The Times, Sunday Times and Telegraph now seem to require registration to view articles on their sites, with the Times and Sunday Times charging readers outside the UK. The Times/Sunday Times has also moved some of the older articles into an archive which requires separate registration and requires you to pay to access the content. The Independent now charges for access to articles more than a week old.
OK, just for Guy - here is the Dunderhead version of the Troyes experience...
As a johnny-come-lately Glory Hunter, I had less than a week to make my arrangements for Troyes. You all saw my whingeing on list about the ticket office lottery for serial winners, so it was a surprise to get a call on the Wednesday before from the TO offering me an official ticket.
Dunderhead Enterprises (European Tours) Inc immediately stepped up a gear and hit the usual web-sites for accommodation, as well as the links posted to the list. After much telephoning, a la Franglais - with the emphasis on the anglais - and e-mailing, I eventually scored a couple of nights at the Troyes Airport Novotel. I had already decided that this trip was going to be a leisurely motoring holiday, accompanied by my carer (aka Margaret, Madame Dunderhead, long-standing ManUre fan and Leeds-hater) so we booked for our first trip on Le Shuttle.
At that point, Damian kindly invited us to stay with him and Sue at Pussay. He also asked me if I would like to play footy for Pussay as they had re-arranged a match because the Lards had wimped out of the proposed international. I quickly altered our travel plans and we set off for Pussay.
Pussay is a charming little farming village between Paris and Orleans. We were made extremely welcome by Damian and his family and we enjoyed our little insight into real village life. I haven't read Peter Mayle's popular books but I'd bet that Damian could do a Jeffrey Archer one of these days.
The Pussay veterans' team take their football very, very seriously and understand the importance of a proper warm-up for an athlete to perform. Without betraying any sporting confidences, I can reveal that the Pussay warm-up is based on a mixture of pastis and water, taken copiously and internally. Mind you it was a chilly night.
My services were not required, mercifully, as the Pussay squad for the match had about twenty willing players, including Pierrot - the Lards ringer from WorldspaceNet. This was good grass-roots football played in the true spirit (Ricard probably) of the game. An informal approach to frequent substitution meant that the veterans could come and go from the game at will, taking ten minutes off for a breather, a fag or whatever.
The opposing team Etampes were trying to be extremely organised and professional. Consequently, I don't think that they got the same satisfaction as the Pussay players. Mind you half a bottle of pastis could be a mellowing influence ;)
I thought the final score was 9-2 to Etampes but Damian assured me that it was only 7-3. Still I enjoyed the little Gallic differences - the players were less vociferous than Brits, apparently in French Senior Amateur football the players are not supposed to call for the ball and must not shout to each other. My favourite moments were these:
A late tackle almost resulted in a bout of fisticuffs - it was more like Jacques Tati versus Marcel Marceau than Tyson versus Bruno though.
As a concession to the veteran status of the teams, the match consisted of two halves of only 40 minutes. However, in the 55th minute of the second half, the linesman on the far side of the pitch gave up hope of a final whistle and trudged his way across the half-way line to the dressing room. On his way past the "referee" he obviously explained his actions but the "referee" wasn't too bothered as he was deep in conversation on his mobile at the time!
Eventually, the whistle went and the teams retired. Damian re-appeared from the changing room with a beer for me - good lad - and went back to get changed. About ten minutes later he invited me to join the team for a drink in the changing room. Forget corporate hospitality, this is how to do it - there was an informal assortment of Ricard, whisky, beer and savoury nibbles - all in generous proportions. Then after a few bracers, we moved into the home dressing room for a snack - full charcuterie service and a case of wine. Hmm... I was enjoying this trip. Especially when the Pussay team demonstrated their party-piece for me - a word perfect collective rendition, in English, of "Shit on the Villa" - a souvenir of their trip to Coventry a couple of years ago. I tried to extend their repertoire to "stand up if you hate ManU" to no avail.
So a very pleasant hour or two in the company of the Pussay veterans.
Back to chez Damian for a well-earned kip and a reunion with my very understanding wife.
After a hearty breakfast we bade our farewells to our hosts and began our cross country drive to Troyes. We arrived at the Novotel just as the Pieman and Jacob Burns were coming down the hotel steps. I wished Mark the best of luck and he was his usual very friendly self. I hope he gives Kewell a few pointers on the Quantas shuttle this week.
