"As for Maidenhead, the conga (which was amusing) aside, quite a strange bunch really – some the oddest chants I've ever heard at a football match" ~ localboy86, Amber Planet forum, 26th April 2015

Monday 21 October 2013

People in glass houses ...

... shouldn't throw stones.

People who have been openly critical of the MUFC Ltd Board certainly shouldn't 'throw' bins!

Maidenhead United 1-3 Dorchester Town

Last Saturday was a thoroughly depressing day, both on and off the pitch, at York Road.

At least it was for the Berkshire Magpies ... those from Dorset, conversely, seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves!

TBH, I am not sure if/ when these will be uploaded to the Mothership.

Footage is probably already on it's way to the League, however, to identify and punish th'brainless morons' *rolls eyes* who let off smoke bombs (Dorchester; note plural), invaded the pitch (both; Dorchester first) and slung bins over the advertising hoardings (both; Dorchester first).

Some of the language was disgusting as well ... one bloke got right in my face, as I was leaving; so much so that I could feel the spittle spewed as he launched into a foul-mouthed rant whilst jabbing me in the arm and chest with his finger. 

"I'll fucking swear when I fucking want!" foamed the Maidenhead United FC Ltd Chairman, as I asked him to stop effin and jeffin, after confirming that I would pick up the bin I had man-handled in order to prevent the lifetime ban that he had subsequently threatened (bearing in mind Maidenhead's wretched form, a lifetime season ticket might prove to be a more effective penalty!) 

"Watch me get into trouble for this," 

I had remarked, when lifting the (empty) bin over the advertising hoardings (but - deliberately - not onto the actual playing area), following Hippolyte Jnr's late tap-in.

"whilst others get away, scot-free, with various misdemeanors".

Punches thrown (that shaven-headed, pink jumper-wearing Merthyr Tydfil fan in Stripes; Eastleigh the other week), constant bad language (including, as is now evident, the Chairman), pitch invasions (Newport fans; Dorchester fans; Maidenhead Reading fans :-P ), spitting/ throwing things at the opposition keeper (Billericay fans - as mentioned in the referee's report and discussed at a subsequent Board meeting - plus Maidenhead fans vs St Albans and, more recently, Slough*)

* BTW – describing the sweary, irrelevant chants of the Leodensians as 'fantastic support at the Bell End' is trolling, pure and simple.

What happened to those 'brainless morons'?

Sweet FA.

None were ejected, while the clearly-identifiable Merthyr fan was even allowed in for a game just a few weeks after lumping Willie T full in the face!

"We're only volunteers, what can we do?" is the tried and tested excuse. Only 'more professional' when it suits, eh?

Perhaps the issue of drinking on the terraces needs to be looked at, then, likewise the £2 a pint pre-match drink promotions?

And maybe a proportion of the budget should be spent on proper stewarding? (like at Ebbsfleet ... Arf!)

Otherwise - and this is a more serious point - someone may well get hurt.

Then all the 'family club' guff really will look stupid ... or, if you would prefer, 'brainless' and 'moronic'.

"Take responsibility for your actions," demanded a rather animated Educated Left Foot (as chippy as the Chairman ... drinking on the terraces, per chance?)

Fair enough.

I will hereby prohibit myself from games at York Road until at least the end of this season (the current match-day experience is a far-from-enjoyable one, anyway, plus I now won't have to continually justify my non-attendance to the MMS).

Speaking of Educated Left Foot and the MMS, though, what about the member of their group who (voluntarily) went over the hoardings (after Maidenhead's goal, and before the bin did)?

Will they be on the receiving end of a spittle-spewing, finger-jabbing, expletive-laden tirade from the Chairman?

Or - and this is the point that I am at pains to make - is it one set of rules for some and a completely different set for others?

PS. Is there anyone left who doesn't share my view – first expressed several years ago – that multi-year contract extensions for the manager are an unnecessary extravagance?

PPS. I love Dorchester's Partick Thistle-esque away kit!

Sunday 13 October 2013

Marching On Together? No.

Maidenhead United 1-3 Slough Town

Shock! Horror! I attended a Maidenhead United home game yesterday; my first of the season. As such, I didn't need to rely on Educated Left Foot's Tweets for match updates. Instead, I posted some of my own. Not everyone is on Tw@tter, however, and so - for those sensible people who aren't - I will reproduce and expand upon them, on here, to paint a fuller picture of the Magpies' embarrassing B&B Cup exit.

^^^ The blog post linked to above can be found here. I counted nine away fans, then, in a crowd of 151. There may have been more, but not many.

^^^ This tweet generated a few bites from Slough fans (or Slough residents, at least). 'We're the bigger club,' they whined. Maybe so. A bigger club that's been playing in division(s) below us since 2000/01, though, and one which doesn't have it's own ground. 

^^^ Maidenhead started well, both on and off the pitch. In the previous 4-1 game, Drax's boyz were 2-0 up after about ten minutes. Slough - backed by at least 20 fans this time (five per flag handkerchief) - could've had no complaints if history had repeated itself. Those leading the Magpie chanting, meanwhile, seemed to have northern accents ...

