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Stayed in Yeadon on Wednesday night so no problem getting to the airport for 03:45 for the 06:00 flight to Dnep.
By 04:10 Jabba, Wiggy, Matt & Caddy had joined myself & Viki and various other lunatics for the 4 hr flight to Ukraine. Once the "rep" from Independent Travel turned up with passports and visas it was a case of trying to find your passport from a pile of them! Once sorted we checked in and made of to the bar, it was closed!! Luckily there were some cold bottles in the fridge so they did just as nicely.
When we made our way to the plane there were more than a few hearts in mouths, Ukrainian Airlines finest!! Stairs up into the back of the plane and once inside sit anywhere! The lad in front of Viki had a seat that didnt lock in the upright position, and as we found on the way back some of the seatbelts weren't exactly attached very well so came away in your hand. I also had a pre filled sick bag, I assume this was an example of how to use them. The actual flight itself was ok, the cooked breakfast was cold and there was no beer but that wasn't too great a problem as we'd have loads of time in Dnep for drinks, wouldn't we??
Approaching Dnep' you follow the course of the river and it is really quite breathtaking, the airport however, is breathtaking for different reasons. The runway has weeds and grass on it, it looks like one from a war film, the airport has old machinery rusting all over the place and is the worst airport I have ever been to. Being an ex Communist country they employ everyone so there were army/customs/police everywhere, each competing with each other to see who could have the bigest hats!
We already had visas so all we had to do was fill in a immigration card and walk through Customs....... It took 1.75 hours to get 117 people through customs. They had 3 gates open and visas were checked, double checked, and then checked again just for good measure. When we finally made it out into the Ukranian sunshine theye were more police, they were by all acocunts bricking it at the thought of maurauding Leeds fans causing havoc in their fine country.
We were eventually piled onto buses and driven to the city centre. We were, of course, taken on the scenic route (on British police advice, cheers Stan) and our Ukranian guide took great delight in pointing out such great things as the 30 year old housing developments and their pride and joy the two 26 storey skyscripers (sic). Once in the city centre (at 14:00) we were told we could have a whole 2 hours free!
We set off to change some money and find a bar, finding one we were mulling over going in when a large jovial policeman walked by and gave the thumbs up with his only English phrase "Good beer". After that recommendation it would have been churlish not to try it out so we went in and ordered drinks. As we all settled down for our beers Viki asked for a vodka, Jabba translated into Russian and the barmaid brought a bottle and 9 glasses, what the hell. After several rounds of beer (with vodka chasers) and six portions of steak and chips it was time to leave, the bill was about 6 per head.
Heading back to the buses we realised it was 17:15 and the idea was to get taxis, luckily the buses were still there so a 15 minute bus ride took us the the grandly named Meteor Stadium. A quick trip to the loo showed that the Ukranians really are a friendly lot, they dont have cubicles. There is just a row French type toilets (holes & footstands), handy if you want to borrow some toilet paper I suppose. Viki confirmed that the ladies was the same!
Tickets for the match weren't needed as they opened a big gate for us and everyone just walked in. I am sure everyone has seen the match so I wont go into it, the ground was very shallow anyway so the view from behind the goal wasn't the best.
The mass brawl was quite away from us so we didnt have a good view at all but the sending off was quite funny. Just before Barmby was fouled he was caught late by the Zap player and responded by tripping him behind the refs back, the player then went looking for Barmby, next time he got the ball, caught him late and got his marching orders. Didn't see the spit at the time but have seen it since.
After the game we were put back on the buses and taken back to the airport. Once there we had to go throuh all the visa crap again just to get out of the country.
The flight back was uneventful, a sandwich for the inflight meal, some more broken seatbelts and a landing half way down LBA runway which meant anchors on and there wasnt much runway left when we we stopped. Apart from someone (I wont name him) leaving their passport on the plane there were no further problems and we all got back to LBA at 01:00.
An eventful trip and not one I would fancy doing again but what the hell roll on the next round.
It all started at just after 11pm on Wednesday as Jabba, Wiggy and Caddy pitch up at mine just after the pubs closed. Some quick refreshments and off to Huntingdon for the silliest ever pick up time of 12.30 am. A "short" walk from the station and we meet up with another 9 East Anglia whites for the journey up which involved going past Elland Road at around 3am - probably just a warm up for a future Sky induced KO time.