So into the chaos that was reception. The Novotel was the team hotel and also the choice of many fans. Michael Dubery was chatting nonchalantly to a couple of fans. Eirik Bakke was wandering round with his customary wrinkled brow - he always looks to me like he has been startled from a very frightening dream. Nigel Martyn was doing his Cheshire Cat (no reference to Bonetti intended) impressions and making all the time in the world for autographs and photographs.
Meanwhile, most of the team were relaxing on the restaurant terrace, soaking up the November sun.
The receptionist told us that our room was not quite ready and that it might be ready soon, although she did not say this in a very convincing way. So we retired to the bar for a coffee. Honestly.
After we had eventually checked in, we asked for a taxi into town. This was not quite as easy as you would expect from an "airport" hotel. Perhaps we might like to walk into town instead? suggested the good lady on reception when the only known taxi number in Troyes failed to answer within five rings. Perhaps not, I replied, knowing that it was at least three miles and how much damage that little walk might do in the matrimonial goodwill department. So we persisted until they managed to find another taxi service, that "might" arrive soon. Eventually a taxi did arrive so we were spared what turned out to be at least five miles. As it turned out, this was a pleasure deferred rather than denied.
Almost as soon as we got out of our cab, I was accosted by a certain Mr Dellow and friends who had spied me from the vantage point in a bar. At the time I was desperately checking my pockets for my mobile, which I thought I had lost. Alan and chums were very concerned about this because they thought that I couldn't find the match tickets I was supposed to pass on from Damian. No problem - I had the tickets but not my mobile, which I had left on top of the TV in the hotel bedroom. At least I hadn't picked up the TV remote instead, that would have been foolish.
I reckoned that decorum might progressively deteriorate into debauchery as the afternoon wore on so Margaret and I retired to a local restaurant for a spot of Lunch, rejoining the List meet an hour or so later. Damian and the Pussay guys had arrived so I queued at the bar to get a round of drinks in. After 15 minutes, the manageress explained, in her best French, to the guy in front of me that the police had asked her to close the bar immediately. Obviously unimpressed, the lad from Starbeck responded with "two pints please luv." The original message was repeated by the land-lady. Harrogate's finest looked quizzically at her and said "I don't understand luv, can I have a couple of pints please?" I translated for him and pointed out, in French, that we had been queuing for about 20 minutes. This then brought about a change of tack. It seemed now that the pub had no beer (remember Slim Dusty's top ten hit from the 1960's anyone?) and there was a little pantomime with the beer taps.
Time for a tactical withdrawal. We took our thirst elsewhere, assisted by Damian and his native trackers. We moved on to a very amenable bar close to the Cathedral and the various elements of the list contingent were alerted by mobile calls to all and sundry. For the next hour or two, there were frantic exchanges between the bar, next to the Cathedral remember, and lost listers, close to the Abbey, or another larger Church. Doh - shouldn't be let out alone if they can't tell the difference between an Abbey and a Cathedral ;)
The cocktail hour soon passed and I escorted my good lady safely to a taxi (which must have been visiting Troyes from another planet because it was visible). I rejoined the throng in the bar and rediscovered the joyful exuberance of the Leeds faithful on tour. As I re-entered the bar, there was a Robert Plant wannabe, called Tom, delighting the occupants of a side-room with a working demonstration of his private parts, having undone his zip for the purpose. One of his audience was a dead-spit of the Rhinestone Cowboy, probably on a spying mission for Harrogate Town.
Next, the two toilet cubicles adjoining the bar were a popular destination and an orderly queue ensued. One cheeky chappy couldn't wait so did his John Brauns impression in the sink nearby. Not a good move for the entente cordiale methinks.
We had a good sing-song in the bar though and I even instigated an appropriate rendition of "we're the best behaved supporters in the land (when we win...)" somebody next to me said that they hadn't heard that for years. I must be getting old. Old enough to know better, obviously.
On to the ground itself. Where we found that everyone in the lower tier had to go through a different entrance, with the home supporters. No problemo, apart from the very intimate body searches by the CRS proctologists. Amused myself with an impromptu "Bin Laden is a Leeds fan, nah, nah, nah."
Oops - I forgot to mention Mike Sewell's suggestion for the list chant for the night: "You've got Dom Perignon, we've got Dom Matteo..." sounds good to me.
