Austria 2006: Fans Page
Sometimes events just dictate what has to be done. The last week or so has just seen such a sequence of events. I'll tell the tale as best I can from the start.
Sturrock started it off yonks back. Going to Austria, that is, for pre-season training. It's become almost de rigeur for our lads now as they get ready for the season to come. So despite the change in management at the club plans had already been made for a training camp in Austria again this season. So far nothing exciting enough to stir me or anybody else unless they are even sadder and more obsessive about Argyle than I am!!
Lady Luck is a strange bedfellow though and out of the blue the Real Madrid factor came into play. The early bird gets the worm and we had booked their favourite hotel and training complex!! Quite simply the precious Madrilenos just couldn't stay anywhere else and they had asked us to move. Negotiations followed. Money changed hands (a lot of money by all accounts - enough to pay for our entire trip and then some). A deal was struck; we relocated and a friendly was arranged. Wow!! It's the only word. Real Madrid!! Argyle fans everywhere gasped in disbelief and pinched fleshy parts of their bodies to see if it was true. It was. A date and venue were agreed. Kapfenberg would play hosts on July 21st. 6 pm (local time) kick-off. This was, arguably, the greatest game in our history!! Santos, Pele and all, way back in'73 probably beat it, though. And it was only a friendly (that's enough common sense - there won't be anymore). Still damned exciting all the same.
Franz Fekete Stadium, Kapfenburg
An agonising period followed. Wistful hopes expressed to Mrs B about the game. 'How wonderful it would be to go. Too expensive though. Too far. Work. What about the kids swimming lesson on the Friday?' No I wasn't going. Accepted it without any fuss. Then fate's fickle finger pointed once more...About a week before the game P@SOTI was alive with talk about the game. 'I'm flying to Graz, then getting a train to Kapfenberg and staying at...', 'I'm flying to Munich and driving the rest' and so on. Plans being made by those able to go and envious glances being shot sideways by those of us who could not.
One night, quite late, I had read all the threads and was wondering whether to go to bed or not and there in the chatroom on P@SOTI were 2 people. There are all sorts of weird relationships that spring up on messageboards between people that know each other anyway, people who have mutual friends and in some cases between total strangers. That was more or less the case here. Two fellas, John Vaughan and Shaunysandello, were discussing the game. 'Love to go'. 'Me too'. 'All the cheap flights are gone.' 'Train costs a fortune' and so on. John then piped up 'I'd take my car. No problem. Don't want to go on my own and don't fancy all the driving. It'd be cheap too - work'd pay the fuel. Accomodation, the tunnel and supplies are all we would need to pay...'
The all-important ticket
Before you know it wives have been asked and granted permission and 3 total strangers are off to Austria. John booked the Channel Tunnel and hotel. I booked tickets for the match. 8:30 am Thursday 20th July I would pick up Shauny and we'd meet John near Taunton and off we'd go!! And so we did. It was hot. The weather was stifling. Inside the car the air conditioning kept it down to a fresh 22c. Lovely. Low 30s outside. We made good time to the tunnel and there well before our booking and swapped to an earlier train. To be honest this was the worst part of the journey. It was damned hot on the train. Luckily it didn't take long and we were there. France. Belgium soon followed. Holland too apparently though we missed it. Germany next. Afternoon turned to evening.
As we entered Germany we stopped for fuel near the border. We also planned to use the cashpoint and get some Euros. Disaster. Mastercard was knackered. Both of my intended sources of cash were Mastercard. John's didn't work either. 'Must be the machine' we mused. Shrugged it off and drove on. Next stop the same thing. 'Mastercard?' 'That won't do nicely' (anybody remember the NTNOCN sketch?). Problems. No cash. I had already upset one German toilet attendant by not paying my 50 cents. 'Je suis desollé m'sieur. Je n'ai pas de l'argent.' He started to speak... 'No habla Allemano'. He gave up. Not being a linguist of any repute I had problems all weekend selecting the right language to converse in and the tiny snippets I have weren't really much use. The boys found it quite funny when I paid a tunnel toll in Austria and said a cheery 'Grazie' to the booth operator!!
Night fell. The temperature outside dropped from around 35 to a mere 29. The next stop supplied some Euros courtesy of Visa. Mastercard still knackered. (Don't they sponsor the Chanpions League? What's that all about then?) Caffeined up to the max on coffee and Coca-Cola we pressed on. Frankfurt was about halfway from Calais to Krapfenburg. On towards Munich. Fatigue setting in. 'Are we going to stop?' 'Not yet. Nurnburg (Nuremburg) perhaps'. Later: 'Regensburg maybe'. I think the thing that kept us going was an electrical storm. Lightning flashed around us. The sky ripped apart by horizontal forked lightning. 'Wow!! Look at that!!' Before we knew it we approached the Austrian border.
A couple of caffeine top-up stops along the way were quite funny. The roads had been relatively busy for the entire journey. There were lots and lots of Dutch vehicles heading towards Bavaria. The Rasthauses (service stations) were packed with trucks but funniest of all were the people. Some Dutch (I think) people were having a picnic at 4am!! People were sleeping everywhere. Some of them just lay on the grass verge. Some equipped with bedding. Some had camping mattresses. Most did not. We tried to park in one parking bay but there was a family laid out in it; all of them asleep!! Very odd. Still it was cheap and warm for them and entertaining and funny for us. Wired on caffeine as we were we kept going. The sun rose shortly after we entered the first mountainous area in Austria. More coffee and Coca-Cola. Now it seemed pointless to stop. We went through many tunnels and forged on ever deeper into Austria.