Reach Leeds-Bradford and meet up with Alan, Viki and some other familiar faces before playing the hunt the passport game. Some bloke turns up with 150 passports in a pile and we all have to find ours - a game made more tricky by the fact that 100+ of them feature pictures of short-haired blokes in white tops. Ukranian Airlines had managed to find Leeds airport for possibly the first and only time in their lives and following a 5am raid on the café bar there followed a pretty uneventful 3 hour plus flight to Dnepr_ Ukraine looked uncannily like East Anglia from the air, a patchwork of green and brown fields which provided a few jokes that we were just flying in a circle waiting for them to change all the signs in Leeds/Bradford, but the appearance of huge river signalled the arrival of our destination.
As soon as we landed it became clear that half the Ukranian army were awaiting us and immediately we were greeted by a very unwelcoming "Behave or you will be dealt with" speech by a bloke in a silly hat. However, a chat with Stan the liaison man told us they were actually really friendly just worried about what a loads of Leeds fans would be like and thereafter the locals did prove to be very friendly. Two hours later we eventually left the airport, due to some pretty bureaucratic filling in and checking of Visa's as well as a general incompetence amongst Leeds fans to get into the right order. That meant I'd spent nearly an hour waiting on the bus by the time the last man through - inevitably Caddy appeared.
We were then told that we were getting told we were going on a 2 hour tour of the City before the game - this offer was rather bluntly declined by fans anxious to sample the local culture - but the trip into the City still followed a rather obviously circuitous route planned to keep us off the streets for as long as possible. During this time we were "entertained" by a somewhat flustered English commentary on the sights which included the mention of the "Skystrippers" to our right and the description of a war memorial which was met with the question "Did they die of thirst" from a beer-deprived fan.
We were eventually dropped of in the City Centre and headed of to change some money into the local currency which was labelled "Snot" at this point - I never found out what it was really called but have a lot of it left. A small group of us then located a decent bar and piled in, if only to avoid being run over, the drivers were totally deranged. An attempt to get a Vodka and Coke for Viki, led to a full bottle of vodka arriving along with lots of glasses, but being polite we polished this off along with copious beers and a pile of food. The cost of this turned out to be not many snots in the end. We were joined in the bar by some of the local police and an interpreter at one point and they were a happy lot, although I'm not sure if this was due to our entertainment or the frequent visits into the back room with the waitresses. However before they left we were treated to a magic trick by what appeared to the be the boss (well he had the silliest hat). Not so pleased with us were the local mafia at the next table who didn't appear to like our songs.
We eventually re-emerged into the sunlight - it was a nice day in the Ukraine - and weaved our way back through the traffic to find the bus that was meant to be leaving for the ground at 4, was still there at gone 5. Onto the ground, where bizarrely we were all made to go to the toilet (literally a hole in the ground) before entering, we were then all held up just outside the ground as the interpreter asked the first lad if he had any explosives. He said no and we were all let in, no strikers cards or indeed tickets required. Inside we found the few members of the Ukranian army we hadn't already met waiting for us. The ground was pretty unimpressive for Ukraine's 3rd city - a low stand behind the goal for us set well back from the pitch didn't really help watch the match though I'm not sure we missed much.
It took a while to work out who was actually playing and realise that we had the dream team midfield of McPhail and Bakke. The game was pretty scappy from the outset and neither team really looked like scoring, until they did, after the ball bounced back off the bar and was bundled in. At this point we heard the first real noise from the few thousand Ukranians scattered around the ground, aside from the constant whistling that they kept up throughout.
We couldn't actually believe that there would be another goal and were expecting there to be penalties at the end, but surreally the 250-300 of us who gone all that way were so bored by the second half that we almost lost interest in the match. This may have been linked to the fact that we'd discovered the 7.5% beer they were selling in litre bottles, but my main memories of the second half were; re-uniting Jabba with his clothes and passport after a half-time WATCOE walkabout, attempting to chat to some Ukranians who'd found there way into our end and trying to stop a scuffle at the front between some real fan willy wavers and some lads who had the temerity not to come from Leeds.
