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It's Wed, it's Stansted, it must be the UEFA Cup.
Managed to get to the bar at Stansted a full 4 hours before the flight left to find plenty of listers had beaten me to it, Wiggy, Caddy, Alan, SiC were joined by Jabba, Sticky, Andy and Sharon Ewart, the Totty Twins, Dunderhead and Betty as the trip unfolded. An on-time flight spent trying to ignore the "You're not a real fan unless you were born in the centre circle at ER" brigade and 5 minutes after finding out hotel in Pisa we were in the local bar - where we proceeded to rack up a 300 Euro bar bill.
As we staggered back to the hotel at 3am, Jabba's bright idea was to be up at 9 for a visit to the leaning tower. Sure enough at 9am we were all ready - except Jabba who was still fast asleep. Photo opportunuties at the Tower taken we then moved onto the station for the trip into Florence. Meet up with Betty who proved how well he'd researched the fans guide by proceeding to get us immediately lost - well it gave us a chance to see some sights before hitting the bar. Time to do a Caddy and wander off back to the station to meet the Tractor Boys branch, some more sight-seeing on the way including the Cathedral that looks like a cardboard filmset from a distance and the unbridge like Ponte Vecchio.
Off to a bar near the ground with the East Anglia bunch, obviously not used to English football fans as they made no attempt to add up what we'd drunk and just asked us at the end how much we'd had. Sixty was a very conservative estimate. A wander to the ground where lots of police around but pretty relaxed, a search on the way in deprived me of a pen - obviously a dangerous weapon. Ground was a big open bowl - not as impressive as the other Serie A grounds we've been to and perhaps a bit too big for this particular game. A few hundred Hapoel fans packed tightly together on one side with a couple of thousand Leeds more scattered on the other side.
Very strange pre-match entertainment. Firstly loads of blokes in medieval jesters costumes came running on and started doing some flag juggling to our complete bemusement and then doubtly inspired the kilt-wearing Mock Jocks proved that the answer to how many Scotsmen does it take to put a flag up is "More than Four".
Team was much as expected with Dubes and Smith replacing Lucic and Viduka compared with last Sunday, but a terrible start with a decent tackle from Bakke punished by an unjust free-kick which was curled in off the post by the Isreali baldy-bloke. That sinking feeling loomed as Leeds looked very ponderous for the first twenty minutes and Hapoel looked more dangerous on the break. However, Smith, Kewell and Bowyer began to liven us up and we got an equaliser when Smith got onto Bakke's pass to fire home. This left Hapoel to score three and although there fans were quite lively with flags and flares in the first half the team began to fade away and an exchange of shots off the crossbar was the main highlight of the rest of the half as we began to take control.
The customary WATC-COE didn't really materalise at half-time - not cold enough and too many hangovers at a guess but an early flourish by the Isrealis in the 2nd was killed off when amid some confusion in the defence, Smith chased a lost cause and hooked in from an impossible angle - even though I thought it was an own goal at the time. From then on Tel Aviv were gone and resorted to some petty fouls as we dominated, we took the chance to give McPhail, Richardson and Kilgallon a game (to the chant of "Only Two Johnny Woodgates" - he's a deadringer). Smith should have completed his hatrick with a header from Kewell's superb cross but reacted first to the rebound to complete the feat.
The game then turned into a stroll with Mcphail in the perfect position of having 20 yards of space and no attempt at a tackle when he did get it. Then the Isreali goalscorer who'd totally lost the plot since our second goal eventually got the red card he'd been asking for, for a while and with the cries of "time to go" ringing in his ears suffered the ignominy of not being able to disappear down the tunnel - cos it was locked. Soon after Smith got his fourth from another great Kewell cross and it became party time with Congas breaking out and chants of "Are you watching Eriksson" in tribute to Smith and Robbo and a few shouts of "Lazy Bastard" at Smith.
All in all a decent performance in the end though Hapoel were a shadow of a team from the first game. Again the balance was better with 4-4-2 and Kewell playing as a second striker with no defensive responsibilities. Smith obviously MOTM but Kewell and Bowyer supported him well, Bakke had a better game, Dubes did OK, Kilgallon had a decent half an hour and Robbo made some important saves.
After the game the police were trying to see how many Leeds fans can you get on a bus, so the Totty Twins took us on another magical mystery tour and it was about an hour later til we hit the City Centre to refuel on a mountain of Pizza and Pasta. As we watched the pontiff auditioning for Hearsay in PopeIdol on the tele. Train journey back to Pisa puntuated by Childrens TV theme songs to the confusion of the locals and then we repaired to another bar where Caddy told jokes that take 10 minutes to reach a punchline and Sticky told jokes apparently without a punchline. A wander back to the hotel gave us a chance to catch the rarely seen amazing underwater houses of Pisa before crashing into bed in the early hours again.
After a game of hunt the taxi in the morning, we spent a couple of hours delayed at Pisa which meant the 3rd round draw happened whilst we were in the air and the cost of flights to Malaga was skyrocketing whilst we were unable to do anything about it. Still another cracking trip and some signs the team are improving.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 15/11/2002.
For "thug", read smug. Alan Smith, a public condemnation by bitter opponents after the first leg still ringing in his ears, left Florence last night with a match ball, a quartet of polished poacher's goals and a thumbs up to the directors' box. Revenge was sweet.
Hapoel Tel Aviv should have known better than to rile the England forward, even irked as they were by what they had seen of the striker's spiky side at Elland Road a fortnight ago, but they will not make the same mistake again. As it was, a depleted Leeds ended up sauntering past the dithering Israelis, even if it was their striker's va-va-voom which made the difference.
"I knew some of their players had been having a go at me so I would have to keep a clear head," said Smith, who had sought out a meeting with his chairman Peter Ridsdale this week to discuss the criticism emanating from Tel Aviv. "I wanted to make sure that, if something did happen out there, I'd have the club's backing. It put my mind at ease and I could just go out there and enjoy it."