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Italy, March 2006

Prologue - Georgia on my mind

With my new job in September last year coming with a severe decrease in holiday, taking week long excursions for each away game is now a thing of the past. And with no less than five away trips in 2007 (plus the remaining outside possibility of a friendly in November when everyone else in our group is finishing their fixtures), something really was going to have to give. In this instance, it was the trips to Italy, the Faroes and France – all places I’ve been before and am not that struck on - thus leaving the best part of a week for exploring Georgia. This doesn’t mean that I’m eschewing the other trips in their entirety; instead I’m limiting myself to two days off (the Wednesday and the Thursday) in each case.

With that decided, the problem with Italy remained the uncertainty over the venue. Whilst Rome and Milan offer a multitude of transport connections, and even Florence or Naples are within striking distance of several airports, rumours had been circulating for some time that the game was likely to be played in Bari, an outpost way down at Italy’s heel. The Italian FA were their usual considerate selves, and duly named Bari as the venue with just days to spare before FIFA’s 60-day deadline. Less than a month later, all of this was again thrown into doubt following the serious rioting in Sicily, however after a week of scare-mongering rumours, it was confirmed Bari’s ground would have the necessary improvements in place come kick-off.

In order to manage the trip with just the two days off, we opted to fly via Cologne from Gatwick with EasyJet on the Tuesday night, flying on to Bari with Hapag Lloyd Express on the Wednesday lunchtime. Our return to Cologne was 25 hours after landing, however taking into account transfer and airport time, we were due to spend less than 20 hours in downtown Bari. With some rare foresight, and after undertaking some serious research into hotel room availability in most of the possible venues, we’d actually booked a (cancellable) room in Bari through Expedia a month before the fixture was confirmed!

Only... 24 hours in Bari...

After a sensible night in Cologne (just the two pubs – Malzmuhle brewpub and the Biermuseum), we were up bright and breezy and off to the airport. HLX allowed web check-in in advance the day before, so it was straight through security and into the lounge for a couple of drinks. A few texts to Bari brought back mixed messages around the touted alcohol ban (in keeping with how the ban panned out), so we opted to airlift in supplies, with a couple of bottles of red wine and a box set of German fruit schnapps making the cut.

A number of other Scots were on the plane across, and we landed in Bari in good time and with no passport checks to slow us down (Italy and Germany both being within the Schengen Zone). After some initial confusion over transport into town, we settled for a taxi with a decent price (after bartering) and made our way into the Hotel Victor in downtown Bari. After checking in at the same time as a job lot of Passport Travellers, and surrendering our passports for registration, we dumped the bags, grabbed the carry out and met up with Ally, Susan, Bruce and Sharon in reception before heading out in search of food and whatever booze was to be had.

Despite Italy’s famous restaurant culture coming to a grinding halt between 3pm and 6pm, we did find a small café prepared to sell us all of the remaining pizza and even a beer to wash it down with, although he did become very jumpy about the beer as soon as the pizza had been finished! By now, Rich, James and Lynne had arrived on the scene, and it was at this juncture that I realised the passports that had been handed back to me by the hotel receptionist were no longer with me, and after a mad dash back to the hotel, I found them sitting on the side table where I had paused to pick up a map! Everyone else found this hilarious, as being known for my less than enthusiastic outlook on all things Italian, the thought of being stranded was pure anathema to me and pure entertainment to everyone else.

Kicked back out onto the street after finishing the pizza, we opted to blitz the carry out in the park. The sun was shining, the shade was pleasant and the fruit schnapps were like petrol – all in all, an ambience that prompted Bruce to remark we should all chuck in work and do it every day! I’d managed to score some tickets for the Italian transfer to the ground from in front of the railway station, and carry out suitably dented, we headed off early doors, pausing only to have some of the worst pizza in Italy at a fast food place opposite McDonalds.

The bus to the ground was friendly enough, with a fair mixture of home and away fans, although the walk around the ground took a lot longer than planned, due to being stopped by so many locals for photos. The dregs of the carry out were finished outside the perimeter, and after yet more photos (Rich posing rock-star like in front of hundreds of screaming schoolgirls!), we were past the supposedly formidable security without so much as a ticket check! After the alcohol ban in the town, we were a little baffled at the beer for sale inside the ground, although at €4 for a 330ml can, it may have been an attempt at Scandinavian style aversion therapy!

Having arrived in such good time to avoid any security queues, we found ourselves with the pick of the seats, and opted for the front row next to the stairs, allowing a good view of the ground as it filled up. Being next to the stairs meant a handy escape route to the gents when needed (although one or two more inebriated footsoldiers were relieving themselves at the back of the lower section), but what a smell!? I swear you could chew on the stench in the subterranean toilets!

The game itself went to form, and was surprisingly similar to the one two years previously in Milan. We lost 2-0. We had a handful of chances. One-nil would have been fairer, yet the second seemed a goal too far. After a late trip to the toilet, I watched the last 10 minutes from the near-empty lower tier in the company of Tam McGhee. Unfortunately this was to result in a spot of confusion when it came to meeting up later (despite me believing I’d given clear directions to a fellow toilet tripper!). Nonetheless, we eventually rendezvoused with the help of some shaky mobile phone connections and eventually made it back into town on the last bus making the journey.

Bruce and Ally were adamant that a visit to the Paulaner Bar was called for, and with it being right around the corner from the hotel it sounded an ideal shout. Yet more pizza was procured, and with one of the most beautiful barmaids in the world, it wasn’t a bad shout at all! Of course, by now the red wine (my own personal kryptonite) was taking the toll, so with some of beer remaining I beat a retreat back to the hotel.

The next morning we were up and on the bus to the airport for our 3pm flight. We were lucky to get some of the last seats, and the emergency exit stairs were soon commandeered as a luggage rack by the other Scots on board. The airport itself was like a tartan refugee camp, with several Passport charters lining up to check in, although it did prove very sociable, with Big Jim, Tam McGhee, James and Lynne and the entire Prestwick Tartan Army all in attendance. Thankfully, our HLX tickets gave us priority security, much to the chagrin of the queuing masses, but once airside, the queue for the café (also the only source of bottled water) was around 50 deep! Thankfully, a spot of quick thinking allowed me through passport control to the much quieter section, where I could buy a couple of bottles and then simply stroll back through the passport booths!

