A Lille bit of Leuven

Two games, one day, two countries?  No problems at all for the Daggers Diary team.

In each of the last two years, Dagenham Dan, Neil and I have ventured into Northern Europe for a weekend of football. Over the last two years, we have managed to attend games in four different countries, or like last year, we attended four top flight games in Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

This year though, we weren’t sure if we would be able to do the trip. Neil had taken a new job, which meant that holidays might be difficult. Added to that was a lot going on at our respective workplaces (as well as cost) and our February trip was eventually, and reluctantly cancelled.

Well it was until a couple of weeks ago. Dan sent round an email about resurrecting the trip over the regulation three days, and had managed to get five games into the time allowed. While none of us really had the cash to spend, we each reckoned that we could do it, but at a push. Eventually, sense prevailed and once again we had to abandon the idea of three days away. But a one day trip? Well, that might work, and so it is how we find ourselves on the Eurostar from Folkestone bound for Calais at 8am on a Sunday morning, before a couple of hours drive to Leuven in Belgium for our first game on our european day out.

With our normal three day trip postponed until later in the year, it meant that we could attend our own clubs games on Saturday. Dan and I suffered as Plymouth won 2-1 at Victoria Road, while Neil was at Brentford to watch Wolves win 3-0.

Of course, no trip can be truly incident free, but those that we have been on before have generally gone well, with maybe one minor mishap. This time, we had a real winner. Having arrived at Folkestone, we were waiting for Neil to arrive at the arranged time of 7am. We all stocked up on drinks and chocolate from the shop, Neil filled up the fuel tank of his car upon arrival and we moved back to the main car park in preparation of our journey. Then the bomb dropped; Neil had forgotten his passport. With our train crossing at 8.20, and with Neil living at least an hour away, it looked as though we were scuppered before we had even left the country. Dan was on the phone to Eurotunnel trying to rearrange our crossing, but the offices didn’t open until 8am, so out came the iPad. Neil was apologetic, and reckoned we should press on without him, but we do these things as a group, and we weren’t about to go without him. So Neil went back home to retrieve e errant document while Dan (having successfully sorted out our train to France) and I stayed in the service station.

It’s a strange feeling, being in a service station ridiculously early on a Sunday morning. It’s almost like a portal between the sleeping world and the awake one, with neither quite sure how to behave until one takes the lead. As we reach our intended (but now delayed) departure time, the services are starting to come alive.

Sunday 23rd February 2014, O.H. Leuven v Club Brugge

Once Neil had returned, we immediately headed toward the train terminal. Having rearranged our train for a later time, we were fortunate enough to basically just drive straight on to a train and after thinking that we might have troubles, we were on our way to Leuven. The two hour drive to Leuven is passed quite quickly, through the fields and towns of Northern France. Continue reading