Thursday, 31 March 2011

Terrace Travels #6: Brazil 2-0 Scotland - A Journey

Click here or read below for my travel nightmare to London for Sunday's Brazil v Scotland fixture. It was published on The Terrace Scottish Football website.

Sunday was all set up for an unforgettable day. Scotland had come off the back of a comfortable 3-0 win over Northern Ireland while their matchday opponents Brazil were on a two game losing streak. The home of Arsenal, the Emirates Stadium, was to host this International Challenge match. Thousands of Scottish fans made the long journey down. For some, it was longer than others as Will Lyon found to his cost…

Scotland in action against Brazil

The plan was simple. Take a train to London on the Saturday, watch the match on Sunday, have a few beers and take the train back home on the Monday. However, as it transpired, things wouldn't be so straightforward...

Walking into Edinburgh Waverley train station at half past three on the Saturday and seeing the three o'clock Kings Cross train still sitting in its’ berth was not a comforting sight, but spirits were high and I shook off any worries and made my way to the platform for my four o'clock departure.

As I took my seat at the platform, my worst nightmare began: “The 4 o'clock service to Kings Cross is delayed.” Fifteen minutes later, the situation spiralled to a new level of doom: “The 4 o'clock service to Kings Cross is cancelled, Network Rail apologises for any inconvenience caused.” Before the panic could take hold of the hundreds of bewildered passengers, we were ushered by a marshal to head for the three o'clock Kings Cross train and told that we were “just going to have to squeeze in.” The train was not a pleasant place to be. Cramped in-between a huge suitcase and an arguing couple, I started to wish I was elsewhere as I heard news of my team Raith Rovers grabbing a crucial equaliser in their league fixture against Falkirk.

The minutes ticked by and just as the dreaded text came through informing me that Raith went on to lose the important game at Falkirk, an announcement was made over the tannoy of the train: “This service to London Kings Cross has been cancelled. There is a major signal fault at York and there will be no services to London for the rest of the day. We will operate an hourly service to Newcastle, but passengers looking to travel to London are advised make other plans or come back tomorrow.” Unfortunately, the first train to London on the Sunday would not arrive in time for the match and there was no guarantee that the signal fault would be fixed in time. With a seat on a plane costing over £150, the next best option was the dreaded Megabus – the infamous last resort of travel. The next bus was to leave St Andrews Station at half past 10 and arrive at London Victoria eight hours later. At a measly £27 the opportunity could not be missed.

After grabbing some dinner, I received a phone call from my mate who had made his way up to London for the game. He had turned up at the hostel we were booked into, only to be greeted by a receptionist who informed him that: “The system crashed when you made your booking, so although you received a booking confirmation, we do not have your booking here and we are now full.” So with that news my mate started running around London looking for somewhere to sleep and I made my way back to the bus station.

Upon arrival, I was shepherded onto a bus and with just one seat at the front and a few more at the back nearby a boisterous Tartan Army group. So I decided to sit at the front where I might be able to catch a bit more sleep. But as the bus started reversing out of its dock, the back of the bus immediately erupted with a chorus of “We'll Be Coming”. The driver was clearly amused, muttering something along the lines of “thank f*ck I'm handing this bus over to someone else,” while the Russians to the right of me looked confused and maybe even a little frightened.

As we made our way out of Edinburgh, I soon realised the man next to me (who had not even glanced at me since I had sat next to him) was on the verge of passing out, probably due to a few too many lemonade shandys on Rose Street. His head flopped back and forth, but he seemed fine – for now. Meanwhile, the Tartan Army were in full voice and mocking the lack of atmosphere at the front of the bus: “Can you hear the front sing? No, no. Can you hear the front sing? I cannae hear a f*cking thing, no, no, no.” The driver and I were laughing, the man next to me was still oblivious to the world around him and the Russians continued to look fearful for their well-being.

As we headed for the border, the man next to me uttered his first words - they were not words that I wanted to hear: “Is there a sick bag underneath the chair?” he gargled. Frantically, I searched for one but found nothing. He crashed his head back on the chair in front and grunted “ahh sh*te.” A few unpleasant noises followed, but thankfully nothing would emerge from his mouth. The bus gradually descended into silent sleep, only to be intermittently interrupted by one of the Russians whose snore was reminiscent of a foghorn.

The bus arrived in London around seven o'clock and the bleary-eyed passengers dragged themselves onto the street. I made my way to Kings Cross to meet my mate who had ended up staying in the Premier Inn near Wembley for a costly £70. We decided to check into our new hostel, which I had booked just before getting onto the bus the night before, ate some breakfast and then did what comes natural to most football fans – we hit the pub. By 11 o'clock, the atmosphere in O'Neill's was already simmering and “Flower of Scotland”, “We'll Be Coming” and “Doe A Deer” were regularly belted out at full volume.

The fans gather around The Emirates Stadium - Home of Arsenal FC

At midday, we began the migration to the Emirates Stadium, with each pub along the way looking just that little bit more full than the one previous. As the stadium loomed in the distance the atmosphere turned to one of a carnival. The Brazilians were thumping away on their drums, surrounded by samba dancers with some additional entertainment being provided by the odd drunk Scot trying to join in.

With match day scarves and programmes purchased we decided to enter the stadium. It was hard not to be blown away by the grandness of the place when you are used to visiting beauty spots such as Cowdenbeath's Central Park. There were no crumbling terraces, filthy seats or limited legroom at The Emirates and the pitch was akin to a bowling green. Behind us were two cockneys - gasping at the fact that only five Old Firm players were in the Scotland team - who were kind enough to point out that Charlie Adam was the nation's only top class player.

The match kicked off under a blazing sun and as expected, Brazil dominated from start to finish. The deadlock was broken three minutes before half time when Andre Santos' cutback found Neymar alone in the box and the youngster coolly slotted past Allan McGregor. The second half saw more of the same Brazilian domination and 13 minutes from the end Neymar made it 2-0 from the penalty spot. And with that, the game was over.

From a fans perspective, it was a wonderful day out. The Tartan Army took control of the city and the atmosphere was electric wherever you went. The whole experience only added to the cravings for an away day to Wembley to face the Auld Enemy.

As well as being a presenter on The Terrace Scottish Football Podcast, Will is sports editor of 'The Student' at Edinburgh University and the official match reporter for Raith Rovers FC. You'll also find other pieces of his scattered around the blog world - search them out! Follow Will on Twitter: @wrl1989

No comments:

Post a Comment