dan couldn’t find three seats together, which given the stadium holds about 80,000, is some going), Monchengladbach proved to be more than an adequate choice with us, and so we were on our way to one of Germany’s more successful clubs.

In his excellent history of German football (Tor!), Ulrich Hesse details the struggle in the 1970’s between Gladbach and Bayern Munich. From 1970 to 1979, the club won the Bundesliga on five occasions, won the German Cup in 1974, and also won two UEFA Cup finals, as well as losing to Liverpool in two other finals, which included the 1977 European Cup final. With teams containing Bertie Vogts, Gunter Netzer and later Allan Simonsen (eventually of Charlton Athletic), Borussia were seen as an attractive side to follow, becoming many peoples second team. In the book, Hesse even likens the two clubs to the Star Wars film, portraying Gladbach as the good guys, while Bayern were the evil empire, although on the pitch, the empire won. Continue reading

The Hangover part 3

Today was a day for sunglasses. Not that I would say it was a late (late, late) night in the fleshpots of downtown Düsseldorf, nor the fact that temperatures were going to hit the big 4-0 later on. The main reason was that we were heading westwards to the town of Aachen, where the New Tivoli was our venue. The new home of Alemannia Aachen is one of the finest new-style stadiums in Germany (and there a quite a few), but its most notable feature is its yellow seats. Bright yellow seats…..nearly 25,000 of them.

Our journey had the word problem written all over it. A train ride from Düsseldorf to Aachen, skirting close to the Dutch border doesn’t sound like anymore difficult than a normal daily commute (well, setting aside the fact that I have to negotiate the joys of service SouthEastern-style). But add in the fact that our journey would take us via Mönchengladbach and you have a receipe for carnage. Borussia Mönchengladbach would be making the 30 minute journey to Aachen for their first game of the new season, a season where optimism hasn’t been as high for well over a decade. Continue reading

The 2009 TBIR Awards

Almost a year ago to the day we announced the first ever TBIR annual awards (see our announcement and video from last year).  The response was phenomenal and over the past month we have been taking nominations for this years gongs.  And ladies and gentlemen we are now ready to announce the winners (and losers) for 2009.  Click on any of the links for more details of the trips to the specific places.  Scroll down the page for our exclusive video as well or click here.  Drum roll please……

Best non-football trip in 2009
It’s not all about the beautiful game here at TBIR.  We love a bit of Rugby and Cricket too and in 2009 we were privilaged to attend a number of “small ball” events especially those during the Twenty20 World Cup.  So the winners were:-

3rd Place – England v Holland – Twenty20 World Cup Lords
England lose the opening game of the tournament at the world home of cricket and we got to watch it from the best media facility on earth.
2nd Place – Kent Spitfires v Sussex Sharks – Twenty20 Cup Canterbury
A beautiful sunny July day in Kent, fantastic picnic, cold beers…what could be better?

Sums up the day really

The Winner – The Super6’s Day in the Twenty20 World Cup at The Oval
A double header of South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand on a lovely sunny day?  What could be better – how about an all access media pass, the company of Danny Last from EFW and our own executive box to report from.  Days like these are rare but when they come you have to grab them with both hands.

Best Overseas Match in 2009
European football is what we are all about at TBIR and we are lucky enough to spend most of our week in the capital of cool, Copenhagen, giving us excellent access to the whole of Scandinavia.  So what games rocked our world in 2009 abroad?

3rd Place – HB Koge 0 FC Copenhagen 2 @ the SEAS NVN Arena
Bottom of the Superliga versus the top in a game full of incident, flares and generally bad behaved fans.
2nd Place –Stabaek IF 4 FK Tirana 0 @ The Telenor Arena, Oslo
Ever been to a game indoors?  On a plastic pitch?  In a press area with just one other person?  No neither had I until I went to the Telenor Arena for this one….oh, and what about a game that is subsequently investigated for Match Fixing by UEFA!