Argyle fans in Austria, prior to the Real Madrid
Eventually at long last we hit Kapfenberg. First impressions weren't great. The main drag through was singularly unimpressive. Clearly this was the Austrian equivalent of a one horse town. We found the hotel, the official supprters' coach was parked up there already, and thought we'd try our luck at booking in. We'd reserved rooms for that night after all. We were just a bit early!! 7am to be precise. The trip had taken us about 14 hours from Calais and about 22 hours over all. Luckily they let us book in!! We went to bed at around 8 am. It was hot (again - or should that be still). I saw an Austrian weather report and they were predicting 34-37 for the day!! A fitful 4 hours followed. The caffeine kept me awake but eventually I did grab some sleep then showered, shaved and shampooed, as it were.
What followed is all bit of a blur. Many beers were drunk. Many people met. We we wandered around Kapfenberg which seemed to be full of the Green Army and hardly anybody else. I found an internet café and transferred some money onto my Visa card. Sorted!! We found the Tourist Office to pick up our matchday tickets. More beers. Before we knew it it was time to head to the ground. The bar by the ground had been commandeered by the Green Army. Much fun was had greeting the two teams as their coaches arrived. We got a wave from our lot. Real Madrid just looked bemused. As kick-off approached a storm seemed to be brewing. The sky had darkened and more forked lightning flashed around quite menacingly. It looked like it was going to pour with rain at any moment but it never really did and the storm passed.
The main stand at Franz Fekete Stadium
I watched the game from the back of the stand
along a bit from Messrs Murdoch and Errington for the local Plymouth press.
Alongside me was an Austrian journalist's position which was unoccupied
other than by his laptop. He was nowhere to be seen until just before the
end. Wouldn't let me use his computer, the swine.
The game started with some ceremony. A band
dressed in traditional costume marched around the pitch accompanying a
rather massive hooded eagle. Very odd. I got talking to an Austrian fella
called Lukas and he just said 'it's normal' when I asked him about it.
The teams lined up in International fashion and Real Madrid took the away
team role and walked down the line of our lot and shook hands. No anthems
though!! Match reports will give you a better account of what happened
than I can. I'll just say we had the first couple of speculative shots
which were easily saved. Real had nearly all the possession and seemed
content to just sit very deep and knock it from side to side a lot in the
time honoured continental style. They were obviously the far better side
but didn't really offer much in terms of ambition. Maybe because our boys
wouldn't let 'em. The game itself was quite low key really.
The band and Eagle, and (below) with Fabio Capello
Halftime came and we put out a new line up with only SuperLuke McCormick staying on. Wotton flattened one of theirs. Norris was brought down quite heavily. A little feeling came into the game. Towards the end Real were given a penalty. I couldn't see why but by all acounts it was for handball against Nalis and there were no complaints about it. Real scored and the match ended with Chadwick and one of theirs exchanging pleasantries before they were separated and afterwards there was an allegation of splitting which seemed totally out of place with the occasion. I don't know if they were true.
I hung around for a while at the end with Shauny who managed to get some autographs and amongst them he got Real's coach Capello which was quite a scoop. We had some more beers and headed back to the hotel in fairly steady rain (relief!!) where we'd been told the team was going to have it's post-match meal. Sure enough they arrived. Disappointingly they didn't mix with any of the fans who were there and I'd guess out of a total of around 300 Argyle fans who had made the journey then about 50 or so were at the hotel. Holloway did mingle a bit though. He bought us all a drink and was happy to chat. 'D'you prefer Ian, Mr Holloway or Ollie?' I asked him. (How sad is that? It was at the end of a long day and lots of beers. That's my excuse.) 'Ollie's fine' he said.
A sub-plot to the entire day was the hunt for memorabilia. I ended up with a copy of the Press teamsheet. Shauny got his autographs. John got a poster advertising the game. These were highly sought after. The Real (ahem) McCoy was the huge banner advertising the game. This mysteriously appeared in the foyer of the hotel and ended up being signed by the entire Argyle party, I think. I wonder what happened to it after that? The hotel bar shut much to our chagrin and we wandered into Kapfenberg's Altstadt (Old Town) to sample the nightlife. 'Where d'you go in the evenings around here' I'd asked Lukas at he game. 'Bruck-am-Mur by taxi' he replied. Not much going on so we had a beer in the only open bar we could find and toddled off back to the hotel for some desparately needed shuteye.
The infamous poster
In the morning I awoke at about 7am. Thirsty and needing the loo. I got up and walked straight into the wall. 'Still feeling the effects of the night before' thought I to myself (not much gets past me you know). Back to bed. I awoke again a bit later and went down to a breakfast (the other two didn't make it at all) of orange juice, cereal, orange juice, scrambled eggs, orange juice, bread rolls and ham, orange juice, bread rolls and cheese, orange juice, a peach and some orange juice. At the end I needed a cup of tea to round it off but there was none to be had so I had some orange juice. And then back to bed for an hour or so.
Got up showered, shaved paid up and we left
the hotel at around 12:30m to come back. Less traffic this time. Better
speed was maintained. Not much to mention other than there was the most
spectacular thunderstorm, complete with torrential rain, in Belgium. Arrived
at Calais well before our booked train and got onto an earlier one again.
We missed out on Duty Frees because the shops at the terminal were all
shut. This was probably the only let down for the entire journey. Back
to England, down to Taunton, picked up my car and left John. Dropped Shauny
off at his place and into bed at around 6:30 am Sunday morning. Kapfenberg
to Plymouth in 17 hours!! John drove all the way which was a Herculean
effort as far as I'm concerned and he has my thanks. I managed to stay
with it most of the time although all that orange juice made me a bit sleepy
in the Austrian bit!!
Teamsheet from Argyle v Real
Argyle v Real article from The Guardian, July 22nd
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