Well well, at the end of the day, someone needs to explain to me how a top English Premier League side managed to play a kick-about game against a top European name at the Hacker Pschorr Stadium in Landsberg am Lech at a cosy little stadium out in the sticks.
A huge money earner it wasn’t, that’s for sure!! Raising the profile of NUFC in Germany…also a dead duck, don’t even think about it, Germans don’t have a ‘second team’.
However, for us German, especially Munich, based Mags (and there appears to be not too many of us) this was a dream come true, the chance to see our heroes first hand, on our doorstep. Then as time would show later, with unheralded closeness and access to our beloved toon stars.
Monaco, led by the genial and ever likeable Claudio Ranieri, also played their part, partaking in the game with a seriousness and application that will surely see them returning to the higher echelons of French football at the first attempt. They had us chasing shadows at times and look to have put together a good, young, fast footballing side.
The evening got off to a great start when it became obvious that the sport park in Hacker Pschorr had only one netty, which happened to be next to the changing rooms of both teams, a recipe for disaster.
An innocent meander down the stairs to the netty one hour before the kick-off , was met by an abrupt halt on the stairs and with typically un-Geordie like tactlessness – ‘Vot are you doing here, can I help yooo’?….’Just want to have a jimmy riddle mate’…’Zis area is for ze players only, please go out’. Who is this guy ?, dressed in a new Sports Direct purple tee shirt…I don’t recognise him from our ‘back-room staff’, more about him later…
Great organisation here I thought, we obviously didn’t do any due diligence on this stadium before accepting this fixture. There again, the mere fact that the game was actually only officially acknowledged a few days before the event may say something about the event.
Due to the nature and layout of the stadium, this game provided a cool opportunity for the fans to see the toon really close up. For example for young Leo from Neuried and his father Frank, two newly won-over toon fans, this was the chance to watch their new favourites from directly behind the goal.
This gave a really new perspective to the game, where the fans could see and hear the communication of the players at close quarters. The rest of the group was made up from Munich based Mag – Paul (originally from Chester-Le-Street) and workmates Matthias, one of Alemania Aachen’s most loyal fans, plus Sebastian – a keen follower of FC Nürnberg, Bavaria’s third best club.
We took our place in the packed seated roofed end in bright sunshine, looking forward to seeing our stars in action. Prior to the game I’d noticed reserved seats tagged with notices – ‘directors of New Castle’ and ‘directors of Monaco’. Although it appeared that none of the toon management were present, a surprise visitor for the friendly game was Andrea Casiraghi, son of Princess Caroline.
The game itself was played in wonderful sunshine, at a good pace, and all in all was a good workout for the toon. No measures were spared and the toon front three of Shola, Demba and Sammy knew they had been in a fight against the tough tackling Monaco central defenders.
The central midfield pairing of young Abeid and Bigirimana looked good and augered well for the future. Young Amalfitano looked good too on the right side; worked hard, showed good balance and put in some good crosses, Beckhamesque at times. One for the future for sure. Young Sammy looked good on the left hand side and seems to have fully recovered from his injury. He also seems to have developed some real trickery on the ball, perhaps his best position may turn out to be on the left wing, attacking the full back. He has fast feet, a good left foot, and can really build up a head of steam.
Highlights of the event, at the end of the day cracking on with Tim Krul and Steven Taylor. Two great lads, dedicated to the toon cause, who always have time to chat to the fans.
Also a highlight, despite the best efforts of our friendly German in the purple SD tee shirt, was getting so close to the players directly after the game and in fact mingling freely with them on the pitch. Funnily enough someone had set up what seemed like a kiddies inflatable paddling pool behind one of the corner flags, which had obviously been filled with ice cold water and ice cubes. At the final whistle almost all of the toon players descended on this pool, most of the players spending at least 10 minutes immersed up to the waist in the ice bath, nursing their sore limbs, and cracking on.
It was great to be so close up to the players and on the way back to the dressing room, all of the players found time to stop and pose for photographs, some dressed only in their jockeys, or wrapped in a towel, to sign autographs for the fans waiting round, despite the uncomfortable and rapidly cooling conditions. A great bunch of lads we have at the toon; James Perch, Cheick Tiote, Steve Harper, Jonas, Shola, Ryan Taylor, Dan Gosling, all real gents!!
Twenty minutes later and there was another chance for photos and autographs as the players left the changing rooms and headed for the team bus. Again all of the players posed patiently for photos and autographs. Ryan Taylor and Shola actually getting back off the bus at a fan’s request to have their pictures taken, top lads.
Not sure where most of the toon fans came from but there were Australian, Bristol, Darlo, Durham and of course German accents to be heard amongst the toon fans. All in all I was surprised at such a poor turnout by the toon fans, considering there were supposedly around 200 toon fans in Chemnitz, especially when Munich is a much more attractive city to visit. However, it still didn’t detract from an absolutely brilliant day out.
By the way, our players were almost ALL brilliant, super lads to crack on with; Timmy Krul and Steve Taylor two top lads who look you in the eye and crack on like one of your best mates – kudos to the lads. Marveaux was pretty cool in the negative sense, Demba somewhat moody, Shola a legend, Perch a great lad, Jonas great crack…
Great day out for us Mags in exile, never to be forgotten !
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Howay the lads…!!