The flight back to Cologne passed quickly, with us sat right next to Tam Ritchie, with Donny Stevenson and Stevie Imlach in the rows immediately behind us, and whilst Donny, Stevie and friends headed into Cologne for several more days of debauchery, and Tam headed back to Manchester, Helen and I settled down with a few Kolsch beers ahead of our late flight back to Gatwick.

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Ally in Bari

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The midwinter announcement of the end of season trip to Vienna was greeted with glee at NATA HQ: ever since passing through en route to Mattersburg in 2005, Helen and I have been keen to return to what must be one of Europe’s most diverse and intriguing capitals. A quick check of the Fortuna Düsseldorf fixture list revealed we could top and tail 5 nights in Vienna with a weekend in Hamburg for the Holstein Kiel game rounded off with a weekend in Düsseldorf for the last game of the season AND the annual Japanese fireworks display.

After meeting up with our German pal Achim on the train through to Kiel, and then bizarrely bumping into a Kiel journo mate of Iain Gillan’s at Kiel’s stadium, we watched Fortuna stumble to yet another away defeat before softening the pain with a few beers back in Hamburg ahead of our flight the next afternoon to Vienna.

After touching down in Vienna in the early evening, we agreed a rendezvous with Ally and Susan in the Siebenstern Brewpub near Mariahilferstrasse. After a couple of beers there, and a few doors down the street, we headed our separate ways with a plan to meet at the Hundertwasserhaus on the Monday before heading out to one of Vienna’s famous wine suburbs.

Monday - Wein in Wien

The Hundertwasserhaus is one of those weird examples of Austrian eccentricity, where surreal modern far-out architecture is plonked down next to day-to-day buildings (see: Loos Haus in central Vienna, the municipal incinerator, Graz’s Kunsthaus and even Innsbruck’s Goldener Dachl). The building’s weird curves and gaudy colours were a big appeal to me, possibly to the bemusement of Ally, Susan and Helen, and when it came to the “Toilets of Modern Art” in the shopping arcade over the way, I was in raptures!

After eventually tearing myself away, I led the charge to Prater’s Schweizerhaus pub for schnitzels and Budvar beer. There then followed a debate as to where to head next, following texts from Craig and Reeky advising that a base camp had been established in Flanagans to watch the English Championship play-off final. We decided to stick with Plan A, and made our way by train and tram to the remote suburb of Stammersdorf for some of the local wine.

Vienna has more vineyards within it’s boundaries than any other capital city in the world, and the local produce is drunk with abandon in small, family-run taverns called Heuriger, usually clustered near the vineyards in certain suburbs. Whilst Grinzing is the best known, and is a favourite with bus trips, Stammersdorf is more one for the locals, hence the general bewilderment that met our kilted excursion. After sheltering from a monsoon downpour in the first heurigen we came to, we made short work of a litre of wine (with a matching litre of sparkling water – this local wine is pretty rough stuff!) for the princely sum of 10 euros (for the lot!). By the time our wine tavern crawl had come to an end, 4 hours, one lot of Austrian tapas, several heurigen and lots of wine later, the total impact on the kitty was less than 55 euros, or put another way, around £10 a head!

The night was still young (in a relative sense, anyway…), so we headed south towards the Salm Brauhaus where Craig, Kevin and Robert the Rapid fan awaited. Kevin was already quite tired and emotional, and excused himself shortly after our arrival, however Craig led us on a circuitous route to Flanagans, where Reeky was still holding court at the bar with a few other well kent faces, including a Heb Bar deputation, Ron and Wullie and the rest of the Sporran Legion.

Tuesday - shirtless in Shebeen

Tuesday began with the tinge of a hangover, however Helen and I blew away the cobwebs with the double whammy of some Kozel in the Czech pub opposite the hotel and beer and burgers in the excellent Wiedenbrau brewpub around the corner.

We’d agreed to carry on the wine theme with Ally and Susan by using our Vienna Card vouchers in the Eulenest Wine Bar, however our plan for a mid-afternoon start was scuppered by the late return of the patrons from holiday. Helen duly translated the sign as a delayed opening, so we adjourned to the nearby iconic Loos Bar (or the “American Bar”, to bestow its rightful title upon it) for cocktails before heading back for the wine session.

After a cultured hour and half tasting top-notch Austrian victuals, we decamped to the ATAC Fans Embassy around the corner in the palatial Marriott Hotel’s sports bar. At some point Bruce, Chris Norton and Vic joined the fray, and we all piled into taxis for food at Siebensternbrau. Eating was essential in order to fortify ourselves for the TA party at Shebeen, hosted by some up and coming Glasgow DJ whose name escapes me…

The “ten minutes around the corner” turned out to be a lot further (but only half as far as it was on the way back at 4am…), but when we arrived at Shebeen it was nigh impossible to get in. Ally and Susan managed to find some breathing space, possibly the same space vacated by James and Lynne who joined us in finding a small café around the corner for a quieter beer before pitching back into the lunacy. This brief sojourn was only memorable for a stern barmaid admonishing a singing Norton with the rebuke: “Quiet! You are not Majorca now!”

Meanwhile, back at Shebeen, the wheat was being sorted from the chaff, and our second attempt saw us safely ensconced downstairs. Norton was whisked away beerless by a concerned Vic, leaving the rest of us to throw ourselves wholeheartedly (and shirtlessly) into the evening. The litany of shame veered from excessive nudity to extreme minesweeping, and the nagging guilt lasted well into the next day…

Wednesday - Beisls with Bert

… which began in Wiedenbrau, around 2pm. In the rapid social whirl of the night before, arrangements had hastily been made with Bert to meet up ahead of the game. As an ex-Vienna resident, Bert’s expertise with the local transport scheme (not to mention his eagerness to impress the discerning members of NATA…) meant he was the first in the pub by a good 30 minutes, followed by Paul and Helen, Ally and Susan, and finally James and Lynne.

After more beer-and-burger action and a halfway beer at the Czech pub on the way to the U-bahn station, we hit Hütteldorf on the early side. Eschewing the bar in the station due to the unwelcoming stares from the local boneheads, we chanced on the same Beisl (trans: local bar, as in the German “Kneipe”) that Craig and Kevin were due to meet Robert and Wolfie in. We settled in the garden, although I was treated to a beer by Wolfie whilst talking Kevin in from the railway station opposite.

Bruce joined us after a while, having slept away most of the day, and after some bizarre exchanges with some Rangers-shirted locals on the way out of the pub, it was off around the corner to the turnstiles. Helen and I had to pick our tickets up from the SFA kiosk (due to our extended route out to Vienna), but soon enough we were in the ground and “enjoying” an alcohol free beer (I would have had diet coke, but it was full sugar or nothing… which may have helped as it transpired!).

