Sunday, 6 June 2010

Athletico Madrid 2 - 1 Fulham (aet) epilogue

I wasn't going to continue dissecting the final but as Fulham, with all the timing for which they have become renowned, have this weekend launched paraphernalia for the Europa League Final, it seems it is still fair game.
We didn't stay for the trophy presentation. The late goal had taken the wind out of our sails and the knowledge of a lengthy overnight trip back to blightly saw us exit the stadium pretty sharpish after the final whistle. Had we realised the Fulham players were to be presented with runners up medals, we might have stayed, but we weren't really thinking straight.
Fortunately the rain had stopped after extra time. Being two rows from the back, when it was raining during the game, somehow we were getting wet, despite being fully covered by the roof, but it had ceased after 120 minutes as we trudged our way towards the shuttle buses to take us back to Othmarschen train station.
We were almost immediately on a bus and deposited back at the station before we really got a handle on what was going on. We wanted to find a bar that was open, but there were none around the station. So we made an executive decision to get a bunch of beer for the car and start off back. We'd had such a nightmare getting to Hamburg, we wanted to make sure we'd get back for our 1pm Eurotunnel crossing at Calais.
This was a shame. It meant we never saw anything really of Hamburg and missed out of the pre-game atmosphere at the Reeperbahn - but we were doing things on a budget and to a tight schedule so some things had to be sacrificed. Had the game finished in 90 minutes, perhaps we could have seen a little more. If, buts and maybes.
The driving back was actually quite fun with everyone debating the game and getting drunk. But one by one they fell asleep, leaving me to negotiate the roadwork heavy (but thankfully traffic light) A1. Almost as soon as we hit Holland I pulled over into a closed petrol station, parked up and prepared to get a power nap in myself. I was a bit concerned when this car parked next to us and three big bruiser types spilled out. I nonchalantly locked the doors, but they went around the back of the still deserted petrol station then got back in the car and buggered off. Had I been less sleepy, I would have moved the car somewhere else, but I needed a kip. Everyone else was still asleep anyway.
40 minutes later and I was refreshed enough to set off. It took a little concentration and an iron will to ignore what the SatNav was saying around Eindhoven to keep us on track and one more sneaky power nap among the big articulated trucks in a lay-by was enough to see us to Calais, with an hour or two to kill. So we actually came off the motorway, parked up in the town centre and went to a European Cafe. This was the way we should have done it! A slow drive through Europe setting off on Tuesday morning, staying somewhere in Holland on Tuesday night and have a lesiurely drive to Hamburg in the morning.
We caught the crossing (I was mainly asleep by this point) and got back to Hammersmith 4pm Thursday. An exhausting trip all in all - it just felt like two days of driving with a football match in the middle. Next time, we'll do it differently.

Worth it - Yes!! Definitely. A first for most people (as in European cup final), and should feel lucky we managed to get tickets, when many did not. Would I change anything - I would like to but probably could not. The lesson learned  - have no sympathy for Eurostar, airlines, or hotels, as they will stiff you if they can, and they did. Prices increasing so badly that you're better getting a flight to the far east rather than Hamburg says it all. Would have loved to spent more time in hamburg, but would have been bankrupt!!!Fulham's chances in the near future? Probably slim. Best chance they will have for a trophy. May have won it if Gera has scored in the second half when the Spanish side looked tired. Problem is in the future, people will take them more seriously, Roy may move on, Al Fayed may move. A period of uncertainty still remains above the Cottage.
EDDIE (Irish Fulham fan)
A lot of people have asked me am I glad I went. I don't regret it for a minute. Loved the experience. The atmosphere at the game was brilliant. The people I travelled with weren't too bad either. I loved that we had breakfast in Calais and not in another petrol station. Would do it again, no problem.
Looking back im really glad I went. I really did enjoy it and bizarrely for me I feel quite proud of them for achieving so much. All in all a great experience.


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