In August 2010 three Maidenhead United fans were banned from attending home games, by a kangaroo court, for crimes they didn't commit.
These men promptly encountered a jobsworth security blockade, and so escaped to the non-league underground.
Today, still stigmatised by the MUFC Ltd hierarchy, they survive as supporters of fancy.
If you enjoy a train away day - and if you can find them - then maybe you can share a drink with ... the K-team!
These men promptly encountered a jobsworth security blockade, and so escaped to the non-league underground.
Today, still stigmatised by the MUFC Ltd hierarchy, they survive as supporters of fancy.
If you enjoy a train away day - and if you can find them - then maybe you can share a drink with ... the K-team!
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Sunday, 20 November 2011
Is foul language from blokes who have smuggled in beer
But where are those joyless regulations
Which the Yes Men all love?
Lucky there's a Family Club!
Lucky there's a club where, the players never ever swear
And you will get a flyer from a Honey Pot scrub
Twas an early start for Macleod (M), Scouse Mick and I, but at least we would be in Weston-super-Mare in good time to watch the early games on TV (Leeds @ Burnley and Arsenal @ Norwich). I reckon that those on the 11:30 from Bristol Temple Meads to Aberdeen are probably still travelling, though!
The MUFC Ltd forum has been half decent, of late, if only because there has been some debate as to the future direction of the club. It's still definitely a case, though, of 'silence speaks louder than words'; certain contributors only post to list the winning 49 Club numbers, or to bite after tongue-in-cheek comments re their Reading FC supporting, cricket-loving cyber friends (nothing against cricket-lovers, generally, BTW):
The self-styled Spin Doctor wasn't at yesterday's game. I think he might have been working. Everyone spot the unintentional irony? Good.
I passed some time on the train journey by responding to Stevie G (who doesn't like to mention that he's a Director of Maidenhead United, honest!), but my subsequent post (which featured nothing but an Echo & The Bunnymen lyric about 'killing time') was removed without an accompanying explanation.
Censorship on the MUFC Ltd forum is alive and well; only the other week a post I'd added to a thread about celebrity fans was removed because it contained the phrase 'ginger tosser' in the context of describing the actor Matthew Cottle, a regular (at least in the past) at York Road and most famous for playing Martin Henson (repeatedly referred to as a 'ginger tosser') in the 90s sitcom Game On.
Bearing in mind the lies that have been written about us in the past (in letters from the club signed by Mark Steward; MUSA committee meeting minutes deliberately misconstrued by Cloughie; false accusations of inappropriate chanting at Cinderford on The Educated Left Foot), it is truly pathetic that trivial comments like this that get removed. Not unlike our defeat at home to Humpton last Tuesday night - and Drax's multi-year contract extensions - it is, however, entirely predictable.
^^^ Anyway, to The Tavern Inn the Town and Mick was on the shorts before midday! Sadly, no sign of Jonny Wah Wah (still in Manchester, following a Motörhead gig the night before) or Seanwsm (whom Murdo wanted to buy a pint and watch the Leeds game with).
^^^ We insisted the steward check the flag bag. He was happy. I still expect a letter, though, from MUFC Ltd. In all seriousness, the Weston stewards (especially the one who looked through the bag, at our request) were top notch ... in stark contrast, of course, to those at Ebbsfleet United.
^^^ This blatant breach of ground regulation will surely not go unpunished. Nb. one of the many MUFC Ltd coaches, in the background, doing his ting.
Shortly after this photo was taken we went into the bar and the Swansea City-supporting barman informed Macleod (M) that Leeds had won 2-1. They'd been one down when we had left the pub and caught a taxi to the ground (a quick pick-up and cheap ride, so use Arc Taxis when in Weston). We were joined, pre kick-off, by Les and then Logic before heading outside to discover that MUFC were shooting towards the decent stand in the first half :-(
^^^ There was plenty of what the EUFC stewards would deem 'foul and abusive language' from both sets of supporters. The MUSA secretary (who wasn't wearing a club tie and suit this weekend) sat to the side and said nothing. Obviously swearing is OK for the people he drives to the games. Just not for us (even, or especially, when we deny swearing in the first place). IMO he is a weaselly, sanctimonious Yes Man.
^^^ On a previous visit to Weston, Macleod (M) and the aforementioned Seanwsm had a 'coming together'. The stewards on that occasion ordered us to "get back in your own end". As such, we assume that this half of the decent stand is the away end and so we put up the flags there at half-time despite the fact that Maidenhead were shooting the other way.
