Well, I have had to update this section after we have fallen out of the Champions League for the first time in twenty/twenty one years. Still, the fact remains that my favourite way to travel Europe is with The Arsenal Away.
There are some Arsenal fans that are not fussed on qualifying for the Champions League because they feel we cannot win it. I always say though, that those people clearly do not go to the away games, because if they did… they would desperately want to qualify.
Thankfully, The Arsenal had qualified every season under Arsene Wenger. I did not start going until after University and I was in work and earning but when I did go for the first time, I caught the bug! Having dropped into the Europa League in 2017/2018 we still have the European trips but a different competition.
Originally, I thought I would cast my mind back to the UCL trips I had done up that point. That has somewhat caught on and I now keep a log. but I still dare not go into the gory detail but here is a summary of them.
Mestalla Stadium –Valencia – 09/05/2019
Valencia 2 – The Arsenal 4 (Arsenal Win 7-3 on Aggregate)
When I last visited Benidorm for my best mate’s Stag Do despite it being an epic trip, I said I would never set foot in that hellhole again. So, when The Arsenal away wronguns started talking about Benidorm to be our base for Valencia if we were to bypass Napoli, I was having none of it.
Half-Time of Napoli at home, I was booked up to fly from Edinburgh and back from Stansted (I am weak) and after seeing off Napoli rather easily, we were pretty confident we should get past Valencia to reach the final in Baku!
We beat Valencia 3-1 at home with a late Auba goal making us that much more confident of seeing them off. It was at that point a few of us booked our outbound flights via Sofia (to Baku, Azerbaijan where the final is). It was plainly obvious that if we were to wait it would be astronomical and worse still if Chelsea get there too. I had booked a free cancellation apartment back after the semi-final last year so all was good on that front.
So we were going to Benidorm and would head to Valencia match day and head back to Benidorm, that was the decision. It descended into further chaos as we booked a 24 man Disco Bus (armed with manned bar, sound system, poles, disco lights etc etc you get the picture) to take us to Valencia.
It was bound to be a great and messy trip with over 25 of us out there and Wednesday didn’t disappoint on that front, even if a certain underachieving neighbour of ours did managed to put a dampener on it by squeezing through to the Champions League final. Still, Weds night was class, very rough and throw in the normal Twitter meltdowns etc and it all spells out a pretty epic night before the game!
Matchday didn’t disappoint either, surprisingly I could drink on match day after the night before which is extremely rare. We all got on the Disco Bus and it was surprisingly big to be honest, it was class. Full (ish) bar with staff and a nice 2-2.5 hour journey (they made it longer obviously for the experience I suppose, it should have been 90 minoooots (UE)). When we got there we were in the Irish bar for a while but a section of our fanbase has decided that a vuvuzela should be a regular thing @ The Arsenal, have seen it in home games, now at away so we pied that fella off and went to the beach bar… we were glad we did.
The beach bar was absolutely class and it was nice to be back in Valencia (I’d been before on a football tour whilst I lived in Birmingham) which is a world above Benidorm in class (if not craic). On the beach, blazing hot, infinity pools, cocktails, great music and full of Gooners. It topped off an epic pre-match couple of days and now we were just hoping the game would not spoil the trip as normal!
The stadium was really impressive but ridiculously steep (steepest in Europe I am told). Not only did the boys put on an epic display to win 4-2 but the Away End was absolutely buzzing, and one of the best away ends been part of for a long long time. It’s obviously just not my perception because all over Twitter fans are saying the same about best trip and best away end for a while so all in all it was absolutely class and beig my 28th European Away game with The Arsenal, it ranks VERY highly (if not right at the top of the tree). Great weather, great group of people, great stadium, great city (Valencia), great grotty night out before the match (Beni), great result and great chance to win a European Trophy.
We’re on our way, we’re on our way… we’re going to Baku, we’re on our way! 27th May – 31st May [Stansted – Sofia – Baku – Odessa – Kiev – Gatwick]… the things we do for The Arsenal but my first European final live and the chance of another European trophy for The Arsenal (one part of the cabinet that is too thin for our club).
National Sports Complex Olimpiyskiy –Vorskla Poltava – 29/11/2018
Vorskla Poltava 0 – The Arsenal 3
Well this European trip changed pretty rapidly. We were all lined up, the party hummer booked from Kiev to Poltava on the Thursday, and the bus back the next day. The day before we flew out Ukraine declared martial law after Russia had ‘attacked’ some of their fleet, escalating tensions. UEFA decided on the Tuesday night (night before we flew) that it was moving the game for safety reasons to Kiev.
It actually worked out well for us, we hadn’t paid anything for the Hummer, we had accommodation booked right through and we got our money back for the bus so it was only the £25 Poltava hotel we lost out on. It was absolutely freezing in Ukraine regardless of where in the country the game was going to be and it was going to put Ostersund to shame in terms of temperature.
The plane ride was carnage, it was full of Gooners and Craig, Louis and I polished a serious amount of Grey Goose. I never drink on planes really other than the odd magnets but came off that plane steaming. Worst still, as we landed I had some mystery crippling pains which rendered my pale and disabled. Somebody got us to the hotel as I writhed around in pain, and we went out for some food but I was in agony so sat out the first night which is always the best night to be fair so I was gutted.
Still, that meant a rarity for me, drinking on match day and I made up for the first nights disappointment! I got out early and did some sightseeing in the ice cold conditions then headed to the Irish bar to start the festivities. There was a real good group of us in the pub and the cider and bottles of vodka started to flow, with our party hummer playlist booming out of a phone in a pint glass.
It descended into absolute carnage in the pub, don’t remember much and certainly don’t remember getting to the game. I never leave early but Craig and I decided to bail at around 30 minutes, partly freezing, partly unable to stand-up I imagine.
The rest of the night was just as grim and messy, but somewhere along the way we managed to beat Poltava comfortably 3-0 in a mostly empty stadium given it was moved from a 30,000 seater to a 70,000 seater at one days notice.
The whole trip was a great one to be fair with some great people, and we flew back on the Saturday so an extra long trip too. The last day or so consisted of a few more sophisticated meals/drinks as opposed to carnage although I am pretty sure I did not touch a single drop since the match day, in keeping with my normal Euro Away patterns.
After getting back stupidly late, I decided to go to the North London derby the next day (glad I did in hindsight)… we are through in the group and top with one game to go. Roll on the last 32.
José Alvalade – Sporting Lisbon – 25/10/2018
Sporting Lisbon 0 – Arsenal 1
My first Euro Away of the season after missing my first ever Europa League (A) for the visit to Azerbaijan and Qarabag. It was also my first football trip since my self imposed Jäger ban after the antics at the boxing recently.
It was a midday few pints with Josh, Woz and Emma in Stansted before heading to Lisbon where it was proper toasty weather. After meeting Alex there, him Josh and I had a quick turnaround and out it was for the traditionally messy night before the game.