Anyway, having crossed the cordon bleu, we arrived in the ground, only after passing through another search party, arriving at, surprise, surprise, the entrance we would have reached if we had been allowed to go with the main body of leeds ticket holders. Couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery.
Inside the ground. No stewards, at all. Everyone had their own seat to stand on, very similar seats to the San Siro BTW. I decided that it was a good idea to stick close to Alan Dellow (ooer Missus) so that I would have a better than 50:50 chance of finding my way back to the Novotel after the game. Couldn't see Alan, or any other listers for that matter, in the lower tier so at half-time I went up to the upper tier and found Dellow and Wiggy. We couldn't work out if the one-man WATCOE in the Troyes main stand was Jabba or not. It was.
As the game restarted I went to find a vacant seat/ stand and found a spot next to someone I had last spoken to in the check-in queue at Malpensa last November. So I spent the second half chatting with this guy and then at the final whistle caught up with Alan Dellow. We walked back into town, only to find that our pre-match bar was over-subscribed and not taking any new punters. Time for a kebab, in the company of Thirkers and Lucy. Thirkers on best behaviour and looking after Lucy as a very caring parent.
On the way back from the ground, Dellow had shouted across the street to my second-half neighbour, who unknown to me was Pete Southam. Small world innit.
Anyway, I digress. After our kebab we all agreed to go back to the hotel for a beer or two, in case it was difficult getting a taxi in the early hours. Fools that we were. It was not difficult, it was completely impossible. Troyes was the first European town that I have ever visited without any visible taxis.
We decided that the station was our best bet. Fools. The location of the railway station was a closely guarded secret. An ostensibly helpful map was deliberately misleading. Consequently my finely honed mapreading skills were frustrated, as were my assorted walking companions. Mind you, when we realised that we were in the wrong direction, one of our number instantly observed that he knew where the station was. Thanks, pal.
Time to ask for directions. I approached a night security patrol, complete with muzzled Alsation, and asked, in French, "ou est la gare s'il vous plait?" he replied in English "I don't speak English" Very hospitable les grenouiles, n'est pas?
To cut a long story short, we ended up walking back to the hotel. At least that was our intention. A stray taxi passed us at the 50 minute point and offered to make two trips so that the eight of us could get back. I went in the first round and that was the end of my "list" trip to Troyes.
Nothing more to report, except perhaps for the complete lack of security at the Calais terminal for the Eurotunnel. Our passports were not checked. The French customs lady enquired if we had any pets with us. My wife stopped me physically when I replied, only the two Afghans in the boot...
P.S. can I have the last ninety minutes of my life back now please?
So here we are in the "small" town of Troyes - only 60,000 folks apparently, but 4 large medieval churches, enough oak-beamed houses to keep a dozen woodworm control experts in fine style, and more patisseries and chocolatiers than any dentist would deem safe in such a small area. The locals look slightly worried, but the large number of CRS (riot police) seem to make them feel a bit easier, but there's no trouble evident when we turn up in the middle of the day, and there's a sizeable group of Leeds fans by train station and in the main square, well on the way to drinking the first bar dry. That happens shortly before it manages to serve us, so it's up and away to the next bar - a quiet-looking little place that will probably allow the bar staff the next week off to recover from the busiest night they've ever had and to allow the owner to ferry the night's takings to the bank in five separate wheelbarrow loads.
Made it to the game in time for kick-off (for once we guesstimated the walking and getting-through-the-barriers time correctly) and find that we may be in the home end, but they're all friendly enough and we're by no means the only Leeds fans not in with the official party.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 02/11/2001.
If ever Leeds needed proof that champagne goes straight to the head, it came here last night. In France's fizzy wine heartland, they were left punch drunk and giddy before riding their luck to scrape into the third round.
In the end, Robbie Keane's late goal proved decisive and capped a rip-roaring contest. English clubs will be glad to see the back of Troyes. The French club, only formed in their current guise in 1986 and who once had to change their name because it clashed with that of a supermarket chain, had already dumped Newcastle out of Europe this season.
Last night they came close to wrecking the Yorkshire club's ambitions with a swashbuckling performance that left the visitors' defence looking about as convincing as the city's culinary speciality, a dubious tripe sausage. Wilting under Troyes' attacks, Leeds conceded more goals in this two-leg tie than they have in the Premiership all season.
Copy from The Independent of 02/11/2001.
