Issue 12            February 2000
 
 
Featuring: Editorial
New Recruits
Mystic Mag
Feng Shui Special
Steady's Skull
Tickets and Travel
Curry Night Backlash
Superstitious?
The Famous Man Utd...
CSKA Sofia Trip Report

For this edition of The Pud a Feng Shui expert was consulted and is pleased to report a good karma when being read.

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EDITORIAL

I think it’s been long enough after the millennium celebrations for the first edition of the pud in Y2K to find everyone recovered and less broke!  Hopefully you have all noticed the new club badge as we keep up with the change in time. There have been many disputes over whether or not we all celebrated a year too early. I have been informed that the real millennium isn’t until 1/1/2001. Well, another excuse for a party!

On my travels around the country this side of 2000 I have noticed certain things about football don’t change.  No matter which city you travel to, which taxi firm you use or which pub you stumble into there is always someone willing pour their hearts out to you about the game they love. It replaces uncomfortable silences with friendly vibes and laughs about each person's claim to football fame.  Even the rivalry between some teams which flow deeper than blood in some of their veins comes across as part of everyday life, basically because it is. Ask any of these guys to go without football for even a week, no talk, no results, no reviews and certainly no watching and at the end you’d have an anti-social, moody person.  If laughter is the language of the soul then football is the language of common ground.  You’ll always have something to talk about.  Especially if this immortality gene is unlocked and we all live forever we’ll never be stuck for words.  Mind you, why do I always meet the know-it-alls who go on and on and on and….?

Laura
 

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LATEST RECRUITS

Mark Kirkwood - Kirky’s 11 year old son who’s uncannily exactly like his dad. Watch out Bradford fans in 2007.

Tracey Grady’s cousin Donna Bennett from Seacroft who has already sampled the atmosphere on the mini-bus and enjoyed the Novacastria Club ambiance.

ARCHIE’ who has joined ‘Brazilian’ style by using only one name. He’s from Northallerton and has joined with another Northallerton Brazilian -‘WALLY’. Both have already craftily booked the two club tickets for the end of season match against Arsenal. Followed by a night on the hoy. Canny lads.

All are in the company of one newcomer we thought we’d have difficulty attracting. But ‘FRUITY’, from Bearpark, was the very happy recipient of a fantastic Christmas present from his brother, Shakey - a membership.

The season of giving also saw Cath Cross from Acomb receive the wonderful gift of a membership from her brother Crossy. We hope the close attentions of our Bradford Moor lothario in the Kashmir won’t put her off - too much.

Finally the recruitment of Bernie is proving fruitful as he has brought the club to the attention of Steven Nunns from Castleford.
 

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MYSTIC MAG

First of all, let’s get the gloating out of the way and I’m not talking about the fact that the Mackems and Smoggies are doing an impression of Christmas decorations - straight down after the New Year.

No, the smug smile that reflects in the old crystal ball heralds the column’s successful first investment.

You will recall we invested 12 points from our 100 point bank on Worthington Cup punts. Our two strong fancies, namely Villa or Leicester, were both backed to the tune of 5 points at 10/1. One of them will definitely meet Tranmere in the final.

Now is the time for an important rule of gambling - don’t let your heart rule your wallet. Have a 10 point saver on Tranmere at 5/2 with Corals then go along to your local, watch the final and smugly tell your pals it doesn’t matter who wins you’ve got a result.

Now, how would you like to save 50 quid or more -without having to change your gas or electricity? Say you spend a tenner a week on gambling - dogs, horses, Eurovision Song contest, whatever. The chances are you’re losing nine per cent straight away in tax - on just a tenner a week that adds up to around 50 quid a year. If you invest(?) more it will cost you more.

Well the Mystic Mag tip of the week is shop around and get an account with a few telephone bookmakers. Surrey Sports International are based in Alderney and offer tax free betting though you have to deposit a “bank’ with them first. You can contact them on 01481 824570.