We headed down to what was called ‘Pink Street’ for a few drinks to catch-up with the people who had been there the whole day. We were greeted with Shake it El Neny when we got there and within 3 mins there were 5 people trying to coerce me into breaking the Jäger ban. I stood firm and we hopped around the few Irish bars and tried to catch up with the drinks flowing and a crackin’ sing song. Could tell this would be a good Euro away as there were large numbers of The Arsenal out there and more of the core support, as opposed to some of the more random supporters clubs you often see in the Europa League.
The night took an eventful turn as we ended up in a club called ‘Europa’ which was a hard house club. I was loving it but the people I was with not so much, we raved for a while and then we had to bail. We ended up in the early hours at some bar and then back at around 2am. Amazingly, drunk, singing but not Jäger style obliterated so it was good to be able to think about drinking on the actual match day for once!
Match day was top class. Bouncing between all the Irish bars after a decent breakfast. We had a pretty big group in the Irish bars so Shake It El Neny, Unai Emery on my miiiiiiiiiind, then I saw his face LT and all the other bangers were out as per usual. After a full day on the cider and vodka we headed on the metro to the stadium which was pretty decent to be fair.
The game was pretty awful but had a good section of the stand with all the boys there so made for a good atmosphere. Main thing is we got the win with Welbz but not good quality at all. After the match, Woz and Emma had a great shout and we spent a few hours on the rooftop terrace bar at their hotel.
The next day, it was a wander in the sun to the food market and then to the airport and home after another successful Euro Away. I am absolutely buzzing about the next one… Poltava (A), Ukraine including a 5 hour party hummer!
Wanda Metropolitano – Atletico Madrid – 03/05/2018
Atletico Madrid 1 – Arsenal 0 (Arsenal lose 2-1 aggregate)
After a total nightmare of a first leg where we should have spanked a 10 men Atletico but came away 1-1, we knew we had to put in a huge performance and pull of a big night. It was pretty disappointing throughout and we did not ever really look like making it through and to Lyon for the final 🙁
Thankfully, the trip was a great one with loads of great people, but yet again the night before the game ended up being way too rough and me spending the day of the game in a pretty shocking state.
The stadium was a class one, great city, class weather, great group of people, just a shame about the result. Gutted for Big Weng, onto next season!
VEB Arena – CSKA Moscow – 12/04/2018
CSKA Moscow 2 – Arsenal 2 (Arsenal win 6-3 Agg)
It is not often you get a chance to go to Russia so I was absolutely buzzing about this one. The cost of the trip was pretty astronomical, not to mention the visa cost (180 quid or something) which was not helped by the poisoning in Salisbury which had only just happened!
Still, after a trip to London to get the visa, the cost of the travel, apartment etc I was on my way to Russia! There weren’t a huge amount of people out there but Alex, Dee and I still managed to have a great time and it is certainly one I won’t forget.
Yet another cold Europa League away though, we seriously need to get back into the UCL quarters where all the games are roasting warm. Did some sightseeing in Moscow which was great and the amazing city was preparing for the World Cup at the time.
Given the political situation there was so much waffle on the news beforehand and huge media presence out there wanting to interview us and get us to say we were fearful, but in reality, the people were great and the city was fantastic!
I was a bit disappointed I did not get to go to St Petersburg but that felt like it needed more time committed to it to be fair.
It was a shame we could not get the win, but after being 2-0 down and with a late late Rambo equaliser, we would take that and it saw us through 6-3 on aggregate.
San Siro – AC Milan – 08/03/2018
AC Milan 0 – Arsenal 2
I am not normally a fan of the ‘Digital Members on Tour’ games, the ones were thousands of fans go to a mainstream city and are all spread out, but despite my reservations, the game more than made up for this!
Looking back on my away trips, there have not been many great victories but this definitely counts as one, especially as last time I was at the San Siro we got spanked 4-0.
The trip was great, but as per usual I went too big on the first night and spend the rest of the trip cocooned in the corner of a bar sipping only Fanta and water. The night before the game was pure carnage and with such a great group out there it was probably inevitable but Grey Goose and other bottles of vodka were flowing as were Jagerbombs which only ends one way.
Even though I was absolutely minging on the day of the game, it meant I could at least remember the match itself which was a really good performance from The Arsenal. I had a great feeling about this year and we were onto the quarter finals if we could tie it up at the Emirates! Great trip, very memorable and good to finally right some of the wrong from the last time I was at the San Siro! Now we just had to finish the job boys!
Jämtkraft Arena – Östersund – 15/02/2018
Östersunds FK 0 – Arsenal 3
This was not an easy trip to make, but I was absolutely buzzing about it! The small snowy town of Östersund in Sweden awaited us and there was absolutely no way was I missing this one! Alex and I went to Stockholm for a night first, staying in some random red boat on the water.
The night in Stockholm was pretty tame, few beers with Brundle/Jewell as an early start for the 6/7 hour train to Östersund to brave the cold and snow ready for the game at the Jämtkraft Arena.
The train journey wasn’t as brutal as I imagined it to be. When we got to Östersund we checked into the pad which was quite good to be fair and headed over to the one of three bars through the deep snow to start the festivities. The main pub which housed most of The Arsenal had the staff call in sick so was carnage to get a drink. Östersund reminded me of a place out The Walking Dead but covered in snow. We went to what looked like an American BBQ place but inside was randomly a Chinese buffet.
Pre-match was decent but atmosphere wasn’t as rocking as most of the Euro Aways as you didn’t really get a huge amount of core away support make the trip to Oster! The trek to the game was bizarre, wading through huge snow to arrive at the stadium with an Astroturf pitch, the place reminded me of Pentre Astro!
It was absolutely arctic in the ground, and the game was pretty low key but a comfortable win for The Arsenal. The place was a ghost town after the game and you could not find anything to eat or drink.
The next morning, went for a wander around Östersund, on the frozen lake and snow sculptures before heading back on the train and fly back to the UK. Not the liveliest or messiest Euro Away by a long shot, but one of the most memorable, simply because how random it was… and the snow!
RheinEnergieStadion– Cologne – 23/11/2017
FC Köln 1 – Arsenal 0
I was not looking forward to this one to the most to be honest. I am a bit tired of Germany Euro Aways and the allocation is high meaning Red Members on tour! There was a great group going to this though so it should at least be cracking company!
I ended up going late Tuesday night and didn’t do a lot that night, just pottered about. Wednesday was undoubtedly going to be rough so it was the calm before the storm.
The real problem for me in Germany is the lack of cider (cheap anyway), so it’s on early Vodka and other crap. Wednesday did inevitably get messy after the Jager started flowing in the Irish bar. The two main bars The Arsenal used were in amongst the Christmas Market of Cologne but it was a great day and night as the night before the game always is.