As the game to-ed and fro-ed, the Rapid Vienna fans behind the goal provided most of the entertainment with a changing selection of political banners baiting the Austrian FA and their ex-player Ivanschitz. Garry O’Connor stole the show with a well-taken winner early in the second-half, however I don’t remember too much due to taking a bit of a funny turn through lack of sugar!

Back in town the plan was to head to Flanagans via the 1516 brewpub over the road. Despite somehow shoe-horning the group into a table and getting hold of some of their great beer, I was still suffering from what I now know to have been a diabetic hypo, and had to beat an early retreat.

Thursday and beyond - Fortuna and Fireworks

After a late checkout, following a night of cold sweats, hallucinations and a morning altercation with a spider hiding in our suitcase, we caught the airport train with Tam McGhee, Tartan Taunton, Coullzer and pals. Our Air Berlin flight to Düsseldorf was on time and allowed us to enjoy the rarity of a free beer and a schnapps in our favourite brauereiausschank (as we’d told the waiters it would be a few months before we were back).

Friday was spent with a day in Wuppertal at the zoo (and the brewpub!), and Saturday saw us watch Fortuna tonk Borussia Monchengladbach reserves 4-1, although I did miss two of our goals due to the beer queue! We met up with Achim in the clubhouse after the game, a surreal evening of beer gifted by an ex-player, blagged corporate hospitality, being mooned at in Auberge and watching the Japanese fireworks from the riverbank followed, ahead of our flight home from Cologne on the Sunday evening.

One of the best things about German third division football? The close season only lasts from early June to late July!

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Faroe Islands

When the draw for the Euro 2008 Qualifiers was made, there were more than a few groans that the Faroes had come out of the hat. Never mind the fact that in three previous visits to the islands, we’d only won once, for many of the long-standing travellers, they’d had enough of the place (this was the fourth consecutive Euro campaign we’d drawn the Faroes)! Granted, Helen and I had only been the once – for the 2-2 draw in the first game of Berti’s regime – but seeing as I was off the drink on medical advice for that trip, it’s fair to say I’d seen the islands in the cold light of day and knew that they didn’t offer much in the way of either activity-based or alcoholic diversions. As a result, we were more than grateful to Chairman Jim for tipping us off about the WESTA charter flight day trip, and so got our feet in the door at the earliest opportunity.

After flying up to Glasgow after work on the Tuesday evening, we checked into the Holiday Inn over the road from the airport for what seemed like 20 minutes sleep. Up at the crack of dawn and onto the back of the already sizeable queue (well, there were only 30-odd people on the flight, and they were pretty odd…), only for me to be called up first as the hand-written boarding cards were being issued alphabetically (Helen was still travelling under her maiden name at this stage, so had to wait for the “B” group!).

With a couple of charters, plus the inevitable holiday flights, all taking off around 7am, security was moderately busy, as was the Duty Free shop (where quite a few small bottles of red wine, complete with plastic glass/lid combo) were procured for the day ahead. The flight was a little late in being called, and when it was, it was via bus all the way to the far end of the airport where our “executive prop plane” awaited. And very nice it was too, with leatherette seats in a cosy 1-2 configuration and a very friendly Aberdonian stewardess.

With Bruce in the single seat going into raptures at the views of coastal Scotland, and James and Lynne sleeping in the seat behind, we got torn into the complimentary wine (after the stewardess decided we were civilised enough to warrant cracking open the bar trolley!) as Bruce supped a beer and snapped away out of the window.

The landing at Vagar International Airport was less dramatic than I remember from 2002 (although that was in a larger Atlantic Airways plane, so we may well have been clipping the Fjord walls that time!), and despite causing the border guard confusion by asking for a passport stamp, customs was a breeze and our bus awaited. After a team photo in front of the bus, it was onboard and en route to downtown Torshavn, to a chorus of “Ole, ole, ole!” in honour of the bemused driver Olly.

Jen and Jim had arranged with Florentz, the ex-manager of the famous Café Natur (the only true “pub” on the islands) to open her new Café Galleria Jinx early doors to give us a base camp. Unfortunately the licensing laws prohibited alcoholic sales until 11am, but a blind eye was turned to some of the “ribena” that was being passed around before the deadline expired. After 11, it was straight onto the local Gull and Black Sheep beer, memorable for Bruce studying the difference in the ingredients on the bottle label – “This one has added asborbic acid – no wonder the sheep’s shooting lightning bolts out of its arse!”.

The drinking soon moved outside, as the glass walls and roof of the Café gave a serious greenhouse effect. More and more fans were gathering, either having risen from their slumber (having slept off a reputedly wild night in the local disco with a young, upcoming guest DJ from Glasgow at the wheels of steel) or arriving on different charters. Tam himself was spotted on the green in front of the parliament shed, sporting a rather natty pair of fabric gingham DM’s, presumably from his summer wardrobe. At one point, a transit from the local brewery pulled up to deliver emergency supplies to Florentz, only for a keg to go off in the back of the van, causing me to jump not a little (and Helen to ridicule me accordingly).

Eventually the time came to head off to the ground, and with Jen and Jim valiantly trying to corral the WESTA day-trippers (plus some Loony Alba members taking up the empty bus seats) towards the coach park (Bruce: “like herding cats”), we eventually set off with Mick North Croy playing a compere role in the aisle (having lost his seat). The red wine was flowing freely, at one point right down Helen’s shirt (an authentic 1986 away shirt, last worn by me when I was 12), and this was later to prove fatal (well, it did look as though she’d been shot in the chest!). A communal “watering of the flowers” brief kick-around with a plastic football in a petrol station forecourt provided a brief interlude, before the bus carried on towards Toftir, taking the hill with ease (as the waterborne travellers struggled valiantly up the mountainside from the jetty to the stadium).

After meeting, and no doubt bemusing with our incoherent ramblings, many people outside the ground, we were in and behind the goal. Unfortunately, the events from here on in are a little cloudy – I remember Shaun Maloney’s free-kick and the second goal going in, if not the exact events leading up to it, but then Helen and I had a difference of opinion and ended up watching the rest of the game from separate vantage points. All I can say to those around us is “sorry” and “thanks very much for looking after both of us” – I won’t name people individually, but those involved know who they are.