During all this I dimily remember the ball ending up in the net for our equaliser and one of their players being sent off amid rumours of hitting the ref. A brief bundle broke out on the pitch but I have no idea what caused it. The game eventually drifted to an end and most of the players wandered off, exceptions being Bakke and Robinson who came to applaud us and chuck various items of clothing into the crowd and inevitably Smithy. Wont even attempt to do scores couldn't see enough to make them worthwhile, but for Rich W's benefit McPhail must have been MoM.
Back onto the coaches with a little contretemps when a Ukranian lad who'd got onto the coaches wandered off with someones money - though why you'd give then your money god knows - before we headed back to the airport. Another chaotic couple of hours getting all checked in and going back through Visa control as various lads had managed to lose their visas and eventually we were back on the plane and heading home. Four hours of slumbering sleep later we made a bumpy landing at Leeds / Bradford at which point Caddy decided to lose his passport - the trouble he gets into without Sticky to look after him. Back into the minibus for the drive home, passing ER again at around 2am this time.
Eventually made it home at 5am, 30 hours after leaving and about 45 since I'd had any proper sleep - couldn't tell you much about the game or the City but another stamp in the passport and had a good time nonetheless.
Looked like a poor pitch, poor opposition, poor Leeds team and a very poor game. It really was painful to watch and left me wondering why I had to start work at 7 a.m just to leave early to watch it. I can't begin to think waht the poor b'stards out there thought. Let's hope they were drugged up and pissed up.
I think you can only start with the midfield and SURELY we have to presume that Dacourt is not 100% fit and / or is being saved for Villa. The midfield that Leeds put out with Barmby , Mcphail and Bakke is in my opinion one of the worse midfields we have fielded for 15 years and yes that inludes the midfield that had Carlton Palmer in it. None of these lot could even claim to be in the same class as Carlton - it's that bleeding bad.
Barmby scored a goal but hardly touched the ball. It's been the same all season. He's too slow to play in midfield. Players just go by him like he wasn't there. On his debut everyone was raving about him and what a bargain he was. If you go back and reread my match report I said at the time that although he done ok I thought he looked a bit slow and bit unfit. This hasn't improved.
Ditto for Mcphail, my favourite player. Little passes here, little passes there (usually backwards) , a few pokes forward. What else ? Occassionlly he tries to be a bit more adventurous with his passing but that invariably just leads to him giving the ball to the opposition. All their attacks stemmed from Mcphail not covering. Just look at their goal. Their man comes in from the right, goes past Harte (?) and then Mcphail comes over to cover and the guy just takes a stride past him and he's through for a shot on goal. No presence at all ! Very poor. I can't bear to watch Mcphail , he's completely useless and adds NOTHING to the team.
Bakke - Oh my God, was this the worse of them all. One decent tackle was his contribution. His passing is so bad I'd rather see any f*cker play in midfield rather than him. Burns , McMaster .... even f'cking Duberry will do to remove this useless , overrated lower league player from our team. Can't you see it ? Bowyer - what can you say. He was poor again but he does need some players with him at the moment. Up front , I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how Smith and Kewell got on but with our midfield what chance did they have. Mind you I'm not sure that's how Tel was playing it. From the TV it looked like Smith on his own with Bowyer and Kewell feeding from the right and the left. I thought Kewell's performance was digusting. Uninterested and lacking in effort but unfortuantely he did that one extra thing that got us a result. Say what you want about him without him last night this would have been another Blackburn and we would have lost. For all our possession we hardly created a decent chance all night.
Smith battled hard on his own. Defence - not a lot to do but distribution was terrible.
Harte - you used to be able to put up a decent argument for having Harte in the team due to his excellent free kicks. Not now. I've never seen a player plop so many free kicks and corners into the opposition keeper's hands. It's as if he's playing for the other team. We need a new left back.
Thoroughly depressing. If Tel thinks that the future for Leeds then we're in the s***. Spell in the 1st division anyone ? Why not !
Warning - next to no footy comment, as I can't remember anything from the game (ahem).
After hearing everyone at work telling me I was mad for going to the Ukraine for a day, around 2am when I was halfway up the A1 in a minibus, I started to see their point.
My 36 hour trip started in London. While waiting for Caddy in Hamilton Hall, some p*sshead wandered over and started rambling to me. It was only 10 mins later when Caddy himself walked in that I realised it wasn't him. Easy mistake.
