About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

European Nights

One of the few drawbacks of being a Maidenhead fan is that our away trips rarely see us travel outside of the South of England. The prospect of a game overseas barring a trip over the Severn bridge or to Canvey Island is non existent. Yet growing up during an age when English clubs ruled Europe gave me a sense that a midweek tie on the continent was the height of glamour and sophistication with even the home leg providing a taste of something different.

Up until this season watching European games has been an almost exclusively armchair pursuit for me but in the summer I decided I would spend my free Tuesday nights sampling the best live European fare the capital had to offer.
Perhaps because of blanket TV coverage European football seems to be of less interest than the Premiership a fact borne out by the cheaper prices for tickets.
Thus over the last few months I have seen Chelsea, Fulham and Arsenal take on some of Europe's top teams for what was in the case of the West London teams a cheaper price than visiting the QPR's championship boutique.
Of course the attraction of seeing foreign players in the flesh has somewhat lessened with their preponderance in the Premiership but the massed ranks of opposition fans doubtless boosted by ex pats based in London has ensured that the games are something of a spectacle.
This was certainly true of the Porto fans at Chelsea although the strong showing of the red and green Portuguese colours suggested this was more of a cause for national celebration for the strong West London contingent from the Iberian peninsula.
Nevertheless they gave tremendous support to their team with a long song to the tune of Bonnie Tyler's Heartbreak being the highlight. This proved to be in vain as the influence of Ancelotti was already showing with a 1-0 win to the Blues in classic Catenaccio style.
My seat in the middle tier of the iconic East Stand gave me a perfect view of the action and also allowed me to observe Chelsea fans old and new in the next row. The strains of Blue is the Colour and the Liquidator were received with much excitement by a 40 something couple who were clearly being transported by the music back to a youth spent in the Shed. Meanwhile a few seats along some nouveau soccer fans bemoaned Essien's completion rate. The stand itself althoughh cutting edge 30 years ago is beginning to show its age. Particularly when contrasted with the splendour of the Emirates (pictured), definitely the best modern ground I've been to and a perfect setting for the epicurean stylings of Wenger's footballing aesthetes.
Although Olympiakos and Alkmaar were well beaten their supporters impressed, the Greeks eager to prove their title as Europe's air punching champions whilst the Dutch offered a well rehearsed Ring of Fire sung as a round. It was surprising then that the only hail hail from the much vaunted Celtic support was the hail of bottles which greeted Eduardo's penalty winning genuflection.
Perhaps Europe will be the North London Mozarts' best chance of glory this season, Fulham however don't quite seem to have the quality in depth to sustain a Europa league run. Their clash with Roma did provide the best match atmosphere, the capacity Craven Cottage crowd ensuring the game remained at fever pitch throughout.
I sat in the Stevenage Road Haynes stand, reputedly the oldest in the world, nevertheless I seemed to have a better view of proceedings than the two goalline assistants who remained superfluous despite some controversial goal mouth incidents and will surely go the same way of kick ins when the competition ends. The match was thrilling to watch with goals, a dismissal, a penalty miss and a stoppage time equaliser to exemplify the great entertainment a European night has to offer.

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