^^^ After wearing green last time, Slough were now in a purple away kit with yellow trim (and I, regrettably, had purple chinos on). No need to panic, just yet, though ...

^^^ I didn't check the match-day programme, but presume that we are still sponsored by the lap-dancing club as well? Educated Left Foot, meanwhile, had tweeted that Slough's lead was deserved. Not sure what game he was watching.

^^^ It transpired that those responsible for the aforementioned transgressions were Leeds United fans, one of whom lived in Reading and had persuaded his mates to come along to this fixture. They soon tired of cheering for Maidenhead and lapsed into their usual match-day ditties. 

The MMS, meanwhile, are a collective of (mainly) Reading FC fans  - encouraged and augmented by Educated Left Foot - who have, over recent seasons, been coming down to York Road to watch Maidenhead United.

They once loudly celebrated, down the Canal End, after learning that Reading had scored a goal ...

We - accompanied by the Youth - countered with a chant of "There's only one team in Berkshire"

They subsequently moaned about this ('You should be grateful for our support' was the gist) on the old Advertiser forum ... 

We kindly explained - as if we should have to - that Reading fans can expect to be on the receiving end of some light-hearted jibes from Maidenhead fans, esp. after so obviously celebrating a Reading goal at a Maidenhead home game.

They printed out a batch of calling cards which they placed on the bar in Stripes ... 

We took most/ all of them and uploaded the following image to Tw@tter during the Fancy Dresslemania XIII pre-match pub crawl: 


Now, these MMS blokes are - seemingly to a man - the type that spend almost all of their waking hours on Tw@tter; no doubt proud of their hundreds of Followers and several thousand Tweets (highlighting the use of innuendo on Coronation Street; endless photos of their newly-purchased multi-coloured trainers; dogs in football scarves etc., etc.). As such, it was perhaps inevitable that there would soon be some references to GMOSC on there.

Last year I noted one of them poking fun at a denim jacket - with a large heavy metal band logo on the back (not my thing, admittedly) - worn at a midweek home game by an old friend of ours. 

Earlier this season, meanwhile, another mentioned 'some shitty blog that no-one reads' (now this blog might well be shitty, but there's a 'Total Pageviews' box - on the left-hand side - and not all of those are me!). 

Then last month, after Maidenhead's 3-1 home defeat to Eastleigh, there was a (relative) torrent of Tweets (both @maidenheadutd - the original and still the most followed Maidenhead United handle - and @gomadstopcaring). 

I can only assume that there had been a special promotion, on Fosters, in Stripes! 

Below is a sample conversation:

As potty-mouthed as Chairman Who Knows His Football Swearing. 

Anyway, back to yesterday ... 

^^^ Maidenhead were still dominating play, despite being behind, and so it was little surprise to me when we equalised. Danny Green, Reece Tison-Lascaris and Harry Pritchard clearly had the beating of their respective men. The diminutive Slough keeper, meanwhile, got a mild soaking of Fosters in the post-goal celebrations. Regular readers of the blog will know what I mean by 'Rasher on it'. #shathimself

^^^ After finally dragging themselves level, Maidenhead then proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot; conceding two soft goals - and effectively throwing the game away - in the minutes immediately prior to the half-time whistle. They could justifiably have been booed off at the break, but the only significant noise - from either set of supporters - came from the Berkshire Whites. Apparently Leeds are Champions of Europe. I must've missed that.

^^^ Into the second half. Green, RTL and Pritchard continued to impress for the home side, and the chances kept coming. As he had at Gosport, however, Michael Malcolm missed a header that can indisputably be classified as an 'absolute sitter'. T*ttenham Hotspur reportedly paid £1M to W@nky Wanderers for Malcolm when he was a 14 year-old prospect. Trust the Spuds! The Slough CF, BTW, was Ed Smith.

^^^ By this time, Daniel Darlington from the Advertiser had also tweeted that Slough 'fully deserved' their lead. Again, I cannot agree with this. Yes, the visitors were playing well - presumably their best performance of the season - but a Maidenhead side that looked off their game were still the ones pressing. As per the above Tweet, Slough's keeper - Jake Somerville - was impressive. I would give him the MoM nod (which tells you something, methinks). Incidentally, Carl Taylor was finally sacked - if I remember correctly - after an embarrassing home defeat in which the opposing keeper was the game's stand-out player. Just saying!

^^^ The Magpies were starting to huff and puff at this stage, and the Bell End's interest in the game was waning. Maidenhead United flattering to deceive in front of a 'bumper' home crowd, Cloughie burying his head in the sand when it suits him, death and taxes.

^^^ 1.FC 1899 Bruchsal vs VfR Mannheim in the Oberliga Baden-Württemberg was better quality than this.

^^^ The inebriated, northern oiks - who claimed that they are currently banned from Elland Road - were becoming really rather annoying now, as they persisted with their Leeds songs and bantered with the home fans. "You're just a small town near Bradford," taunted the Bell End, "You're just a town full of Leeds fans," came the response. I was fully expecting them, at some point, to start banging on about Plusnet broadband!