The two most famous products of this French region are champagne and andouillette, sausages made from tripe. Last night Leeds managed to combine them both, sending the corks popping despite a pig's ear of a performance.
Undefeated in the Premiership they may be but, on the road in Europe, Leeds are living dangerously. In the first round of this Uefa Cup campaign an abysmal performance in Madeira was rescued when they swamped Maritimo at Elland Road. This time they progress to today's third-round draw by virtue of a 4-2 home victory at their Yorkshire fortress.
Not that that victory margin seemed enough when they were trailing 3-1 to Troyes after an hour. Although Mark Viduka, one of the night's rare successes, had soon levelled Gharib Amzine's seventh-minute opener Leeds then conceded to David Hamed and Jérôme Rothen.
Patrice Loko should then have put Leeds out, but his staggering close-range miss allowed Robbie Keane to score the critical goal with 13 minutes remaining. Leeds still went down to their fifth away defeat on the bounce in Europe this year, but they were the ones celebrating at the end. As well as Viduka, Nigel Martyn, Dominic Matteo and Keane can be happy with their performances but few others will be.
Leeds' chances of producing a vintage performance were not helped by the absence of two key players: Rio Ferdinand and Lee Bowyer. The captain had a hamstring strain, Bowyer had to give priority to an engagement at Hull Crown Court. With Jonathan Woodgate similarly detained, Michael Duberry, who has just finished giving evidence in the case against Bowyer and Woodgate, came into central defence for his first start in more than a year.
Prior to the match Duberry had said, in an unfortunate turn of phrase, that he hoped "to do myself justice". Such a prospect receded when, after seven minutes, he got into difficulties dealing with a poor clearance by Martyn and conceded a corner. Loko, catching Leeds unawares, pulled it back to Amzine, who drove fiercely through a crowd of players and past the unsighted Martyn.
Leeds did not take long to respond. Seven minutes later Tony Heurtebis did well to push an Ian Harte free-kick wide, but flapped at the subsequent corner. The ball ran to David Batty, whose intelligent cross was headed in by Viduka.
These exchanges set the pattern for a thrilling, open match. Within three more minutes Martyn had denied Rothen and watched Amzine thump another drive just wide, and Heurtebis saved after a neat combination by Danny Mills and Eirik Bakke. Keane then twice tested Heurtebis and, in between, just failed to force Viduka's cross home. There were further chances at each end, but it was not until fate intervened, in the form of a telling deflection off Dominic Matteo from David Hamed's free-kick, that another goal arrived.
There were eight minutes of the first half left at that stage and Leeds were lucky to survive without further loss. First, Martyn had to tip over Samuel Boutal's shot, then both Olivier Dacourt and Batty were lucky to escape dismissal for kicking opponents. Dacourt was booked, Batty, already cautioned, went unpunished.
Troyes, roared on by a full house which sounded much louder than a 15,619 gate suggested, carried the game to Leeds after the resumption. It was a wise move, for their defence was awful but their attack scintillating. They launched a series of sweeping moves and, after 58 minutes, broke through when Boutal and Rafik Saïfi set up Rothen.
Four minutes later Leeds should have gone further behind after Hamed and Rothen sliced them apart. But Loko, unmarked and with time to spare, contrived to shoot over from 10 yards out.
It was to prove an expensive miss. Fifteen minutes later, Leeds, counter-attacking after Martyn had saved a spectacular Rothen volley, regained the aggregate lead. A clever pass from Batty found Viduka, whose shot looped up for Keane to head in. It was undeserved but acclaimed nevertheless.
Keane might have settled the issue after being put through by Jason Wilcox with seven minutes left but was denied by Heurtebis. Troyes began to lose their heads, spending too much time and energy attempting to right perceived injustices but Amzine lifted them with another fizzer. That inspired a late assault, but Martyn, diving at the feet of Nicolas Goussé, denied them.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 02/11/2001.
EVERY good side needs a bit of luck and god knows Leeds were handed their fair share here in Troyes last night.
Manager David O'Leary had warned until he was blue in the face this tie was not going to be easy, yet I doubt even he expected his side to go quite so close to being knocked out.
French outfit Troyes could have been finished off two weeks ago when a rampant Leeds banged in four at Elland Road but should have had more.
And they were almost made to pay for their missed chances as Troyes, backed by a fanatical French crowd, went in search of a glorious victory.
