Mochni Mochni Cerno Bulo (*)

Hello from Serbia, come in please!

Hello YMs here's a brief non Big Issue style report on my lonely adventures in Beograd.

Left on the 2.54 A.M. train from York to Manchester in colours. It didn't set off from Newcastle but the following one did, so expected to meet loads of Geordies at the airport. Tucked into my four pack of Stella on the train. Kept the whisky for the airport. Not a good idea to get plastered knowing my reputation but bollocks I was on 'oliday!

Arrived to check in only to find my tickets hadn't arrived and I would have to pay 70 surcharge. Kicked off rather big style, managed to consult with Mother Pidgeon's answering machine asking for a short term loan deal, only for the buggers to find my ticket after all.

Left for Munich. All well so far. No Toon tops anywhere. Thought they were covered up in case of bother. Three Becks and a glass of wine and a disgusting German sandwich later (turns out I put jam in it thinking it was ketchup!) and arrived in Germany. Two more beers and a connecting flight to Belgrade and still no Mags.

On plane by 8.30am, very drunk and spotted my first Toon fans, sitting in the wrong seats. I would later join them, in the wrong seat myself, as German airlines don't have a row 17! Don't know why, didn't bother asking because the bar opened aboard. More wine, beer and cheese sandwiches. I avoided the jam this time!

Arrived in Belgrade at 10ish local time, scorching weather, and five Mags for company, a couple from London branch. The other lads were staying with Serbians they met last time they were out here. We decided to wait for Paul Clark and co arriving from Vienna at 1.30. Some poor sod was stung for the first round, getting the expensive beer instead of the Serbian cheaper stuff, with a use by date of 30/08/03. They were delayed as they arrived at 2.30 and was on a bus by 3 heading to the city. Still no digs sorted but luckily Paul was on the case, booking in advance. Unluckily he forgot me.

Managed to secure a single room for 11 a night for Tuesday only as I was fleeing early Thurs.

Lots more drink, no food, no sleep.

Went to hotel bar, the Hotel Balkan, for more drink before heading into the square for drinks in The Sculpture Bar. Lots more drink and on more than one occasion the tab was cancelled. Met a couple of lasses who said they would take me on a tour of Belgrade the next day. Serbs ordered "kebabs" around 4 but they were actually burgers.

Police then chased us away for singing and surprising managed to tell them I was staying elsewhere in order to avoid them taking us home. Paul Clark and I escaped to safety somewhere else for more drink and merriment, with half the Serbian police force on our tails.

Early rise. Beer at 9.30 outside hotel after fry-up. Food looked crap but tasted a little better. Coffee looked grey, tasted crap and obviously the beer flowed as soon as I was in the sun.

A lad called Wince (I think) joined me in the heat to toast the night before. We ordered beer at 9.30 but it had gone ten before the dozy waiter brought it out after we ordered for the third time. Another of Paul Clark's lot, Dave, crawled out of bed shortly after to have a few cokes. I'd arranged to meet a Serbian lass the night before but she arrived with her bloody brother in tow at 10.30ish. She couldn't believe we were supping beer at that time, by now about the third of the day, but I told her to shut up because the coffee was crap. Her brother, who was 15, declined the offer of beer and settled for a coke. The lass, Ivana studies Micro-Biology or some other bollocks. Despite speaking perfect English, Wince wouldn't speak to her except in broken very slow English!

Slowly the other lot started to arrive from bed at around noon. Tickets had to be picked up at one from The Intercontinental, 20 minutes away by cab at a cost of a quid. I'd arranged to meet some Geordies there as they were taking my bag to New Belgrade as they were on my flight back the next morning. We met Keith Barratt and his lot (two or three coaches) there as they had just arrived from the airport. You'll have seen the bother they had on the news and probably know a lot more than I do about their problems. We taxied back into town for more beer, the proud owners of 4 match tickets.

A couple of hours later a group of three Serbian lads sat next to us, buying one drink each but topping it up regularly from a bottle they'd bought at a supermarket. The bar owner 'phoned the Old Bill who came and escorted them away. Why they needed three police vans, 6 dogs and about 25 coppers is beyond me? They then told us they would be no more beer until midnight. After a few minutes deciding what to do, and Paul continuing to sup cans of Tetleys and Malibu from a coke bottle, we admitted defeat and went into the hotel where we were assured we could have a beer in our rooms. I'd already checked out by this time. However, we escaped (hardly the term it wasn't exactly Steve McQueen!) out a side door and went downstairs to a casino where we continued to get bladdered on Serbian beer, Slovakian beer, wine and vodka. Somehow nobody had a flutter in over three hours!

Taxis were booked by the lass behind the bar despite there being a taxi rank outside and we set to the ground at 8.20. No probs walking to the ground, they took all coins and lighters off us and I was in, amazingly in time to see the teams come out, was kick-off delayed?

The match was pretty poor with Woodgate and Given outstanding. Shearer looks faster than he has for years. Atmosphere was brilliant, their fans were superb and we did our best despite the limited numbers. I think, having only 7 days to book etc, 250 was a good turn out. It went bonkers when Nobby scored. There was no trouble and I didn't see anything thrown at us, although one lad claimed a bottle came towards us.

A couple of hours after the game we were let out onto coaches taking us to the Excelsior, where Barratt's lot had the trouble beforehand. We told a copper we were independent and luckily had a Serbian lad to translate, although he was pissed and kept singing anti-Mackem songs, canny lad!

Drinks in the square in the Sculpture Bar, taxis into New Belgrade to get the bags and cabs to the airport by four. Toon had left at midnight. More beer followed and a couple of lads slept.

The only bother I encountered was that I was last to go through customs and couldn't afford the airport tax of about eight pounds. The other lads coughed it up between them, otherwise I would probably still be there, thanks lads.

Slept from Belgrade to Munich, had 15 minutes to get Manchester connection with one other lad. The others were flying to Heathrow. Back in York by 1.30, great trip, great result and only a month to go until the next away European trip, hopefully.

(*)Mighty Mighty Black and White Army in Serbian. Possibly

Ta to Pigeon for this report