The Winner – FIFA World Cup Qualifier – Ireland 2 Italy 2  @ Croke Park

Croke Park full

An all or bust must win game for Ireland in a full Croke Park, one of the best stadiums in Europe.  Throw in some all access passes, a hotel opposite and a number of pints of Guinness with Dagenham Dan and you have the best Overseas Match of 2009.

Best English Match in 2009
Most of our time we wander from ground to ground watching football in the UK.  We saw over 70 games in 2009 in England (and two in Wales), seeing an average of over 3 goals per game.  We saw some great games, full of goals and incident so picking our top three was difficult so here goes.

3rd Place – West Ham 5 Burnley 3 @ Upton Park
West Ham are having a torrid season so when they went 5-0 with twenty minutes to go few thought they could throw it away..well 3 Burnley goals in 10 minutes almost brought this to reality.
2nd Place – Cambridge United 3 Luton Town 4 @ Abbey Stadium
Luton 2-0 down and reduced to 10 men with 40 minutes to go and boss Mick Harford’s job hanging by a thread.  50 Minutes later they ran out 4-3 winners….Harford was sacked 4 days later!

The Winner – Alfreton Town 4 Telford United 3 @ The Impact Arena

It's all over for Alfreton and the Police Dog makes his debut

Blue Square Conference North is not known for its passion normally but when the Play Offs beckon then its a different story.  The small Derbyshire town of Alfreton hosted a huge game with the home team on the verge of a promotion to virgin territory.  a humdinger of a game, played out in front of a passionate full house.  Seven goals, police dogs on the pitch and some “interesting” characters.  What more can I say!

The Worst game in 2009
Again seeing so many games means once in a while there will be a duff one and it’s not always the nil nil draw.  So the three below stick in the mind for lots of reasons.

3rd Place – Charlton Athletic 0 Nottingham Forest 2 @ The Valley
A freezing cold day and one of the only games still standing but all those who attended wish it was one of the other postponed games.
2nd Place – Millwall 0 Wycombe Wanderers 2 @ The New Den
I hadn’t been to Millwall for years and judging by this performance it will be ages before I go back again..

And the Winner – Malmo IF 0 Orebro 0 @ The Swedbank Stadion

Swedbank Panorama

A move to a new stadium should improve the quality of the games right?  Er no.  Malmo struggled to score in their first few games in their spanking new ground and this was one of a couple of turgid bore draws they played.  Forgettable.

Best Fans in 2009
We have seen the best, been with the best and drunk with the best…but who exactly were they in 2009?  Best fans were the noisiest, most passionate and vocal without bordering on hostile towards other fans.

3rd Place – Drogheda United Fans
Drogheda’s claret and blue army get our vote here for their huge display of support despite their team facing hard times on and off the pitch.  Away to Bohemians on a cold Friday night in October they never game up despite losing 4-0.
2nd Place – Borussia Monchengladbach
A 50,000 capacity stadium which is nearly always full despite their lowly position.  A green wall of sound – quite simply very impressive.

And The Winner is  SCC Napoli Fans

Napoli 2 Udinese 0

A delipated stadium, fans that border on the nutty and a lowly league position…Crap atmosphere right?  Wrong – what a cracking stadium – the noise will stay in your ears for hours.

The Best Stadium we visited in 2009
So after visiting 56 different stadiums what was the best in terms of atmosphere, facilities, fans and location in 2009?  Well lets see –

3rd Place – The LTU Arena – home of Fortuna Dusseldorf
lose to the city centre, easy transport links, wide open concourses with plenty of places for a beer and fantastic views from all 50,000+ seats.
2nd Place –  Borussia Park – home of Borussia Monchengladbach
Another 50,000+ Bundesliga stadium, full on almost every occasion with a rocking atmosphere.  It would have scooped the top award if it was easier to get to.

And the Winner is Croke Park – Dublin

Croke Park full

Sure it could have been the occasion, the event management or the game itself but Croke Park took on a magical veil on this chilly October night.  The Irish got behind their team 150% and it was a night few will forget who were there.

