London’s First London’s Finest

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Marc Dray

I’d been to Barcelona before. The 1st leg of that fateful Semi Final in 2009. Unbelievably, that’s the only time we haven’t scored in a game at the Nou Camp. And I was there. Typical. Me, Chris and Daz decided against going again, I mean, there was no way we were getting anything out of the best side on earth was there? Even with the 1-0 lead from the first leg, we all thought we were going to get destroyed by Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and Co.

Half time and I’m outside on the phone to Daz. Even though Ramires has just nicked an away goal it’s all doom and gloom. We’d barely been out of our penalty area. It was only a matter of time before they cut us open again. I think we agreed on 6-1 before I put the phone down. Fast forward 45 minutes and it’s still 2-1. I’m sitting there sweating as the ball gets lofted into the air by Ashley Cole. Nando latches on and I’m up, waiting for the last defender to come and make the tackle. But there’s no one there. I’ve gone from one side of the room to the other. My face is about 6 inches from the TV. Please Nando, don’t fall over. Just take it round him……. YYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! Dad collapses to the floor, his arms raised in victory. My brother, Dan, has tears rolling down his cheeks. Even Mum has run downstairs to see the pandemonium that has just ensued in her living room. This is unreal. We’ve just beaten the best side in the world, with 10 men, in their own back yard.

We get down the pub about 20 minutes after the final whistle. Everyone’s in there getting lagered up, singing and chanting. “We’re all going to Munich, We’re all going to Munich, la la la la!” Talk soon turns to the final and who’s going and how we’re getting there. Flights direct into Munich are immediately discarded so talk of driving all the way there soon starts. We seemed to settle on this option as it would be the cheapest and easiest way to get there. We’d leave it with Jimbo to sort out. He always manages to sort something.

A few days after the euphoria had calmed down I had time to think about the upcoming trip. I realised, that after all that talk, it was highly unlikely that I was going to be able to afford it. I had moved out of Mum and Dad’s about a year previously, so I didn’t really have a great deal of spare cash. I explained the situation to Dad and that was that. I wasn’t going to Munich. I’d be watching it back in England with every other unlucky Chelsea fan. I have to admit, I wasn’t suicidal. Not being a ST Holder I knew my chances of getting a ticket were next to nothing anyway. I even managed to convince myself that it was a good thing and I’d have some extra cash by not going!

So a few days later I get a phone call from the Old Man, “We’re flying into Zurich, hiring cars and driving the rest of the way. We’ll stop in Augsburg the night before and have a bit of a session.” Turns out he’s paid for my flights and hotel. All I have to do is pay for the share of the car and the petrol and take spending money. GET IN!

I was straight on the phone to Daz and we’re bouncing, until I find out that his old man has gone and booked them on different flights to Zurich and that they’d be staying in Dachau the night before the game. What a mess this has turned out to be. Won’t even be able to beer it up the night before. Still, we’d have a good session before the game.

Friday, May 18th 2012

Dad comes and picks me up from the flat and takes me back to his. Mum has made us some breakfast. That gets shovelled down and me, Dad and Dan are in the car with Mum driving us to Heathrow.

As soon as we walk in, we see everyone over by the check in desk. Uncle Keith, my cousin Perry, Jimbo, Scott, Sloaney, Crossy, Paul, James, Gary, Phil and Nick. Absolutely buzzing. Fair few of us and our numbers would grow even more once we were in Munich the following day. Through passport control and it’s onto the bag x-ray. As we turn the corner, there’s Old Bill everywhere. Each holding folders, flicking through the pictures. “None of their faces are on here.” Thank Christ. That’s all we need, someone getting pulled on mistaken identity.

There’s a bar over to the left so, naturally, we head for that. The beers go down nicely. We even see Armand Traore, who get’s abused. “QPR mug” “You’re sh*t” and a few other expletives are thrown his way. Doesn’t even lift his head.