Non League Day.


In practice, is NLD - as a Dover Athletic fan, who I follow on Tw@tter, so eloquently put it - a 'patronising load of w@nk' ... and unlikely to have any long-lasting positive impact?

IMO, Yes.

Non league clubs like Maidenhead United need to stop acting like the overweight, unattractive bird who is desperate to intermittently shag the non-committal, unfaithful bloke simply because she doesn't think that she can get anyone else.

^^^ United - clearly missing the presence, upfront, of the still-injured Richard Pacquette - were getting increasingly desperate now. Town, not co-incidentally, were looking increasingly comfortable. Their two centre halves had been solid throughout, certainly more so than their Maidenhead counterparts. I love Mark Nisbet (he scored at King's Lynn, afterall) and have heard good things about Matt Ruby. Both are injury-prone, however. Chopping and changing centre halves - whether through choice or otherwise - is not a good idea, IMO. Drax needs to decide upon a durable partnership and stick.

^^^ Telling, methinks, that no-one seemed particularly surprised nor angry at the end (except maybe LCG Dave!). Results like this one have rather typified Drax's tenure as manager. He can (and will) make lame - now much-derided - excuses and/ or threaten the players that they'll soon be out of a job. What will actually change? Nothing. Meh.

^^^ This is a reference to a recent Advertiser article. @therealdrax, meanwhile, remains one of the very best parody accounts out there ... and is one of the reasons, IMO, why Drax should remain as Maidenhead United boss! (Another being that I have zero confidence in the Board replacing him with someone better.)

^^^ Top eight?? :-D 

When will people learn that the brandy and cigars should be left well alone, at least until we've finished one place above the drop zone (or have won the AGM Cup again)? Instead, certain people continue to over-excite themselves after a half-decent August and September.

Anyway, I'll finish with some (attempted) funnies of my own:

^^^ 'Foul & Abusive language is strictly prohibited within the ground'. Or not. Depends on who it is. (Craig's first competitive Maidenhead United home game, incidentally, since before you-know-what.)

^^^ A mirror in Stripes? Presumably this is so the players can take a long, hard look at themselves ... once they've finished giving each other marks out of ten, of course, and only if they can actually be bothered going into the bar.

^^^ Only another £159,995.82 to go! 

^^^ Sneak preview of the Conf South league table, this time next month?

Monday 7 October 2013

Away Day Diary: Heidelberg (September 2013)

Previous KSG 'Beer, Football and Sausages' jollies to Hamburg and Leipzig had been enjoyable, but, for various reasons, neither had resulted in the fabled 'three-game weekend'. Would this year be different? Yes, oh yes!

Craig had proposed Heidelberg and Mannheim as possible destinations for this year's sojourn as early as May (after Hoffenheim had escaped relegation from the Bundesliga following a play-off with Kaiserslautern). We booked flights to and from Frankfurt soon after the (provisional) fixture release in early July.

However, disaster struck, or so it seemed, in early September when the weekend fixtures were finalised. As Craig hoped/ thought, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs FC Schalke 04 was on Saturday and 1. FC Kaiserslautern vs TSV 1860 München the following day, but SV Waldhof Mannheim vs 1. FC Kaiserslautern II in the Regionalliga was on Sunday rather than Friday night.

Back to the drawing board ... and 1. FC 1899 Bruchsal vs VfR Mannheim, in the Oberliga Baden-Württemberg, to the rescue! We booked hotels in Heidelberg and were finally all set. I would travel to Germany within days of returning from a week in Sissi, Crete. Therefore, I was distracted from my usual pre-trip research (whilst bored at work). As such, I didn't properly appreciate the following: 

  • Largely thanks to its historic castle, Heidelberg is a popular tourist destination
  • Its historic university - and also the one in nearby Mannheim - affords Heidelberg the status of a 'bonafide student town' (#freshersweek)
  • The cluster of US Army bases (many soon to be closed) in the south - and particularly south-west - of Germany means that many of the tourists and students who flock to the area are American

The KSG are not backwards in coming forward. As such, we usually meet and chat with two or three memorable characters per night on these weekend trips. Heidelberg - party town Heidelberg - was something else: it was two or three memorable characters per hour!

We're usually pretty good at photographing these people and cataloguing exactly where we've been. It seemed to me - and I know Macleod (M) feels the same - that we've forgotten nearly as much about this trip as we remember about it! It was that type of place, that type of weekend. Don't think, however, that a short and sweet blog post will be the result. Oh, no! 

'The films of Quentin Tarantino' was a recurring KSG discussion topic throughout the weekend, and, taking inspiration from 'Kill Bill', I thought about splitting this weighty tome into instalments. Harvey Weinstein ain't the boss of me, though, and so - deep breath - here goes! 

(A hearty well done if you read it all. A hearty well done AND a crate of MiXery if you read it all in one sitting!)

