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6th of May 2005 - 10th of May 2005
Coca Cola Championship (final game of the season/Champions!)
Sunderland - Stoke City
score: 1-0 (56' min Carl Robinson 1-0)
crowd: 47.350


stoke ticket 300It was time for a party! In February of this year there had been a Dutch delegation in the Stadium of Light to see their Sunderland take the number one spot in the Coca Cola Championship, but now it was just Drew and Nick to see Sunderland get the trophy. After the February trip Sunderland was still in the right spot to gain automatic promotion and now in the last game of the season they were already promoted, but they still had to receive the champions trophy. Nick was already planning this trip for weeks and Drew wanted to join him. Nick looked for a flight Amsterdam - N#wc#stle. It was very expensive, but still worth it. Drew told Nick not to book yet, he was trying something different....

Drew informed at v/d Kwaak's (his boss) if there was a trip to England available in that weekend (Drew usualy drives to Italy). Well, that was lucky! His boss tried at a different organisation "Zurel" if there could be something "arranged", because they were every week in the North East. Drew told Nick about it and asked if Nick was willing to be navigator. Well if this can be combined, why not? So the plans can be made concrete, tickets can be arranged and Jonathan can make the spare beds again. We're on our way, we're on our way….to the Premier we're on our way.....

Hillegom, 6 th of May 2005. Drew arrives at Nick's home with his truck to pick him up for a great trip. Sunderland had already clinched the title the week before with a 1-2 away win at West Ham, but all celebrations were planned for this weekend with a home game vs. Stoke City. Two half full bags (they will be full when I get back) were carried in the truck and for the first time in my life I could see what Drew does every day. Making coffee while driving a car! The first stop was at Zurel's in Aalsmeer. We had to load the truck first and get the adresses of our destinations to deliver the plants and flowers. I thought that it would be Drew who was waving and shake hands with friends and collegues, but the first person we met was a friend of Nick! It was Steef who was a regular customer when Nick still had his CD-shop. He was always fun to talk with. Anyway, we rolled the plants and flowers into the truck, tie them up and off to Hook of Holland for the nightferry.

We were a bit early on the ferry and thought about a pint before dinner. But our fellow truckers (who did this every week) said it was better to get dinner first. Because the other passengers will arrive in the next hour and then there will be queues. So dinner first. Everything was perfectly organised for the truckdrivers (and navigators of course). You could get everything you wanted from the buffet and even a first drink (a pint of bitter of course) was included. Most of the truck drivers left soon and went into their cabins for a sleep. But I have never ever had a good sleep on a ferry, so I thought about staying up as long as possible (fear of ferry-ing?). But on the other hand, there was a very long day coming with a long trip on the road, so we decided to head for the beds at 11.30 PM. The boat wasn't moving at all when I was in bed and what was also very good organised was that the cabins were situated on the top deck, so there was no sound of the engines. So I turned my light off and fell asleep within seconds. About four hours later we were wakened by a horn and a voice that Harwich was in sight. The truck-drivers were allowed to leave the boat three hours before the other passangers, so they could deliver their fresh flowers in the shops....

I have to say that I felt pretty good. Drew also looked like he could drive for the next 16 hours (well there was no choice, he had to) and at 4.30 AM we drove out of Harwich, to the South 'cause our first stop was at Basildon near Southend. Drew made another coffee and the smell of fresh coffee at 5.00 AM was one of the best I have ever had. There was only one problem. The navigator is also the one who drops the old coffee into grass next to the road and also the water where the coffee-pot is cleaed with. But if a navigator in England will do this with a European truck, there would be a lot of problems with opposite drivers.... So it's up to Drew to clean this...

At 6:15AM we arrived at our first stop. The client was already cutting some flowers when we got some new ones for him from the truck. It was also time for the first heavy rain just when we had to get the trollies out of the truck. In half an hour we had everything out that was ordered and had got some empty trollies again in the back. Time to leave and up north this time. In the direction of Leicester, but just before Leicester we had to change route to our next stop: Hinckley. Another nice ride and always nice to see all these well known names on the roadsigns like Luton, Watford, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Coventry, Leicester... In Hinckley there was a small garden-shop where we had to deliver some plants. This was also quickly done, but the only problem was we had to get the plants off the trollies, cause we had to take these trollies back again. No problem for us!