If you prefer credit betting then contact Victor Chandler on 08000 979797 where account holders pay just 3% tax. Chandler calls are free and the firm offers the massive advantage of allowing single bets on all Premiership matches - no messing about trying to get three results right.

Try logging on to www.bluesq.com where you can open a deposit account and pay just 2.5% on internet betting. Shop around the net - there are firms offering no tax betting.

These are just three examples. There are plenty more to be found so get out of the routine of paying an extra nine per cent on all your bets - there really is no need.

If you enjoy sports betting then have a look at www.sportsadvisor.com. It’s a magazine on the net that covers most sports.

Finally today’s tips and Mystic Mag predicts February 12 really will be a red-letter day for followers. Firstly Newcastle will beat Man United, secondly Mr Lamb will win the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury and 5 pts should be invested now at 5/1.

It’s unlikely the next issue will be out before Cheltenham (are you trying to say I am slow? - ed) but fear not, we can reveal that on March 15 Flagship Uberalles will win the Queen Mother Champion Chase - a maximum 10 points should be invested at 7/4.

Don’t miss the next Mystic Mag when we hope to pinpoint the value in the Grand National.
 

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FENG SHUI SPECIAL

This article below is an article from a newspaper. The two follow-up articles below it  have been written by people who wish to remain nameless to protect their identity.
 

It might have been built on “a line of geopathic stress” and hampered by “negative predecessor chi”, but a four-bedroom house in West Yorkshire has brought its occupiers nothing but luck.

Andrew Snape and girlfriend Clare Shuttleworth snapped up their dream cottage after another couple pulled out of the sale because of a bad Feng Shui. The list of negative vibes seemingly affecting the house in East Morton, near Keighley were endless. They included:

Would-be buyers Keith and Carolyn Barclay immediately pulled out of the purchase-and chartered surveyor Andrew, 31,and Clare, 28, stepped in and bought the cottage in Green End Road for £97,000. Said Andrew: “We were in the right place at the right time. “When we heard about what the Feng Shui expert had said, we just had a good laugh about it. We didn’t take it that seriously. “Half of the reasons we wanted to buy the house were the reasons the Feng Shui expert had said not to - we’ve got a field at the back with a lovely river and there’s a road outside,”

Since the couple moved in they have had nothing but good luck - Clare won £100 on the lottery, was offered a new job and the house has gone up in value by £20,000. Added Andrew: “ If you were going to choose a house according to a Feng
Shui report, about 90% of the houses in the country would be ruled out because of so-called bad vibes. “We have only benefited from this house, we are really happy here and glad we moved.”

But the Barclays, who pulled out of the deal after forking out £200 for a Feng Shui report by Leeds-based Lydia Rain, have yet to find their perfect home. Said Mr Barclay: “When we got the report back, we felt we had to pull out. We knew there were things wrong with the house in Feng Shui terms, but we thought we could do small things like put a three-legged toad in the garden to counteract it.”
 

More like: “When we pulled out because of this report I knew the lads at the supporters club would rip the piss.” And they did! - ed

WHAT IS FENG SHUI?

Feng Shui (pronounced fung schway) is the ancient Chinese philosophy of living in harmony with the earth’s natural energies to promote well-being and good fortune. “Feng” means wind and “shui” translates as water. Feng shui centres around making life force, “chi”, flow well to bring prosperous, healthy and happy living.

According to Feng Shui, chi is affected by colour, geographical direction, light, movement, sound and the Chinese elements: fire, water, wood, metal and earth. Feng Shui practitioners say the most favourable or auspicious conditions for life can be created by adjusting the way these are arranged in a person’s environment. For example, feng shui principles would be used to determine which direction a room should face and which colours should be used to decorate it.

“The underlying principle of Feng Shui is to live in harmony with your environment so that the energy surrounding you works for you rather than against you,” says the magazine Feng Shui for Modern Living. "It’s a load of hippy bollocks" says the Newcastle United Supporters Club Yorkshire.
 

