What a fantastic result - not to mention performance - this was. I have to confess that I wasn't that confident us of winning the tie considering Basel's recent record in Europe. Plus they've done so well in their league this season, although they're hardly playing top class opposition every week of course. Anyway, not having been able to go to Breda, I had to go to this one just in case it's the last European away trip that we have this season.
Our flight from East Midlands to Geneva was leaving at a very civilised time. So civilised in fact that our car were meeting up in The Palace pub in Leeds for a pint before setting off. It certainly makes a nice change from those 7 o'clock flights from Stansted. Anyway, it wasn't long before we were at the airport, where of course we killed the time with a couple more pints. There were nine in our group, plus there was Mick and his missus from York who were on the same flight and had given Pigeon a lift down. The flight got to Geneva 20 minutes early, and we were soon at the hotel after an 'interesting' walk through the red light district. The hotel (the De La Cloche) was basic, but it was clean and the bloke in charge couldn't have been friendlier or more helpful.
We didn't do much more than drop the bags off before setting off to check out Geneva. After a token stroll by the lake we looked for a bar. We dived into a locals place where they had a few problems digging out 9 half litre glasses. Everyone that came in seemed to want to chat, setting the tone for the rest of the trip. After a couple of beers we were in serious need of food. Being in Switzerland we of course had to have....... Chinese. We found a great place - good food, lots of it, and cheap beer. We found the burberry place mat things very amusing! When it was time to move on we had a sweep on the bill. I went for Sfr303, and it came to Sfr301.40. Unfortunately I was robbed of the winnings by Aaaaarrrooooonnnaa who had gone for Sfr300! Steady's Sfr170 was just a bit optimistic.
The next port of call was an English style pub, with the usual high prices. It was good crack though. Just about everyone in there was British, all in Geneva for different reasons, and all apparently wanting to talk to us. We played some darts (not very well) and started to chat up a couple of attractive lasses. One of them turned out to be a Mackem(!!!!) who couldn't understand why Newcastle fans and Sunderland fans have to hate each other. She tried to convince me and Pigeon that we should want all north-east teams to do well. Pigeon walked away shaking his head in the end!
'Dad' (Alan H) was the first one to head back. The rest of us stayed a bit longer. I haven't got a clue what time it was when I got back, but I know it wasn't easy dragging myself out of bed next morning!
We weren't catching a train to Basel until 10 to 2 - that train was 19 quid less than the normal fare - which was just as well considering that we all had to use the one shower. We all felt a lot better after the coffee and bread that the bloke brought us for breakfast. What was even better was that we didn't have to pay for it. We were supposed to pay Sfr2 for a shower and Sfr2 for breakfast, but when we came to pay the bill we weren't charged for either. All in all a bit of a bargain.
Eventually we set off from the hotel to kill time until the train. The forecast had been for sunshine, but instead there was thick, low cloud and it was freezing. At least the fountain was working - the first time I've seen it in three visits. Mind, you could only just see it due to the low light. We had a quick tour round the old town then it was time for beer! We settled into a bar opposite the station. The beer (which was brewed on the premises) was cheaper if you bought it 'in bulk'. We started off with 5 litres, but that didn't go far, so we moved up to 10 litres. They brought it to the table in a big glass tube with a tap on the bottom. Steady, being an occasional barman, did the honours when it came to dishing it out.
Only too soon it was time for the train. We stacked up with picnic stuff (ok, mainly beer) in the shop in the station and settled ourselves down for the 3 hour journey. Pigeon hadn't had to buy any food in the shop as he'd brought stuff from home. Big Issue had jokingly told him to bring a tin of corned beef as Switzerland was very expensive, so he did! Along with a loaf of bread, some of it buttered. I don't think he'd ever opened a tin of corned beef before - what a mess he made! There were some interesting characters on the train. One was a Toon fan living down the south coast somewhere who's seen our web site. He didn't have a ticket, so Alan J sold him one of his spares. Then there was the student from Singapore (in Toon top) with his lass, who also didn't have tickets. They were hoping to get into the home end.
The train was bang on time (naturally!) getting to Basel. It was only 10 minutes to the hotel, so were soon out looking for a bar. This turned out to be a bit harder than we expected. We ended up trying a sort of cafe/restaurant. We asked if we were ok just having drinks (as a couple of locals were doing), and they said we could. Then they started having second thoughts. They wanted the tables for 'proper' customers, but said we were ok for 15 minutes. "Right, nine large beers then pet!" We managed to convince them that we could finish a large beer in 15 minutes, but they were making it obvious that they really didn't wasn't us there so we got up and walked out. We ended up instead in a bar that was attached to a posh looking restaurant. Not really a serious drinking establishment, but they sold beer and we were made welcome. There were only a handful of Toon fans came in the whole time we were there. Not quite the same as our other European experiences, but it was ok.
Kick-off was drawing near. Despite the fact that we'd been given free public transport passes at the hotel and that there was a tram right to the ground, Steady decided to order 3 taxis. I certainly wasn't going to pay for a taxi when I could get to the ground for nowt! Some of us headed off to the tram stop, while a few felt obliged to use the taxis when they turned up. We had a bit of crack with the Basel fans on the tram, and before we knew it were were at the ground. Alan H didn't think the ground was the ground and was ready to head off to to whatever was on the opposite side off the road! Very conveniently the tram stop turned out to be right next to the away entrance. Even better, there was a big van selling food and beer outside and we had enough time for a can before going into the ground. More crack with their fans ensued. It was a really friendly atmosphere with very low-key policing.
As usual their fans proved that atmosphere at English grounds is just about the worst anywhere - scarves and flags everywhere, noise throughout the match, and fans all still there at the finish despite getting beat. The thousand or so Toon fans also never shut up or sat down for a minute. Shola's winning goal naturally triggered an extended rendition of the Shola Ameobi song.
It was a nice surprise to be let straight out the ground at the finish - a rare occurrence in Europe. Within seconds we were on the tram back to the centre. I think I can safely say that the trams were jumping! The locals all seemed to take it very well considering. My tram dropped me at the station, where I eventually bumped into Aaaaarrrroooonnnna, Steady and Sara. We went for a nightcap in the same place we'd been before the game. Everyone else ended up in some beerhall where the Toon fans and Basel fans apparently got on famously. Pigeon and Alan J got dragged from there to a nightclub by some locals, but they wouldn't pay the 10 quid admission. Instead they were allowed to buy some drinks and take them outside. They obviously had beer coats on by now - it was bloody freezing.
We had to set off quite early next morning to get back to Geneva for the flight home. Aaaaarrrroooonnna didn't share my confidence in the Swiss railway system and was panicking like hell. We all found it quite funny! I think he really should have gone for the earlier train like he wanted to. The train ride back was a bit subdued compared to yesterday's. There was a small amount of cards and beer, but also some sleeping. The train was, of course, on time when it reached the airport. There was just time for one last beer (ok, two for some people) before we boarded. All too soon it was all over until the next time.
The one below is from the official FC Basel site - they've got more here.