On the ninth day of Christmas….the best away day

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, an away trip that fills you with glee.

Football awaydays are what it’s all about.  The planning, the anticipation and then the day itself, full of promise and excitement.  There is nothing we love more at TBIR and EFW than an away day to somewhere new, obviously punctuated with a few beers and a general chat with some new fans.  It doesn’t really matter what the game is or where we are, Beer Football is a universal language, understood by millions of people across the globe.  As you would imagine we went on quite a few of these last year so we had to apply some criteria to come up with the best three.

Firstly we decided it had to be somewhere new.  Secondly it had to be somewhere where the football was essentially secondary, and thirdly somewhere where other people could quite easily replicate the trip.  So that excluded our EFW/TBIR Ocktoberfest as well as our regular trips down to The Dripping Pan.  So here are our three best away days from 2010.

Spakenburg – There was no doubt that this trip would be in the best three of the year.  A weekend filled with football, beer, meeting new and strange people (Jim Donkers anyone) and enough surreal moments to turn Russell Grant into slimmer of the year.  Who would have thought a small village 30 miles south eastish of Amsterdam could hold such a party, but they do and they do it twice a year.  The school disco party after the game was mad enough on its own without their being an identical rival one in the club house next door.  I cannot do this weekend justice in one paragraph so click on the link above or have a butchers at the photos here.

Malta – Malta I hear you say?  Malta?  Yep Malta.  This is one for when you have to give a little back to the lovely lady in your life.  Dirt cheap to get to thanks to the budget airlines, decent hotels at knock down prices, a bit of culture thrown in to boot and if you time it right an opportunity to top up on the tan.  And the football?  Well most teams play at the Ta’Qali, the national stadium meaning double and triple headers are common each week.  It may be a bit of a trek but once there you can enjoy entry for €8 for the day (€4 for the lovely lady in your life) and beers for jut €2 a piece. Want some more proof?  Well have a look at these.

Neath – We love Wales – Fact!   It is a cracking place, to steal a phrase from a well known Welsh based comedy show.  Sod the fact the weather is often crap, the people are top-notch (Catherine Zeta Jones and Charlotte Church anyone?) , the beer is excellent (Brains) and the scenery is marvellous.  Add in the fact it is easy to get to by plane, train, bus, boat or even pony and you have the makings of a great away day.  We could have picked Llanelli, home of our favourite Welsh Porn Star Sophie Dee (WARNING – Contains lots and lots of nudity), Swansea, Carmarthen or Port Talbot but we chose Neath.  Why?  Because it is an old fashion ground, with welcoming locals and some decent football played at The Gnoll, a proper football ground name if ever I saw one.  It also has the legendary nightclub Signals for your post match revelry. Want some more evidence to convince you to go?  Have a look at these pictures.

On the fourth day of Christmas – The best away fans

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me….a set of away fans to make you proud as can be

Few teams these days really take a passionate away following wherever they go. Perhaps it is the cost of the tickets, the fact that fans are treated like criminals as soon as they step foot inside the ground or the simple blandness of most grounds now in England. However, outside of the Premier League there are some teams whose away support is legendary. In the 86 games we have seen in 2010 there have been some memorable away followings for a number of reasons, ranging from the single away fan from IP Bromma at Helsingborgs in March, to the thousands of York City and Oxford United fans that descended on Wembley Stadium in May for the Blue Square Bet Play off finals. But there can only be three winners in our 12 Days of Christmas awards….I give you the best away fans we saw in 2010.

FC Copenhagen – Whilst the team have dominated the SAS Superliga this season, finishing the first half of the season a mere 19 points ahead of 2nd place after just 19 games, FCK’s fans have certainly haven’t been bored in travelling all across Denmark to watch their team. A few weeks ago nearly a thousand fans travelled some four hours by train in appalling conditions to Randers where they stood on an open terrace in temperatures of minus 10 to cheer their team onto a comfortable 3-0 win. Whilst the passionate fans are often lost in the half empty 38,000 capacity Parken, away from home they generate serious noise on the road. The games against Brondby have been a tinderbox in the past few seasons, although the core of fans only want to support the team.

Dartford – Five years ago it was all doom and gloom for Dartford fans, facing another season in the Kent League, wondering where they would be playing their home games. But the one thing that never changed was the passionate core of support the club had. And it was the drive, commitment and enthusiasm of these fans, as with the case with AFC Wimbledon, FC United of Manchester and now FC Halifax Town, that the club have risen to where they are today. The first step was a stadium, the second was consistency off the pitch – again is it co-incidence that Dartford, FCUM and Wimbledon have risen up the leagues with the same man in charge? Even in the Kent League Dartford took hundreds of fans to the likes of Herne Bay and Lordswood, almost quadrupling the crowd in many instances. Last season we saw around 500 Dartford fans cram into Tonbridge Angels ground, not letting up their positive support for the team for the whole 90 minutes. Now just one step below where they should rightfully be, the fans can take massive credit for the role they have played in this rise from the ashes.

Ijsselmeervogel – A third tier Dutch game hardly sets the minds racing. It is the equivalent of a Blue Square Premier game in England. But when you have two teams from the same village, hell even sharing the same car park then you are onto a winner. Add in an inferiority complex that means both clubs will do anything to out do each other and you are sure to get a cracking atmosphere when they play each other twice a season.  A few hundred words here cannot do justice to the fans so head over to EFW to read about the whole event.

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. Continue reading