FENG SHUI CONSULTANT

Following the recent successful (if bogus) report at Bristol Rovers and the spectacular failure (if genuine) of a house survey in West Yorkshire, the owners of the Toon Hall Tavern in Leeds invite applications for the post of Feng Shui Consultant.

The post is part time in the first instance but the management would look to make the post full time if the successful applicant is able to talk enough crap to convince the sceptical (if mainly drunk) clientele. Applicants must be able to demonstrate a sense of humour and have an ability to thoroughly mislead people. Although it must be understood that the management intend it ignore all recommendations of the consultant no matter how genuine, as it has been shown beyond all reasonable doubt that rejected reports are more successful that those that are accepted.

Applications should include a relevant curriculum vita, stating all instances when they have been taken in or duped by Feng Shui “experts” or have coughed up sums of money (such as £200) for such reports. Receipts maybe required.

A special package maybe negotiated, including:
• free vegetarian sandwiches
• free bus travel to and from matches with a seat at the front of the bus behind the wheel
• clothing allowance, such as a new jacket should the old one be lost or stolen in the course of official business
• a free lottery ticket each week (success in the lottery following the rejection of a Feng Shui report is well documented)
 

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STEADY'S SKULL

The Master arranged the best pre-match buffet we’ve ever had - even including a substantial veggie option - in Woodbottom Club before the Bradford City match. He got his club opened early, organised very cheap extra Brown dog and saw it fill up from 10.30 am with loads of black and white wearing ex-pats.

By the time the Bradford City fans arrived the club was already full. It was a Lovely morning, the sun shone, brightening up the adjoining cricket pitch. We were 10 minutes from Valley Parade, he’d already booked 10 taxis and we were guaranteed 3 points.

He been looking forward to the match since the start of the season, a curry night in the Kashmir had been organised and he’d bought about 10 tickets from the BCFC ticket office for his Geordie mates down for the day.

Good karma, surely? But no, something wasn’t right. How else can you explain the rest of the day. What went wong? Is he cursed?

Because when we got to the ground he used his ticket to get into the Bradford stand, after diligently waiting to make sure all his mates got in. He then borrowed a coat from a friendly Bradford fan to make sure his colours were covered as he went through the turnstile.

Just as he climbed the stairs to the stand he hands back the BCFC coat, but is then instantly collared and thrown out for wearing a Toon top - at virtually 3 pm.

Desperation saw him run aound and tout a ticket off a Newcastle fan - apparent salvation. He then made his way to the away entrance, £23 worse off, and bumps into Tom and Dave Bailey who were just about to go through the turnstile.

“Oh well at least l’m in the Newcastle end” he said as he got to the front of the queue. Suddenly the long arm of the law reached over and he got collared again. This time the steward’s supervisor had watched him procure another ticket after getting thrown out. He’d followed him to the away end and instructed the Old Bill to refuse him entry.

The plods took him to their van by which time he’d almost lost it.

One plod - big grin on his face says - “Well you’ve had a wasted journey down from Newcastle mate!”

"What do you mean - it cost me 50 pence for the bus from Bradford Moor” said Stead, bitterly.

All this went on in earshot of Kirky and Date B. When the malicious steward disappeared some intense negotiations saw an early release from custody and surreptitious entry into the ground - where he had to stand-up throughout - and we lost.

He needs a serious Feng Shui consultation with Keith to get to the root of his bad luck (last reference we promise -  ed).

On second thoughts forget it - Keith’s just as numb. But Steady is one very unlucky bastard. And numb.
 

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TICKETS AND TRAVEL

Remember we now have two club tickets for use on a match by match basis. Despite the mention in the previous Pud, no-one has expressed any interest in bidding for the particular matches they’d like to use the tickets for - except Archie and Wally who only want the tickets for the Arsenal match. Unless anyone who has not yet had the chance to use the tickets bids for this match then they get them.

Please - if there are any particular matches you really want to go to - let us know otherwise the regular users will benefit. We can organise swaps to get two seats together and have been able to get up to four together previously.