The flight to Zurich is a short one but still enough time for a couple more beers. Once we touch down I give Daz a call to see how they’re getting on. They’ve just touched down too so I tell him I’ll meet him outside before we head off. A couple of cigarettes and a good old catch up with him and Chris, then it’s farewell until tomorrow. We agree that beers, and plenty of them, are needed. Then we all pile into the 7 seaters, scarves hung out of the windows and it’s destination Augsburg. Dad’s on the phone to Hoppy, already in Augsburg, who tells him it’s only a 3 hour drive. Lovely, be there in time to get ready, have a bit of grub then get on it.

We must have taken a wrong turning somewhere. I’ve seen us cross the border in and out of Germany 3 times. Times getting on, we’ve been on the road for 4 hours already! We stop at a Lidl and I get talking to a Bayern fan who tells us it’s another couple of hours to Augsburg. Stocked up, we push on and finally begin to see signs for Augsburg and Munich. Another quick stop at a Burger King and it’s the final furlong. We get to our hotel at 11pm, 4 hours later than planned and after getting lost in Augsburg, and it’s straight up to the room, quick splash of water, spray of deodorant and it’s time to get amongst it. No way I’m wasting this night!

We’d done a bit of research on Augsburg and discovered it was a Uni town, bound to be decent places for a drink then. Hoppy and Big Gaz had already sussed out an Irish Bar during the day so we headed straight for there. 13 lagers please, love. Cheers.

Beers start flowing and we decide to take a walk into the centre to see if it’s a bit more lively. We come across this student bar and head in. Straight away I notice a few geezers staring at us when we walk in and start to think something might turn a bit nasty in here. Bump in to Darren and a couple of others I know from Datchet so I feel pretty confident as there’s about 15-20 of us now. More beers slip down my neck and whilst outside have a smoke with Jim, we hear a cry of “CHELSEA, CHELSEA”.

Two thoughts ran through my head. Either it’s kicked off in there and that was a war cry, or those geezers that we’re staring at us were actually Chelsea and a singing battle has started at either end of the boozer. Thankfully, it was the latter and as we walk back in, I realise that 50% of this bar is Chelsea. Quality, this is going to be a laugh.

Some of the locals don’t look too pleased as I bellow out ‘Zigga Zagga’ but the majority have left and it’s mostly just Chelsea left in here. Still, about half an hour after the singing started, the Polizei turn up and order the bar staff to stop serving drinks to us. They tell us that we can’t be this loud in this part of the town and we need to move on. Fair play.

So we head back to the Irish bar. After a while this begins to empty out and it’s just us and a group of Munich fans having another signing contest. We won, easily, and turns out they were a group of French Munich fans. Weird. Anyway, we leave the bar around 3am and start to walk back to the hotel when we see another little bar open with music playing. Naturally, we pile in and order more drinks. By this time, everyone’s pretty battered and a few headed off to a club. Sloaney’s dancing round with his top off and I think the Jager’s had come out by this point. A couple of smashed glasses and we were kicked out of there. Time for bed.

We get back to the hotel and I ask the receptionist for a bottle of water. Gary joins me and we get talking to this German bloke behind the bar who rustles up a pizza for us. Good man! He then goes on to tell us that everyone forgets Hitler was in fact Austrian and not German blah blah blah. Whatever mate. I think my head hit’s the pillow at about 5am. What a cracking night.

Saturday, May 19th 2012

I wake up a few hours later, the sun beaming through the windows. Feel like absolute death but this is it. Champions League Final day. Crossy is in the shower so I go downstairs for a cigarette. It’s only 9am but the sun is blaring, must be about 22 degrees already. Instantly I am regretting my decision not to bring shorts. Didn’t realise it was going to be this warm!
A few Chelsea are walking towards the train station. A few knowing nods are exchanged and I head back upstairs to freshen up. Washed and showered I pull my 1994-96 Tangerine and Graphite (that’s Orange and Grey to you an me) away shirt out of the bag. A fitting tribute to how far we’ve come since I started going in 1994.
Downstairs a few of the lads are tucking into breakfast which they blatantly hadn’t paid for. I need more than a bowl of porridge though so me and a few others go into town. McDonald’s being first choice obviously. Not too sure I could handle a Bratwurst at 10am!