The Worst Stadium we visited in 2009
Another subjective one to try and call although one main criteria was any stadiums that had running tracks!

3rd Place – Frederiksberg Stadion – home of FB Copenhagen
Basic athletics ground, big running track and no cover…what more can I say?  Ah yes average attendance of 12.
2nd Place – Melbourne Park – home of Chelmsford City
I have nothing against Chelmsford City but their ground is a nightmare for fans.  Huge open spaces, strange little temporary stands behind the goal.  Not good.

And the Winner is Goldstone Road – home of Brimsdown Rovers

The teams emerge to a fanfare

I know they are only a Spartan League club, and the weather was appalling but basic is as basic does.  Hardly very welcoming for any fans.  Corrugated stands, no facilities in the stadium itself and an unwelcoming supporters bar where on the night of the game (an FA Cup tie) there was a “members only” event.

The Best Matchday Experience in 2009
When we pitch up at a new stadium for the first time we head straight for the bar to sample some of the local cuisine and chat with a few fans – what could be better.  So what were the most “welcoming” places in 2009?

3rd Place – Bromley FC
A sunny Bank Holiday Monday, a fantastic bar, great cheap food and locals who loved to chat about football.  So good that the Lewes team were still there a few hours after the game finished.
2nd Place – Bishops Stortford FC
A set of fans who welcome visitors, a bar that serves beer at £2 and even Teddy Sheringham in the crowd – what more could you ask for?  Well what about sprinklers that pop out of the pitch to soak the opposition goalkeeper – classic!

And the Winner is…..Lewes FC

The fantastic Dripping Pan

There could only be one winner….The home of Harveys Beer, close to the station in one of the prettiest towns in south of England.  Add in a decent clubhouse and some top fans.  Even when things on the pitch are not going to plan, the banter off the pitch will always take away your troubles.  Visit here NOW!

The Best Overseas Trip in 2009
Not to be confused with the best game overseas, this award is for the whole trip.  The company, the laughter, the madness and in certain people’s minds, the porn.

3rd Place – Naples
Pizza, Pasta, crime, porn, volcanoes, roman ruins and a bit of football – a great weekend break!
2nd Place – Sweden Under21’s Tournament
A long weekend of sunshine and good company as well as a couple of decent games, none more so that Sweden’s 5-1 win versus Belarus where all 6 goals could win MOTD’s goal of the month.

And the Winner is Ocktobeerfest

The EFW Ocktobeerfest team

Absolutely no doubt on the winner here….32 fans from all over Europe, 4 games of football and god knows how many beers and sausages – the video above sums it all up!  Expertly organised by EFW.

And Finally – The How did we end up here 2009 Award
Often we find ourselves in the most unusual places, and take advantage of the situation.  Here are the three best ones from 2009

3rd Place- On the pitch at Bromley FC
Thirty minutes after the game and me and the EFW team are on the pitch practising our penalties without a ball – classic British comedy.
2nd Place – In the Hamilton’s Flat
Long story short, Neil and Christine Hamilton are big fans of the blog and follow our every move via Twitter.  So when they wanted to meet up for lunch how could I refuse?

And the winner is The Perfect Storm
How could you every top a day like this?  All access pass to Lords Media centre for a Friends Provident cup game, then hot footing it up to Wembley Stadium for the Blue Square Premier Play Off Final between Cambridge United and Torquay United, again with a press pass before finally going down to the O2 for front row (literally) seats for the Blue Man Group.  Just pinch me!

So there we have it – time to put the tux away and roll up the red carpet.  Of course you can always revisit the best bits in our Highlights video.

Achtung BMG

Thirty years ago Liverpool were the undisputed kings of Europe, having won back to back European Cup Finals.  But few football fans today would believe that one of the other powerhouses of European football could be found very close to the German/Dutch border in a small city called Monchengladbach.  Borussia Monchengladbach had lead a quiet existence up until 1966 when they were invited to take part in the Bundesliga.  During the next fifteen years the club went on to win five Bundesliga titles (including three in a row from 1976 to 1978), two runners up spots and a German Cup in 1973 when they beat Cologne.

