THE FIRST OF OUR EURO BLOGS
By RICHARD ASTLE, from Sheffield
It's Monday night. I have just driven back from Runcorn, after an 11 ½ day at work. Six hours in the car, including the torment of listening to the England match on the radio – and please do tell me why are radio presenters quite so negative, to judge by the commentary, there was only one team in the game, but to listen to family and friends, we didn’t do too bad at all. Not great, but not too bad, and that is quite good enough at this stage.
So quick dinner in front of the Sweden v Ukraine match, rush through the emails that have accumulated in the Inbox today, check in on line and check passports, tickets, taxi booking, arrangements for daughter’s 14th birthday while I am away (19 June) and take a deep breath, because tomorrow at 4.30 am Tony and I, friends since Sir Harald Jackson primary school in Sheffield in 1972, are flying to Kiev.
To be honest, after today’s rain en route to Runcorn and back, I am looking forward to the sunshine as much as the football. 30 degrees and cheap beer sounds great. We arrive mid afternoon and plan on seeing a monastery or two and perhaps the giant Kiev battlefield memorial, before hitting the fan zone for the Greece v Czech match. And then it’s the overnight train to Kharkiv, arriving in time to roar on the Oranje in their must win match against Germany! Then to Donetsk for Ukraine v France, back to Kharkiv (don’t know how yet) for Portugal v Holland and then finally, on Maddy’s birthday, its England v Ukraine back in Donetsk. Somewhere in all that we plan a trip to the Sea of Azov, because I don’t know anyone who’s ever been there!
Last time we saw Germany was two years ago in Bloemfontein – thrashing England – the only consolation was that I sat next to this gorgeous German girl, who hugged me every time they scored – bring it on! Tony and I went out to South Africa in 2010 and I have previously been to Germany 2006, Portugal 2004 and USA 1994. The combination of football and travel is irresistible, so why wouldn’t you want to go out to Ukraine, particularly when Kharkiv and Donetsk have been respectively described as the Stoke and Middlesbrough of Ukraine! I love mixing with the other fans, chatting football and just enjoying the game. And you really do find out some amazing stats!
So the journey starts tomorrow and finishes on 20th June – we come home the day, hopefully England stay on. For me this is an okay England team – can’t be any worse than the shambles of 2010 – and our prediction is a glorious defeat in the semi-final!