Monday 8th August 2016
Pre-season has always been a thoroughly entertaining adventure. And from Lens to San Jose to Los Angeles to Stavanger to Gothenburg, this has been no different. But along with all the incredible sights, sounds and experiences comes a whole heap of tiredness. And as I sit here in yet another airport reflecting on the last few weeks, the word ‘exhaustion’ springs to mind!!
I have been to Sweden 4 times before. As a teenager I spent a day in Helsingborg staggering around in circles due to the sheer volume of beautiful blue eyed blonde ladies present in the city, something a naive English teen was always going to struggle to hide!
A good friend’s stag weekend in Stockholm saw another visit, the same city playing host back in November 1999 when we beat AIK Solna in the Champions League, my only trip to the country for football to date.
A 4th visit was for a game but was kinda by default, an air traffic control strike in Oslo meaning our journey involved an unplanned flight to Stockholm followed by a 7 hour drive up to Trondheim in Norway for Rosenborg away!
This trip has technically included a few hours in Denmark, a flight via Copenhagen being our group’s chosen route given the fact there are no return flights from Stavanger to Gothenburg.
Back in 1980 I was too young to be making my way to European away games so I didn’t get to Gothenburg for our cup winners cup fixture. So the last few days has been my first visit. And with the Champions League format dictating it is becoming increasingly unlikely we will get to visit new destinations this was a city I was thoroughly looking forward to checking out.
The journey from Stavanger went relatively smoothly or at least it did if you forget the 1 hour delay on the 2nd portion due to the SAS pilot “being delayed on an incoming flight”. So he didn’t get out of bed then.
Nowhere in Scandinavia is ‘cheap’ and that includes eating and drinking. I guess you either go with that……or stay indoors and eat Pot Noodle. I can’t stand that stuff…..so we went to the pub. Well, pubs to be totally accurate. It was Saturday night after all. And it proved an excellent way to get pre-season’s final leg off to a fine start.
Matchday came next of course and after collecting our match tickets from the ground we met up with the usual suspects, the number of Gooners present massively swelled by the thousands of Swedes proudly wearing the cannon on their chests.
The Ullevi Stadium is one of the world’s most iconic sporting arenas and as a result I was really looking forward to seeing it. The structure’s huge curves make it pretty unique and being located pretty much in the city centre you couldn’t miss it.
After enjoying the afternoon’s refreshment filled build up however, inside the stadium was disappointing. Both ends had been ‘replaced’ with temporary stands made with scaffolding, a small one housing the few City fans in the ground and a huge monstrosity for the many thousands of Gooners.
I’m not a fan of these types of stands, not just because they look terrible but for me they never look or feel ‘safe’. Consequently I had a bit of a hissy fit and a kind steward allowed me and a couple of the other lads to take a place along the side……..5 yards from the bar. Result!! I needed something to calm my stress you see 😉
Pre-season so far has been pretty successful I would say. Victories, goals and decent performances against opposition of varying levels of ability have more than added to the overall enjoyment.
Man City was highly likely to be our toughest test yet.
Our 4th encounter in recent pre-seasons, 2 wins and 1 defeat in our previous 3 provide evidence that the games can go either way.
3 good goals and coming from one behind was very pleasing. Any defeat pre-season is not the end of the world but winning is a fantastic habit. And I hate losing in any game, no matter how important.
A brief firework display brought events to a close before chewing the cud back in the city centre for a few hours after.
A touristy stroll around the city’s picturesque streets today brought another pre-season extravaganza to a relaxing conclusion and pretty much brings us up to date.
The last few weeks have been energy sapping……but absolutely fantastic. The memories however, are purely personal. The football side will be quickly forgotten, certainly by the media etc.
It’s time to put my worn out passport away for a few weeks.
The important part begins now, starting with Sunday’s visit of Liverpool.
Come on you mighty reds!!