A mini bus will run for all home games. Keith Barclay - ‘Driver of the Year’ - usually drives via Bradford on Saturday and Sunday matches with the main pick-up points being Leeds railway station at 10.00am, Dave Bailey’s front gate at 10.10am and the Jarvis Hotel at Wetherby at 10.30am. Usually we arrive in Newcastle for noon leaving plenty of time for lunch or lust.

Mid-week matches pick-up at the THT leaving at 4.30pm thence to Wetherby for 5pm via Dave Bailey’s house. Traffic permitting we get to the Novacastria Club on Stanhope Street for close to 6.3Opm.

Come to the monthly meeting to book seats or ring Dave Bailey.
 

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CURRY NIGHT BACKLASH

Here is a copy of the letter that JT sent to The Kashmir following Keith’s concerns over the raucous behaviour there after the Bradford City game.
 

The Manager
Kashmir Restaurant
Great Horton Road /South Brook Terrace
Bradford
 

Dear Sir,

Our club regularly uses your restaurant and M K Barclay again organised the reservation for our group of 30 for our annual Christmas curry on 17 December.

Only this time his mate Steady organised a pre-match session which saw us throw down cheap Brown dog by the bucketload from 10.30am.

By the time we got into the city centre after the match we were well on the way to getting hammered and were surprised and pleased to get past the bouncers into the Blob Shop. (They remembered me from the last curry night, canny lads.)

So when a fat, ugly, bald Bradford fan looks smugly in our direction in the boozer and then goes downstairs to the netty there’s only one course of action. Hello, hello - Yorkshire Branch Aggro ..hello, hello ....

Although Martin Bare normally kicks off - as in the Prince Edward in Bayswater on the night before Wembley with his dog-scaring, balloon-bursting aggro - this time we had some serious help ...Kirky.

Anyway when me and Tom steamed into the gents we found Kirky tightly gripping the Buster Bloodvessel lookalike by the neck. I waded into his mate, put my elbow across his throat. Tommy decided to take control and show off his Cumberland Wresting skills - and after scrabbling around on the floor - got up with a black eye and canny fat lip - hey, hey.

Bailey, during all of this, is stood at the toilet, pint in hand, laughing his head off - the short-arsed soft mackem get.

So, when we get into your place with a few cans from the off-license, isn’t it understandable that we were bouncing around a bit? So think yourself lucky we just sang a few songs and had a laugh. Can Kirky come again for the end of season curry? Can we bring Shaker? We won’t bring Eric.

Yours faithfuly,

John Thompson (Chairman)
Town Hall Tavern
Leeds LS1
 

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SUPERSTITIOUS?

Superstitious? Me? No way! I mean, I know I don’t walk under ladders (just in case a tin of paint drop on my head) and I don’t step on the cracks in the pavement (in case the bears get me - I did once go to Canada and it was touch and go for a while). But I’m definitely not superstitious.

Colin Shindler (a life-long Man City fan) in his excellent book, “Manchester United ruined my life”, tells the story of how listening on the radio to the Red Scum being 0-2 down in the first 30 minutes to Forest. Being a clever guy (though, like me, not at all superstitious) he realised he must be doing something right. He decided it must have been because his legs were crossed as he sat outside in the garden. Not wanting to change a thing he stayed that way for the next 60 minutes. He couldn’t walk properly for the next three days but it was worth it because, single-handed his actions, pain and suffering had resulted in the defeat of the loathsome enemy

Would I go that far? Don’t be daft. However in the run up to the next match I never wear anything in the other teams colours - shirts, ties, socks or scraggers. I also like the Shakespearean actors who refuse to utter the word Macbeth for fear of bad luck hence referring to it as “The Scottish Play". I too try to avoid naming the next team we are about to play for fear of giving them strength and sapping ours. I therefore often refer to their nicknane, their manager or their ground to describe them. Hence we are never about to play Everton next but the Toffees, or Man U (the scum, or off to Old Trafford), Arsenal (The Gooners or the Arse), or Sunderland (the Mackems or the inbred, rat-shagging bunch of long ball over-achievers). You get my drift.

