Opinion: It was a shattering experiencing, but well worth it

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Image: SpursWeb

stayed in London on Tuesday night and left early the next morning for Stanstead. The charted flight (Sports Options) arrived in Belgrade at 12.15, their time. Once there, we went through custom controls and then to our coaches. I met Martin and his friend Rob (who was on the same flight). We decided to stay together.

At the airport, I got £40 worth of Dinars out (which you can’t get in England), but they also took Euros and American dollars (I did take my euros with me).

We were dropped off at the students square (Fan zone) and basically could do want we wanted. Martin, Rob and myselfsort out a decent restaurant. Once in we allowed the waiters to pick a local dish of starters and then a meat dish. Plenty ofbeers and a pudding kept us lubricated. While eating we had a group of musicians serenade us (very romantic), and then we all chipped in to pay them something for the pleasure. Eventually, we asked for the bill and was told it was 7,000 dinars. We all gave about 3,000 each (which was about £40, that was very good). Once the waiters saw our generosity (but not by English standards), they said that they were going to change the bill (we paid cash), but we didn’t want an invoice. Which meant that some of it went into their pocket. We were happy with that as they treated us well and therefore deserved what they could get. Great food, great hospitality.

From the restaurant, we went for a walk and then found a very nice bar, where we stayed until 6.15 (toped up by more drinks). From there we got a taxi to the ground (about £4). We could have gone back to the square and caught an official coach, but we decided not to as we wanted to be in control of our transport. Once at the ground, we tried to get a programme (not all European clubs do programmes). We approached a security line but we weren’t allowed through. Martin argued with the security there (about getting through to get a programme), then I found a Steward (Belgrade Steward) and explained (he spoke a little English) that we wanted a programme (they only did them for hospitality), so the Steward marched us through the security line up, and we asked for three programmes. Then I said to Martin, there is another hospitality entrance a bit further down, so we went up to them, and I said I was English, programme please and they gave us three more (no charge) and then we made our way to our entrance (for away supporters). As we entered the third section (to get to the away end, showing our tickets each time), Martin suddenly noticed that he had the wrong ticket (he had the Everton ticket). Panic set in (to come all that way and find you’ve left your ticket at home is enough to give you kittens). The Stewards (Spurs) we knew so we explained our dilemma, and she called over somebody in charge (from Spurs ticket office), and we managed to get a duplicate (relief all around). Thanks to the Spurs Stewards! Then we approached the security checks.

Now, I’ve said in the past that security at away games wereabysmal. Not here. Even though very polite and apologetic, they were thorough. So much so that when they patted down my legs, he went right up to the crutch. I said, jokingly, some people would pay extra for that, his response “You like!?” I think something got lost in translation (humour!).

We finally got through the security checks.

After about an hour or so I needed to go for a Jimmy Riddle, I asked for the toilets, no toilets in the away end. You can leave (and come back), but only when everybody had entered. An hour later, I managed to go to the toilet (two at a time were allowed out). It was a portacabin, dark, no light, smelt awful and no lock on the door. I was talking to a Tottenham Supporter, lady, and she said she had to hold the door with one hand so it wouldn’t swing open.

The stadium was very quaint, Soviet-style building. It held over 42,000 people. It reminded me of West Ham’s stadium, only better and more class.

The seats were plastic (bottom and backrest), broken and sorefor your arse. As it had been raining they had collected waterpuddles. As in England away matches, you stand. We went further back so that there was a slight shelter over us.

Usually, Red Star are famous for their fireworks, etc., but there was none of that. Just loud vocal support from both setsof fans. Each taunting each other.

The line up was a lot better than when we played Everton.

Kick-off commenced.

Son scored twice following a stressful few days to take us towards the Champions League knockout stages by thrashing Red Star Belgrade. We lie second in Group B, four points clear of Red Star in third, knowing one victory from our final two games will ensure progression to the last 16.

Son, who was left “devastated” by his foul that led to a horrific ankle injury for Everton’s Andre Gomes on Sunday, netted twice in the second half, lashing home a finish from an angle and tapping in from close range. However, he didn’t celebrate his first goal; instead, he clasped his hands and bowed his head.

We went ahead in the first half courtesy of the impressive Giovani Lo Celso, who clipped home a finish on his first start for the club following an almighty goalmouth scramble in which Spurs hit the post and bar. Christian Eriksen added a fourth late on. Lo Celso had scored his first goal for the club.

Red Star had chances of their own but could not find a way past Paulo Gazzaniga, with the Spurs goalkeeper saving sharply off Milan Pavkov and Rajiv van La Parra.

It was our first away win since our thrilling Champions League semi-final comeback against Ajax last season.

We had 67% of the game, six shots on target to their three. The Crowd was 42,381.

I had a brilliant, but tiring day. When you’ve got arthritis and have a walking stick to help you it isn’t that easy, but with painkillers, manageable (so-far). After the game, we were held back for about an hour and a half (their supporters, at the far end, stayed and continued singing and cheering, god knows what they would have done if they had won!). Then we were finally let out to go our own way. We made our way to Sports Options coaches and then to the airport. Once at the airport, through the security and checks we were on the plane(it left at 1.45 am). Luckily I managed to get three hours sleep on board. Arriving at Stanstead just after 3. An hour and forty-five minutes trip home. Once home straight to bed(totally knackered). I got up at 11 am.

I am getting older and decrepit (if I were a horse they would have shot me a long time ago). How long I can continue going to away matches is anybody’s guess, but I shall try to enjoy it as long as I can. Whatever the result or opponents it is always a pleasure to support your club (and of course you visit some fantastic countries and places). In my time I’ve seen ups and downs, but I’ve always been there, showing my colours and I shall continue doing so, that is as long as I am able.

Next up will be Sheffield United (home), let us hope we can continue where we left off.

COYS!

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In the 90's, I was a writer for many of the top Spurs Fanzines (The Spurs, Spur of the Moment, MEHSTG and many others). A Spurs loyalist since the 60/61 season and now a season ticket holder (Premium). I run a Spurs Facebook page (“Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ voice” and co-run another one with Don Scully called “Tottenham Hotspur FC: Inside Track”). There is also a Spurs Twitter account (@HotspurVoice). I travel with Spurs to away games (including Europe). I have my a Blog (My blogging travels with Tottenham Hotspur Premium). The articles that appear on the blog also appear on SpursWeb and other applications.

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