^^^ In hindsight, the tone for the weekend was probably set whilst having Costa coffee (don't laugh) at Terminal 5. An attractive older lady sat alongside Macleod (M) and asked him to take a photograph of her all-female group (who were en route to Barcelona). He did as requested. We have no proof of this.

Hey ho. Unlike Leipzig, our BA flight was unaffected by delays. However, the ICE train from Frankfurt was late, so we were forced to sprint across the airport train station to catch the next regional departure. We missed it by seconds.

Fortunately, there was only a 15-minute wait until the next one, allowing the above photo to be taken (good spot, Murdo, re the cola bottle in the vending machine!). At this point, we would also encounter the first - of many - Americans on the trip. These four were two retired couples from Asheville, NC, who asked us for directions to the Marriott - which they pronounced weirdly - Hotel. We used Google Maps on our phones to help them out and naturally got chatting. It transpires that they thought we were Germans, speaking English to each other to practice our language skills!

^^^ The HQ of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, directly opposite the main entrance to Heidelberg Hbf. I took this photo as Craig and Macleod (M) worked out precisely where our hotel was. It turned out to be a ten-minute walk - in the opposite direction to the Altstadt. We would pass Mandy's Railway Diner en route, whilst an eagle-eyed Craig spotted the Gaststätte Friedensglocke. 

^^^ The newly-opened B&B Hotel was a good 'un (an improvement on the Ibis Budget in Glasgow, for example). Whilst waiting for the 2pm check-in, we enjoyed bottles of lager (EUR 1.70) from the reception area vending machine! I also took photos of the relevant tables and weekend fixtures in Die Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung.

^^^ We soon headed back out, stopping at the aforementioned Gaststätte Friedensglocke for a few beers in pleasant sunshine before our train to Bruchsal.

^^^ Not far to go.

^^^ Nice photo of Macleod (C). Ahem.

^^^ Now, I had undertaken a little bit of research on Bruchsal, and so was aware of its claims to fame:  

  • The prison
  • The largest producer of asparagus in Europe
  • Birthplace of former tennis player Anke Huber
  • Twinned with Cwmbran

Evidently, Bruchsal also has a red telephone box! We enjoyed a few pints in the pub in the background of the above photo - as locals gathered for the TV showing of Karlsruher SC at FC Erzgebirge Aue - before beginning the 20-minute walk to the Sportzentrum.

^^^ The entrance to the ground reminded me somewhat of North Leigh.

^^^ I was expecting the worst, having looked at the website, but - whilst very much a work-in-progress - the ground is already significantly more impressive than Altwood or Braywick (which is what I had, perhaps naively, envisioned). 

^^^ I had scoffed when Macleod (M) mentioned their average home attendance was 351. More fool me. The crowd was (relatively) decent.

^^^ Team sheet, as held up for me by a bespectacled gentleman in the VfR Mannheim dugout. The standard seemed similar to the Conference South, although the players were nearly all youngsters, and the football was very technical. Number 16 for the home side - Francisco Jose Rodriguez Carmona - the standout. Expect to see him playing higher up sometime soon. #TolgaCigerci, #BrittAssombalonga, #DontMentionBallySmart

^^^ "You are groundhoppers, yes?" Errr ... 

^^^ Stephan Groß, AKA Big Steve or Kloppatoni. Truly inspirational. He was presumably bitterly disappointed that his side conceded a late equaliser, as they had been the better team. VfR Mannheim, incidentally, won the national title in 1949 after a victory over Borussia Dortmund!

^^^ It is safe to say that the ground is not yet the finished article! (Check out the mud heap behind the goal!) However, big things seem to be happening, so perhaps one day we'll see Bruchsal in the Bundesliga (although, currently, they don't even appear in the 'Clubs Profiled' on the helpful Abseits website!).

^^^ The PA man doing his thing at half-time, which included playing a remixed version of 'The End' by The Doors. Truly bizarre.

^^^ Thumbs up from Herr Lechner, the referee (OK, so he's not giving the thumbs up in this photo, but, trust me, he did soon after).

^^^ Not all of these beers were for us!

^^^ They ran out of sausages at the football, so we stopped off - at the kebab shop by the station - for dinner. Very nice. Back in Heidelberg, we took a bus to the Altstadt ... along with a load of 18-year-old American students dressed in lederhosen (who were open-mouthed at hearing Murdo swear in public!). Macleod (C) chatted to a pink jumper-wearing young German, who spoke with a perfect English accent. He recommended Untere Straße ... As it happened, after a quick look at the Old Bridge, we headed into the nearby Irish bar - Brass Monkey - but it was too busy. Onto another, more typically German pub around the corner. Here, Macleod (C) and I made the mistake of ordering pints of Dunkelweizen Radler ... dark wheat beer with lemonade, basically! Yuk.