The day of the game was decent too, I managed to drink a little, more than would normally after a hefty Wednesday, but the game was pretty grim with The Arsenal putting a typical lacks performance in when they know they’re pretty much guaranteed to be through. They beat us 1-0 with a penalty in the second half.
It was a great stadium though, a good laugh with great people and another one chalked off on the road to Lyon! That was all of the group stage aways done for me, so now looking forward to being in the draw and seeing what weird and wonderful trip is next!
Rajko Mitic Stadium– Belgrade – 19/10/2017
Red Star Belgrade 0 – Arsenal 1
This was definitely the away I was most looking forward to. The fans were meant to be mental, the atmosphere crazy and intense and Belgrade was meant to be a beautiful city. I ended up travelling to this one alone but as with all Euro Aways you know large amounts of people who go and all the faces are familiar.
This was the first time I have ever got a connecting flight to a European Away, I flew from Heathrow to Warsaw then Warsaw to Belgrade but it went quite quickly to be fair. Met some cool Gooners in the airport who we ended up going out with in the evening. The taxi there was interesting, the driver kept grabbing a map showing us places of interests, freewheeling down the motorway!
When we got to the main square my apartment was right there and it was huge. Randomly I had huge speakers and tropical fish as well as my balcony, but I was very happy with the choice! It was a quick turnaround and we headed to the Irish Bar where I met up with the fans I’d met at the airport as well as a couple of the boys from last Saturday (less said about Watford Away the better).
I was struggling for the first few hours, just on the Somersby ciders but everybody else was going hard at it with random shots. We made our way to a couple of other bars and then ended up at a 2nd Irish bar where the Jagerbombs started flowing! When I say flowing, they were flooding and the evening went onto another level. By this point there was a decent sized group of us so it made for an absolutely cracking night.
Due to my slow start, I was not in as much of a bad way on the match day as usual so I was able to have a full epic day of drinking and singing and we polished off many bottles of Jager at this bar. The staff were great and allowed us to take control of the playlist.
It was a pretty messy day and we managed to get to the ground via the coaches, and see what felt like a drab game. Luckily in the late stages Oli G pops up with an absolute worldy of a goal (with JW10 and TW14’s help). My state was not helped when Macca bundles me 3 rows down celebrating the goal, and I felt even worse because survival instincts kicked in and I grabbed a random guys sleeve and stretched it down 3 rows so he looked like Go-Go-Gadget arm. All I remember is being 3 rows down, holding a black jumper sleeve that had extended somehow and Macca down there with his arse out from the fall.
After the match was brutal, we were kept in 2 hours for our own safety. The fans, the atmosphere was absolutely incredible to be fair, easily the best I have ever witnessed. The police presence was also huge but nothing intimidating about the trip in etc, just felt like safety precautions. Unfortunately though, they weren’t able to go mad with their pyro as usual because UEFA has fines and stadium bans threatening them so that was pretty disappointing, especially after seeing what they had been pulling out in the weeks before the game.
It was a great trip, with great people, great weather, great city and lots of Jager flowing. Obviously the three points puts the cherry on top and I did manage to squeeze some culture in by visiting the fortress (and a torture device exhibition) along with the old cobbled streets (and taking in some Serbian traditional lunch). So after easily one of the best, if not the best of the Euro Aways I have ever done, it is now only 30 days or so until we finish the Away Trail off for the group stages in Cologne which is absolutely nailed on to be messy given the people going!
Borisov Arena– Borisov – 28/09/2017
BATE Borisov 2- Arsenal 4
Well out of all the teams we could have drawn, I would not have picked BATE Borisov, simply because I had only come back from Belarus a couple of weeks before. However, I did enjoy it there and said I wanted to go back so it was not the end of the world!
We only had around 700 tickets and I think we took 500 or so people. We went on the Wednesday and the flight was very decent. We stayed at the Hilton which was nice and a great location. On the night we got there, it started pretty late so took ages to warm up but as the evening drew on and more Gooners rocked up the night soon got loud and messy. Met some great people on the first night and after very late and messy one, the match day was sure to be a little groggy as per usual.
It was great to meet up with the Belarus Arsenal fans again and they were loud and great hosts. On the day of the game the bar they put on was great and was rammed. The coaches to the ground was a bit of a chore because we seemed to get the quiet and boring bus but thankfully the Brits on-board (and one Irish) made it an atmosphere.
The ground was pretty cool, like a huge dinosaur egg, and the atmosphere was also great. The game felt low key even though it had 6 goals, the Europa League just doesn’t have the same intensity for fans as the UCL in my opinion.
We came away with a 4-2 win 2 Walcott, Rob Holding and Oli G pen for his 100th Arsenal goal. All in all 3 points and a very good trip in a great country.
Allianz Arena – Munich – 15/02/2017
Bayern Munich 5 – Arsenal 1
I was furious when we drew Bayern Munich AGAIN, but I knew I had to make it UCL Away number 18 in the hope we could finally win a two legged affair! I’ve been to Munich way too many times, and I was the least excited I’ve ever been to go on a UCL trip. It didn’t help that I was so obliterated the weekend before I still had the post-chunder face rash and was feeling sorry for myself.
The 4:45am alarm really wasn’t welcome, and I got to Munich by 9:30, it did make a nice change going from Birmingham though. When I got there I just chilled in the ever-familiar Jaeger Hotel and waited for the first of 6 of us to arrive.
The day before the game was the tamest I’d ever had. I was knackered, and still feeling sorry for myself so despite having a fair few ciders, I was no where near drunk and I pulled the plug at 00:30. We drank at the Dubliner as usual and then headed back to the Sportsbar (with the widow of the famous pro wrestler) towards the end of the night. While we were there, some young lads who looked like they should have been in Magaluf not mainland Europe for a football match started fighting some more seasoned pros. It was pretty grim and went on for a while and ended up with the young lads looking pretty battered and bruised. I’ll never understand all that in-fighting nonsense, but no doubt they’ll all love telling the story when they get back to UK.
On the day of the game, it was a great one to be fair (pre-match). Met loads of great Gooners and loads of regulars as usual. The cider and Jager was flowing and it was a cracking sing song outside the Dubliner.
The game itself was a horror show, for a start, Munich had for some reason changed the way we access the stadium which felt much further to walk. Then of course it was the match, after losing a goal to a ridiculous bit of stupidity from a couple of our players blatantly showing Robben onto his left foot… we equalised through a Sanchez penalty. It all went wrong in the second half when Koscienly had to go off sub and we shipped 4 more goals. A total disaster rendering our 2nd leg home advantage completely useless.
I had a really early flight on the Thursday and was back home for work by 9:30. It was a great pre-match day with great people, but I’ll always remember it for the tonking they gave us and the realisation the absolute legend Arsene Wenger is coming to the end of his Arsenal career.