After filling up on breakfast it’s back to the hotel and time to leave. We had been in Augsburg for less than 12 hours and I loved that place already! The cars pull out of the car park and we head to Munich. The Autobahn is full of cars with Blue and White and Red and White scarves. The excitement in the car is growing as each mile passes. Then, as if from nowhere, the Allianz Arena appears next to us. What a stadium that is. Looks like a spacecraft has landed next to the road but it’s still impressive. As a few in our group had tickets, we managed to park in the car park right next to the stadium. I get out of the car and marvel at the stadium in front of me, knowing there was a chance we could win the European Cup in that very stadium.

We jump on the tube at the station next to the ground and head for the City Centre. There’s a bit of confusion as to whether we should be going to Odeonsplatz or Mariensplatz. We decide to go for Odeonsplatz as Dad had a few other mates there at the English Gardens. Said there was loads of Chelsea and it was easy to get a beer.
As we get off the tube, there’s a bar across the road that is heaving with Chelsea. I suggest just going there, but no, we have to go and meet the others. So we walk for what seemed like about a day and come to this place, to find it’s like Hyde Park, only about 3 times bigger. This is going to be fun, walking for miles in the sweltering Munich sun. And I’ve got jeans on.
We finally get to where some of the lads are and all I can see is red. Barely any Chelsea about. I go to the bar and get a Stein of lager, walk back to find out that everyone’s changed their mind and wants to go back to the bar we saw, RIGHT OUTSIDE THE TUBE STATION! I’m definitely not walking all that way back, so me, Dad and Dan flag this geezer down to give us a lift back there on his bike. Think he charged us 5 euros. Bargain.

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Luigi’s & Gardens

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We arrive back at the bar, Luigi’s I believe it was called, and I head inside to check out the bar situation. Rammed. Queues about 50 people long. I look round and see an opening to a beer garden. I say beer garden, it was more like a field and it had an outside bar.

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Luigi’s bar pre match

I shout everyone round and we queue for a beer, only to find that you need a table to get served. By this time, everyone is getting a bit annoyed so Keith and a couple of others head off in search of an Off Licence. We move to the back onto a grass verge and about 20 minutes later, they come back triumphant. Three cases of lager, lovely job. The bar is heaving with Chelsea, hundreds, maybe even a couple of thousand in there and in the gardens. There’s a small pathway between us and the main garden area and each and every Bayern fan that walks down gets a rendition of The Dambusters sung to them. Fair play, they take it well. Not sure what the reaction would have been had it been the other way round.

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Finally, Daz rings me to see where we are and I go and meet him and Chris at the entrance. There’s about 20 of us now so the songs are easy to get going. Inflatable Spitfires are being thrown around and a couple of handheld smoke bombs are let off. The hedgerow is covered in flags and Chris goes and hangs ours up. We pose for a few pictures in front of it. Love that flag.

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Posing in front of the flag

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The atmosphere is absolutely rocking and the beers are going down so well that we nearly run out. Me and Scott are tasked with getting some more so we head out to the square and we’re met by a sea of blue. There is Chelsea everywhere. We’ve taken over this area of Munich.
We see a couple of lads carrying a crate of lager and ask them where they got it from. Unbelievably, they point out a butcher’s shop to us. Must be on a wind up, a butcher’s shop?! Anyway, we walk over and ask the bloke if he has any lager for sale and he produces 2 crates for us. No idea what the lager was but it’ll do. As we walk back to the pub, the cardboard splits on the crate Scott is carrying, sending cans everywhere! Luckily he manages to round them up, even selling one to a bloke for 3 euros, and we get back to everyone.
Everyone is a lot more drunk now and the time comes for those who have tickets to go to the ground. It actually gets a bit emotional when I say goodbye to my Dad and Brother but there’s nothing we can do. They have a ticket, I don’t. I think it was a situation a lot of people faced.
With our numbers halved and the pub beginning to empty (still plenty of Chelsea staying and drinking though) we notice that there are TV’s set up outside. Absolute result. We don’t have to wander round Munich trying to find somewhere.