However, they saved their best for Europe.  Whilst bitter rivals Bayern Munich won three European Cup’s in a row during the middle of the decade, Borussia complemented the dominance of West Germany on the European football scene by capturing the UEFA Cup in 1975 and 1979, beating Twente and Red Star Belgrade respectively and being runners up in 1973 and 1980 when they lost to Liverpool and Eintract Frankfurt.  They also reached the 1977 European Cup final where again they met Liverpool, this time in Rome.

So five finals in ten years is a hard record to beat.  In fact during the decade only Liverpool came close to this record with four appearances, although they did win all four!  This golden period came to an end in 1980 as in order to chase the European dream they had over committed themselves financially and had to sell a number of their key players. 

The last decade can be classed as a disappointing time for the club, compared with their illustrious history. Since 1996 they have not finished higher in the Bundesliga than 11th, and even spent two seasons in the 2nd division after relegation in 1999. You have to go back to 1996 for the last respectable finish for the club when they finished 4th in the Bundesliga.  The club were formed in 1900, playing in the regional leagues of the Oberliga West, competing against stronger teams such as Köln and Schalke 04. Their only honour before the Bundesliga was formed came in 1960 when they beat Karlsruhe in the German Cup final. A few years later one of the youngest teams in German football gained promotion to the Bundesliga. In that historic 1964/65 season, Mönchengladbach scored over 120 goals in just 40 games to win promotion for the first time in their history. This team, with an average age of under 22 would be the basis of the team that would dominate German football. Their popularity grew amongst the football watching public, and most people had a soft spot for the Greens.

A single German Cup victory over Wolfsburg in 1995 is all the fans have had to celebrate since those heady days and nights of the Seventies. It is even more galling for the fans to think that their traditional rivals Bayern Munich have gone on to achieve so much, despite overshadowing the Bavarians for so long in the 1970’s.

Since they moved into their brand spanking new stadium in 2004 the club have hardly been able to stay in any division for more than a season.  Relegation has been followed by promotion, the last being in 2008 when they won Bundesliga 2 with a couple of games to spare.  Such instability has seen eight coaches come and go in the past eight season, including legends such as Dick Advocaat who has gone onto success as Zenit, Hans Meyer and Jupp Heynckes.  This season the club has struggled again and coming into the local derby with Bochum they sat in the relegation zone with 22 points from their 24 games, level on points with the visitors in a real relegation six pointer.  The defence has been the issue this season, conceding 46 goals – nearly 2 per game, a fact only beaten by Hannover. 

I was still trying to visit all of the Bundesliga stadiums by the end of the season and with four still to go I was relying on a couple of Friday night games to achieve this.  As luck would have it Borussia were given a plum Friday night game and to make it even better for me it was on a day where I was due to be in the region anyway at a conference.  The only downside was that I had to be back in London by midday on Saturday meaning a 6.50am flight from Dusseldorf Weeze (and thus no real point in getting a hotel for the night).  The ever so efficient ticketing system, run by Eventixxx meant that I had my ticket in hand 3 weeks prior to the game so I could set off from Stansted early on the Friday morning for a day of meetings, a night of beer and football and then a post midnight hike across the Ruhr valley to one of Ryanair’s new outposts.

This was going to be a complicated trip, starting off by landing at Köln-Airport and eventually leaving via Dusseldorf Weeze some 22 hours and no sleep later. I had a few hours to kill when I got into the centre of Kön so I headed over to the Rhein Energie Stadium, home of FC Köln around lunchtime. The stadium is possibly my favourite in Europe as it combines a perfect viewing experience with an unique exterior whilst keeping a number of the classical features. What is more impressive is that it was built on the site of the old ugly Mungersdorf stadium whilst games went on around the building work. The stadium rarely has an empty seat on matchdays now but on a Friday afternoon it was peaceful. I headed up to the restaurant, following the signs for the “All you can eat buffet”. Now to my friend Fat Matt (not to be confused with InActive Matt who is not as fat as fat Matt) “All you can eat buffet” is classed as a competition and not a statement and he would have given the chefs a run for their money that is for sure! It was a nice break in an otherwise hectic day that gave me the perfect opportunity to catch up on the goings on with Jack Bauer. I was also acting as lead council in the Essex Claire versus New Man case which saw her explaining at length and in detail over text about the issues she was having in trying to get her new beau interested in all of her (if you see what I mean). He tried his best later in the day to make it up to her with a basket of flowers but then she moaned to me she would have rather had a basket of porn with an assortment of toys, handcuffs and lube – there is no pleasing some people!