^^^ As Craig and Macleod (M) headed for the hotel, Macleod (C) and I stumbled - inadvertently - upon the aforementioned Untere Straße. It was heaving and reminded me of Bar Street, Faliraki, back in its late 90s glory days. Somewhat open-mouthed (and not sure where to start), we paid visits - of varying brevity - to Der Kleine Mohr (Astra on tap and very smoky), Kaiser (packed - and with dancing on tables - but significantly smaller than it looked and nigh-on impossible to get served) and Jinx (the bouncers wouldn't let us in; "I don't know who you are"). Back down the street, we walked, somewhat dejectedly, past Der Kleine Mohr again. The pink jumper-wearing German from the earlier bus ride into town rapped on the window and beckoned us to re-enter.

^^^ We sat at the same barside table we'd vacated a little earlier. Soon enough, 'Pink Jumper' and his girlfriend had ditched their friend(s) and joined us. It was a lot of fun chatting and drinking with them over the next hour (or so). They were both students - albeit not at the main university in town - and had been going out for just four months. His name was Martin Klein, and, as aforementioned, his English accent was perfect. He was from Erfurt (in the old East Germany) but supported - and used to have a season ticket at - Chelsea ("Who is your Premier team?"). She - Marie - was from Kiel but supported St Pauli (boo!). They were both suitably impressed by our stories of travelling throughout their country and also by our knowledge of German football (an example being when I correctly named Holstein as Marie's hometown team; she, in return, informed us their nickname is the Storks). "We love Germany ... we'd live here if we could speak the language," said we. "Why don't you learn the language then?" was their reply. Errr ...

^^^ The following morning, Macleod (C) and I both needed a 'pick me up'. Fortunately, a couple of warm bottles of Heidelberger Radler (purchased from the hotel vending machine - and opened - the night before) did the trick before we met with the Breakfast Club. They had just finished frühstück at the aforementioned (and very good) Mandy's Railway Diner.

^^^ Craig had mentioned - and a taxi driver later confirmed - a festival in Heidelberg throughout Saturday. Apparently, on the last Saturday of each month, the cities/ towns in the region take it in turn to host the frivolities. What luck! The above tables were full in no time. Chas Und Dave were more-than-decent, BTW, banging out tunes such as '(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66'.

^^^ I really would've kicked myself if we hadn't taken a photo with this character (Jonathan von King?). "Why? ... Warum?" we asked him, re his costume. He shrugged his shoulders. "Warum Nicht?" was a typical response from us when asked similar questions at Fancy Dresslemania over the years. Good lad! I enjoyed sitting here, drinking in the sunshine, and could've spent all day in the same spot discussing British Knights baseball caps, the best lines/ characters from Early Doors and Phoenix Nights, favourite Tarantino films, etc. Alas, we had a train to catch and another football match to attend ...

^^^ The much-derided Hoffenheim play in Sinsheim, also the home of the Car & Technology Museum ... with several aeroplanes on display. That made for a bizarre backdrop as we walked to the ground outdoor bar area, where both sets of fans ate and drank together.

^^^ It was packed. Schalke, perhaps unsurprisingly, seemed to have the numbers. Despite - or, more accurately, because of - their hated rivals Borussia Dortmund becoming seemingly every football hipster's latest wet dream, I quite like 'Die Königsblauen'. They're a massive club but rarely successful. The German Newcastle United? Anyway, the 2000/01 footage of them celebrating a first title since 1958, only for Bayern to pip them with an injury-time winner - via a controversially-awarded indirect free kick inside the penalty area - is pretty heart-breaking. 

^^^ The mullet in the background makes up for the lack of sausages in the shot (there were plenty about, and needless to say, we did enjoy some. Sausages, that is, not mullets).

^^^ I remember the time ... when I was (inexplicably) photographed with the SC Paderborn 07 team coach in the Green Man pub car park near Wembley Stadium. This photo is nearly as random/ good.

^^^ Decent seats in a decent - if identikit - stadium. The Hoffenheim 'club hymn' is worth a listen on YouTube. Not.

^^^ A seemingly sold-out away end. Not to worry, there were plenty of Schalke - and owing to a Fanfreundschaft, Bochum - supporters sat in our enclosure. There were also plenty of goals to celebrate: three in the first 15 minutes (or so) and four in the first half. The away side were 3-1 up at the break.

^^^ View of the Car & Technology Museum at half-time from the back of the stand. Schalke's very own travelling club shop (seriously!) parked just out of shot. 

^^^ The scoreboard in the top left shows the final score: three each. Hoffenheim reduced the deficit from the penalty spot shortly after the break. We then had a great view of their equaliser, direct from a free-kick; the ball was in as soon as it left his boot. An entertaining game - thank goodness, as no Arena Card meant no beer for the KSG - albeit this had much to do with the hapless defending on display. I'm beginning to understand how Per Mertesacker has nearly 100 international caps! (I'm joking, obviously; I love Per.) No stand-out performers, although I've subsequently noticed that Anthony Modeste - who notched Hoffenheim's first - is the league's joint-top goalscorer, whilst Schalke's Japanese wing-back Atsuto Uchida was industrious, Kevin-Prince Boateng flashed quality. Julian Draxler was not even on the bench - presumably injured. An article on the game by Raphael Honigstein features in the Guardian.