The only upshot is that it is Sutton United Away on Monday and it’s been a long time since I have been this excited for a match.
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St Jakob Park – Basel – 06/12/2016
FC Basel 1 – Arsenal 4
It is fair to say this trip didn’t start well, as on the Saturday before at West Ham Away, I decimated my knee again after turning too quickly to drunkenly mock English rugby fans that their glorious unbeaten reign would come to an end early in 2017 when they come to Cardiff. So my knee was an inflatable and I was bed bound in Gatwick the entire Sunday trying to get the swelling down to a level I could at least get a shoe and sock on so I could travel!
I decided to travel anyway and I hobbled to Gatwick at a horrifically early time for my stupidly early flight. The flight thankfully was only an hour which made it bearable and transport was easy to the apartment in Basel where we were staying. The boys weren’t getting here until the early afternoon so I took the opportunity to chill out and rest my inflatable leg before they came.
When Mat/Josh arrived we were out for some food and then headed to an Irish bar to start the festivities. Thankfully, we had travel free with the apartment but drinks and food were outrageous. I’ve been to some expensive places and try not to penny pinch or count, but when you’re forking out 30 quid for a burger and 10-13 quid a pint it’s hard not to. Anyway, the ciders started to flow and we bumped into quite a few Gooners. Still, the Irish bar was pretty dead so we decided to move onto another bar which was equally dead. We quickly realised this was because everybody was in Mr Pickwick’s but we made use of the quieter bars to stock up on outrageously expensive Jager, Vodka RB’s and Vodka Cokes.
When we got to Mr Pickwick’s, everybody was in good voice and we were on our way to a few more Jagers and the Arsenal choir was soon out in force. The Norfolk boys were in Pickwick’s too and it made for a more than decent sing song (minus Bristow). Anyway, after many more drinks, we moved over to a quieter area of the bar. We were standing under a bright light as we were earlier, and I’d decided just to unscrew it a bit to turn that particular massive bulb off. When we were in this quieter corner around half midnight, I decided to do the same, only this time, it shorted the entire lights circuit and the place was in darkness. While it meant we couldn’t get anymore drinks (at this point I didn’t really need anymore to be fair), it cranked the atmosphere up even more and it was a class pre-UCL match night as they all are. I still don’t understand when people rock up day of the game, it’s always so tame compared to the night before.
So after the whole songbook had been worked through in the pitch black, we decided to leave (I took the bulb as a souvenir) and head to another couple of less busy bars. At this point I was forcing down the vodka, and the bars after Mr Pickwick’s were a mega disappointment so we didn’t last very long. We ended up getting a cab, food and headed back.
On the day of the game, I only managed to drink a single pint even though I didn’t feel that bad to be fair. It was absolutely freezing so I dressed like an eskimo and we went to a different Irish bar but ended up back in Mr Pickwick’s at some point. Mat for some reason decided not to wear a jacket so prior to the stadium, we headed back, got his jacket, had a pint in the Fish Inn (a Welsh-Swiss bar) and then headed to the stadium.
I thought the stadium was wicked to be fair, a good little ground and the game was even better. It’s very rarely in the previous 16 (I think this is my 17th) will you see The Arsenal put in such a dominant UCL Away performance so I was very happy! Perez banged in a hat-trick and Iwobi chipped in too. It was pretty low key given the circumstances but still, the atmosphere was good and the boys put in a great performance.
After the match it started to snow, our Uber ditched us at the last minute, but we struck lucky and saw a taxi guy de-icing his car so we managed to get back somehow. Another successful UCL, and a late flight tomorrow so plenty of time to chill and relax… WRONG.
On the Wednesday we had a pretty decent Italian and headed to the stadium. The boys were flying at 5pm but because of my knee I decided to go anyway despite flying at 9:10pm. We got there around 1pm and around 5pm, the stories started to float about the airport that a light aircraft had crashed and there’d been fatalities so delays were expected. At this point two flights back to London were actually boarded and on the runway so they were passing info back from there. Eventually, it was looking as if the airport was going to have to shut and all flights cancelled.
The boys on the runway got back into the terminal and we were told our later flights and ALL flights were cancelled. Somehow, this ended up not being the case and some of the lucky London flights got back but most flights were cancelled. At around 8-9 I was told by the app mine was definitely cancelled but as I went downstairs to sort arrangements they started saying my flight might go again. So instead of booking onto new ones, getting hotels etc I got back up to the gate to wait for a decision on mine. Eventually, me and a load of other Gooners who’d been waiting, found out for certain now that they had pied our flight off and had to make arrangements. Problem was, by this time everybody else from other London flights had got onto the Gatwick ones for the following day so the earliest was Sunday. I’d met a group of Gooners in the terminal and we looked at options together, and eventually, very luckily we ended up booking 6 spaces on a flight to Gatwick from Geneva. It was lucky because the main desk was reporting only 2 spaces but the woman at the baggage desk logged me onto her machine and let me go to down (not sure security wise, it was the greatest move) but at least I got us all booked onto a flight! Easyjet sorted the hotel and me and my new group of 5 Gooner mates headed to the Ramada hotel where they had a spread on for us and everything.
So the next morning (when I was meant to be home), we were now heading from Basel to Geneva by train (with my inflatable knee) and catching a flight to Gatwick from there. Thankfully, it was a good laugh with the bunch of Gooners I met which took me mind off the ever increasing in size knee and pain I was in. Our flight left on time from Geneva at 5:30pm and after the drive to Brum I was back at 9:30pm. Despite all the hassle (and you have to remember people lost their lives), it was a great UCL away and very memorable. With all the away games coming up and my dodgy knee, it’s going to be a slog up to Christmas but I absolutely cannot wait for the draw on Monday and the next UCL Away.
Oh I forgot to mention and thank Ludogorets who somehow managed to draw with PSG and we ended up winning the group woo hooo! So it’s either Real, Bayern, Sevilla, Porto, Benfica or Leverkeusen for us.
Parc Des Princes – Paris – 13/09/2016
Paris St Germain 1 – Arsenal 1
I was nervous about this years draw, mainly because I knew I would be missing at least 1 away day when I am travelling South America, but thankfully there is a two week international break over that time so I miss very few away fixtures. In a very strange turn of events, we actually pulled three teams with grounds I have never visited so I was buzzing. First up was Paris and I was to re-visit the city I was at not long ago for the Euros.
I was pretty excited to see us play such a big team in this ground and although I prefer the smaller UCL fixtures where all fans are gathered in one place, I was still looking forward to it. It was absolutely roasting in Paris and I got there later than the boys who had taken a morning flight (I had to work). So when I got there I had a quick turnaround and I went back to the scene of the carnage a few weeks back for the Euros.