After a couple of work meetings (well officially I was over in Germany on business) I headed back to Köln central station for the train to Monchengladbach. Every ticket machine I tried would not accept my Visa or Maestro card. Now I know it’s near payday and funds in the Fuller offshore accounts are running on almost empty but I knew there was enough to cover the 10 Euro fare. So I queued up in the ticket office for ten minutes before Mr Unhelpful *1 told me to go and use the machines. Again I tried but still no luck. I tried cash but I only had a twenty Euro note and the machines only took lower denomination ones. So Mr Unhelpful *2 came over and told me that major credit cards couldn’t be used for “local” journeys and “Didn’t I have an EC Card?” A what? So I told him I couldn’t use my twenty Euro note and his initial response was that I should go and buy something and use the change. Brilliant – as helpful as someone from London Bridge station – obviously they have been to the same railway employee finishing school. A kindly German lady saw my plight and changed my twenty for two tens and I was away.

It’s obvious that a lot of care has gone into building Borussia’s new home as it is in the middle of nowhere! I followed the crowds off the train at a stop just outside the city centre and hopped on one of the free shuttle buses, that then spent a good 20 minutes driving round villages and fields on a journey my parents would have considered a “nice Sunday drive”. With the sun setting in the west in a variety of shades of orange, a new hue was suddenly on the horizon, and lo and behold the stadium emerged, shining green thanks to the clever lighting in the roof. From a distance of 500 yards where the buses dropped me off I thought it looked pretty impressive but once I picked my press ticket up, stopped long enough to have a chat with the VIP hostesses all bedecked in white (I always wonder if they actually get these girls from local clubs as they certainly appear as if they could) and then climbed to the top of the stadium I was in need of oxygen. But the view took what was left of my breath away. It is certainly a stunning stadium once you are inside. Imagine one of the newer English stadiums such as St Mary’s or the Walkers but much much bigger, with the atmospheric green lighting and a crowd as every bit as passionate as you will find anywhere on the continent.

Borussia Monchengladbach 0 VfL Bochum 1 – Borussia Park – Friday 20th March 2009

Celebrating a corner

Celebrating a corner

I took my press seat and had a flick through the programme. Apparently this season the stadium had witnessed more goals per game than any other in the previous five seasons with an average of 2.92 goals per game. There were no clues in the current form either as both teams recent games had been quite impressive – in fact only surprise league leaders Hertha Berlin and perennial underachievers Werder Bremen had a better record. So that meant I was guaranteed a bore draw.

Whilst I know a thing or two about football (according to the little Fullers I know more than Alan Ferguson apparently) I still cannot fathom what dictates which kit a team will play in. I was under the impression that Borussia played in green – after all everything in the stadium is bedecked in green so it was a suitable assumption to make. But here they were at home lining up in white, whilst their opponents Bochum normally sported a fetching blue with white pinstripes but today wore a dark maroon (a la Sparta Prague). Baffling.

Despite the pre-match hype neither team settled well in the first ten minutes but slowly Borussia took control and a great turn and curling shot from Baumjohann in the 13th minute nearly broke the deadlock. The game then picked up in pace and with both teams keen on playing the ball wide at every opportunity it flowed from end to end with half chances for either side. Bochum’s pacey forward Diego Klimowicz came close in the 20th minute when his shot on the turn was well saved by Borussia’s Logan Bailly. From the resulting corner the ball was scrambled off the line after the Belgian keeper had flapped at the cross.