Back on the bus, and with only a little more drink to go round (trust me, this was now a good thing), Chairman Jim took the eminently sensible decision to drop the Loony Alba members in Torshavn before continuing straight out to Vagar and the hotel adjacent to the airport. The Vagar Hotel was bouncing, with a handful of bemused locals watching on as the Tartan Army besieged the bar (and the buffet in some cases). We sat outside, as even though it was approaching midnight, the night was light and clear and quite temperate (in contrast to the scorching sun earlier in the day – several topless footsoldiers ended up with sunstroke at the game!). We weren’t the only ones to take advantage of the clear air – across the car park, someone was completely out for the count on their back in the long grass!

Again, Jim and Jen did a sterling job in getting us all across to the airport building, and with the plane sitting on the tarmac, we were simply waved through security without any boarding cards, only to have our names ticked off at the door, school-register style. What made this episode even more comical was the (admittedly unfortunate, in a “there but for the grace of God go I” way) fact that our sister charter plane had been commandeered by the SFA to get the team home, leaving everyone stranded for an extra four hours or so. Given they looked in a far worse state than us (we’d only been dragged away from the hotel because we had to – these guys were mostly out for the count on benches and the floor), I’m not sure they all saw the funny side of ad hoc classics such as “Where’s your aeroplane? Where’s your aeroplane?” and “We’re going home, we’re going home – you’re not, you’re not!”.

The flight itself was a relatively quiet affair, with most people being lulled to sleep by the gentle hum of the propellers and only the dedicated jakies taking advantage of the free-flowing wine (well, I wouldn’t to stop now… I might get a hangover!). Much to Helen’s eternal shame, after sleeping the whole flight, and with only a few steps to go before the hotel room over the road, she had to rush to the Ladies in the baggage hall to speak to the big white telephone. A cancelled flight to Gatwick on the way home (necessitating a last minute change to Heathrow and a National Express bus) added to the farcical nature of the trip. Still, at least we don’t need to go back for four years! As a footnote, this was also a personal triumph for me, as the last away game I missed was the Faroes in June 1999, marking 8 whole years of consecutive away matches.

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France, September 2007

"We'll Always Have Paris..."

As per the preceding trip (Faroes in June), our last game in Paris was another Berti-induced humiliation, the notorious 5-0 gubbing dished out by the then World and European champions. Few Scots in the Stade de France would night would dispute that France were a shoo-in for the 2002 World Cup on the evidence of that night; in fact, some of us (well, me, according to Rich) were reputed to have declared after Zidane’s masterful opener “That’s me f*cking off, I’ve had my money’s worth…”.

Notwithstanding prior performances, Paris remains one of my least favourite destinations, due in equal measure to the haughty stereotype its citizens strive to live up to, the prices and the dubious size and quality of everything, from beer to hotel rooms. Accordingly, taking the Bari/Torshavn approach to being miserable before we’ve even arrived, Helen and I opted for a full day’s work on the Tuesday, followed by an 8pm flight from Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle and two nights in the Ibis Bastille, a hotel we’d stayed in for a U2 concert back in 2005. Whilst the upside is obvious – less money spent, valuable holiday leave saved – the slight downside is that the France trip became disassociated (for us, anyway) from the previous weekend’s resounding 3-1 win against a theatrical Lithuania side with several points to prove (they come over ‘ere, they steal our jobs as footballers…).

The flight itself was delayed slightly, meaning more time in the lounge hammering the wine and chatting to an American couple en route to Tel Aviv (they’d been delayed a whole day!). On board, the massive plane played host to all of 14 passengers, 5 of whom were clustered around us due to the emergency exits affording more legroom. Behind us, we got chatting to Felippe, a Brazilian IT graduate on his first business trip abroad, along with the two boys over the aisle. Bizarrely, there was no sign of any other TA presence on our flight, despite the sight of a few other kilts at Heathrow T4.

Knowingly that we’d arrive late, we’d booked an airport-hotel transfer minibus, settling for the security of a fixed price over the uncertainty of a cowboy cabbie if we arrived too late for the RER train (as it happened, we’d have made it had we run for it!). The downside of these transfer minibuses is the lottery of which hotel gets dropped off first – we lost, and had to sit in the furnace-like heat whilst the bus negotiated the periphique ring road to drop off the only other two passengers at a hotel a single metro station away from the Parc des Princes. The roundabout had some sure signs of life, including that TA staple: an Irish bar! Information duly mentally filed for later reference and it was off to the Ibis Bastille.

With the clock having turned midnight, we decided to stay local, and grabbed a seat in the hotel bar. After a brief contretemps with the night receptionist, he agreed to carry on with beer service, and after Fletchy (a pal of Coullzer who I’d met on the Vienna Airport Train a few month’s previous) joined us, and Helen retired for the night, we joined in chatting with a group of Dundonians who’d braved the bus all the way from the city of Jute.

After heading to bed around 4-ish, and being woken 6 hours later by the door-slamming contest in the corridor outside, a text from Rich advised us that the beagle had landed and was on way to our hotel. After rendezvousing in reception, we opted to get some food early doors, so it was over the road for pizza and (whisper it, after the NATA ban on me drinking grape juice after the Bari and Faroes incidents) a shared bottle of wine. A stroll down to the Bastille roundabout, and a few glasses of beer in a relatively cheap stand-up bar later, it was the tube to Chatelet and on to one of my favourite Paris pubs, the Frog & Rosbif. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a Franco-English pub had failed to capture the imagination of the rest of the Tartan Army, but being a big fan of micro-brewed real ale, I was happy as a frog in beef myself. After Bruce and Sharon joined us, we got talking to our neighbours - the table next to us turned out to have a crowd of Scots and French related through marriage, in Coatbridge of all places. The Potting Shed Tartan Army was next to arrive, with Susan sporting a matching hat to Ally’s (awww…), and then it was over the road to new Thistle Pub for another beer before heading out to the area I’d inadvertently scoped from the airport minibus the night before.

(A quick word about The Thistle – excellent! Very, very friendly, and not overwhelmed in the way that the Highlander and the Auld Alliance, both otherwise superb ex-pat bars in their own right, were in 2002 or, reportedly, again in September 2007)

Catching the metro so early had the obvious advantage of affording ample breathing space, and then a fortuitous mistake led to us surfacing at the far exit from our target pub – Hoggans, the Irish bar on the roundabout – but next to a wee brasserie that knocked out inexpensive toasties (which slightly offset the expensive beer…). With the sandwiches washed down, and after the obligatory photo stop in front of the “Sumo” restaurant sign, it was off to Hoggans to meet up with Craig, Disco Keith, Callum and Gav B. Quick service, good Guinness and possibly the most spacious gents toilet in the whole of France meant for a pleasant few hours leading up to kick-off, and with our chosen perch on the street outside the front door, we had the added entertainment of French road-rage caberet to keep us entertained (at one point, the driver of a stranded bus left the engine running to get out and knock on the window of a 4x4, all to rapturous applause and encouragement from the onlooking drinkers).

