For those that are interested, thought i'd do a little write up on my trip again.
Like previous, I was on the Thomas Crook Day Trip. I took the hit, simply because I had to (due to holidays) so the trip started again on the early hours of the day at 5am. Up and wide awake, straight to Liverpool airport. Check in fine, took off on time, all happy days.
Arrived in Lyon at about 11am Lyon time (once we had come out the airport and got on a coach). As we approached the coach, saw my first gun of the day. This police/army officer, kitted out in full gear, with some automatic rifle in his hand. A nice welcome party!
Anyway, we got the coach to the City centre. Dropped us off in some area with a few restaurants, and found a Maccies. Keen to get something to eat before a beer, and not wanting to sample too many snails, we headed straight for the golden arches. Lone behold, they had all the usual meals you expect. Nugget meal it was, and to drink? Kronenberg. Yes Kronenberg, in Maccies, at 11am. Was happy days, and went down pretty well.
After this it was time to find some reds. In Florence, we found it tough to find a big crowd of reds, not sure why as there was plenty in the stadium come the game? So we set to where apparently there was going to be a bit of a crowd. On our way, stopped in some dodgey French Wine Bar. Now when I say Wine Bar, I don't mean like here. It was more of a dungeon cafe type thing. Another beer, and on we go again.
Finally found the so called Square, with a scarce few reds hanging around. Went down some side street first as didn't fancy the look of the Leffe Bar at first. Found this great little bar around the side, doing Kronenberg (the red label, not the 1664) for £4euros. Which, considering, wasn't too bad compared with everywhere else. After that washed down, and washed down nicely, time was kicking on and it was time to meet the reds again. We went back to the Leffe bar, and got chatting to a few guys there. I was on the Hoegarden by this point. No real reason why, it just seemed a good idea at the time.
Slowly but surely, small groups of reds started to turn up. Not quiet the number that were in Madrid, but at peak probably 100 maybe? Maybe a few more. But there was a few footies being kicked around, and the sings started to get going. By this point, the many a beer I had swigged was starting to kick in.
We were told to be back at the coach by 6pm to head back up to the stadium. We stocked up on cans at the local supermarket (the mini cask Heininken ones) and not wanting to mess around, we headed back to the Maccies we were in earlier. Treated ourselves to two more mini Kronenberg to take up to the stadium and swig outside.
After a little delay on the coach we get to the stadium about 6:45pm. Maybe a little too early, but we thought an find some bar surely? No. The ground was in the middle of nowhere. Literally. It is on like a huge industrial estate. I am not sure if it was just the way end, but I didn't see anything that looked like a bar, or even a food/cafe bar.
We get off the coach, and of course, we still had these two mini Kronnies in our pocket. I started to walk away from the stadium, only to be stopped by a French police officer in riot gear. He directed me back towards the stadium, where I grabbed an English Steward and explained to him that I had these two beers and wanted to nail them, preferably without being battered by some riot copper. So I stood to one side, and polished them off.
Into the ground, searched, ticket checked, searched, ticket checked, passport checked, searched, and finally we are in. At this point, there was probably a couple of hundred fans in the ground, but from the moment we set foot in the ground, the singing never stopped. I've been to some games, but the atmosphere here was nothing like I had experienced before. The belief started to kick in that we can do this. The 2 hours leading up to the game seemed to fly by, as we just sang our hearts out. Even the Ngog song got a good few airings.
The game kicks off, and we started well. I am sure you all watched the game, so know what happened. But one real highlight I found (for us in the ground) was Campione getting a real good airing for 10 solid minutes. My arms have never ached so much, my throat in agony. It just went on, and on, and on. If the guys around me stopped, I started louder, and they joined in. And same when I needed a quick breather. That really was a special moment.
The game continued in the same way, with the atmosphere still fantastic and rocking. Next minute, out of nowhere, you know what happened. That Babel goal. What a hit it was, and well, for anyone who was fortunate enough to be there, will tell you how mad it went. It went absolutely mental. I was to the right of my mate all game...
... after we scored, I was 5 rows back, with about 5 grown men fallen on top of me, roaring and raging. It was amazing.
I then appeared back to the left my mate, and I came out with the words "I think I've just had a heart attack". Fortunately, I didn't. But one woman clearly took a real knock (or slipped, fell, or what ever) as she had a neck brace on. Hope she was ok? She got up and walked, so fingers crossed she was.
And then, well we know what happened. It never entered my mind that they could and would score. I can't blame Kyriagkos directly, as I think he had a good game up to that moment. And it was more of a slip.
The disbelief and the heart break was there for everyone to see. The fans really went for it again, trying to get things going, but it was too late. The full time whistle was blown, the players were applauded, and I sat down. A broken man, what just happened? How? Why us?
We got the usual lock in the ground, and the players came for a warm down. Pepe Reina got a good song for his efforts, and everyone was clapped around the ground. I think the fans really appreciated everything that the players did on the night, they couldn't have done too much more.
We finally make our way out of the ground, straight to the coaches (via another 200 or so riot police), and the coach back to the airport. On the plane, nice and smooth and back in Liverpool by 1am. All the way, everyones spirits were naturally down. But bar that moment, it was a very special trip.
In Liverpool airport, going through passport control, we see that 2 planes had landed from Lyon? Strange, Thomas Crooks only took one? Yes, you guessed it, it was the players.
We had to hang about for our lift, so waited for the players to come through. And if you know Liverpool airport, it is relatively small, so you couldn't miss them. Saw every player, coach, Rafa, Kenny, and even the legend that is Sammy Lee. Everyone of them looked broken, just like us fans. Most were very good still and signed photos/shirts etc (however some were taking the mick a bit, getting about 20 of the same photo signed. Wonder what they are for? Ebay?) But it was the anguish on the players faces that really showed.
Benitez came through last with Torres. Naturally, these got mobbed by the awaiting fans, and media who were waiting. But again, both very good. And Rafa stopped and shook peoples hands, and he got plenty of pats on the back. It is good to show him that we are (most) still behind him. What did get me though was Kuyt. He was one of the first out, but one of the last to leave the airport. He just never stopped signing shirts, pictures, taking photos. Great to see, even after everything he had been through, he still had time for the fans. But you get the impression, that is Kuyt.
The players went, the fans went too. Our lift home arrived and I was in bed by 2:30am. Not bad compared with Florence (it was more like 5am after all the delays). I reflected on what was, overall, an excellent day. And it was just moments away from being almost perfect.
Bring on Budapest. If Fiorentina win, it may not mean anything on the pitch. But if I can experience the atmosphere we had in and around the ground again in Lyon, then it will be worth it.