The deadlock was broken though in the 29th minute from one of these wide balls but not by the home team. Bochum broke, Klimowicz held the ball up and played in Dennis Grote who was running into space down the Bochum left and his shot from twenty five yards hardly left the ground but nestled in the corner of the net to give the visitors the lead. A tad harsh on the home team but that’s football for you.

What was surprising during the first half was the noise in the crowd. The lower tier of the Nord tribune was a huge terrace (seats were put down for international games) that could hold nearly 12,000 fans. They were packed in this area but the constant noise was actually coming from a small hardcore of Borussia fans in the upper tier who did not let up during the first half with their drumming, chanting and flag waving. Surely a lesson there for our friends at the FA when they try and think how to generate a noise at Wembley Stadium – sit those fans who want to sing and chant together in the same place for every game. Whilst the rest of the crowd were feeling (and showing) some frustration with the home team, this core of a couple of hundred fans simply carried on regardless until the half time whistle blew.

I resisted the urge at half time to climb down six flights of stairs to the press area despite the temperature dropping and the lure of some free chilli, concentrating instead on some more man advice to Essex Claire. I do not know why I end up acting as this extreme male advice line for women I know. CMF says its because I am so georgous but I like to think it is because I am trustworthy, diplomatic, discreet but above all know my Marc Dorcel from my Maxx Hardcore. And that is what the modern girl wants to talk about – they may seem quiet on the outside but many now know the difference between a rabbit and a dolphin mark my words. So how did I get from a relegation battle in the Ruhr valley to hardcore pornography? One word. Cheerleaders. I will leave it there, but Tim Kring summed it up perfectly when he said – “Save the cheerleader, save the world”, and those on display here certainly did their job.

So back to the reality of the second half of this vital game for both teams after my fifteen minutes of diversions. Borussia started off as badly as they had ended the first with far too many missed passes in areas where they should not be giving away possession. If they were playing a team like Bayern Munich they would have been losing by a cricket score such was the number of wasted final balls. The fans continued to get annoyed and soon objects started being throw from the crowd at the Bochum players especially as they appeared to be time wasting at every opportunity. The referee took the unusual step of sending the Borussia captain over to the bench to relay the message to the PA announcer that any more items thrown would result in the game being abandoned. You can see their frustration in some terms. Bochum took over a minute to be in a position to take the corner in the first place and this is not acceptable and should be punished by the referee. It did seem that Bochum had been watching Hull City in the build up to the game as time and time again Fernandes in goal was allowed to waste time in setting up the ball for goal kicks without any punishment forthcoming. Eventually in the 60th minute the referee had enough and produced the yellow card, although that didnt stop him continuing to time waste over the next ten minutes when the opportunity arose.

Borussia turned up the heat at last and came close in the 63rd minute when a corner almost fell to an unmarked Karim Matmour but he was more interested in trying to fallover to gain a penalty than actually trying to score a goal himself. In an attempt to prise open the Bochum defence Borussia brought on the comically named Bonfim Dante as an attacking full back,more in the hope that he could pass the ball successfully to a team mate more than ten yards away that Tobias Levels had been unable to do for the first sixty eight minutes of the game.

The final five minutes were constant pressure from the home team and desperate defending from Bochum. Borussia threw everything at them and despite a few hairy moments when the goalkeeper Fernandes went missing in action the ball never really came close to the back of the net, and the three points ended up heading off down the Ruhr Valley with the few thousand away fans.

As I had an hour to kill before I started my mammoth journey back to Swanley swimming pool I headed down to the press conference to look as if I understood what was going on rather than a strange Englishman who was there as a free loader. It was obvious that Borussia coach Hans Meyer was under severe pressure simply based on his resigned look. The win had proppelled VfL Bochum up the table and opened up a small gap with the three teams at the bottom who were headed by Borussia. In my limited German I grasped that the “lads had done well but were now sick as a parrot that the final ball wasn’t tasty enough”, or something like that. What I clearly understood was that next week’s away game at Karlsruher KSC who propped up the table for at least 24 hours was now an absolute must win.

