13th of April 2012 - 16th of April 2012
Sunderland - Wolverhampton Wanderers
crowd: 37.476 (no-one got the correct numbers)
After a lot of discussions, the checking of the calendar and some group e-mails we finally decided at the 7th of November 2011 what the Sunderland trip for season 2011-2012 would be. At that moment, the Lads weren't in good shape with only ten points from eleven games and the few weeks after that weren't any better. But eight (in the end seven) Lads felt confident and decided to get across together with their "chef de Mission" Nick. Around five months (and more than 200 e-mails) later, at Friday the 13th of April 2012 7:34 AM it was time for departure from busstop the Nachtegaal (a.k.a. NACtegaal).
The trip started with two taxis arriving. Nick, Frido, Nilis, Guppio, Pep, Drew and Tim were kindly dropped off by San and father Drew. We had a last look at the tulipfields and were amazed about the strange shape of the busstop. We stopped "our" bus and except for one person who forgot to check-out with his chipcard from the bus, we could get our first coffee at Schiphol without any problems. Guppio didn't feel that good and had an orange juice, because you never know, this could be the last one of this weekend.
Jet2 flight departed without any delay, but was only half full. No-one was able to sit at the destinated checked in seat, but we had to sit at the front of the plane and share it with the middle-class of the Dutch Dart Premier League. Names like Co "the Matchstick" Stompé and Vincent "can I have another Frikadel pindasauce" Van der Voort were on the same flight. Nilis had a quick nap and even time was flying. Anyway, we enjoyed our flight and we decided to leave the plane as quick as a dart (so did Co and his friends from their prestigeous dartstournament that weekend).
After our arrival we phoned our taxidriver for the weekend Stu. But he had a short delay, so Drew decided to get some money from the cash-machine... He got Euro's. Well those will get some huge exchange rate, not a bad idea Drew. The first bad thing on Friday the 13th... Stu (the whole weekend in Bermuda) took us in 1,5 hour to Houghton-le-Spring where we were welcomed by Brian and his son Andrew.
In two minutes we got the full tour of the house. Yes, it was a very cosy home, and that is what you need in weekends like these. A good coming together. The rooms were filled, everybody had a fresh deodorant and then back in Stu's taxi for our first pints of the weekend. We went to a pub close to the Stadium of Light called "Isis". When we walked in, some of us thought they arrived in heaven; Various Stouts, Lagers, Ciders and Real Ales were all on draught. Brian informed us about he history of the building. We ordered our first drinks. Some of them from their experience and others with just a wild guess. It resulted in some mixed feelings, but luckily there was a second round. When we had our first taste of the second round Guppio called (man of the clock) for the first "bottoms up" of the weekend. It was time for a improvised Stadium Tour and we still had a little walk to do. At the Stadium of Light we walked passed Nick's personalized brick in the wall to the main entrance. A guide showed us the Players Lounge (where we all were desperate for a piss, and yes we were allowed to use the players toilets), the dressing rooms, the press room, dug-outs and the Niall Quinn Bar. After that we had some time to spend some money in the sport-shop. Drew got a nice pint-glass with the Sunderland crest on it, he only forgot we had only hand luggage with us and wasn't able to take this on the flight. It was still Friday the 13th....
Because most of us started to get a bit hungry we decided when we got back to the Isis to order seven sandwiches. But the financial crisis has also had its impact in England, and there were only two sandwiches available. Frido was the right person to cut these into small parts, so everyone could have a bite. Our discussion went on about Dutch last names and translate these in English. Brian thought that a "horsef**ker" would be quite a nice hobby. Eileen (the lady of the "guesthouse") came in after work and after a few nice pints the taxi arrived. It would take us to the Sunderland Greyhound Stadium where we were welcomed by mister Jonathan Staward (Jon for friends) who took us to our booked excecutive box. Our welcome-beers were already waiting (Tuborg) and they were quickly followed by some Tetleys and wines.
The food we got in the executive box filled our stomach to an acceptable standard and during the 14 races we tried to add some extra beer money to the kittie. Guppio was a quick starter and had a good win in the first race. It also resulted in his only win and in the end we all had won about one race what makes our total win to 0 GBPounds. One of the highlights was a double-win for Friet and Tim, but because this was a favourite the odds weren't that high. For the last race we went outside, but even that didn't make a difference. After the races we went to the nightclub downstairs, but this was not our idea of a good night out. Nick decided to phone the taxi one hour earlier than planned and the taxi took us back to Hotel Brian and Eileen where we all jumped quickly into our doubter/campingbed/twinbed.