Now it was time for a long ride (for me it is, Drew laughs about this kind of distances ofcourse). We had to get from Hinckley to Middlesbrough. It was almost noon and on the M1 to the North we were overtaken by a lot of football supporters in other cars. There were lots of Spurs scarfs/mini-dresses (they played away at Middlesbrough), Sheffield Wednesday (they played at home) but most of the supporters' cars had flags from Luton Town who were already Champions, but played away at Doncaster (we passed Doncaster). Drew had already switched the fifth pot of coffee on and Nick was still looking at the map to see what beautiful names were still ahead of us (Nottingham, Derby, Mansfield, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster, Barnsley, Huddersfield, Leeds, York), all beautiful. Drew had know idea where we were ("how we get there I don't know, how we get there I don't care), but he didn't need to with a navigator who follows the road on the map with his finger and shout out the names of every byway....

Around 3.00PM we arrived at an industrial park in Middlesbrough. There was no one at the company where we had to bring the trollies, but we had the key. Time to drop off the gear, but also time for Drew and me to drop off some personal gear (not that strange after five pots of coffee). Drew had to go first and I started to get some empty trollies and put the boxes with flowers on it like I had done this all my life. When Drew came back he applauded for this and now it was my turn to get to the chef's toilets. We saw that this was a large industrial park and Drew's trailer was empty, so we decided to leave the trailer here and just go with the front-part of the truck to our last (work)adress. We had to get back on the A1 and get passed Darlington and Durham to get to Gateshead.

It was Gateshead Market where we had to go to. We got the keys from the shed at the barrier of the Market. No-one there, so we had to drive the trollies inside and get the empty ones in the back of the truck again. We turned the radio to Five Live and we heared that a couple of miles further Middlesbrough had gone 1-0 up by a George Boateng goal, but more exciting were the relegation battles between Norwich and Birmingham (1-0) and Palace and Southampton (2-2 with Southamptons equaliser in the 92nd minute). The truck was complete empty now, so I could text Jonathan that we were on our way. We passed the Angel of the North again, and it was just Sunderland on our minds now. We could park the truck behind Jonathans house where it would stay for the next two days ("it's never stayed on the same spot for that long" was Drew's quote). Out of the cooled back of the truck we got a crate of Hertog Jan (Hollands best lager) for Jonathan, and we could do with a Hertog ourselves as well...

We arrived at Jonathan's home in Gladstone Street and were just in time for Man Utd vs. West Brom. We enjoyed a nice cool Hertog Jan bottle and at half time we went to the New Derby cause our stomages needed some food. In the New Derby we saw West Brom's 1-1 what meant that West Brom avoided relegation in next weeks win vs. Portsmouth. We had a nice pub meal and left for our usual stop at Howard Arms. Stu had a big smile on his face when we walked in, and so had we by seeing him again. Stu is a Leeds supporter and he thought it was great that his Leeds got Sunderland promoted. It was a good night out again. Dave was also in for a couple of pints and after a while we left for the town centre. After 11.00PM my eyes started to fall down a bit (not strange after 4 hours of sleep an 19 hours on my feet), so when Dave decided to go clubbing in a place where you have to pay 6 GBPounds only to get in, I thanked him and we decided to go to Idols. Idols is the kind of place where the girls behind the bar think they serve drinks on a carribean beach and the music they play is most of the time well known sing-a-long songs. But anyway, it was open until 2.00 AM and they had enough bitter in the barrels so I can enjoy myself. At 1.00 AM my light went out, so we decided to go to Jon's house and my bed let me in and didn't let me out for the next seven hours....

Sunday the 8th of May, matchday and the day of the celebration festivities. The kick-off was at 1.00 PM, so we decided NOT to go to the pub before the match, but enjoy the pre-match entertainment for one time. So at noon we already walked around the Stadium of Light and we were not the only ones who had thought about this. Drew looked for a cup of coffee in the stands, I just wanted to sit and enjoy.

Sunderlands Futureheads (huge local band) played in the centre circle and Drew was quicker back than I thought with a good cup of coffee. I had never thought that this could be so good. A cup of coffee on your seat in the Stadium of Light. In the local papers it was announced that this was Marcus Stewart's last game for the lads and the crowd responded with a couple of times "there's only one Marcus Stewart". And the crowd got a reward with a thank you wave from Marcus as well. The classical "Dance of the knights" started and so did the goosepimps. It was followed by "Ready to go" and the players got out of the tunnel. "Campiones, campiones olé olé olé" came from the crowd, but with an English accent (Sjampioones, Sjampioones). This would be a great, fun afternoon, and what could Stoke City do to spoil this? It stayed 0-0 for a long time. There were some chances for Sunderland and Stoke showed they only came to see the champions. Juliooooh was the best player on the pitch again and also Liam Lawrence showed he could be a surprise in the Premier next year. Marcus Stewart worked hard as ever and wanted to put the icing on the cake with a goal in his farewell game. But he didn't get it.