The boys had moved further afield and I was quite happy in the centre of the bars I was in previously. Eventually, I’d met a load of non-football supporting randoms and the night got pretty messy from there on. Not soon after meeting a few Americans, the Jagers, Mojitos and other cheapo French shots were flowing and I was soon long gone.
The night was pretty much a blur, but I strayed away from my normal cider and Jager and kept getting fed these cheap and nasty shots which is against my rules! It transpired that at the end of the night, I had lost the American chaps who had gone home, and I found my way to two Arsenal fans in a random bar. Obviously at this point I was in a disgusting state and thankfully they somehow managed to get my address out of me and ordered and paid for an Uber back for me.
The damage was grim though, a night and morning of toilet hugging and the next day I was still steaming. I never actually made it out on match day until 18:30 and I went straight to the ground. It was the worst state have been in on UCL easily, surpassing the infamous Milan away trip. I was not in the mood for the game at all but I somehow made it. I hadn’t eaten for 30 hours or so and I ordered a full Irish breakfast absolutely starving, but I took one look at it and I knew it wasn’t going to happen however much I wanted it.
Anybody who knows me, knows when I end up hugging a toilet I get a rash around the eyes and face so I was sporting the sunglasses onto the Parc Des Princes. I made it and the game didn’t start very well at all! Cavani bagged within a minute or so but from then on we played really well. We equalised in the second half and deserved at least the point.
It was a really cool stadium but I was in no state to enjoy it! To make it worse I caught a 5am flight home the next day as I was working on the Wednesday and was back at home on the laptop for 9am. Needless to say the rest of the week was grim and my state brought on some weird chest infection too which has been grim the weeks after! Still, another ground ticked off and a very good start to the group for The Arsenal. I miss Ludogrets but I’ll be back for a new ground (and new country) in December when we head to Basel, Switzerland.
Camp Nou– Barcelona – 16/03/2016
Barcelona 3 – Arsenal 1 (Barca win 5-1 on Aggregate)
It was a grim moment when we pulled Barcelona in the draw because it would be my third time and nobody was that confident. We were even less confident coming out here this time because we had lost 2-0 in the home leg but still, it’s a Champions League away game and they’re always epic trips!
I headed out on Tuesday after a sleep park fly job in the Premier Inn and got there at a decent time. Seeing Tony on the flight and him having a spare seat made the flight go much quicker. The apartment was top top quality (Source: Arsene Wenger) and I headed out to meet the boys on Las Ramblas.
The Tuesday night was quality, despite it being fuelled by JD, a drink I cannot stand. Spent our time between two Irish pubs and Chris arrived straight to the pub rather than back to the apartment so I didn’t have to head back which was good. Was a rough night and fair to say was in a bad state, not as bad as the stray mate we took home though (shall remain nameless). Soon made me feel sober with a chundering Gooner in the cab and apartment. Was a class night though, loads of people in the Irish bars which made it. The night before the game is ALWAYS the best night, there’s not a single exception to that rule.
On the Wednesday I was proper struggling, and Liam arrived fresh as a daisy. Have to say I was struggling most of the day but did manage to drag myself to get a Voddy orange at some point. It was only really when we got to the square my croaky voice was able to sing some songs again.
The weather was absolutely rubbish, it held to be fair for the most time we were singing in the square but just as we were ready to go to the ground it hammered down. Not the wisest decision for me to be in a t-shirt and scarf so had to buy an Arsenal jacket in a sportshop en-route to the stadium. I have always hated the Nou Camp… dirty, crap atmosphere and away stand is in the clouds. This time it was even worse because add in the mix no roof and absolutely pissing it down with rain.
We started really well and I was starting to get confident but then Koscielny decided to pass to their magic front 3 and that was 1-0. Super Mo Elneny equalised and we had some serious chances, but their class showed through in the end and all 3 of Neymar, Suarez and Messi got a goal.
They didn’t keep us that long this time to be fair but I was so cold and wet, head still banging, I just wanted to get back to the apartment!
Another one done, 15th UCL away I think I counted so quite chuffed with that. Not one of the most memorable on the pitch but at least there was a class night on the Tuesday to remember it by. No more for this season but already buzzing for the next. IN ARSENE WE TRUST (SUBJECT TO CHANGE SUMMER 2017)
Karaiskakis Stadium – Athens – 09/12/2015
Olympiakos 0 – Arsenal 3
I had booked this on the day of the draw as usual, and I fully expected this visit to Athens to be the same as before (a dead rubber with us having sailed through already). Obviously, that is not how the group panned out and not only was it a must win, we had to win by a set margin.
We need to win by 2 clear goals or win 3-2 or above, and I have to say I was pretty hopeful going into the trip, although I am confident about every game. I was doing this trip on my own and I decided to stay in Athens again rather than Piraeus which a lot of people opt for. The weather was meant to be good so I fancied going to the Acropolis again and actually wandering around this time rather than just looking from the outside.
I arrived pretty late on the Tuesday and went for some traditional Greek grub which was pretty decent in all fairness. I opted out of going mad tonight at the Irish Bar so had a few drinks in this restaurant then went back to watch the comedy show Utd Vs Wolfsburg.
I was pretty happy with my hotel despite the security guard outside with a stab vest. To be honest a lot of people get so hot and bothered about these places they convince themselves it’s some real danger and convince themselves out of going! I’ve been here, Naples and Italy and have seen no issues, I always say if you don’t look for it, you don’t get it!
In the morning I was up bright and early and straight over to Irish Bar (James Joyce). I was the first there which I was pretty proud of, so it was full Irish Breakfast and Magners for me. I think I started a bit early though because mid- afternoon when I decided to go and get my ticket and scarf I was pretty gone. Ashamedly I think I even had a grandad nap when I got back to the hotel but then got back to the bar for the sing song and travel to the match.
The Irish bar was in full song, last time I was here there were only 750 fans or so at the match so was far busier this time. Although, because the club had put coaches on stupidly early people left at 6ish but stayed around in the bar and got a taxi with Simon and his mate Stuart.
The ground from the outside was much nicer than I remember last time, and the place was rocking but could sense everybody was nervous. No need to be because the boys absolutely smashed it, Oli G with a hat-trick. It was easily the best UCL Away match/performance I have seen, if not the greatest UCL trip of them all.
On the last day I went to the Acropolis and saw all the ancient ruins, it’s such an amazing, historic city but it’s so run down by graffiti. Everywhere you turn there is graffiti and you struggle to see how a city can turn around and restore it’s former beauty (although it was pretty grim last time I went too). The flight home and drive home meant I got back at around 1:30am so I was cream crackered but nothing the Spotify Christmas playlist couldn’t help me through. Bring on the last 16 now, I am really hoping for a Zenit draw! (UPDATE: SHIT, them again)
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Allianz Arena – Munich – 04/11/2015
Bayern Munich 5 – Arsenal 1
I was pretty gutted when we drew Munich again (but this time in the Group Stages) because I always want to go to new cities. Anyway, the draw is the draw so it was off to Germany again attempting to keep our good record up at the amazing Allianz Arena.