Patrice Loko's double strike in the home leg had given them hope a real shock was on the cards and until Robbie Keane nodded home a late second goal for the visitors it looked very much like United's European excursions were over for another year.
To their credit, Leeds are a side who will never lay down and they summoned up all that battling spirit just when it was required to pull the game out of the fire.
Without the injured Rio Ferdinand and the likes of Jon Woodgate and Lee Bowyer, who were forced to stay at home because of their on-going court case in Hull, it was a seriously depleted Leeds side on show.
United never play well without Lee Bowyer - he is such an integral part of their game plan and once again he was sorely missed last night.
Eirik Bakke did recover well enough from a knee injury, but it was touch and go as both he and Ferdinand's replacement, Michael Duberry, had to pass late fitness tests.
Troyes manager Alain Perrin had described the match in his programme notes as his team's Everest, and the players almost responded in the perfect way by scaling the mountain they had left themselves to climb.
They may not be one of the bigger French clubs - they were only formed in 1986 - but they had heart and enough quality to give United a real heart-stopping night.
The first palpitations were felt as early as the eighth minute when Loko's short corner found Guarib Amzine 25 yards from goal and he struck a pearler which swerved away from Nigel Martyn's left hand and into the top corner.
It was a stunning effort from the Moroccan, sending the home fans into a frenzy and giving the Troyes players a belief Leeds could in fact be beat.
Martyn then had to be alert to save an effort from Jerome Rothen before Amzine again tried his luck from range only to see the effort flash wide.
United, as in their ill-fated trip to Maritimo in the opening round, had started slowly, but the travel-sickness soon wore off and they were on level terms again within minutes.
Harte saw a 25-yard free-kick saved by Troyes keeper Tony Heurtebis before swinging in a corner that the keeper flapped at. Bakke touched the ball back to Batty and he clipped the ball over for Mark Viduka to head in.
The Aussie certainly loves European competition and is on fire at the moment - it was his fifth goal in six games.
Viduka almost earned United the lead with 24 minutes on the clock as he charged down a clearance from Olivier Thomas and managed to get a decent cross to the far post only for Bradja to jump in ahead of Keane and bundle the ball against the post.
A minute later Keane again had the chance to net, but this time his low curling effort was frantically palmed away by the home keeper.
It was United's best spell of the match and when Harry Kewell fired in a volley off the underside of the crossbar it seemed as though it would have reaped its reward.
However, referee Massimo de Santis made the first of many odd decisions by ruling it out and judging Keane had fouled Tourenne in the build-up.
The official was hardly popular with the Leeds contingent when he then awarded a free-kick against stand-in skipper Dacourt when he had seemingly tackled Loko fairly.
The decision was a crucial one as David Hamed then delivered another thunderbolt out of the blue for the home side.
From fully 40 yards his shot seemed to be causing little harm as it scuttled towards goal, but it took a wicked deflection off Dominic Matteo's shin and nestled into the bottom corner.
The home tails were pricked once again and Samuel Boutal tested Martyn with a good effort the England stopper managed to tip over the bar.
United's problems continued as calf-injury victim Kewell was replaced by Jason Wilcox at the break.
It meant O'Leary's men were now without their choice wingers or central defender and Troyes were intent on making the most of their chance.
Mills almost put the ball into his own net shortly after the restart as Loko's fierce drive across goal deflected off his knee and dropped just wide.
But their third goal was expected and it came just before the hour as Saifi's trickery was far too good for Duberry on the left byline and his pull back was met by Rothen's sweet left foot drive.
It should have been 4-1 minutes later as a devastatingly quick break from the home side caught United cold.
Hamed fed Rothen out on the left and as he played the ball into Loko, the former French international was all alone with only Martyn to beat.
However, he took too long in his deliberations and when he did finally pull the trigger he ballooned the chance over the bar.
It was a huge let-off for United and they are experienced enough in Europe to know such chances do not come along often.
Batty it was who seized on it, picking up a rogue clearance 40 yards from goal and clipping it into the path of Viduka. The Aussie guided the ball across goal for Keane to nod into an empty net.
Even then it was not finished as Amzine again crashed an effort just wide and Martyn needed to pull off the save of the night, diving at the feet of Nicolas Gousse in the closing minutes.
Extra-time would have been too much to bear - as it was the 6-5 aggregate victory was enough excitement for one round.