Saturday 14th of April: Matchday. When we had our delicious full English breakfast we noticed that the first night in England wasn't as good for everyone. The three military men in the living room had kept eachother awake for some hours and "doubters" Nilis and Friet also had their own stories. Drew and Tim had not much to complain about in their twin-bed. The only thing was that it was a bit too short. Anyway, it promised a lot of good stories for the rest of the weekend. We also decided to have some more pints today. In the end you don't care where you will sleep.
"Is there a real chance that Sunderland will score a goal today" was Nilis question when he finished his last sausage. After another look at the table and the recent form of opponent Wolverhampon Wanderers there was no doubt about that. All the other lads assured him that after 450 goalless minutes he would finally get ready for some red and white goalcelebrations today. Full of confidence we phoned Stu to take us to the Stadium of Light. Again we visited the fanshop and Nilis got a red and white scarf to join the goal celebrations.
We were welcome in the Black Cats bar from noon. We had perfect view on the pitch and the tv screens were showing the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Everton. The obvious "we could have been there" was mentioned, but nobody really cared as we were enjoying life in Sunderland and not at Wembley at the moment. The John Smiths, Forsters and Guinnesses were arriving quickly and the lunch was also a good addition for our stomaches. We also had a couple of visits to the Ladbrokes stand for some betting on this days Grand National and we saw Andy Carrol shoot Liverpool to the FA Cup final. Next to us there was an interview with Sunderland legend Gary Bennett. He played 369 games for the Lads. After the interview Brian suggested to have our photo taken with this legend. It was immediately posted on Sunderland's official facebook gary bennetpage and this was followed with text messages from the Netherlands that we were spotted. Nick also said that Gary Bennett was the first Sunderland player where he had his photo taken with during his first trip in 1994. The circle was round. This could not be....? Around 3 PM we found our seats on the first row of the second tier and we were ready for kick-off.
The match started and after a short while our confidence of seeing an actual goal disappeared completely. Ofcourse with players like Sessegnon and McLean there's always a chance to score a goal out of nothing (and McLean almost did) but after the final whistle we all agreed that this game had 0-0 written all over it. And we could even have lost it in the end. The Wolves added one point to their total and relegation was almost sure. For the Lads it was a disappointing afternoon, and one of the reasons was that Lee Cattermole wasn't on the pitch. Nilis thought he never should have bought the scarf, but it was nice and warm and the word about one single Dutchman that didn't see Sunderland score in six attempts was quickly spread around the ground.
Back in the Black Cats Bar we ordered a few new pints and watched the Grand National re-live. And what a race it was. It started already at the first fence where Drew's horse refused to jump and Drew's chances to win a few Pounds were gone (or Euro's?). In the remaining part of the race most of us saw the chances of winning the jackpot disappear but in the last 200 yards everyone was holding his breath. Frido's horse was far ahead of the rest of the pack and we were already thinking what a win for Sunnyhillboy would mean to our Kittie. But unfortunately the foto finish wasn't positive for us and the finishline was 10 inch too far away, or Sunnyhillboy just forgot to stick his tongue out. It was the "closest finish ever" but not in our favour. Well, we could handle it, because we'd already seen a spectaculair football game in the afternoon....
Because Jon had said to Roger that we would be around 6PM in the Wolsey, we also went that way. After some change of seats we finally were in a cosy corner and we tasted some more different beers. Pep and Nilis were checking for the results of the Dutch League and we also got in a conversation where some real music icons with big names like Rick Springfield, Frankie and the Heartstrings were mentioned. After Friet and Tim came up with Ultra Nate it was time to leave for the next stop: Harbour View. Drew had a scare when he saw some boarded up windows, but luckily it was next doors car-company with the same name that had just finished business. The pub was still open and we didn't had to wait long until some friendly guests left so we could have a seat. We were talking about the Livorno player who sadly lost his life earlier that day and Tim tried to add some more photos to his camera. This wasn't accepted by the shop-assistant of the local fish-shop. Luckily her fiancee didn't show up, otherwise the night could have a strange ending. There were even some Lads who completely missed this word-fight...