"Maidenhead, give us a song" we chanted at the rest of the travelling Magpie hordes, congregated at the other end in the second half. We could barely hear their response. Les would later claim that they couldn't hear us. Drax obviously could. He waved at us when we sang "Johnson, give us a wave". I think Drax is a good manager.
^^^ Above is MUFC's legendary kit man Jon Urry. He used to be the physio. We greeted him, as we usually do, with a burst of "Jon Urry! Jon Urry! Rub your hands all over my body". He couldn't doff his cap to us as usual - which was a shame - as he had his hands full, carrying things. I like Jon Urry.
In the top left of this photo you can also just about see some of the track-suited Weston-super-Mare youngsters. The U12s obviously didn't have a game and so, as happened at Chertsea Town, they were nominated cheer leaders for the day. One of them had a haircut like Jimmy Saville and - after we had pointed this out in a chant - his team-mates all laughed (with him, not at him, I'm sure). We also chanted "Cloughie's gonna get ya" when they swore. Unsurprisingly, the MUSA secretary didn't say anything. As aforementioned, he's obviously only anti-swearing when it is us (allegedly) doing it.
^^^ The Magpies wore their new yellow and blue away kit. "Are we Farnborough in disguise?" and "Come on you Reds" were therefore bellowed out by those in the designated away end.
The game was rubbish. I honestly don't remember Conference South football generally - and MUFC Ltd specifically - being this bad. Maybe so and I've just forgotten. Weston took the lead with a free header at the back post. The next minute I was reading the team-sheet - as I didn't believe that the MUFC Ltd number 8, so hopelessly off-the-pace, was Bradley Quamina - and so missed the home side doubling their lead.
I was kindly keeping those who weren't at the game - because they had better things to do (lucky them) - updated of goings on via the forum (I haven't properly worked out how to use Tw@tter as yet). And when Marc McGregor came on, after SuperManny (who doesn't seem to be quite so Super these days) halved the deficit, I posted that he always scores against us (although I might have been getting him confused with Mark McKeever ... TBF, there are lots of players who make a habit of scoring against Maidenhead!). Anyway, McGregor scored, with another unopposed header from a free kick, within minutes of my post. The Maidenhead defence just stood and watched.
Marcus Rose had needlessly given the free kick away and, overall, he had a shocker of a game. Countless times he hoofed the ball aimlessly forward instead of playing a simple sideways pass to stand-in captain Bobby Behzadi, at right-back. I refuse to believe that Rose is better than the recently-released Andrew Fagan. Alex Wall - like the aforementioned Quamina - was also off-the-pace, whilst Max Worsfold's delivery from set-pieces was poor.
Indeed, IMO, the only plus points were the tireless Behzadi (who acknowledged us in the bar afterwards; he definitely is 'The Daddy') and a great strike from substitute and debutant Paul Semakula (who obviously hasn't been at the club long enough to realise that the KSG are personae non gratae) to bring the score back to 3-2. Unfortunately for Maidenhead, Ryan Northmore doesn't play in goal for Weston any more and so we weren't gifted a way back into the match. Indeed, Weston scored the goal of the game in injury time, which made the score-line a fair one.
Maidenhead had looked better when ex Seagull Ashan Holgate and the personification of a family club ("we are a family club, sponsored by lap dancers") came on - hitting the post and having a couple of goalmouth scrambles - but, despite stating in the Advertiser that he was going to play his strongest team and that all the focus was on Weston (rather than Aldershot), Drax had picked a weakened line-up and it appeared as if the players minds were elsewhere.
They weren't the only ones. "We're going to Hillsborough, we're going to Hillsborough. You're not, you're not" we chanted, with our tongues-firmly-in-cheek. At the end, the Weston PA announcer also wished us luck for Tuesday's replay at Aldershot. I don't think he was taking the piss, although he might have been. I would have put my mortgage on us losing against Humpton and Weston, but wouldn't be completely surprised if we somehow got past Aldershot (I predict an improved performance and gallant defeat). This ties in with another Drax comment in the Advertiser, however: that the players are being unprofessional in seemingly only raising their game for the likes of Woking and Aldershot. And here's me, lead to believe that we are more professional under Drax ...