I was much more sceptical this time, given the last times we have gone there it was after being beaten at home so they were not up and at us. Given we beat them the week before at home, they were angry and everything in the press conferences pointed to them being bang up for it.
I arrived late to the city this time around which enabled me to work on the day of the flight. I got there so late in fact that I missed the night before the games festivities and instead stuck around chatting to an American chap at the hostel. However, this meant for the first time ever I was fresh as a daisy for the match day!
Amazingly, I managed to keep on the cider the entire day and night, usually it is hard to find but cider was stocked everywhere this time. I had 1 Jagerbomb and that was the lot, no other vodka or any spirits, a cider UCL trip is my favourite!
I was staying with Woz this time and I managed to get the American guy (Tim) a ticket so the whole gang from the hostel room were at the game and the usual pre-game activity of singing loudly and drinking heavily took place in the amazing Marienplatz. Mat, Bill, Coogsand Lukey C were also at Marienplatz and it was good to see everybody (like Simon, Tony) as well. I watched the match with Ben, Sam, Tim and Harry and it was the usual pretty good atmosphere there and its an impressive stadium to be fair.
Third time at the AA and this time the result was definitely one to forget, we got absolutely battered 5-1. The best thing about UCL aways is you get over the result much more quickly because the trips are class. So there was not much moping for me, just ‘ok, onto the next one’. I am heading to Athens next month in which could be an absolutely crucial group game because we are on the brink of exit at the moment.
The day of the flight, my friend from across the pond Tim and I went to see the English garden which was number 1 on trip advisor list. That’s my only complaint about Munich, other than regular city stuff, there’s not THAT much to see. Most of it is just eye catching architecture and beer houses. The English garden is massive in the middle of the city though, I mean Central Park massive, and it’s beautiful to be honest. Standard German experience of pork, potatoes and beer had to be sampled in the garden too (although no cider so it was Pepsi for me).
The flight was great but M25 carnage meant it took me ages to get home. Another great UCL away trip, a less messy one for me despite being suitably drunk on match day. Roll on Athens (albeit another duplicate city), and let’s hope we get the needed results so I can enjoy some more trips in the group stages (Madrid/Paris please).
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Stade Louis II – Monaco – 17/03/2015
Monaco 0 – Arsenal 2 (3-3 Aggregate, Monaco win on Away Goals)
I was pretty excited when we drew Monaco for two reasons. I have always been interested in visiting Monte Carlo after watching all the films and seeing the Monaco Grand Prix on TV. It seemed like a millionaires paradise from afar and I was buzzing for The Arsenal to go there. The other reason, was because we all felt we would qualify with relative ease and make it to the quarter finals for the first time in a good few years!
As usual, I did not hesitate in booking, I have saved myself a fortune in booking these trips the minute the draw is made and the fixtures announced. Given my mate Andy was getting married in May and having a UK based Stag Do, I managed to persuade him to come on this one (the first time since Barcelona).
Our accommodation was pretty decent and Ashford, Jobbers and Bill and I were a bit taken back by the steepness of Monte Carlo and it was a right old workout to get to the apartment!
We pretty much used one pub as our home bar and that was the ‘Stars n Bars’ pub http://www.starsnbars.com/en . The first night we got there (night before the match) was a rough and long one. Drinks were pretty expensive but we made the most of the Happy Hour period and stocked up a serious amount of Vodka oranges.
It was a class first night and I remember being both hung over and really ill with flu for match day which had been coming, so I was not in a good way!
We had totally messed up the first leg, losing 3-1 at home which was utterly ridiculous but we still had faith. We made our standard unlikely comeback pledge to get a tattoo if we pulled off the ‘Miracle in Monaco’.
Oli G and Ramboooo grabbed the goals and one more and we would have been through. To be honest, I was pretty sure if we could have extended the game by 5 or 10 minutes we would have done it, Rambo’s goal just came a bit too late.
Disappointing result but it was a good trip. The bars situation wasn’t great because they closed a good many hours before the game. I didn’t think Monte Carlo was that special to be honest either. I am sure during the Grand Prix it’s pretty cool but once you have seen the swanky yachts, I didn’t think much of the place. I couldn’t see that many amazing bars and restaurants either, maybe the rich just eat and drink on the boat then head for the casino? Speaking of the casino, there were an unbelievable amount of tasty car parked outside there.
So another Last 16 exit for us in the Champions League, it’s becoming pretty standard now but this one hurt more because we were all expecting to qualify pretty easily. Still, another cool trip, another city and an interesting stadium chalked on the board. Roll on next season!
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Constant Vanden Stockstadion– Brussels – 22/10/2014
Anderlecht 1 – Arsenal 2
My superior UCL organisation skills were demonstrated again when I got us all on the bright and early 6:30a.m Euro star to Brussels. We had a lot less numbers than we anticipated with a few dirty drop outs but we still had a good crowd. Ollie, Mat, Bill, Josh and I were heading to Brussels for the first time to face Anderlecht.
The accommodation was amazing, one of the best we’d stayed in. Two swanky apartments really close to the few bars where the Arsenal fans would be congregating.
We headed straight to a pub where the boys started reeling off the local beers and me on the classic ciders! The nightlife was great in Anderlecht, we mainly stayed n Celtica which was an Irish bar that played a load of songs which were the tunes for Arsenal chants. It was a messy but epic first night and would no doubt mean that a few of us would be rough (as usual) on match day!
While I think we were all suffering on match day, none more so than Bill who had a rough night. After struggling over the road to get some food it was time to get involved with the pre-match festivities! We ended up back at Celtica and strayed to a few other bars before making our way to the stadium.
I always prefer the small, more random stadiums than the big blockbusters and this one was right up my alley. A relatively tiny allocation of around 2,000 I think so it was going to be a cracker.
The performance was anything but, it was pretty poor and we somehow went 1-0 down. Usually we are just despondent when the opposition scores but when they did ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ from the film Project X came bursting out of the speakers so we couldn’t resist loving it! From that day onwards, the song is a regular play on my Spotify and one of the boys always gets a call when it comes on in a bar/club.
Thankfully, we salvaged the points with two late goals from Poldi and Rambo so we went back happy.
The Eurostar on the way home was a nightmare, big delays but we got there eventually and it was another successful away day in the Champions League chalked up.
Allianz Arena– Munich – 11/03/2014
Bayern Munich 1 – Arsenal 1 (3-1 Aggregate)
We were all pretty deflated that our terrible result in Naples meant we finished second in the group again. We all knew this meant we would get a tough draw but nobody wants to go back to the same place two years running. Unfortunately, it happened and we drew Munich.