Still unsure how I was going to get back to the station and prepared for the hour or so walk in the chilly night I headed outside fortified by strong German coffee. I needn’t have worried as buses were still arriving by the minute to ferry all of the fans back to the city centre. Now this was refreshing to see – a local transport authority working alongside the football club to ensure every fan could get home, and as with most football related public transport in Germany, it was free. I would say “take note” to our clubs but there is no point. Fans, as we have come to know only too well are an irrelevance when planning a new stadium, and even on the kick off times of a game.

To err on the side of caution I got the earlier train back to Köln, arriving at 12.30am and with two hous to kill before the bus arrived. I could have simply gone and sat in McDonalds but I was snoozy and felt the sight of a dribbling English man may be off putting for even the most hardy of all night clubber who were “Lovin’ it”. So I had a wander around the city which was unsurprisingly blissfully silent. The Dom still dominates the whole centre and is lit up through the night, its huge black and white presence brooding over this citizens.

So, 2.30am arrived and I boarded the bus for the two hour journey to Dusseldorf Weeze airport – good ol’ Ryanair making this one up as technically Dusseldorf and Köln are approximately 30 miles apart whilst this outpost of the finest Irish Customer Experience was more like 90 miles away. But it gave me an opportunity to get two hours sleep and a big step nearer home and my big bed.

A word of advice for English football. If you want to see how to create genuine atmosphere at a game hop on a plane for the short trip down to either Borussia Monchengladbach or FC Köln. No gimmicks, no “raise the flags” and no crappy plastic clapping aids. Just thousands of passionate fans who pay sensible prices and get behnd their team irrespective of what division or what position they are in. A real Heineken moment for a football team – refreshes the parts that other leagues simply cannot reach!

About Borussia Park
The stadium is an excellent example of one of the new breed of grounds that are being built throughout Europe. It is a completely enclosed stadium with three tiers offering excellent views of the action free from any obstructions. The new Borussia Park stadium was originally planned over six years, and was to be the jewel in the Rhine Ruhr Valley area for the forthcoming World Cup Finals. However, delays (primarily due to the insolvency of the Kirsch Media Group) meant that the stadium wasn’t started until 2002, by which time decisions had been made to award the honour of hosting matches in the World Cup to neighbouring Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen and Köln. The stadium eventually opened in July 2004 when Borussia hosted Bayern Munich and Ajax in a special champions pre-season friendly. The first league game played there was in August 2004 when Borussia Dortmund were the visitors. In June 2005 the national team played their first match at the new stadium when they drew 2-2 with Russia.

The new stadium replaced the historic Boekelberg Stadium which had been home to Borussia since 1919. Whilst the capacity is over 60,000 with 35,000 seats, for normal Bundesliga matches the South stand has to be used as a seating area only and so the capacity is reduced by 7,000. For International matches, the capacity will be reduced to 45,600. Further details of Borussia Park can be found here

How to get to Borussia Park
The stadium is located in a new business park development to the north of the city centre. It has been built with access as a key feature both in terms of driving and public transport. The stadium is has been built with direct access to and from the A61 Autobahn.  There are a number of official car parks around the ground, all of which are signposted from the Autobahn and the city centre.

The nearest station to the ground is Station Rheyt, where the special football trains terminal on track 4. From here, shuttle buses run every 5 minutes on a match day to the stadium taking approximately 15 minutes. From the main station you would need to take either line 7 or 17 for Rheyt.

How to get a ticket for Borussia Park
A number of high profile matches at Borussia Park sold out this season, including the games versus Dortmund, Kaiserslautern, Schalke and Bayern Munich. However, attendances have been less than 45,000 for at least half a dozen games so it may be possible to get tickets as long as you book them in advance for most matches. Tickets can be purchased in person from the ground, or from the fanshop in Marienhof. Alternatively you can book them online and they will be posted to you in the UK.