^^^ The train, on the journey back to Heidelberg, was full. Craig, relieved to learn of JT's equaliser at Sh!te Hart Lane, also informed us that Man Utd had lost to WBA and Man City at Aston Villa. Arf! I, meanwhile, impressed another American student by correctly naming 'Hoosiers' as the nickname for the athletics teams of Indiana University (she was wearing one of their hoodies). We got off at S-Bahnhof Heidelberg-Altstadt and walked along the river to the Old Bridge. Very pleasant.

^^^ On the Old Bridge. Reminiscent of Windsor Bridge.
This, though, was way better. Obviously.

^^^ View of the Neckar, looking eastwards, from the Old Bridge.

^^^ View of the Castle, again from the Old Bridge.

^^^ Photos with the famous Old Bridge brass monkey! Scary stuff!
We now have good luck. Or fertility. Or something.

^^^ The Old Bridge itself.

^^^ I certainly wasn't averse to watching the Swansea vs Arsenal game, so we headed straight for the nearby Brass Monkey Irish pub, full the night before. It wasn't too bad this time, and we got good seats. As we supped pints of Rothaus - and Macleod (C) tried, but failed, to get a decent photo of a mini-me Anderson (Man Utd) - Arsenal won to go top o' the league ('Hull City Tigers' also featured in the table, BTW, on German TV!). The landlady - an Irishwoman - took it upon herself to get out the scarf collection. They have two: an Arsenal one - as she is a fan of North London's finest - and a Bristol Rovers one! One of her regulars is from Keynsham (we would briefly meet him the following day). You couldn't make this stuff up! We have promised to send her a Maidenhead United one ... which will complete the Holy Trinity of scarves!

^^^ The festival was now in full swing on the Marktplatz. As we sunk pints of Heidelberger, had a bit to eat, argued over whether we preferred the Beatles or the Stones, and looked misleadingly glum in photos, the youth held what appeared to be an officially sanctioned rave-up on the steps of the Church of the Holy Spirit!

^^^ Off, once again, to Untere Straße. It seemed even busier than the previous night; revellers covered the cobble paving, so you couldn't tell who was drinking in which bar. I'm not entirely sure where we went to start, but I think it might have been Der Mohr - the 'big brother' and other, non-smoking half of Der Kleine Mohr, where Macleod (C) and I had spent the previous night. Here, we would meet and chat with various characters, including a bloke who used to live in Bristol (but claimed never to have heard of Rovers!), a big Eintracht Frankfurt fan, an ex-Waldhof Mannheim player, and a Noel Edmonds lookalike (above). A decent bar, whatever its name. Craig would head for the hotel as we left. But the night was (relatively) young ...

^^^ One of these two was the aforementioned ex-Waldhof player; the other gave detailed directions to the seemingly legendary Heidelberg nightspot The Cave. (I'm not sure who is which!) Anyway, as we mingled with the street drinkers and debated trying to find The Cave, an inebriated twenty-something started talking at/ with us. He slurred with a strong Australian accent but was German! He apologised for his drunken state (as opposed to his nation's conduct during ze war  ... forget it, Jurgen the German was soooo last century) and promised to take us to the best bar on Untere Straße. Our eyes rolled as he opened what was, virtually, the very next door along! More fool us ...

^^^ We didn't know it at the time, but this was Sonderbar. An article I've subsequently read describes it as 'one of the most violent dives throughout Heidelberg.' Regardless of whether Google Translate has gotten a little carried away or not, it was great! The landlord - whose back story is featured in the article - is in the above photo. That was at closing time when it had thinned out ... considerably (as the landlord blasted out the old Commie tunes). You could barely move when we first went in. Luckily, as Macleod (M) went to the bar - and was served almost immediately by the landlord - some people climbed down from the seats they were standing on (yes, you read that correctly!), allowing Macleod (C) and I to jump up. We could/ would barely move for the next few - exhilarating - hours (except to go to the Gents ... which, I can assure you, was quite a mission!).

^^^ This place was crazy good - like a mosh pit at an over-capacity punk gig. People were (almost literally) bouncing off the ceiling!

^^^ Not only was it packed, but packed with fun-lovin' types. The girl in the horizontally-striped black and white dress - giving the V-sign, above - certainly appeared to have a mischievous side. I'm sure the bald guy's persistence paid off in the end ...

^^^ The lecherous gentleman stood behind me on the left and (just about) visible in this photo was annoying the group on the adjoining table. Macleod (M) and I - the chivalrous gents that we are - arranged an exchange: me for him. (He was a nice guy, as it happens ... and he was also a kickboxer!)

^^^ Why the long face?! I would spend most of our time in Sonderbar standing on a small table in very close proximity to Maddie from Spokane, WA (which we would later read, in the Brass Monkey's copy of Lonely Planet, has a population of 375K and a downtown area 'sadly affected by urban blight' ... a bit like Maidenhead then!). Now, it was loud in here - as everyone went mental for the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers - but it sums up the weekend that this delightfully sassy young lady told me various things about herself - including the correct spelling of her name (Madeleine? Madeline? Madelyn? Madelynne? Madalyn?) and what she was doing over there (student?) - and I can't, for the life of me, remember now!