Met up with Jabba, who drove via Matt's to Huntingdon, where we left the car, for a "10 minute walk". 20 minutes and a quick jog later, we finally got to the minibus. I'd mistakenly picked up some Onion Bhajis at the services as there were no pies, which soon turned out to be a mistake.
Saw Alan, Viki and Wigan Chris at the airport, then encounted the first chaos of the trip, playing find the passport. Panic over, we got through passport control to help empty the fridge of beer. The pub itself didn't open till 530am, though we managed to get a couple of drinks before getting on the plane. Good job really. It was an unmarked Ukranian airlines plane, with the entrance at the back. Looked like we'd be getting into the cargo hold, though luckily we had seats (which were falling apart). Served by Oleg the chipmunk, Olga, and the other one who looked like she'd put on her lippy in a moment of bad turbulence. The 'hot' breakfast looked sh*te, so skipped it (esp. as the bhajis were in danger of repeating on me).
After landing on a cow field (welcome to Royston Vasey), the police, all wearing oversized hats gave us a lovely welcome. "Respect our country, or you'll all watch the game from the bus". Complete chaos at immigration, trying to match up people to the randomised grouping of visas (nice profit margin there, by the way). Somehow I'd got out quickly, but had to wait for what seemed like an hour or so before everyone was out. No coincidence that the last one out was Caddy.
Had a small welcome committee of locals, though the police put paid to any joint piccies with them. Although one of the buses had filled and left, it arrived back 5 mins later, having been chased down by the police. Apparently - according to "British police advice" - we couldn't be trusted.
A *long* bus ride later, accompanied by a woman 'guide' with a squeaky voice pointing out museums, skyscripers, shops, and the main street being Groucho Marx Avenue (or sommat),. we finally got let out. Time for hunt the bar. A nice copper pointed out "Good beer" as we found this small basement place.
One bottle of vodka and several pints later, things were getting a little woozy. Interesting to see some of the police disappearing behind the bar for about 20 mins at a time. I got the feeling they weren't helping out in the kitchen. Neat party trick from the policeman though (with translation).
Back to the bus to get to the stadium, and finally folk had woken up enough to start singing. Good atmosphere there, and we all piled into the stadium just in time to see the teams come out.
Thanks to the vodka, I can hardly remember a thing from the game. Thank god for the newspaper reports when we got back. There were a helluva lot more folk in the Leeds end than I'd expected. Although we'd supposedly had 120 on our trip, there must have been over 300 there. Good effort folks. Nice to see PeteS and Dave there.
Good WATC-COE at half time, admirably led by Jabba who was seen staggering around trying to cajole people into joining in. He spent some of the second half wandering around as he'd lost his clothes (from the h-t chanting). Alan had lost his voice, and me, I'd just lost the plot.
Was a big relief to get the equaliser (one of the only things I could remember), though was a little narked at the end when most of the squad b*ggered off straight away without acknowledging us, apart from Robbo, who was wearing a dayglo orange shirt & socks (unless that was the radiation that had got to him), Bowyer, and one other who escapes me.
After more chaos at the airport, where they insisted on matching folk to the group visa lists (cue "I've lost the immigration form" etc from a lot of people), we finally got onto the plane for the journey back. Slept all the way back, and got out through Yeadon fairly quickly. Apart from Caddy, who couldn't find his passport. Luckily it had fallen down between the seats.
A long journey back via Huntingdon and Sandy, and after a quick brekkie in London, got home around 9am. Completely knackered.
Ta to Matt and the East Anglia bunch for the lift up and back, and to Jabba for somehow staying awake enough to get back to London.
Let's hope the next round is somewhere closer.....
Copy from Football Unlimited of 03/10/2002.
Leeds United were forced to play on a pitch more suitable for grazing donkeys here in Dnepropetrovsk last night and nearly ended up looking like asses themselves. Terry Venables and his players left this antiquated little stadium grateful to have dodged one of the most galling results in the club's history.
Only the late intervention of Nick Barmby, sparing their blushes with a 77th-minute equaliser, saved Leeds from extra-time against a team who had never before played in Europe and have struggled so badly in the Ukraine first division that they have already sacked one manager this season and issued an official apology to their supporters.
In mitigation, Venables pointed out that the toffee-pudding pitch was more suited to an alehouse kick-about than a European tie. But, privately at least, the Leeds manager must be dismayed by his side's lack of imagination and guile, not to mention their apparent inability to string more than three or four passes together.