Difficult as it was to tear ourselves away from the alcoholic womb of Hoggans, we set off with Callum’s generously distributed carry out for sustenance. The ground was a 20 minute walk away, and far from our confident predictions that our chosen route to the ground would easily outflank those marching from the Eiffel Tower*, it turned out our “just one more quick one” refrain had left us at the back of a sizeable queue to get in. With assigned seat numbers long abandoned, we filed in towards the back of the official Scotland section and ended up alongside the segregation fence (a wholly laughable concept in this instance!). With me being the last to take up my space, I found that the fence effectively blocked half the pitch, so Helen and I moved further down and across, ending up in the aisle for most of the first half until Lynne, on her way to the toilet immediately before half-time, squeezed past us and explained that her and James had two spare seats right next to them, making for a much more comfortable second-half (I dread to think what the surge down the aisle would have been like when the goal went in).

* I have to confess that I thought the Eiffel Tower march was a mental idea as, factoring in the combination of rapidly warming lager, full pubs en route, lack of toilet facilities and distance, I figured it would be an uncomfortable struggle to be in for kick-off, dehydrated thirsty and hungover. On reflection, I’m happy to admit I was wrong!

Almost from our first steps inside the ground, it was apparent that an unpreeeecedented (sic) amount of Tartan Army had found their way into the home end, and the joyous clapping accompaniment to La Marseillesaise (which still gives me goose bumps just to think about) rang out around the ground as the anthems were played. Incidentally, and coming hot on the heels of France’s 0-0 draw in Italy where the anthem was whistled out, the Scottish refrain brought all round praise from the French media the next day! The sea of tartan and waving lion rampant and saltire flags continued unabated around the entire arena, and it is a testimony to the welcoming nature and tolerance of the French fans (yes, yes… even the Parisians!) that no flashpoints occurred as a result. The performance was stirring stuff from start to finish, however along with everyone else I’ve spoken to about the day, I was busy looking around the stadium at the sea of tartan and taking in the singing as Gordon launched the ball forward in the 64th minute; after all, what could possibly happen? The next moment I looked at the pitch to see the ball rocketing towards goal and the goalkeeper flying across to palm it into the inside netting. Sheer, unequivocal disbelief followed.

The next 25 minutes plus passed in a blur. I’ve spoken to several people who were at Southampton’s 1976 FA Cup Final victory against the unassailable Man Utd and they’ve told how they spent the last 10 minutes (Bobby Stokes having scored in the 81st) celebrating, oblivious to the fact the game had carried on without them. Whilst it wasn’t quite as delirious as that, and I remained acutely aware of the fragility of our lead, it never really felt as heart-stopping as I would have previously imagined. In fact, I remember coolly thinking “they’ll now need to score three to beat us on the head-to-head”, not one to equalise or two to win, but simply doing the head-to-head arithmetic after the lessons learned in the last campaign against Norway (away goals only counting double in Euro head-to-heads, not FIFA World Cup ones).

Then came the final whistle and the reality sunk in – we had become one of the few teams to win a competitive game in France in the last decade. Unlike the corresponding home win the previous autumn, when the loudest cheer by far came at the final whistle, this was more of a satisfying finish, confident that Scotland could now go away from home and win against top quality opposition, not merely scrape the odd freak result here and there as plucky underdogs. After wandering around delirious for a while, hugging anything that moved, it was back out onto the streets of Paris and straight into an honour guard of French supporters who were applauding the Tartan Army down the street.

We headed back towards the Hoggans vicinity, planning one in the small bar next to the Metro, only now with Tam Coyle and WESTA wenches Wendy and Joyce in tow. The bar was closed, but common consensus suggested heading underground and getting back to the centre rather than have a few in Hoggans. By now, nervous exhaustion was taking a hold of Helen of me, and we opted to head back to the Bastille area, whilst everyone else was heading for the Irish Pub next to the Moulin Rouge. At this stage, the evening was at a real watershed: Helen and I ended up getting lost between the Bastille and the Place de a Republique, eventually getting into a Quick burger bar before the doors were bolted, and following that up with a relatively early night (2-ish); Bruce and Sharon went with everyone else to the Irish Pub, then pretty much went straight to bed, ensuring they were up bright and early for their Eurostar the next day; Ally and Susan, on the other hand, gave up on getting home that night and partied on in the Irish Bar until the metros started running again on Thursday morning. Not to be out-done, they then went on a pub crawl with Rich and Kenny the next day, finding a bar run by a French jakey Raymond Domenech look-alike and staffed by a woman with an incredibly nice backside (“if only her face had been as tight as her arse, she’d have been gorgeous”). For Helen and me, all was not lost, as after an uneventful flight home and some top notch Bordeaux and Brie on the Thursday, it was off to Magdeburg (via Dresden) the next day for a drunken weekend of Fortuna Düsseldorf and ongoing celebrations!

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Bruce's France Gallery


When the draw was made for the qualifiers, the two stand-out trips for me were Ukraine and Georgia. When the Ukraine jaunt in October 2006 failed to live up to expectations, coupled with my new job having less holiday allowance, I’d let doubts creep in about the Georgia trip. Tales of civil unrest and Russian missile strikes didn’t exactly fire our imagination either. We’d booked pretty much a year in advance to fly from Munich-Tbilisi, keeping our Glasgow-Munich (and back to London) options deliberately open, on the off-chance that Fortuna managed to sneak promotion to the second division, and could therefore be playing anywhere in Germany that weekend. In the event, Fortuna were due at Borussia Dortmund reserves the weekend immediately after the Georgia game, and with Ally and Sue on the same flights as us and committed to spending the weekend in Munich, we decided to spend one night there and fly back on the Saturday (giving an all-important rest day before going back to work – something that was sorely missing from the previous year’s Kiev trip).