Hence the family Cook were going to London to watch the Toon v The Crazy Gang (see what I mean). The first half, watched by 13,000 members of the Toon Army and about 12,000 “home” fans, went well but with no goals to show for the majority of possession and territory and all of the skill. However, the second half was another Bradford in the making. A jammy first goal was followed by a typical Toon defensive error and a free header. We still had loads of chances to win the game but could not find the target. What was going wrong I thought as I checked my underpants - black - phew! Toon top, black socks, no mention of the W word. What was it?

We trudged away in disgust, Cook still mystified. Three badly needed points dropped and the other results going against us. A bad day for the Toon. Back to the hotel room with the Dome to look forward to the next day (which pound for pound was more entertaining than the football, I’m sorry to say). Back home the next night and its “clothes in the wash bin and get ready for school tomorrow girls”. It was then that it happened. One of my daughters, who shall remain nameless, put her socks in the wash bin - white tennis socks with a green and BLUE logo and the name WIMBLEDON on the sides. ‘What the hell are those Catherine” (there I've let it slip now). It all becomes clear now, that explains everything.

Now as you know, I’m not superstitious you understand but we take the full blame for the loss of those three points. Anyone care to own up for the past two years, Wembley x 2, the first six games this season, the last six minutes against the Hammers, and the second half against the Bantams? Ruud has owned up to the Mackems game - and look what happened to him.

Paul Cook
 

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THE FAMOUS MAN UTD

E-mail can be used for useful things indeed.

Graeme thought you might like to see this mail he composed for one of the lads at work after Man Utd's dismal display against Vasco de Gama. It read:

The Famous Man Utd went to Rome to see the Pope,
The Famous Man Utd went to Rome to see the Pope,
The Famous Man Utd went to Rome to see the Pope,
And this is what he said.

‘Excuse me chaps but your defence is atrocious, sort it out, consider the sweeper system, get a new goalie, stop whingeing, play as a unit, pass the ball, kick the ball not the player, head the ball, use your head, use your feet, kick towards their goal not yours, flat back four, 3-5-2, Keegan-style attack, Keegan-style defence, if in doubt kick it out, find a man, man-mark, zonal defence, play to win, step up, play offside, hold your line, clear your lines, pass back, pass forwards, use your weight, muscle in, keep it tight, don’t stuff up, don't give it away, abuse the ref, abuse the linesmen, say ‘wanker’, spit on Shearer, two-foot challenge, elbow to the head, pull their shirts, venture forward, slide tackle, neat one-two, cross-field ball, overhead kick, top corner, bottom corner, dip and swerve, deflection, dip your shoulder, feign injury, con the ref, get revenge, kick the fans, incite the fans, 110%, game of two halves, take each game as it comes, every game’s a Cup Final, make every tackle count, win the 50-50s, get stuck in, skip past one, ghost past another and let fly, but for God’s sake ..........  **** Off."
 

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CSKA SOFIA TRIP REPORT     (Better late than never!)

I hadn’t been on an overseas football trip since the Barcelona debacle and the idea of going to Sofia didn’t sound immediately enticing. But I thought I’d give it a go, partly because of Graham Helling’s (Big Issue to those who know him better) tremendous efforts at travel agency but mainly because of my recently acquired freedom (she left me you know). So I decided to go the whole hog. Down to Chelsea on the Saturday, a night at Dennis’s, then a week on the Black Sea, taking in the Sofia match on the Thursday, returning on the Sunday morning, just in time to catch the mini-bus up to the Toon for the 8-0 thrashing of  Sheffield Wednesday. What a week!

Surprisingly there were only three of us who took on this feat: me, Big Issue and JT. Big Issue craftily organised himself a single room in the hotel before we left, leaving me twinned up with JT. I trembled at the memories of Bilbao, Metz and Barcelona. With those in mind I was determined to get myself a single room on arrival in Bulgaria, and this I did, although I had to endure a room-share with JT for the first night. (Actually, because we didn’t get to bed until six am after the first night out, I slept right through JT’s snoring. My bottom was a bit sore when I woke up though.)