Another prediction: after being knocked out of both the FA Cup and the Trophy in the next two games, the budget will be increased and we'll see an influx of new players. We will continue to struggle but finish outside of the relegation places (not that finishing in the relegation places guarantees relegation, anyway) and this will be lauded as another 'great achievement'. Drax will then be given another multi-year contract extension.
Death, taxes and needless contract extensions.
If witnessing Maidenhead's 8th defeat in ten games (two points from a possible 30) wasn't bad enough, I was to discover in the bar after the game that Bristol Rovers had lost 2-0 at home to Barnet (with Murdo's long-lost cousin, Izale, getting the Bees' first goal). The Gas are another club with an inept and out-of-touch Board. Despite Arsenal's earlier win, it was 'drown your sorrows' time (not that we need an excuse) and so, after another efficient job by Arc Taxis, we started a pub crawl at the recently-refurbished(?) Old Colonial, on the seafront.
The crawl included the bars of a number of decent-looking sea-front hotels (The York being the pick of the bunch), an empty gay(?) club called Eternity, rejection at the pier entrance (Mick wanted to go on, but apparently they shut the gates to the public at half six), another visit to the Tavern Inn the Town (where I played air guitar like the great Nigel Tufnel) and then a mad dash - via Tescos and a hastily-purchased carry-out - for the last train home.
The train ride was an entertaining one: we shared our drinks with a group of buxom wives en route to Swindon for a night out and some posh lads from Wood End who had spent the day drinking in Bath for no particular reason. One of the lads resembled a bearded Elijah Wood. In turn, he pointed out that Macleod (M) looks like Russ Abbott. I laughed so hard I almost cried.
Laughter and tears; synonymous with the MUFC Ltd performance and the day in general, actually. We really need to stay over in Weston next time. Macleod (M), Mick and I all agreed that we would do (but then we've said that before). Odds on us playing there in midweek, next season (or that we get relegated)?
The way things are going at the moment ...
Thursday, 3 November 2011
I was en route to Oxford United v Bristol Rovers, with the wife, when I first heard that Maidenhead United Youth (or Oxford City Youth) had drawn Bristol Rovers away in the FA Youth Cup. Immediately I text Macleod (M), who said he would be up for the game, if it were ever to take place. Fortunately the MUFC youngsters are in fine shape this season and saw off Oxford City (by the odd goal in nine, I think) to set up the tie. I'd already checked, via a post on the Bristol Rovers Alternative Forum, that the game would take place at the Memorial Stadium and, despite being absolutely knackered following our escapades in Leipzig, was really looking forward to it. Macleod (M) was initially going to drive but, on the day, it became apparent that Les had already agreed to take Logic and he was happy to give us a lift as well.
I met Macleod (M) in the Anchor 90 minutes before our agreed departure time. This gave us an opportunity to chat with Bobby P (who was in there after work) about various topics - including the recent CPO vote re Stamford Bridge and why Will Hendry's nickname could be Ali G - and to present Landlord Joe with the latest exhibits for the Anchor scarf museum (a light blue and white Chemnizter one and a black, blue and yellow Carl Zeiss Jena one). Logic arrived only a minute late (remarkable!), so we were just waiting on our designated driver. Now, Les has travelled from the likes of Leicester and Erith to watch the Magpies - so his durability is not to be questioned but - like Logic, his time-keeping can leave much to be desired. It was getting to the stage where we were debating not going - and instead watching the Champions League games on TV - when he finally walked through the door, nearly an hour late. Apparently an accident at junction 8/9 of the M4 was the cause of his tardy arrival. There was no way we would make the 7:30 kick off now but, with a clear run down the M4 to Bristol, we would be there in time for the second half. As it happened, Les made decent time and we entered the piecemeal rugby ground just as Rovers scored to go 2-0 up, with about 15 minutes left of the first period.
For the rest of the half, Maidenhead barely had a kick. Perhaps they were showing their higher-level opponents too much respect? Anyway, after the obligatory photos of Macleod (M) with the "down with this sort of thing!" signs - and a much-needed Cornish Pasty - the Ref blew for the interval. Only one side of the ground was open - the cricket pavilion-like DAS Stand and the Family Terrace housed the 300-odd crowd (which is more than watched Boreham Wood vs Maidenhead United in the Blue Sq Bet South last Monday!) - meaning that the Blackthorn End was unused. The Blackthorn End is the Rovers Kop - the Rovers Bell End - and is where I always stand when coming to watch the Gas at home. As such, this was obviously where I wanted to hang the flags. I asked a steward ... who directed me to another steward ... who directed me to another steward ... when - finally, and to my surprise - we got the green light. I don't think they were expecting three flags ... and they were certainly surprised by the size of one of them!