We had an equally terrible first leg performance this time around too but we still had hope given our performance in the Allianz Arena last time around.
Munich was incredible again, great city, great bars and the you do not get tired of seeing that amazing stadium lit up over the bridge.
We played really well again, and did not lose at the Allianz Arena once more. However, the damage was yet again done in the first leg and we fell 3-1 on aggregate.
Pray to the Gods not Munich again next season we were saying at the time… in fact, every draw I now pray Munich does not pop out.
San Paolo – Naples – 11/12/2013
Napoli 2 – Arsenal 0
This was a trip I was determined to make. It was meant to be beautiful in Naples, I heard it was a great city and it was meant to be a bit tasty. I am always a believer if you do not look for trouble, you won’t get it so I was not worried about the reputation.
So I made this trip on my own! The weather was absolutely unreal, I spent an amazing day in Naples but I did not get chance to visit Pompeii which I was disappointed about but am determined to go back at some point.
I had no trouble at all in Naples but granted I did not go in colours on the day before. I had some amazing Naples Gelato and some nice walks along the sea wall.
The trip to the stadium was an absolute nightmare! Due to the reputation of the fans, the club put on coaches to go from the port and what was a 20 minute drive turned into an one hour and 45 minute coach trip. We actually ended up missing about 15 minutes, although it was funny to see hundreds of grown men run from the bus into the stadium. It was a total nonsense, but in the end, there was not much worth watching for us anyway.
We were caught in the classic Arsenal no man’s land where we don’t go for the game but we don’t really sit back either. In all cases, we lose and once again we lost the top spot of the group so we would more likely than not get a very tough team in the last 16. At this point, however much I try to be positive, I was expecting the next round to be the last of Arsenal’s in the competition once again!
Naples is definitely a place I need to return to, and I must certainly visit Pompeii!
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Westfalenstadion – Dortmund – 06/11/2013
Dortmund 0 – Arsenal 1
We had a tough draw in the group stages and the glamour tie was definitely Dortmund away. We always hear about how great the stadium is, the atmosphere and the fact it looks pretty much vertical at a 90 degrees angle. This paired with the popular opinion that Dortmund is an incredible city meant it was promising to be a great trip!
I entrusted Hendo with the accommodation as I had lots on at work, I strictly said NO SHARED HOSTEL. So we turn up and of course, it is shared! Thankfully, it was Gooners we were sharing with and I’d travelled with them to a game previously (from Norfolk would you believe it). I still see Joe/John at pretty much every away game now so it worked out but could have been a nightmare!
Dortmund is really great, the bars were rammed and the noise from away fans was deafening. The amazing Bratwurst stalls in the streets were used frequently too.
For some reason I decided to trade my £8 Arsenal scarf with a Dortmund tramp (I still have it now) and the tramp happily bounced around in my Arsenal scarf collecting bottles to recycle (and claim the deposit back).
The game was pretty drab but the stadium and atmosphere was incredible. You can imagine the scenes when Rambo pops up with a winner!
An epic win in a great city/stadium. This is one city I would not mind coming back but they are a tough team.
A proper good trip and a good laugh at Scott/Keith who came on a day coach and had to get straight back on the coach after the game. Who does that? I bet they won’t do it again, it sounded rough.
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Allianz Arena– Munich – 13/03/2013
Bayern Munich 0 – Arsenal 2 (3-3 Aggregate, Bayern win on Away Goals)
I have to say, I was pretty excited about my first visit to Munich and the amazing Allianz Arena. You see the stadium lit up on TV and it just looks spectacular. I was less looking forward to the game after we lost 3-1 at home mind you.
Jobling, Hendo and I headed to do some touristy stuff, we saw the BMW garage (so Jobbing could use their toilet) and then we went to the old olympic stadium where we had to endure a load of 5-1 nonsense from the Englishman.
The bars in the streets of Munich are class, including the old school beer houses. Obviously as somebody who does not drink beer/lager it is always a struggle but the city was pretty good. I made an amazing purchase ‘McEgg’ where you can hammer your egg in the egg cup (see photo below). I still reckon this is my greatest UCL Away purchase (given that my scarf exchange with a Dortmund tramp wasn’t really a purchase).
We had a massive mountain to climb in the game, and we put in an amazing performance in an incredible stadium. We were the first team to beat them over 90 minutes @ the Allianz for God knows how long and I think the first British team ever to win there. However, due to our shoddy first leg performance it meant nothing. We were a single goal away from the most amazing comeback! If we had won, it would have meant we would have got tattoo’s because we were so convinced we could not pull it around we all agreed to get one should the miracle happen. This tattoo pact has come a bit of a tradition now after our first leg pastings.
Another city in Germany ticked off. Including other trips outside of The Arsenal Germany is definitely the country I have visited most and I love coming back here. I just hope next time it is to face a team other than Munich, given I am writing this in 2015… I would have been disappointed.
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Veltins-Arena – Gelsenkirchen – 06/11/2012
Schalke 2 – Arsenal 2
Well this was certainly another dramatic Champions League Away trip. Jenner and I made the trip and unlike a lot of people were actually stayed in Gelsenkirchen.
There was not much around Gelsenkirchen but it was very German which was cool to experience. We headed to Dortmund for a night out where the majority of Arsenal fans were.
Long story cut short, at the end of the night, Jenners was meant to be back at the room in Gelsenkirchen, but when I got back he was not there. In my drunken state this automatically equated to he’d been killed. So I went searching behind bins and in bushes around Gelsenkirchen (freezing cold). It got worse, a drunken missing person Twitter campaign and a call to my friend who works for the Met asking him to call Interpol. It turns out he had fallen asleep on the train and ended up in Dusseldorf!
The stadium itself was very cool and the game was pretty entertaining. We got a 2-2 draw which was pretty disappointing but still, it wasn’t a loss like the last two games I had seen!
A cool, eventful trip and a great stadium with a decent result, definitely another UCL trip that is marked as a good’un!
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San Siro – Milan – 15/02/2012
AC Milan 4 – Arsenal 0
This was easily the best trip of the lot (despite the result). There was a lot of drama before we left with the organisation but that is not for here (Nate-Gate it was titled). When we got there we discovered we had this amazing apartment.
There was a cracking group of us there for Milan too and we were straight onto drinking very early in the morning. We did not establish our fancy apartment had electric shutters so just coped with them being shut and had the lights on. So hours passed and we were pretty gone, we thought we should go out and get to a bar. When we opened the door and accidentally the shutters, we were all blinded by the sunlight, and all realised it was about 11am/midday!
Even though the group was quality and the pre-drinking was class, it is never as good out in the centre with this massive games because everybody is so widely spread across the city and you don’t just get the away fans so it’s mostly boring home songs that get sung.