The fun actually started while we were still in dear old, dear old Blighty. After we had boarded the plane, there was a bit of a delay before we took off. The pilot informed us that Service Air were to blame be cause they hadn’t brought our luggage to the plane. After a further delay, he told us that our luggage had been put onto the wrong plane but that it was being removed as he spoke. This turned out to be a large fib, as soon after, a rep from Service Air came onto the plane to tell us that our luggage was indeed on the wrong flight and that the decision had been made to let the plane take off - with our luggage - and that our luggage would be returned to us the next day. Speculation was rife as to where the luggage was headed. Miami seemed favourite, although Tenerife and Majorca were outside bets. Would we get a postcard? All guesses were inaccurate though as the true destination turned out to be Barbados. Cue the first witty (says who - ed) song of the week: ‘Hey, our luggage is in Barbados’ and the speculation that our luggage was probably in for a better time than us. (Second witty song of the week soon followed in the guise of ‘Travellin' Light' which was apparently recorded by Cliff Richard some years ago.)

To cut a very long story short, our luggage arrived in Bulgaria two days later sporting loud shirts, sunglasses and whistling Bob Marley tunes. Big Issue took the opportunity to spend vast amounts of money on clothes etc (not easy in Bulgaria) which he would subsequently claim on his insurance.

That adventure over, we were extremely pleased to learn that all of the rumours regarding the cheapness of the beer were true - 30p a pint. But what did it taste like? you ask. Well after the first half dozen (£1.80 spent) it didn’t really matter. The cheap beer helped us to overcome our collective shyness and we were soon befriending the German tourists at the hotel bar by giving them endearing nicknames like Adolf, Fritz and Wolfgang. I christened one of them Jimmy, much to his surprise, because of his handle-bar moustache (a la Jimmy Edwards of course). We even befriended(?) a Mackem. Actually 'befriended' is probably a bit over the top. We got to know him so we could take the piss basically. His name was Clive and the nastiest bit of skit he got was when he confided in me that he had ‘lost his wife’ eight years ago. ‘That was a bit f*****g careless was The Issue’s compassionate retort. From then on, every time we saw him we asked him if he had found his wife yet. And of course we gave him many a rendition of ‘My old man said be a Sunderland fan'.

Top lad we met was a chef from Alnwick, who was also out there for the match. Dale was his name and Dale was into fishing. So he had the idea of hiring a boat and skipper for an afternoon so we could go fishing on the Black Sea. The cost of the boat, skipper and a cool bag with twenty beers (and apparently some water) was fifty quid between us. Still feeling extremely rough from the night before (another six a.m. bedtime), we set sail. We were into the beer before the skipper told us his name. JT had the whaling seat on the front, pointy bit. Me, Big Issue and Dale kept low on deck and the skipper baited our hooks (whatever that means). Only the skipper actually caught anything - a six-inch long catfish - which he tortured for an hour or so before slinging it back into the sea to suffer a slow, painful death by drowning. Apart from the obvious male bonding and camaraderie, I enjoyed the singing best. ‘Fish when we‘re drinking’ was an obvicus choice and Dale was very impressed by our mini-bus repertoire, including the aforementioned 'My old man.....'.

The fishing day (Tuesday) turned out to be quite a day. Only Big Issue had had the foresight to eat something - a dodgy chicken kebab bought from the side of the road just as we headed for the harbour. The rest of us forgot to eat, which turned out to be not a good idea. When we got back to the hotel bar after the fishing, our German freunds insisted on buying us a bottle of the Bulgarian equivalent of Ouzo, which we graciously accepted as their apology for the war and drank. Very quickly. No immediate effect and we continued to drink into the evening, showing all the foreigners what the English are really good at. Some time in the evening, I was sat on a stool at the bar with The Issue doing likewise just around the corner of the bar. Suddenly The Issue was no longer there. I did a horizontal puzzled look around before dropping my gaze to see him sprawled on the floor with blood gushing from
his chin. Someone had ‘chinned him' I thought, but no, he had merely fallen asleep, and as some of you will know, he tends to adopt the foetal position when sleeping. But this turned out to be not so easy on a bar stool and the inevitable occurred. He and the bar stool had toppled as one.