Dom and Sam Lock's half-time team-talk - and the flags (obviously!) - inspired those in black and white, and Maidenhead were infinitely more competitive after the break. A long-range strike halved the deficit and, for a ten minute-or so period, Rovers were on the back foot as United strove for an equaliser. Indeed, the third Rovers goal - when it came (from a long hoof by the home keeper, that was allowed to bounce) - was somewhat against the run of play. Rovers would bag another towards the end and so 4-1 was the slightly unflattering final score-line (4-2 might have been a fairer reflection, IMO).
On a personal level, it was a truly memorable night; seeing the MUFC flags hanging in the Blackthorn End and the black and white shirts of Maidenhead playing at a league ground (and not just any league ground!). It re-emphasised my thoughts that seeing United play at a league ground in the FA Cup is the real Holy Grail, not Aldershot Town (for the 19th time overall) at York Road (with the away fans - by shameful necessity - being allocated the Bell End).
Anyway, aside from MUFC flags hanging in the Blackthorn End, it had also been an enjoyable evening due to the fact it was an open and entertaining game played on the deck by two talented and confident teams. The Rovers side contained young professionals such as Darren Jefferies and Lamar Powell (both of whom have featured in the first team squad this season) and other highly-rated prospects such as Alefe Santos, Ellis Harrison, Sam Kamara and Shaquille Hunter (the latter only 16 years-old, on the bench for the first team last weekend, and thought to be a better prospect than youngest-ever Rovers player; Scott Sinclair). Hunter clearly had some tricks but was well-shackled throughout by both Maidenhead full-backs, particularly the left-sided one.
Devante McKain - whom, Drax commented in the Advertiser recently, is the most talented 17 year-old he has worked with - resembled a young Dominic Sterling at the back, while Magpies captain Dale Wright (who's father, Nigel, would chat to us at the end) showed deft touches upfront, where he played alongside Jonathon Hippolyte (who had run the line at the Cheltenham Saracens Reserves vs Maidenhead United Reserves game we had attended last November and was watched, on this occasion, by his father).
Both clubs can be proud, then, of young players who clearly have some real potential and who play the game the right way. And don't just take my word for it, here are some comments from various Rovers internet sources -
- From Gaslist -
Went to the Mem tonight and was rewarded with the best game of football I have seen this season.
Talk about good football, it was pass and move all the way through and was totally enjoyable. Every player was comfortable on the ball and look like they have great futures ahead of them.
The down side? Just about every premier league team had a scout there.
- From the Bristol Rovers official fan's forum -
I watched the match with about 300 others. It was a delight to see two teams using the full pitch both playing with attacking wingers...Maidenhead were no push overs and enjoyed a spirited second half scoring a superb long range goal. ~ Harry Buckle
I went last night with a few of the family, we don't normally go to games like that but have to say we really enjoyed it. As you say, talent and future prospects throughout the squad. ~ the bags
It was a thoroughly entertaining game with everybody giving it a go...the game was played in a good spirit...the scouts have plenty to tell their employers and this is the best set of kids I've seen since the Eastville days of Mabbutt, Kite, Palmer etc, mind you they'd also be impressed with the Maidenhead no 3, that boy can tackle!! ~ Biggsy
I also felt the Maidenhead #3 Zac Martin was very good. ~ Crackers Corner
Number 11 for maidenhead was good too. ~ brfc94
- From the Bristol Rovers official website -
Praise, then, for the Maidenhead No 3 and - assuming he was the left-back - it is certainly warranted. Bearing in mind that both Bobby Behzadi and Max Worsfold have been played out of position there on occasions this season, perhaps he might be fast-tracked into first team action?
That's the thing, though; there's talk on one Rovers forum of Jordan Goddard (who was the best player on the pitch on Tuesday night, IMO) not being offered a professional contract (and so likely to be released, sometime in the future) while Shaquille Hunter apparently interests Premiership clubs (and so is a contender to follow Scott Sinclair to somewhere like Swansea, via a big money move to Chelsea and multiple loan spells at Championship clubs). The Maidenhead youngster playing left-back, meanwhile, is more likely to see first team action at Marlow United going forward, IMO, regardless of whether he has the ability to succeed.