My state was not very good in the evening mind you, in fact, I was put off alcohol for a long time and it took me absolutely years to get back on the Jagerbombs, I even struggle with them to this day because of Milan!
This was the first leg so we were hopeful we could get a decent result to take back to the Emirates. The San Siro was incredible but the result not so. We got absolutely stuffed 4-0, it was a terrible performance and depressing game but as always, the trip was epic so the result is largely forgotten about.
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Karaiskakis Stadium – Athens – 06/12/2011
Olympiakos 3 – Arsenal 1
This one was another memorable one. As I previously mentioned, I love the smaller UCL away games because it’s all people in one place, we took only approximately 700 here. The reason was, it was December, we had already sealed qualification so it was “a nothing game”.
Athens was pretty grim to be honest, it was worse because while we were some troubles in the centre. It was the anniversary of the death of a young man at the hands of the Greek police so there was protests to mark that date. We did get a touristy thing done by visiting the Acropolis which was cool.
The rest of the time, in true Arsenal Away fashion was spent drinking and singing. This time most fans spent the evening before and the day of the game in a single, Irish bar so it was excellent.
The fans were pretty intense to be honest, the best so far. The game was dreadful and my lasting memory of it was Mannone performing his circus clown act for one of their goals. We were through anyway so we did not care and they were going through too until the last minute where the Marseille result meant they qualified and Olympiakos didn’t
Another team, city and country ticked off for the UCL away, bring on the knockout stages!
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Stade Velodrome – Marseille – 19/10/2011
Marseille 0 – Arsenal 1
After enjoying my first two UCL aways in the knockout stages (despite the heartbreak), it was time to get involved in the group games! It was an easy choice to go to Marseille as flights were decent and the times worked out well.
Jobling and I were staying for a few days and the weather looked cracking again at first. We visited some chapel to tick off the one touristy thing in each city and then it was time to hit the Irish bars.
That was the best thing about Marseille and why I always prefer the smaller UCL Away games. There were two bars which The Arsenal fans used which meant there was a quality atmosphere in both. The best thing was the Happy Hours were skewed so it was Happy Hour in one and then the short walk to the other for Happy Hour there.
As always the night before the game was excellent with lots of drinking and singing. The match day is always tough because usually feeling rough but so far so good.
The Stade Velodrome had a great reputation. It was slightly odd because a part of the stadium was closed for refurbishment but it still looked great. Most of their noise was generated from some annoying ringleader on a microphone but The Arsenal fans certainly done their bit.
We were pretty drenched, the wear was crap and the game was dreadful. Still regardless of the result, UCL Aways are always well thought of because they are great trips. So we were preparing ourselves for a drab 0-0 until Ramboooo pops up with an 89th minute winner. Fans went absolutely crazy and the great trip was just topped off!
An excellent win, 3 points and a great trip. First group game under my belt and I was determined to get another group stage game in this season.
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Camp Nou – Barcelona – 08/03/2011
Barcelona 3 – Arsenal 1 (Barca win 4-3 agg)
This one was easily one of the most memorable games I have been to. Unfortunately, it started badly because I passed up on my ticket for the home game and we beat Barca 2-1 in probably the most incredible game at the Emirates thus far.
Still, I was buzzing about the return leg and we have a genuine, real chance to progress by getting a result at the Nou Camp!
There was a Twitter campaign to wear old shirts to the game, so I thought I’d go all out. I decided to go full kit as David Seaman, pony tail, gloves, shinnies the lot! I had my retro Blue Goalkeeper top and the res of the kit, all I needed was a wig and moustaches.
The moustaches were easy, sneaky purchase on eBay but the black wig didn’t come back in time. I had to have a panic dash to the Birmingham market the day before and all they had was a grey ponytailed wig and a can of black spray paint. I had no other choice so I did the Art Attack and I was ready to go.
Me, Jack and Tom set off to the airport, Tom had been travelling in the summer and his passport was decimated. This was to be his first UCL Away game and they would not let him on the plane due the state of his passport. We sold his ticket to the guy behind us in the queue who needed one and it happened then that we pretty much spent the trip with these guys (Leo/Nick).
Again, the weather was amazing and this time I was staying over for a couple of nights, none of that going home the next day with no hotel business that I pulled out in 2010. Apart from just having an amazing time, we also had a class beach football match against Barcelona fans. The night out was a bit messy though, Nick got hit for no reason and Jack had his phone stolen (he lost his phone while he was crawling around on the floor drunk).
On the day of the game, the David Seaman outfit had unreal attention, I must have had 100 photos taken and after a few drinks I played in goal on an inflatable which was put up in the fan zone. The highlight though was when we were at the ground, the chants of Seaman Seaman before the game and also when our GK had to go off.
The game is a painful memory though, a totally ludicrous sending off for RvP because he shot when he didn’t hear the whistle and a miss from Super Nicky B meant we didn’t stand much. Worst thing about it all was Cesc passing Messi the ball to dink over Almunia. Still we had it at 1-1 when they scored an own goal but then RvP got sent off and it was down hill from there. Everybody gave Nicky B a lot of grief because a goal would have sent us through on away goals but he’d just come on about 20 seconds before.
This was easily one of the best UCL aways I have been on, I met some of the boys I now go with regularly for the first time on this trip but it was just a shaking hands job. Later down the line people learn the div dressed up as David Seaman was me. Still, I had a class time and the whole trip was epic, but ultimately we were out again at the same stage. Roll on next season!
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Camp Nou – Barcelona – 06/04/2010
Barcelona 4 – Arsenal 1 (Barca win on agg 6-3)
I had started to go to away games at the tail end of 2009, it is safe to say I did not expect to be going to UCL away only a few months later. I am never somebody who takes going to The Arsenal for granted, given we could only go to Highbury once a year when I was a kid, so I knew this was a big deal!
Me and Ashford decided not to get a hotel, and just go the day of the game and stay awake and get to the airport early the next morning. This is the first and last time I ever did this, now I tend to stay for 4 nights if possible!
It was an amazing day, the weather was unreal and the experience of being in the fan zone was class. The only problem for me was it was lager only in the fan zone so I had to make a sharp exit back to the Irish bars to lubricate the vocal chords.
We had given ourself a chance by drawing 2-2 at home with Fabregas breaking his leg as he took the penalty to pull it level. Given the result at home we were still in with a chance and we were pretty hopeful.
The stadium was incredible, we were right in the Gods but the experience of being in the Nou Camp was unforgettable. The game however, did not go to plan. We got stuffed 4-1 with a Leo Messi first half hat-trick. I always remember Super Nicky B getting the opening goal though and we had real belief we could do it then.
The night was a disaster, because we were just staying awake ready for the airport, I felt like death when I eventually got home. Lesson learnt there but an absolutely epic experience for my first UCL away. I was unsure there would be more, but hopeful… I had caught the bug!