I can recall that she was out with two friends - a German couple (I helped him up after he fell off the table at one point!) - and that they had come on the train from Mannheim. I also recall that like seemingly EVERYONE else we met, she wasn't keen on the Hoffenheim scarf that I was wearing. Unlike everyone else, however, Maddie could persuade me to take the scarf off ... ...

It would soon be winging its way down Untere Straße, around the neck of a German woman, previously chatting to Macleod (M). Thankfully, the latter recovered it, so pride of place in the Anchor still beckons.

^^^ I don't remember this photo being taken (figures!) - nor can I work out precisely where it was (quelle surprise) - but I know that it would have been just before/ after we had witnessed our second fight handbags of the evening. Other witnesses to this one were two off-duty soldiers from ... yep, you've guessed it, the good ol' US of A. Stationed at Wiesbaden, the more senior of the two originated from Tampa, whilst the younger one (who looked very young indeed) hailed from Madison (the home of Wisconsin University ... the athletics teams for which are nicknamed the Badgers, not the Beavers! For shame!). What. A. Night.

^^^ Up (relatively) early on Sunday for the 13:30 kick-off in Kaiserslautern; the train journey would be our longest of the weekend. Time for a quick stop at McDonald's. And a photo of Macleod (C) with Der Fett Kontrolleur.

^^^ From the station at Kaiserslautern Hbf, you had to walk through a graffiti-covered underpass - beneath a block of flats - and then up a steep, curved, pedestrianised road before you got to the historic Fritz-Walter-Stadion. As you can see, Macleod (C) and I were back on the cans of MiXery (50% beer, 50% cola, and 1% X). The woman who sold us the cans was (barely) stifling a laugh as she did so. Heathen.

^^^ We decided that Kaiserslautern are the German equivalent of West Ham United, mainly because they also 'won' their country a World Cup. Above is the monument to the four Kaiserslautern players - including Fritz Walter - who featured in 'The Miracle of Bern' (detailed in the early chapters of 'Tor!: The Story of German Football', which every self-respecting football fan should read). The Mixery, at this point, was helping to wash down a Käsewurst (cheese sausage). Yum.

^^^ Like West Ham (I suppose), Kaiserslautern also have a reputation for fanatical support. They certainly didn't disappoint pre-kickoff. Minus points, though, for singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' (seemingly ubiquitous at football grounds in Germany). At least their version was a Capella.

^^^ Away numbers were reasonably decent as well, meaning that this 2. Bundesliga fixture had a larger attendance (circa 31K) than the Bundesliga game we'd been at the previous afternoon (29K). I liked the ground. Plenty of 'character', especially compared to many of the near-identical stadiums built/ renovated for the 2006 World Cup. It reminded me - perhaps somewhat perversely - of sitting in the West Stand at Highbury (as I did once, with my Dad, for Arsenal vs Millwall in the old First Division).

^^^ 0-0 at half-time, as we inadvertently recreated a famous Beatles cover (sort of). For the record, I much prefer the Stones. Which 'Best Of' would you rather listen to? 'Honky Tonk Woman', 'Jumpin' Jack Flash', 'Paint It Black' ... surely I don't need to go on?

^^^ Here's me brazenly celebrating a Kaiserslautern goal. There were three of them in the second half. Unanswered. The home side fully deserved the win, although I think that the result owed much to the abject awfulness of 1860: one of the worst performances I've seen in a long time (I suppose we should expect nothing else from a team with Gábor 'best known for wearing tracksuit bottoms' Király in goal!). Perhaps, as these two teams have a Fanfreundschaft, 1860 went easy? Just eight goals scored in nine games might suggest otherwise. Anyway, the game's decisive moment came when Kaiserslautern replaced the lumbering Olivier 'Billy' Occean with Simon 'Rudi' Zoller, and the young forward scored with his first touch - a delightful lob - to put the home side 2-0 up. Zoller also seemed to invigorate Mohammadou Idrissou, his strike partner; the veteran Cameroonian rounded off the win late on with an even better goal.

^^^ On the train journey to/ from Kaiserslautern (which seemed much longer on the return leg), we passed Frankenstein (above; arf!) and were joined, at the stop for the SAP Arena, by a surprisingly (and worryingly?) large number of replica shirt-wearing Adler Mannheim fans. Ice hockey. Further evidence of the North American influence on the region?

^^^ Once again, we got off at S-Bahnhof Heidelberg-Altstadt and enjoyed a pleasant walk into town, although we took the non-riverside route.

^^^ It was noticeably quieter than previous nights (in keeping with the Germany that stopped playing music in the Düsseldorf nightclub we were in, on my stag do, as the clock struck midnight to signal the start of Good Friday ... and as opposed to the Germany that, less than 24 hours previous, had seemingly permitted youngsters to party on the steps of Heidelberg's most famous church!). We headed to the Brass Monkey, as had become the norm. It was quiet as we watched the second half of Sunderland vs Liverpool and met with Simon, the aforementioned Bristol Rovers fan. It wouldn't be quiet for much longer, however ...