These talented Rovers youngsters will either get cherry-picked by the big clubs (for ever-decreasing amounts of money, thanks to the recently agreed Elite Player Performance Plan) - or be kept out of the first team by mediocre lower-league journeymen - before joining Weston-super-Mare. Maidenhead's talented youngsters, meanwhile, will likely be dual-registered with the likes of Beaconsfield SYCOB and raved about in the local press - but kept out of the first team by mediocre non-league journeymen - before joining Holyport.
After several very enjoyable trips to the West in recent years, it was time for the KSG to head East. Specifically, the old East Germany. Leipzig was proposed by Craig as a decent base. Flights to/ from Berlin Tegel, accommodation, and ICE train tickets were booked well in advance. Three games in three days were planned - Chemnitzer vs Arminia Bielefeld on the Friday night, Carl Zeiss Jena vs VfR Aalen on the Saturday, and VfLHalle 1896 vs 1.FC Lokomotive Leipzig on the Sunday. Things got off to a bad start, however, when in the days leading up to our departure it was noted that the kick-off time of the Halle game on the Sunday had been moved back by an hour (or that Soccerway had initially listed it incorrectly; one of the two) and so, bearing in mind our seats on the ICE from Leipzig to Berlin were pre-booked, we wouldn't be able to attend that fixture (which I was gutted about, as Lokomotive Leipzig was the team I was most looking forward to seeing).
Not unlike last year, when we turned up at SC Victoria Hamburg on the Friday night, only to find that the game had been brought forward, the Holy Grail of three games in three days was sadly not be be. And things would get worse before they got better, as our flight from Heathrow was delayed by a couple of hours - BA were unsurprisingly next to useless with their updates - meaning that we would miss our connecting ICE train; costing us around 60 Euros each, and the chance to enjoy a relaxed lunch at a Brauhaus (although we did have just about enough time for a quick pint in Berlin).
Things started to look up, however, on the ICE we did manage to catch (after photographing as many riot police as I've ever seen, escorting some fairly youthful and innocent looking St Pauli fans from the platform to their game with Union Berlin). Obviously we didn't have reserved seats on this particular train - and it was reasonably busy - but we were able to sit down. I initially thought that we had entered first class by mistake. We hadn't, which gives an idea of how clean and comfortable it was. To say that it put First Great Western (and other British rail companies) to shame would be a huge understatement.
As Macleod (C) and I began to master Super Stick Man Golf on his iPad (or Samsung equivalent), Craig interrupted us to point out that we would have minimal time - less than 15 minutes, in fact - at Leipzig station, before the connecting train to Chemnitz (thanks again, BA!). As such, a military operation was planned: Macleod (C) and I were to find lockers to store our luggage (despite our hotel being close to the station, we now wouldn't have time to check in), Craig was to get our tickets, and Macleod (M) was to sort a carry-out. As it would transpire, all bar the latter would complete their tasks with flying colours: despite Leipzig being the largest train terminus in Europe (measured by floor area) - containing over 140 shops - Macleod (M) swears blind that there was nowhere to be found selling beer (or alcoholic beer, at least). I believe him, others might not ... ;-)
The train to Chemnitz was absolutely rammed (standing room only), the heating was on constant and there were no operable windows. Very uncomfortable. The scenery - typified by vast, flat fields - was a welcome distraction, as was the rather cute and very well-behaved dog, who was being transported in the handbag of a rather attractive female. While Leipzig station has clearly had a fair bit of money spent on it, in recent years, Chemnitz's turn has yet to come. Indeed, the whole city looked like it could do with a fair amount of regeneration. After debating whether or not we could walk to the ground - and stopping for a photograph with a Sex Kino in the foreground and a huge plume of smoke from a factory in the background - we jumped on a bus that happened to be passing, which was full of football fans (nearly all wearing Chemnizter's light blue and white colours, and several wearing scarves bearing Chemnitzer's previous name: FC Karl Marx Stadt). No fares, and less than ten minutes later, we were outside the ground: the Stadion an der Gellertstraße, affectionately known as the "Fischerwiese".
