Carroll comes on as sub.

by Andy Robinson

Following on from Russ Cowper’s excellent “England on the NHS” article about watching the Euro’s from his hospital bed and the editor’s request basically for “more stuff like this” I took the opportunity to pack away my notebook along with my passport and flight tickets. The Wife and I then flew off for a week on the Costa Brava the morning after we had nicely disposed of the Swedes. What would the experience be like watching a big England match abroad with the sun on my back and a San Miguel in hand?

With a nice flight of no delays from the soon to be renamed and very, very quiet “King Kenny Airport” in Speke we arrived mid – afternoon, settled in and after my first free all inclusive pint or in my case three tiny plastic beakers the Wife went to unpack and I went for a quick scout round for a venue with Tuesdays Ukraine match in mind.

I have seen numerous Premiership and City Games, England end of Season and pre – tournament friendlies and a couple of European Cup Finals in the resorts of Portugal and Greece and Spain over many years and choosing a decent bar is an art form in itself. You need comfy seats, a good view of outside for watching the girls go by and a few screens just in case at the last minute before kick off some loudmouths walk in thereby leaving yourself an escape route. Nothing was found on this first “reconnaissance mission” but later that night venturing further afield a couple of decent possibilities had been spotted including the aptly named  “Busby’s Bar” run by Dave a West Ham fan. Two nights later however after venturing from the sleepy but cosmopolitan district of “Fenals” into the bright lights of “Llorret De Mar” I had come across my venue – a large square dominated by a tower of 16 large plasmas joined together. It bordered the bungee jump cage, the enormous nightclub “Revolution” and a massive pub the “Queen Vic”. The place was busy enough for the Ireland and Italy game – I could only imagine it rocking for when England played

On the night in question I was safely and snugly in my chosen spot 40 minutes before “kick off” and the Wife was off for a wander to look at sarongs, handbags and more than likely in her case light fittings. Time I thought to meet my neighbours for the evening. The lads to the left noticing me taking notes and were eager to chat when I told them I was writing an article for a football website. The general consensus amongst this group of Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, QPR and solitary Charlton fan was similar to what I had heard from home; glad that Redknapp hadn’t got the job, Roy had made some bizarre selection choices in his squad and that the boys were doing more than OK so far. There was also a unanimous under appreciation of James Milner which I wasn’t prepared for. They also told me the story of how on the Friday night for the Sweden game they had been in a pub around the corner called “Rob Roys” (surely the name would have given it away) which had been less than appreciative of their singing efforts quoting local noise abatement by laws and asked them all to leave. This after shelling out over 300 Euros between them!

The lads to my right were a generation younger than my new best friends the singing cockneys and all hailed from Bristol University where they formed the American Football team. After raised eyebrows from me, the United fan amongst them quickly insisted that they also played 5 a side on a regular basis. This group of fine young men consisting of fans from Derby, Forest, Southampton and Brighton and again there was more consensus. We should have got rid of the old guard and picked a younger squad – “just like the Germans for the last World Cup” said one.  Adam Johnson, Sturridge, Rodwell and in particular Micah Richards getting mentioned in dispatches. Both sets of lads decreed that it was going to be England’s night. The only “Doubting Thomas” was me.

A long history of communal watching of England games had always led to disappointment. There was the early morning Boys Breakfast of Sausage Butties at 7am for the 2002 quarter final against Brazil in Japan when we all piled in my mate Geoff’s for starters. This had been preceded by the Beckham sending off against Argentina watched over a portable with 15 others in the manager’s office and it had been the same portable two years earlier when Southgate missed his chance of glory.

What then of the game itself? Well you don’t need another review but we did enough to win and I will be settled nicely back home for the Quarter Final.

What then of the atmosphere? With over 500 packed in what we christened as “Albert Square” I just found it strangely muted and forced if truth be told. It was like it was something to be done because others were doing it. No unruliness but only half – hearted singing. Probably with our leading players Rooney, Terry, and the two dubious Ashley’s all being so despised nationally by the football public this isn’t surprising. These players are not in our hearts and minds like Gazza, or Lineker or Physcho.

The highlight of the evening for me? The final whistle and the incoming news of the French loss meaning we avoid Spain and I then got the added bonus of the wife coming back from her venture “Window Shopping” having done exactly that; not a Euro spent of the holiday money.

Bring on the Italians Sunday.