^^^ After the football soccer had finished, the friendly Irish barman informed us that he would be turning over to the NFL, much to my delight and Macleod (M)'s dismay. Suitably, a couple from Chicago joined us: Tom (above) and Jill. Both were of Germanic descent, visiting the (grand) fatherland for the first time. It was a lot of fun chatting with them as we watched the points accumulate in the various games on RedZone. Tom - a John Elway/ Denver Broncos fan - was mild-mannered. Jill - a Green Bay Packers die-hard - was anything but! Soon, she would be referring to Macleod (M) as Krabby Patty, while Craig was Higgins (or McHiggins) after the character in Magnum PI (during Movember, possibly, but otherwise?). #topbantz

^^^ Jerry Jones is an asshole; Obama is useless; 9/11 was the start of 'proper' terrorism; the tears and chest-beatings of Ray Lewis and the like are for real; why the Packers - already sold out for the next 71 years  - don't need to build a bigger stadium ... speaking with spoken to by Jill was a real education! Seriously, it was a blast, and I was disappointed when it was time for them to leave (certainly much later than they had originally intended). Great line, incidentally, when we were on the topic of TV. "Cheers?" I offered up, assuming that every American has seen this classic series. She hadn't. "OK, what about British TV then?" we enquired. "I love The Young Ones," was the (rather surprising) reply. "Do you like Bottom?" asked a perfectly innocent Macleod (C). The look on her face! :-)

^^^ One good thing about Tom and Jill going, when they did, was that they weren't about as Dallas conceded 20 consecutive points to lose 30-21 at San Diego. "How 'bout dem Cowboys?!" Errr ... Surprisingly enough, there was no drop off in noise following Jill's belated departure. The man above picked up the slack. And some. From nearby Neckargemünd (which we had passed the previous day, en route to Sinsheim, and where a large group of French exchange students had disembarked the train), he took it upon himself to serenade the bar with lusty renditions of 'Drunken Sailor' (several times) and also Johnny Cash's 'Ring Of Fire'. We helped him out. Obviously! Time to go. "What's the time?" someone asked. "Quarter to one," ... We'd been in the bar for over seven hours! Wowzers. Time flies.

^^^ While Craig and then Macleod (M) headed for the hotel (sensible), Macleod (C) and I tried desperately to find somewhere open on the near-deserted Untere Straße (not sensible). There seemed to be only one place still serving, the sizeable but virtually empty Destille. Needless to say, though, more characters were awaiting us here. Rather regrettably, we took several photos of this BFG from Sandhausen, but none of the rather attractive lady in a 'Christmas Jumper' ... who was so keen for a photo with us that, after her group had left, her mates had to - literally - hold her back to stop her from re-joining us! #epicfail, #toolittletoolate

^^^ The others we were drinking - and finally departed - with were a Croatian celebrating his 26th birthday (above, with the cap) and his mate. They shall be known as the Midori Boys, as the latter had bought everyone remaining in the bar a shot of melon-based liquor. #stillgame

^^^ The Midori Boys took us to The Cave. It was closed ... and pulling at the door wouldn't make much of a difference, bearing in mind that it opened inwards! We said our goodbyes and began an arduous, lonely, and stop-start 20+ minute walk along the dead straight Hauptstraße (shop, after shop, after shop, after shop).

^^^ Finishing off the MiXery on the train back to Frankfurt. A few hours after this photo  - less time than we'd spent in the Brass Monkey the night before - Craig, Macleod (M), and I were getting picked up by my Dad from T5 (Callum, in contrast, poor chap, would have to wait much longer for his return flight to Dublin). The following day - 1st October - I was back at work for the first time since 13th September. Ouch.

I've been to both Greece and Germany numerous times. The week spent in Sissi, Crete - followed by the weekend spent in Heidelberg - are my favourite trips to each country (with the possible exception of my stag do in Düsseldorf). As such, I've had a double-strength dose of post-holiday blues. Even now, a week after events in Heidelberg, I am struggling to cope with the return to normality.

I have to admit to feelings of regret; all those Germans speaking fluent English, all those youthful Americans experiencing student life in another country. Why didn't I continue learning German after obtaining an A-grade at GCSE? If I knew then what I know now, I'd be off to further my studies in Germany and the States.

Hey ho, that is the past. What about the future? Well, for the KSG, there will hopefully be another trip to Germany before the season is out, as we have pencilled in a May visit to Berlin. I've heard that Berlin is amazing (Craig and the Macleods have all been before). I'll be impressed if that weekender is even half as good as this one. As you can tell, I'm a big fan of Heidelberg. Would I recommend it? Yes. Yes, yes, and yes again. Would I return? Nah. Not unlike that legendary night out we had in Plymouth, it simply couldn't live up to expectations the second time around. #contrary ;-)

Thanks for reading! Dank für das Lesen!