There seemed to be an impromptu tailgate party taking place in the adjacent car park and one nearby gentleman - who was wearing CFC Ultras paraphernalia and supping from a can of lager - immediately directed us to an old tram-shed, nearby, upon hearing our English voices. Here, in the CFC equivalent of the Anchor (or TISA's Railway Club), we mingled with other fans enjoying the 1 EUR bottles of (slightly warm) Krombacher and the various posters, flags, and photos on display. Then, after queuing briefly for tickets, my GCSE German came in handy when ascertaining that it was going to cost us as little as 36 (sechun dreißig!) EUR to get in; that's the total for four, so 9 EUR each for level three football). Block 4 was apparently sold out, so we were sold tickets for Block 5. This was ultimately irrelevant, though, as you could walk between the various terraced blocks as you pleased. A scarf was purchased for the Anchor scarf mural before we positioned ourselves, close to a refreshment hatch, to watch the game.
The bright floodlights beamed down onto the pitch and the decent-sized crowd (which looked much larger - almost double - the 4,950 announced) were in fine voice, creating a good atmosphere. Arminia Bielefeld had brought a very respectable amount - esp. bearing in mind the distance they would've had to travel - and their fans, in the away pen next to the tree-lined part of the ground opposite us, introduced themselves by letting off some firecrackers (with smoke lingering over the players for a time). Chemnitzer took an early lead: the name of Bastian Henning - who had scored a stupendous overhead volley for VfL Lubeck, when we saw them last October (whether he is following us around, or us him, is yet to be clarified!) - was announced over the tannoy, but further research would indicate that he wasn't substituted on until the 85th minute. Bielefeld - beset by financial problems and having endured consecutive relegations - fought back and would equalise early in the second half. Their diminutive, blond-haired #10 - Marc Rzatkowski - stood out, IMO, as the game's best player.
Excellent sausages were washed down by a few pints of lager, photos were taken, and the ground briefly explored - Macleod (M) and I went in with the flag-waving Ultras directly behind the goal, several of whom would clamber up the fences to voice their objection to a perceived refereeing misjudgment - before we had to leave early, just as the game was heating up and starting to get quite fractious. We had decided to catch the penultimate train back to Leipzig, as getting the last train would involve a lengthy bus ride, part of the way, and an post-midnight arrival back at the hotel (which we'd yet to check into!). We wouldn't miss any goals, it would transpire, with the points shared; CFC ending the weekend in 14th, Bielefeld in 19th (one off the bottom).
The train ride back was, thankfully, much less crowded; we were able to sit and enjoy our chosen alcoholic refreshments. Macleod (C) and I had decided upon bottles of Mixer - 60% beer and 40% cola, with added X. Fortunately it tasted much better than you'd think! After finally checking into the hotel - and a quick freshen up - we headed to the rather decent hotel bar. Macleod (M), then Craig, would head off to bed not long after Bayer Leverkusen had completed a 1-0 win at Freiburg on the TV. Macleod (C) and I then hit the town and almost immediately found a decent English pub on Nikolaistr. called the King's Head (soon to be christened the Jock Bull, owing to its collection of Scottish regulars). From here we ended up in a nearby nightclub, which was also rather good. However, after yours truly had seemingly offended a group of rather excitable Turkish youngsters (sparking a bout of handbags), Macleod (C) and I lost each other. Rather unnecessarily, I went back to the King's Head, where I was treated to further pints with the Head Scotsman. He would very kindly direct back to the Marriott Hotel a little later ... unfortunately, it was only when my room key didn't work that it became apparent we weren't actually staying in the Marriott! After a stumble around the bat-infested tram station - and a phone call to Macleod (M) - I eventually made it back to the Novotel, as the clocks approached 6am. :-O
After little more than three hours sleep, I was up and again back at Leipzig station, munching on some much-needed Käsebrot prior to our train to Jena. This was another lengthy ride - involving a change (at Weißenfels) - although the scenery was again picturesque. That said, arguably the abiding image of the journey was the Leunawerke - one of the biggest chemical industrial complexes in Germany - which had not one, but two, stops of its own! It was a lovely, sunny, autumnal day as we arrived in Jena; strolling through a park, and over the River Saale, towards the ground - the Ernst-Abbe-Sportfeld. Purchases at the Carl Zeiss Jena Megastore - which obviously does a decent trade in anti-Rot-Weiß Erfurt gear - included a couple of scarves (we got one for the Anchor scarf museum, and Macleod (M) brought a Bristol Rovers-esque one for himself), plus a mobile phone 'w@nk sock' for my Dad. We then waited for the Ticket Office to open whilst admiring the rolling hills in the distance ... and also the persistence of an elderly 'God botherer' with a bike.