The trip then took shape thus: Friday evening, fly Gatwick-Glasgow; stay for two nights at the airport Holiday Inn; see Scotland v Ukraine; on Sunday fly Glasgow-Heathrow-Munich with BA, and luggage checked through; allow an extra couple of hours at Munich airport, in case the inbound flight’s late (or, if not, to enjoy the on-airport brewpub!); fly to Tbilisi, arriving at 3am Monday morning and getting picked up by a hotel transfer; stay at the Marriott Hotel on a ludicrously cheap points deal (approx £60 per room per night!); see Georgia v Scotland; leave Tbilisi at 4am Friday morning, arriving at Munich for 6am; check into the Mercure Hotel in Schwabing (booked from the Thursday night) for some much needed sleep, then head out into Munich for some Bavarian beer and leather-clad thigh-slapping before flying back to Heathrow on the Saturday; all that would then stand between us and home is a National Express bus to Gatwick and a train to deepest rural Surrey.

The first part all went well, with Scotland romping to a two-goal lead within the first 10 minutes, and running out 3-1 winners against the previous year’s World Cup Quarter-Finalists. We even resisted temptation and headed straight back to the airport hotel after the Allison Arms (although, to be fair, things did go a bit melon-shaped before then…)

We checked through to Munich with no problems, and congratulated ourselves on additional lounge-time at Heathrow as we wouldn’t have to clear security there (having come off a domestic flight). We were even able to enjoy a bit of blether with the Tevo brothers at Glasgow, and again with BASTA chief Don Lawson on the flight down. The problems started at Munich, where we arrived on time but our luggage didn’t. A quick enquiry showed that one of the bags had been loaded onto the next LHR-MUC flight, which would allow just enough time for us to check it on to the Lufthansa flight to Tbilisi. BA assured me that the other bag would be sent on to Tbilisi the next day and couriered to our hotel. Now, we like to think of ourselves as battle-hardened travellers, savvy enough to cope in the face of adversity, and to this end (and learning from Ally’s demise in Vilnius earlier in the campaign), we’d split the luggage roughly half-and-half, however one half had more of Helen’s single items in and one had nominally more of mine (given I don’t have the same need for hair straighteners…). After an edgy couple of beers in AirBrau with Ally and Susan and two bagpipers they’d met on the EasyJet flight across from Edinburgh, I returned to the BA luggage desk to find that it was Helen’s bag that had won the lottery.

After checking in the bag (here’s a tip – never fold a Lufthansa boarding card, as the luggage machine doesn’t like that!) and clearing security, it was into the airside AirBrau with the Cheeky Nonsense Tartan Army for some last minute sustenance. The flight was rammed, but by a stroke of luck, I found myself next to Scott from Dundee, a fellow regular on the TAMB; despite our strapping frames, we both ensured that each other had plenty of space and there was none of the armrest wrestling that sometimes ensues with complete strangers. As Helen passed out, even sleeping through the “missile attack” over the Black Sea, Scott and I got tore into the wine, showing some nice footwork to switch seamlessly from red to white when the grumpy stewardess (to be fair, almost everyone was asleep, so you’d have thought she’d be happy to have something to do…) claimed the red had ran dry.

Tbilisi passport control was conspicuously absent of all the ex-Soviet trappings we’ve come to know and love: there wasn’t a ludicrously large peaked cap in sight. In fact, the whole airport gleamed like something out of an advert. After a slightly nervous few moments waiting to see if our (now-singular) bag had made it, we were out and in the back of the hotel Mercedes sent to pick us up ($25 well spent). We were safely ensconced in our hotel room less than an hour after landing, and the bed alone would have given whole rooms in Paris a run for their money, let alone the abundance of plumped up pillows.

Monday morning came and went in a lie-in, and early afternoon saw us bump into Ally and Susan no less than 50 yards from our hotel along Rustaveli Avenue. Walking with us back the way we came, we bumped into Wolfie and Robert across from Vienna, and then having stepped over the trench that separated the underpass stairs from what passed as a pavement (“this place will look great once they’ve finished it”), into Disco Keith (late for Wolfie!), Mazz and the happy couple, Kenny and Andy Maclean. They tipped us off about a wee Georgian restaurant, just up the hill from the main drag, and we duly settled in there for some authentic Georgian cuisine. After ordering dishes for myself and Helen, the waitress smiled and trotted off, only to be chased by Ally ordering his and Susan’s. He really shouldn’t have bothered. I’ve eaten few things more filling than Georgian cooking; just a tiny amount of the cheese pie (Katchapuri) sets in your stomach like cement! It got to the stage that every time the kitchen door swung open, we prayed it wasn’t more food for us! Still, the beer was very good (both Argo and Kazbegi) and no-one can fault the price.

After paying the bill and rolling ourselves outside, we stumbled into the Paradise Lost pub/restaurant opposite the decorative McDonalds building, shortly to be joined by Carey McEvoy on a walkabout from his guesthouse out in the suburbs. An abortive attempt to find a backstreet bar led us towards the warm embrace of the Nali pub and Monday evening’s Fans Embassy. This was a good move, as the comfortable pub was nicely full but not bursting, and through Paul “The Claw” and Tam from EASTA, we were introduced to the most connected man in Georgian football: Georgi the Georgian. Georgi was doing his utmost to introduce some fan culture to the national team, and had arranged a Georgian fans team to take on the TA Select. After we politely rebuffed his request to join him and his friends drinking outside the gates of the Presidential Palace, fearing such a move could easily be misinterpreted by the police and media, he disappeared, only to resurface 30 minutes later clutching a sports bag full to bursting with Georgia scarves, which he then proceeded to distribute free of charge to everyone in the pub!

After a couple of hours, we decided to strike out and explore the street that ran past Nali, having heard it boasts a fair few bars. We only made it two doors along, but to be fair it was far from kicking. After finishing off in there, following an in-depth conversation with a film director who told us it was fine after all to toast with beer, we headed along to the Dublin pub. This place was bouncing to a live band, but we managed to snag a table just before the Nali crowd made it in. By now, things were getting a little hazy, but I do know that I ended up gate-crashing a Georgian birthday party whilst Kenny “treated” Susan, Ally and Helen to a round of tequilas. It all ended in tears shortly afterwards…

Tuesday morning saw us up relatively early and off to Ally’s hotel to RV for a taxi to the Georgian FA offices on the edge of town for the ticket pick-up, bumping into an aggrieved Tam McGhee on the way – he’d been stitched up by Austrian Airlines and his hotel on the way out, but at least he’d made it; we heard the next day that several Scots had been left stranded at Heathrow after a delayed Aberdeen-London flight. The taxi was an “experience”, of the near-death variety; we marvelled at how the other side of the road becomes an overtaking lane when the oncoming lights are red, despite six lanes of traffic already cramming in to the three allocated lines on each side of the road. The windscreen was cracked, but at least the brakes and horn worked well, as we were treated to both on a liberal basis. As the token Russian speaker (strictly tourist level), I had a ringside view of all of this next to the driver as well.