As the night draws in and kick off time gets closer, we move over towards the TV’s. It’s absolutely rammed again and it’s hard to get a view of the screen. The atmosphere in the place turns a bit sour after kick off. People are getting in the way of others and blocking their view. A few scuffles break out but nothing major but I turn round and notice that I am the only one of my lot watching this TV. I decide to give up my vantage point and go in search of the others. Quite hard when it’s pretty dark! But I find them round the corner watching another TV. Felt better knowing there were 6 or 7 of us.

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My view of the 2012 Champions League Final

The 1st half flies by and nothing really stands out in my memory, the whole game is a bit of a blur to be honest. I’m stood on a chair and notice that next to me are a couple of Bayern fans. This is going to be interesting whichever way the result goes.
Then my world just falls apart. Muller heads the ball into the ground making it bounce off the grass and up into the roof of the net. I just walk off in absolute disbelief that this is happening to me again. All the heartache we had suffered in this competition over the years and it’s going to happen again. Paul comes over to try and make me feel better and a random bloke gives me a pint he’s just bought for a mate he can’t find. We’ve defended like absolute heroes for 80 minutes and we let in a goal now. I can’t watch anymore, I can’t bear to even think about it. Then I just see the whole place go beserk. Me and Paul run towards the crowd and Perry comes running towards us, screaming. He then knocks the pint out of my hand, drenching me, and I realise we’ve done it. We’ve equalised. Why did I walk away? Should have known it wasn’t over! Mug.

After Robben misses his penalty I’m wondering what else can happen in this ridiculous game. It feels like I’m having a constant heart attack throughout the rest of Extra Time and then nearly pass out at the thought of penalties.

Me and Perry nick a chair and take up a position. It’s quite a precarious situation, both of us being on the same chair but I have to watch. Well, I’m watching their penalties but not ours. As Bastian steps up, the Krauts next to me have got that confident look on their faces. Jolted run up and Cech tips it onto the post. I’m going mental, screaming in the German’s faces and then I turn back to the TV to see Didier walking up to the penalty area. This is going to happen this time. We can’t have another Moscow.
One step…… Neuer dives the wrong way…… the ball hits the back of the net. The whole place erupts, the TV falls to the floor. Me and Perry fall off the chair and I emerge a crying wreck. I’m making random blokes cry. We’ve done it. After all these years. We’re European Champions. I can’t get my head round it. I’m just walking round this place grabbing anyone. I’ve never felt like this about football before. The sheer sense of relief is ridiculous. I’ve been nearly dying for the best part of 3 hours and it’s just all being let out now. I find the others and we embrace and then head out to the square. It’s already packed with jubilant Chelsea fans but after witnessing the bad atmosphere before the game, we decided it wouldn’t take long for it to kick off again. We jump in a cab and tell him to head for the stadium. He obliges, reluctantly, and as we drive off, there is a constant stream of Bayern fans heading straight for all the Chelsea in the square.
We jump out of the cab on the motorway and walk the rest of the way to the ground. It’s still packed so we walk to the car park and wait by the car. About 20 minutes later I see Dad walk round the corner and I just run up to him screaming “We did it! We did it!” My brother joins in and we’re all on cloud 9. Chris and Daz come in next and we also embrace. We’ve been through a lot with this team. We’ve been going to football for nearly 20 years, all for this moment.

Sunday, 20th May 2012

We arrive back at Heathrow the following morning. Jim’s still got his Chelsea flag draped round him as we get on the bus to head back home. As we come to our stop, we say our goodbyes. Everyone is shattered but you can see that we’re all buzzing deep down.

We jump of the bus just round the corner from Mum and Dad’s and when we turn the corner, I see mum has got flags and scarves and everything on the front of the house. She answers the door, beaming, and gives us all a hug. She knows how much it means to us 3.

I have a quick bite to eat then tell mum I have to get back home and see Becca as she’ll be wanting to see me. Dad says he’s going to the open top bus parade but I tell him he can drop me out of that one as I’ll be in bed. I haven’t slept for about 30 hours.

I get back to the flat, Becca isn’t home yet, so I have a quick shower and crawl into bed. I flick the TV on as I remember I haven’t even seen us lift the trophy. With that image of JT and Lamps lifting that beautiful trophy it finally sinks in. Champions of Europe. London’s First, London’s Finest.

@marcdray

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