After purchasing our 10 EUR tickets (Callum and I would have our first encounter, in the queue, with the Wolf; a long-haired, black vest-wearing, middle-aged die-hard, who resembled the Gladiator character and had an impressive tattoo of the Carl Zeiss Jena badge on his arm), we entered the ground and enjoyed a couple more pints of Kostritzer dunkel - fast becoming a firm favourite - whilst seated on the wooden benches outside a clubhouse of some description (Fan-Projekt?). After marvelling at the huge array of scarves in said clubhouse, it was time to take our place with the Ultras, to the right of an impressive scoreboard - apparently one of the first of it's kind in East Germany, when installed in 1978 - inside the stadium (complete, sadly, with an athletics track).
Unlike at Chemnitzer the previous night, the CZJ Ultras were abysmal. While there was a fair bit of flag waving going on, the chanting was sub-standard and the ring-leader - a callow looking fellow, with glasses and a hat that recent X-Factor winner Matt Cardle might wear - seemingly didn't even know how to switch on his microphone (yet continued to sing into it regardless!). Perhaps this general lack of enthusiasm was to be expected, bearing in mind CZJ's lamentable form (they were propping up the table). The players also seemed similarly unsure of themselves, so a scrappy game ensued. Not that this stifled our enjoyment: the sun was shining brightly, the sausages were even better than at Chemnitzer (Callum and I bumped into the Wolf again, when queuing up for seconds!), while the floodlights really were something else!
Best. Floodlights. Ever.
As news filtered through that Chelsea were 2-1 up against Arsenal (much to Craig's satisfaction), the game we were watching sprang into life during the second half. Firstly, Jan Simak opened the scoring for the home side following the award of a soft-looking penalty. Simak was a name that we recognised and it transpires that the 33-year-old midfielder has previously appeared for the likes of Hanover 96, Bayer Leverkusen, Sparta Prague, and VfB Stuttgart. Indeed, I was surprised to read that he has only one cap for the Czech national team. As befitting a seemingly relegation-threatened side, though, CZJ gifted Aalen an equaliser: Macleod (M) missing the Willie Tucker-esque gift from the home side's keeper. Simak would restore CZJ's lead, again from the spot (for his seventh goal in 13 games this season), before things really started to unravel for the side that knocked Newport County out in the Quarter-Finals of the 1980/81 European Cup Winners' Cup (before losing to Dinamo Tbilisi in the Final). And we would miss both of Aalen's two quick-fire goals, that would win them the match!
Distracted by news from Stamford Bridge that Arsenal had won 5-3 (much to my delight, and Craig's disgust!), we were only alerted to the 2-2 and then 2-3 scores when the away fans went crazy. Small in number (we counted about 30), they made a decent racket, while many remained shirt-less throughout. Their microphoned Top Boy cut an imposing figure, even from a distance, with rippling muscles (no doubt honed by repeated swirlings of a huge black and white flag) and A A L E N stencilled across his shoulders in Germanic lettering. In stark contrast to the away fans celebrations, the groans around us were clearly audible; seemingly of a 'seen this all before' nature. Matt Cardle slumped to the ground, his head in his hands. Too much, too soon for him, methinks. Wolf, admirably, tried to rouse the troops - making significantly more noise that Cardle did, without the need for a microphone - and he might need to consider coming out of retirement. News of hated rival Rot-Weiß Erfurt's 1-0 win, at high-flying Heidenheim 1846, hardly helped the disconsolate mood of the vast majority of the 4,350 filing out of the ground at the final whistle.
Rather than follow the same route through the park, that had brought us to the game, we headed under a rather vertically-challenged underpass (cue great album cover photo) towards the town centre; passing some typically striking Gothic churches and historical buildings, the University library, and at least one Chuck Norris-stickered lamp-post, before taking residence on a table outside the packed 'Cheers' American sports bar on Johannisplatz (showing the various Bundesliga matches). Here we would be bemused by a Scottish pipe band playing nearby - you couldn't make it up! - and master the response "Jena verloren" to the many passers-by who, when noticing our CZJ scarves and programmes, asked how they had gotten on (many were shocked and delighted, in equal measure, upon discovering that we were English visitors to their very pleasant city). Once the Bundesliga matches had finished - and Cheers had emptied of replica shirt-wearing Borussia Dortmund fans - we were able to get a table inside and enjoy some burgers (mine was delicious). Man City vs Wolves flickered on the many TV screens, before we headed back to the station to catch our return train.