The Georgian FA HQ sits somewhat incongruously as a stone chalice on a patch of scrub wasteland, next to the road out of a town and up the slope from the presentable, mostly open bowl that passes for Lokomotiv Stadium. Of course, despite the SFA’s instructions to the contrary, the ticket pick-up wasn’t actually from here, but rather from the travel agents 100 yards back down the road. After a brief wait, and a look at Frieda’s new patterned tights (a long story, but at least I didn’t end up with them on my head this time…), we picked up the tickets with a minimum of fuss. We also bumped into Helmut from Hannover, along with Torsten, a guy I’d met a few years ago at the Confederations Cup but not seen since; his Mum comes from Dumbarton, and he divides his support between the Sons and Hannover 96.

Rather than take the cowards’ way out and jump in the idling taxi back to the relative civilisation of downtown Tbilisi, we opted to walk some of the way, weighing up whether to take the cable car up the mountain (and sensibly declining!). After passing Gav and Craig at the Unknown Soldier monument, and picking our way through the rubble and car parts on the “pavement”, we found an inviting looking door leading down into an equally inviting cellar bar/restaurant. After more over-ordering and bursting at the seams, we ventured further down the street, stopping first at ????, so named due to the street number and afflicted by power cuts, then again at the wee bar next door as the rain bounced off the pavement and ran in torrents down the street.

Eventually we decided we had to make a move back towards civilisation, however with the rain showing no sign of abating, we huddled in a bus stop and attempted to catch one that headed to somewhere we vaguely recognised (always a sound strategy, particularly in the dark with torrential rain!). After two abortive attempts to board a centre-bound bus, and a curious police car, a taxi appeared like a genie out of a bottle and whisked us to the Sioni area of town (opposite the Old Metheki Church) for a third of the price we’d paid that lunchtime to go and get the tickets! The plan was to locate the Kaiserbrau; Reeky Sporran had already warned us in Nali that the place was impossible to find, so much so, he doubted its very existence! Quite simply, with beer-scooper pride at stake, we couldn’t afford to fail…

The Sioni area was very plush and modern, albeit quiet given it was a rainy Tuesday evening, however finding the brewpub was indeed a challenge; not only did our map bear no relation to the street names in front of us, but none of the locals seemed any wiser either. We picked up Mark and Steve, a pair of Ally’s fellow Aberdonians, and at their suggestion we repaired to a riverside establishment with the rather ambitious title of the “Rasta Café”; despite its best intentions from the Bob Marley / leaf logo on the sign, it was more olde worlde Tbilisi than cutting edge Amsterdam. This pit-stop renewed my vigour to track down the errant brewpub, and sure enough, not 100 yards away down the riverbank was the very gargoyles we’d been told (by the SFA’s guidance notes) to look out for. Inside was spacious and airy, if a little dimly lit, with the gleaming coppers on show. The beer itself was passable if not great (maybe I’m a little fussier these days?), but the food menu was a bit laughable – most of the items were unavailable, and for five orders of nachos (little more than Doritos with a token amount of grated cheese) we were warned there’d be a 20 minute delay! Nonetheless, I had my beer and was therefore happy, and the banter was good, varying from Steve’s anecdotes about the Brunei oil industry to sleeping rough around Europe to the attractiveness of Aberdonian women. As the night drew to a close (we were the last people to leave the brewpub), Mark and Steve grabbed a taxi to a late-opener across town and the four of us meandered up past the brightly lit old walls.

Matchday saw us progress even less far from our hotel than Monday before being swept along to the nearest pub by Mick Carr, Mazz, Fraz and Andy – it turned out there was a pool bar round the corner and in the same block as our own hotel! Ally and Susan joined us, however with minimal sleep (Andy hadn’t been to bed since arriving on the Passport flight the previous day), most people drifted off and the four of us headed back towards Monday’s excellent Georgian restaurant. By now, rumours of early closures were reaching us – Nali and Dublin were to both remain shut on matchday – so we ate and drank our fill (taking much more care over the ordering now!) and headed back around the corner to Marco Polo, a smart looking restaurant/bar on Rustaveli itself. Inside the place was jumping, with WESTA having secured themselves prime spot in the middle of the ground floor – apparently there were 5 floors; we could see a basement and a balcony but didn’t explore further.

After several beers, but still well before the game, word came that buses were being assembled over the road to drive us down to the stadium. This seemed a great idea, and with a small carry out, we ended up on the first bus to the ground with Chairman Jim leading from the front. The buses sped through town complete with police escort, then straight in the gates of the stadium and deposited us at the foot of the stairs to our section – despite there being 90 minutes until kick off, any pleas to leave and find a pub fell on deaf ears (there was actually an alcohol ban in place around the ground, although some stories of this being flouted have filtered through). Thankfully, the remains of the carry out was able to be finished in peace ahead of the bag check on the stairs before we took up our place in time for the warm up.

The game wasn’t particularly memorable: Georgia scored early in the first half, we had a stonewall penalty waved away (a trademark of this campaign!), rarely threatened and Georgia scored a deserved second. The weird thing was, after the humiliation of losing 1-0 in Lithuania in 2003 and being taunted mercilessly by the locals in the aftermath, the Georgians were incredibly sporting, even to the extent of lining the stairwells behind the police guard to applaud the Scotland fans and try and swap scarves. Even the day after the game, I was amazed at the number of locals who expressed surprise and humility at the result! We squeezed onto one of the first few buses back into town, and someone suggested a pub (possibly Hungarian in theme?) just the other side of the darkened Dublin. To be fair, I was in foul mood following our capitulation, and along with most of the company, spent the rest of what remained of the evening with my head in my hands before giving up the ghost and calling it a night.