In the second half the well deserved goal came. It was Lawrence's free kick who was headed in by Carl Robinson in the 56th minute. After this goal there was even a Mexican Wave in the Stadium of Light. Usually I hate Mexican Waves (and even now I didn't join in), but this was the best Mexican Wave I have ever seen..... It stayed 1-0 and in the end it was Carl Robinson who scored the first goal of the season (10th of August 2004, vs. Crewe) and the last goal of the season 2004-2005.

Now the party could get started. They set up a new podium in the centre circle and I have never seen a full stadium for such a long time. Everyone stayed inside. The players were called out of the tunnel two by two (the best crowd roar was when Marcus Stewart was introduced with his son that made my eyes a bit wet) and then it was time for the trophy. Gary Breen was the happy captain to receive and lift the trophy. And after that is was time for a celebration round. Julliooooh went up in the stands and came back with an Argentinian flag. He also had a videocamera with him to record everything. I thought that he was used to some celebrations in South America. It was good to see all the players enjoy themselves. They had all kinds of hats, scarves and sunglasses. At every block they stopped for photo's, singing and dancing. And when they arrived at the tunnel again they went in one-by-one, except for Juliooooh who (I think) is still up there shaking hands with every single supporter in the crowd.

Now it is back to Jon's house for a bottle of beer. But first the hamburger with extra onions in Roker. There were some Italian scenes with flags out of cars windows. The whole city was getting mad. That's why we went to Jonathans in the first place. The Howards would be packed. At Jonathan's we watched a bit of Arsenal vs. Liverpool, but then we left for the Howards. It was still full of people, but not packed. The former owner Scott was also back from Spain and he remembered us that we told him about Dirk Kuyt a couple of seasons ago and that he could have been a Sunderland player, if Peter Reid would only have listened. He asked us to name two new Dutch targets and this time we told him about Martijn Meerdink and Klaas Jan Huntelaar. But he told us Huntelaar wasn't good enough because he didn't score against the Mags in the European cup....

In the Howards' the crowd was singing and even horns were blowing, but espacially the singing is still in my head. The atmosphere was great. The beer was unstoppable and the smile I had on my face was also seen on every other single person inside. It was party time all the time and there were no assholes who just came to spoil the party. Time was flying and at 11.45 PM there was a taxi outside to bring us to a restaurant. We said goodbye to the Howards'. Dave, Pottsy and Kathy had also joined us. The taxi took us to the seafront where Jon had booked a table at an Indian restaurant for a delicious curry. I desperatly needed one, cause I didn't have one at the February trip. I decided to join Pottsy with a curry with two peppers on the menu. (three peppers is the spiciest). Only is Pottsy more used to it than I do. It was absolutely delicious, but also very spicy. After about two hours of Indian food the taxi took us back to Jon's house and again I fell into bed and stayed in there for another seven hours.

Monday, time to say goodbye. But not without....shopping! The two biggest shoppers from the Dutch Mackems went back into town centre, but now we did know that we had an empty truck with us! So if we needed a new design bed or sofa that wouldn't be the problem. But it was the usual sports-wear we got for ourselves and the kids. And I also took home a tray of John Smiths. Great, finally a John Smiths that I can drink in my own home!

At 3.30 PM we got into the truck and said goodbye to Jon who had everything perfectly sorted out for us like he always does. We had to pick up the trailer in Middlesbrough and then back to Hull for the 9.00 PM nightferry. This was of course no problem with the navigator on board. The coffee was steaming again and Drew got us in no time on the ferry. On the Hull ferry there is a seperate deck for truck drivers only. This was also very well organised. The cabins were also situated in a quiet part of the ferry and food and drinks were all included. So we had a nice dinner and after that we went for a pint to the entertainment lounge where a music intro game was played. A couple of lads next to us from Wigan were playing, but they only knew 2 out of 15. So we decided to help them and one of the lads reached the final with 14 out of 15. In the final he lost from a bloke from Middlesbrough who won the 1st prize, another free trip on the ferry.

Drew and I decided to get to the cabins a bit earlier. After reading a couple of words in a footie magazine I turned off the lights and feel asleep almost immediately. No more fear of ferry-ing?

Because of a failing engine we arrived at 9.30 AM in Europoort and we headed home to Hillegom via Aalsmeer. We got another pot of coffee (what is a life without one?) and off to Aalsmeer. We had to get out the empty trollies there, tell our stories to the planner Jan and thank him for this great trip. Then it was back to Hillegom and Drew dropped me off at home where there were two little blokes waiting for what daddy had brought from this trip....

(written by Nick)

last match result:
Bristol Rovers-Sunderland 2-0

next match:
Rotherham Utd-Sunderland
03-05-2020 13:00 uur)