Upon arrival back in Leipzig, we had another quick drink in the hotel bar after using the WiFi in the lobby to check the details of MUFC Ltd's 5-0 FA Cup win at Godalming Town. We discussed the upcoming 1st Round Proper draw: I predicted that Maidenhead would finally get to face a League team - at home - albeit one that we've played recently in non-league. E.g. AFC Wimbledon. Or Aldershot Town ...
We then headed to the Jock Bull (surprisingly no Head Scotsman, this time around) and stayed there until gone 1am, when Craig (possibly fed up of my ribbing of the Chelsea-Arsenal score?!) retired to the room. Bundesliga and EPL highlights had been on a continuous loop and, whilst I will never, EVER tire of John Terry falling flat on his face prior to RVP's second goal at Stamford Bridge, other images - Marco Reus' double for Gladbach against Hanover 96; Raul handling one in and Huntelaar scoring two for Schalke against Hoffenheim; Mario Gomez scoring two for Bayern in their 4-0 win over Nürnberg; Thomas Tuchel (a future Chelsea manager, IMO) looking mightily aggrieved at Mainz's 3-1 home defeat to Werder Bremen; Timo Hildebrand sitting in the Veltins-Arena stands, playing with his mobile whilst wearing a hideous white knitted cardigan - will forever be seared into my brain (and not in a good way).
Head Scotsman and others had mentioned that Chocolates was the recommended nightclub; Macleod (C) and I had unsuccessfully attempted to find it the previous night. This time, with Macleod (M) in tow, we decided to get a taxi. And it transpired that it wasn't very far away. However, both Chocolates - and 21's, across the road - seemed, from the outside at least, to be full of young men in tight white t-shirts (if you know what I mean). After deliberating what to do, we spotted a sign that read "Night Fever: 70s and 80s Discotheque" and headed straight in. I think we were all fully expecting it to be empty, and for us to be leaving not long after paying 5 EUR or whatever to get in. Instead, we didn't have to pay and were presented with a maze-like basement that was absolutely heaving; we had inadvertently found Smokey's Leipzig!
Within minutes, Macleod (M) was at the bar impressing a Malawi student with his knowledge of the landlocked African country, while I was soon cornered - literally - by the Living Dead; there were women in there old enough to be Macleod (M)'s mother! There were some very decent looking females - some heterosexual, some clearly not - in attendance as well, mind, plus several people wearing fancy dress for Halloween (including a bloke wrapped head-to-toe in bandages). There was a really good vibe, albeit no thanks to the Derek Jameson-lookalike on the decks! Cheered on a harem of MILF groupies, Jameson cleared the dance-floor on more than one occasion with a horrendous choice of song. He also made the mistake of playing an Oasis track (Wonderwall, I think), leading me to bombard him for the rest of the night with requests for more of the same! Needless to say, we owned the dance-floor (!) and were virtually the last out; making it back to our hotel rooms at approximately 7am.
Despite no game to go to now, on the Sunday, it was another early start. We did a bit of wandering around/ sight-seeing ... and I'm glad that we did as it is easy to see why Leipzig was named, by the New York Times, as a top ten city to visit in 2010. There were monuments to Bach, Goethe, and Mendelssohn - and spectacular churches galore - while the Barfußgäßchen was chock-full of restaurants. We would eat in Kildare's (I'm still not sure how I managed to finish off the huge and very hot Chili Con Carne!) before - upon discovering that the Jock Bull was closed (and not finding anywhere else showing the Leeds vs Cardiff game for Murdo) - heading back to the hotel. It would be here, milling around in the lobby, playing Lego Pirates of the Caribbean on the Xbox (again, you couldn't make it up!), that we would find out via the WiFi that Maidenhead had, as I'd predicted, drawn Aldershot Town. Could've been better (e.g. Sheffield Wednesday away), could've been worse (e.g. Basingstoke Town away).
The ICE got us from Leipzig to Berlin in next to no time and - after a bus ride to the rather tired-looking Tegel Airport, and one final bier - we were soon airborne and heading for England. Neither the extreme tiredness (from all the travelling, plus the lack of sleep), the air-con (which made me nauseous), nor the super-annoying kids - from the Samuari Karate club in Hereford - surrounding us on the plane, could detract from the fact that it had been another absolutely superb KSG trip to Germany. Discussions have already taken place as to where we will go next year. I certainly wouldn't mind a return to the East. Perhaps we should hold fire on deciding, though, until Bastian Henning's next move?!