Thursday always had the potential to be a strange day, with a hotel checkout and then a long wait for a 4am flight (with a car to the airport at 1.30am). Despite agreeing a 4pm checkout, we were out by 1.30pm, and after a quick pit stop at McDonalds, I’d made up my mind to track down a Georgia shirt and had received some reliable intel that one of the streets by the ground offered rich pickings. Ally and Susan joined us on our quest, so we braved the journey to the centre of the earth on the never-ending escalator to get to the metro. Tbilisi’s main station is relatively non-descript, apart from its actual location – the middle of Baghdad market! A chance meeting with a clock-making football collector led to the frankly bizarre exchange of a NATA pennant for a small travel alarm clock customised with a Georgian FA badge!

The street by the ground proved rich pickings indeed, and I was able to pick up an official Diadora red shirt for less than £20 from the first of the dozen or so sports shops; even better was the Dynamo Tbilisi scarf from the Dynamo sports shop built into the stadium wall. After being shooed away by an overzealous guard for trying to photograph the ground, we worked our way around on the trail of Shota Arveladze’s World Sport Bar. What we eventually found was the most innocuous looking, windowless building with absolutely no sign of what lay within. The bar itself, on the inside anyway, was very presentable in that “I’ve got loads of money and want to show how western and sophisticated I’ve become” way, as favoured by Eastern European moguls and entrepreneurs. What was less obvious was who the target clientele was, seeing as we were the sole customers for 90% of the time we were in there for.

Afterwards we completed the loop around the ground and took an even more mental backstreet back to the station, catching the tube through town and out the other side of the river, near to the Old Metekhi Church. After an hour or so of winding through the backstreets and admiring the view from a couple of church ramparts, including the Old Metekhi itself, we chanced going into one of the city’s top restaurants with its own balcony hanging over the river. After a leisurely meal (that I still thought was going to kill me with gluttony!) we strolled down the hill and over the river to Kaiserbrau, where a meeting of WESTA and Loony Alba minds was underway. Kevin and Gav were distraught at my souvenir haul, particularly the clock (which now has pride of place on my office desk), and vowed to redress the balance the following day.

After finishing up in Kaiserbrau, and still killing time ahead of setting off for the airport, we wound up in Hanger Bar, a highly regarded Irish pub not far down the hill from the Marriott Courtyard where the Sporran Legion were safely ensconced. After convincing Reeky that Kasierbrau was a “Torshavn Dubliner” style wind-up, we opted not to stay for a beer, as the pub seemed to have peaked and was now at that refugee camp stage of the evening. Back at the Marriott, we met up with Gav and chatted before hopping in the hotel car for the ride back to the airport. Gav’s not the best flyer at normal times, but when confronted with a Lufthansa notice that volunteers were being offered €500 to fly the next day, he’s even worse! Knowing he had a tight connection at Munich, he was keen to get safely through-checked, however he need not have worried as we ended up first in the queue. Understandably, some of the more intrepid TA members did put their names forward for the cash incentive, however they were left empty-handed and on-board when enough people didn’t show up.

The airside departure lounge is just as smart as the rest of the airport, with a couple of shops, a pub and a burger bar, where we sat with Riga-bound Dangerous Dave. The gate-side security were not bothered about me taking some water on board, which was just as well seeing as Lufthansa were attempting to parboil us on the way back!

There was yet more luggage fun to be had – the second bag had never made it to the Marriott, so I harboured an outside hope that I would be reunited with it in Munich airport before flying back to London on the Saturday. These plans were momentarily suspended when the bag that had made it didn’t show up at Munich airport either! Thankfully, this was only a minor blip – as it was a rucksack, it came off the outsized belt 10 minutes or so later, so it was onto the S-Bahn for the trek into Munich and some much-needed sleep.

After the ferocious temperatures on the plane, the biting cold of Munich initially came as a welcome relief. It took so long for me to cool down that when I left the hotel around 2.30pm that afternoon, I was foolhardy enough to walk out in a long sleeved t-shirt with my kilt, without even a thought of an outdoor coat or other layer. Of course, when it started snowing a mere 2 hours later, I had ample chance to consider the folly of my ways. Helen and I had started the afternoon off with a couple in the lokal right next to the hotel, and followed this up with a couple in a party bar just off the Viktualenmarkt before meeting up with Ally and Susan (who’d just invested in an identical goretex jacket to her husband, awwww….). Of course, you can’t come on your first visit to Munich (for Ally and Susan) without struggling over a vase of beer in the tourist trap that is the Hofbrauhaus, however I think all of us overestimated our capacities at this stage, as we took well over an hour to clear our litre each, whilst other people came, drank, went, were replaced and so on (like one of those slow motion capture shots of a flower blossoming). Not my proudest moment, and we wisely retired for the evening at this juncture.

The following day’s train > plane > bus > train adventure all went smoothly, and as a fitting postscript, my bag and its entire contents were returned to me completely undamaged 5 weeks later, having turned up at Tbilisi airport (hence disproving my oft-vented theory that some wee corrupt Georgian hotel porter was stoating around town in my lucky sky blue away shirt). It’s just a shame that I didn’t get that lucky shirt back in time for the Italy home game…

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Bruce's Georgia Gallery

Highlights of 2007

As per 2005 and 2006's awards, here's the hall of fame for 2007 (according to Paul):

Best away trip: Georgia

Best away game: France 0, Scotland 1

Best home game: Scotland 3, Ukraine 1

Best night away on TA duty: Tuesday night in Vienna

Best away pub: The Frog & Rosbif, Paris

Best karaoke performance: Aaron doing Hey Jude in the Allison Arms after the Italy defeat, closely followed by my own spoken word rendition of "I Will Survive"

Best pre-match home pub: The Allison Arms

Best post-match home pub: The Allison Arms

Best quote: "It would be like watching someone trying to shift a wardrobe" - Rich on why not having a first dance at the wedding was better for Helen.

Best song: "I woke up this morning (da-da-da-dum), She sat on my face (da-da-da-dum), I said trim your p*ssy (da-da-da-dum), It's a f*cking disgrace (da-da-da-dum)" - Singing the blues, NATA style

Best beer: Siebensternbräu, Vienna or Dark de Triomphe, Paris

Most mental local firewater: The fruit schnapps consumed en route to Bari's ground

Most boring location: The Faroe Islands

Drunkest NATA member: # 1 - Paul in Italy; # 2 - Paul in the Faroes; # 3 - Paul at the Italy home game

Favourite stadium visited: Parc des Princes, Paris

Favourite match venue city: Vienna

Best non-TA destination: # 1 - Düsseldorf (again); # 2 - Berlin

Best non-TA pub: # 1 - Schumacher’s Stammhaus, Düsseldorf (again); # 2 - The Stanley Arms, Portslade

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