Thursday 17th March 2016
A trip to the Mediterranean coast automatically throws up visions of sunshine, sand and sangria. The thousands of Gooners who braved the wind, driving rain and cold high up in the Nou Camp away section deserve considerable credit. It was more like a winter’s night in Oldham.
‘Messy’ is a word often associated with out adventures overseas and this was no different.
A good 30 of us gathered at Gatwick on Tuesday morning, all thoroughly looking forward to the few days ahead, not because any of us genuinely thought we had a chance of progressing, but our football club have constantly provided us with the opportunity to visit some of the world’s greatest cities. And a midweek jolly to Barcelona was eagerly awaited.
Our flight was smooth and on time and our hotel very comfortable, located near to the Puerto Olympico area of the city. It was to be a location that played host for much of the trip.
The first day without fail always heads down a boozy route and as result matchday arrived with many an amusing tale about the previous night’s exploits, all told as we enjoyed the build up.
A combination of alcohol, adrenalin, longing and possibly naivety had everyone giving us a chance as the day went on and in a two horse race I guess we did have a very very slight one.
The Nou Camp is a big stadium. But it’s size is pretty much all it has going for it. Away from the viewing area is a mass of dated concrete. And it doesn’t have a roof of course.
Checking the weather we knew there was a chance of some rain. But none of us expected the cold and wind accompanied deluge that fell over the next few hours.
Before a ball was kicked I would have taken nil nil after an hour. And I would have bitten your hand off for 1 all. And we played well enough to get just that. To be fair it was thoroughly deserved too.
Briefly, we were in with a shout and if we had scored again over the next few minutes who knows.
Saying that however, I did always feel our hosts could and probably would step up a gear if required. And it could be argued that is exactly what they did. But it just had to be yet another worldy!
And with that our slim chance had gone.
Given the fact we were in both legs for a good hour I think the aggregate scoreline is very harsh. But all in all our opponents are on a slightly different level to us unfortunately.
So we left cold, wet but pretty happy overall with the way we played. But disappointed of course that our latest European adventure has come to a close.
Discussions back in Puerto Olympico continued long into the night as our thoughts turned to Saturday’s tough tough trip to Goodison Park.
Talk on the way out had seen some slightly tongue in cheek comments that we were heading for Barcelona to enjoy our end of season party. Our craving for more European jollies means that it some way from the truth of course.
But the players need to prove it.
That starts up in Liverpool on Saturday.
Keep the faith.