As match day approached we discussed the various possible methods of getting to Sofia (approx. 240 mile away) for the match. The adventurer in Big Issue was determined to get the sleeper across the night before. Me and JT pointed out that we would have about fourteen hours to kill in Sofia before kick off and besides, by the time the match was finished we would have missed the sleeper back. Thoughts turned to our holiday bus driver, who was also a taxi driver. At the start of the week he had offered to take us to Sofia in his taxi, wait for us while we had a few pints and watched the match and then take us back to Sunny Beach. The journey, he said, would take about five hours each way, and for this he would charge us the princely sum of fifty quid! No, not fifty quid each but between us. After long discussions over a period of days we decided that this offer was too good to pass up...... until, on the moning of the match, he turned up in his taxi a few minutes late. A stylish yellow Golf Polo hybrid it turned out to be and the reason for the short delay, he explained was he had been trying to tie up his drooping exhaust and we would have to stop en route to have it tied up professionally. Brilliant! But there was no turning back. We had no choice but to go along with it

So off we set. I got into the front seat, mug that I am, looked over my shoulder and saw JT sat next to an already sleeping Big Issue, in his favoured aforementioned foetal position. It was going to be a long journey. And so it was. Bulgaria is a shit hole and of course we were just passing through it. The scenery was bland and the poverty obvious. We did stop to have the exhaust tied up professionally. Having it properly repaired or replaced just didn’t seem to be an option.

After about five hours we hit Sofia got to the stadium, picked up our tickets (eventually), met the London lads and went for a few beers. We went to the match, via some very dodgy looking woods that surrounded the stadium, in the dark. There were no problems with the locals. I even swapped an old Toon top for a CSKA scarf with a delighted local lad. There were no proper toilets in the ground. Simply some steps at the back of the seats which the coppers told us to wee down. I got some funny looks when I lowered my troosers and crouched down for a crap, but there you go. I won’t mention the match because that’s not what this is about.

The journey back was interesting Our driver managed to find us without any problem and soon we began our return joumey. JT and me were looking forward to a kip on the way back, both of us knowing that Big Issue would be asleep before all the car doors were shut. However, before we’d even got out of Sofia city centre, Mr Driver seemed to have decided that he’d like a kip aswell. He sat very tightly up to the wheel (I didn't mention he was a big bugger) with his arms sort of wrapped around the upper part of the wheel and what seemed to be his strategy was to simply allow himself to nod off, knowing that as he fell asleep his head would drop onto the steering wheel. This would jolt him back into the land of the living and enable him to drive whilst awake for a few more minutes. I didn’t like this strategy. Neither did JT, who was soon tapping me on the shoulder to warn me of Mr Driver’s apparent fatigue. But my eyes were already as wide as the ‘Eye of London’ and I was staring in disbelief at the side of Mr Driver’s head. Me and JT telepathically agreed that we needed to keep the driver talking With one or two well-placed questions the driver recounted in detail the entire history of Bulgaria under communist rule and how it was coping now. This took him about five hours and I don’t think me and JT could ever have listened so intently to a history lesson in our lives. When we arrived back at Sunny Beach at about 6.30am, my wide-open eyes were still staring at the side of the driver’s head. I’d had a shock! Big Issue, on sensing our arrival, simply woke up, stretched, and asked what time the bar was open.

We spent the last couple of days relaxing about on the beach disbelieving that this was actually all part of an ‘away match’. Bizarre. Maybe there’ll be other trips like this one in the future, but I can certainly say that I’d recommend one of its type to anyone.

Tom
 

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