Anyway, we decided to leave after this incident and after a long walk along the coastline we arrived for a traditional curry at the PritiRaj where we were welcomed by the staff and also were uninvited visitors to a traditional Indian wedding dinner. On doctors-advice some of the Lads took off their jumpers because we could be in for a hot night. All orders were completely different because it wasn't just a Chicken Madras that was on the menu. It was also possible to order a Chicken Malayan, that was not only different in price, but also had some fewer peppers next to it. When we finished our meal it didn't look like we were getting an Irish Coffee from the staff, so we wanted to leave. But the owner changed his mind and suddenly Irish Coffees were on the menu. Friet said those were the quickest Irish Coffees ever. That's all we can say about this dessert.
The taxi was on his way, so we went outside for some fresh air and wait there for our driver. But it took longer than we expected so we already said goodbye to Jon who left for his guesthouse at the seafront. When we thought the taxi would never arrive he suddenly appeared and we had to help him find Brian and Eileen's house. Drew found a credit card on the floor and thought his luck was taking a u-turn. Anyway, it might be still in his pocket...
The next morning was called cultural-morning and we left for a walk to the Penshaw Monument, close to Houghton-le-Spring. During our walk the rain came down more heavier even followed by some snow. So Brian decided to get the car and take us to the Monument in two shifts. When we arrived at the foot of the hill it had stopped raining and it was still a good climb up to the monument. We had a brilliant view of the North East and there was even time to shoot some public relation photos of Nick's possible new band. When we got down Brian took us again in two shifts to a nice village pub where we had a few pints. Two bottom's up later taxi Stu picked us up and together with Brian and Eileen's car we left for Mark and Sam in Haswell-Plough. They surprised us again with lots of food and drinks (Carlsberg). After a short look around the house and talking about Mark's driving-instructor car the hamburgers and sausages were on the table. In the backgound there was Scottish FA-Cup football and a Premier League clash between Aston Villa and Man Utd on the telly. When United had the win under controle and after we got some shots of kerosine from Mark, we left for Haswell-Plough's local: the Gables that was still owned by Adam Curry's dad.
In his "living-room" the story of Nil-Nilis was talk of the village. We had a lovely afternoon. Guppio got one drink too many that made him shout an unforgettable "No joh !!" We kept getting new rounds in and we watched the other semi-final where Chelsea were helped by the referees to reach the final. When the match had ended we had to get our taxi, because we had to be on time in the Hollymere pub in Grangetown.
This was another highlight of the trip, because Sunday Night is pop-quiz-night in the Hollymere. This didn't have to be too much of a problem for the Dutch Mackems? Eileen and Frido shared a tuna-sandwich and the local Miep fired some questions to us and the other quiz-guests. We luckily got some assistance from Eileen (she was brilliant) and a member of the bar-staff that had ended his shift, because there were some questions of names that had not got across the North-Sea. After the final 40th question we were two lengths ahead of the number two. The price for the winners was some more drinks and we're not the kind of persons to say no to these gifts. Some beers and an Irish Coffee later we were in Stu's taxi again and with the message in the back of our heads that we had some more drinks than the night before, so sleeping wouldn't be a problem this time (even on an army-stretcher). Brian celebrated our win with us and we had another Irish Coffee at Brian and Eileen's. We all agreed that this was a very special moment, because he and Eileen invited us in their house for the weekend. It was something that would never be possible in Holland. But in the middle of a story that Brian was telling himself, he said goodnight and went up the stairs.
The next morning everybody agreed we all had a good night of sleep. Brian served another full English breakfast and after we thanked him for having us over, we said goodbye to Brian and his daughter. Stu took us to the Bridges shopping centre in Sunderland for som shopping. Everyone was trying to get some stuff and presents for their family and time flew. Drew was crowned record-shopper again and he is ready for the new football season.
During our taxi-ride to the airport all the big names of the Hillegom criminal scene were mentioned, and this was the only time it made your correspondent take a short nap. We thanked Stu for his time, patience and driving this weekend and we went to the custom-check. Some of our bags were kept apart and after explaining we left these bags unattended for two hours in an unknown taxi we were trusted and they let us through.
We had our last pint of this trip on English territory and we were loudly informed for about ten times that the flight to Prague was leaving. No-one decided to switch planes, so the seven of us landed safely on Dutch ground where we had the bus to the Steenfabriek. It was there where we said goodbye to each-other and we knew it was another unforgettable weekend and everything was well arranged again. Except for one little goal everything was perfect, but you still got to have something to look forward to. A couple of hours later we were already thinking what next years trip would be like. Well let's have a meeting in August in an Irish Pub in Haarlem to discuss this.
(written by Tim)