14th of April 2006 - 18th of April 2006
Manchester United - Sunderland
Sunderland - Newcastle United
score: 1-4 (31' min Justin Hoyte 1-0, 59' min Chopra 1-1, 60' min Shearer (pen) 1-2, 65' min N'Zogbia 1-3, 86' min Luque 1-4)
"Old Trafford, here we come!" We shouted as we left Amsterdam airport at Friday the 14th of April. "We" is Drew, Peur, Pep and Nick. We had already planned to leave on the Friday, for an extra night out in Manchester. Luckily we did, because SKY moved the game from Saturday the 15th to Friday the 14th. Jet 2 landed safely at Manchester airport in the early Friday morning and Mark was already waiting for us. Mark Isherwood is a friend of ours who had lived in Hillegom for a couple of years. He is from Manchester and a huge United supporter. He now lives in Manchester again and we still have contact. When we told him we wanted to come over for this game he insisted that he would pick us up from the airport and have a drink with us in the city centre. So he did. We went into his car and he took us to our hotel. We had to check in and Mark went home again to leave his car there and get back into the city centre by bus.
We checked in and dropped our bags in the rooms. Pep opened his small bag (we only had hand luggage) and found a fake pistol inside. His 4 years old daughter must have put that in. In the morning she had already told him that she didn't want him to leave! That would have caused some big problems if they would have searched his bags at the customs! Pep didn't want to take it with him on the way back, so how can he get rid of this thing? He decided to drop it in a trash can in the city centre....but what if someone sees him get rid of a pistol in the city centre? Well, Pep did it and luckily no one payed attention. We walked to a big square in the city centre. There was a huge ferris wheel and we went into a nice looking old pub.
A couple of pints and hours later I got a phonecall from Mark. He asked me in which pub we were, so he could join us. We told him and after a while Mark came in. But to our surprise it was not just Mark. He brought Martin (also a Mancunian who had lived in Hillegom but went back) and Neil (Wolves supporter and friend of Mark who still lives in Hillegom but was also over for the game and to surprise us). We were absolutely stunned. We had a great afternoon. The weather was good so we were sitting outside in the sun and the square was getting more crowded.
Around 5PM I got a phonecall from Jonathan. He was arriving from Sunderland and also checked in in our hotel. He asked us where we were, so Drew and I decided to pick him up at the hotel. We had another pint and Mark took us to a special ferry where he had booked us on. This is a ferry that takes (Man Utd) supporters from the city centre to Old Trafford. If you don't take the ferry it will be a very long walk. All the other people were very surprised to see us on the ferry. There isn't that much away supporters who take the ferry (you have to book this in advance) and especially not away supporters from Holland! So we had some talking around and arrived at Old Trafford. It was as we expected a massive ground. This was also the first game played after the extention was completed. So for the first time there would be more than 70,000 people inside. We went inside and from the inside it also looked massive and impressive!
The match started. Sunderland were almost relegated already and United had to win to keep their title hopes alive. So it was one-way traffic all the time. But Sunderland defended well and had some chances on the counter attack. At half time Jonathan got a text message from Sunderland. We were shown on SKY sports at half time. They saw a yawning Drew and a text messaging Nick during the interval.
The second half was more of the same. But United still did not score. So in the end it was a 0-0 result. Not enough for Sunderland to stay up and maybe not enough for United to be crowned as Champions in May. On the ferry back to the city centre we were applauded by the Man U supporters. They thought we had stolen a point and we had to celebrate it as a win in our situation. We went back into the city centre with Mark, Martin, Neil and Jonathan for a couple of pints. But it had been a long day, so after a couple we chose to head for the hotel and get a couple of hours sleep.
The next day was the day of the original kick-off, but now we had some spare time left and Jon thought we might enjoy watch a game of low-league football. Stockport County (close to Manchester) was playing at home to Wrexham and Jon had arranged tickets. But kick-off was at 3PM, so we played a game of snooker in the city centre and left around noon towards Edgeley Park. We found a pub close to the ground where we had something to drink. The atmosphere was good. There were Wrexham and Stockport (and Sunderland) supporters inside. After some drinks we went inside and waited for the kick-off. Stockport wasn't doing well in League two and needed a win to survive. Wrexham was a bit higher up the table, but no title contenders, so there was a bit of a chance for Stockport in this game.
Before we could blink with our eyes, Stockport was already 1-0 up. The crowd celebrated in style but Wrexham bounced back and scored the equalizer in the38th minute. But still there was time in the first half for Stockport to get in the lead again. On the stroke of half time they scored the 2-1. In the second half, the score didn't change. Stockport was in control for most of the game and they deserved their win. These three points were more than welcome for most of the supporters. One step closer to safety and everyone went home happily. We got into the train, get our bags from a locker at Manchester trainstation and in the train to Durham.
We arrived on time in Durham, but we wanted to get to Sunderland. The reason why we arrived in Durham was because we stayed at Jon and Kathy's house in New Herrington. And New Herrington is somewhere between Durham and Sunderland. So we took a taxi from Durham to New Herrington, dropped our bags off and took Kathy with us for a night out in Sunderland.
When we got into Sunderland we definetly needed a beer after this long trip. We got a couple in Tonic, Chase and Luma. We enjoyed ourselves and finished the night off with a take-away. Then off to New Herrington again by taxi for a couple of hours sleep.
In the morning everybody woke up except for Kathy who stayed in bed. But we had loads of time. We were invited by Mark and Sam around lunchtime in Haswell Plough so we could all get a shower and feel fit again. We took a taxi to Haswell Plough. A nice little village were nothing ever happens (you think). Until....4 lads from Hillegom arrive. As soon as we were welcomed in Mark and Sam's beautiful home a police helicopter turned up over Haswell Plough and kept circuling there for the next hour. Mark had never seen this before, so he sent his son Dominic outside to see what was going on. About half an hour later Dominic came back and said it was because of a traffic accident that had happened on the motorway that goes past Haswell Plough. Phew, it wasn't us! Mark and Sam had all kinds of delicious food in the house. They made everything themselves and there was plenty of it. There was also plenty of beer so we made ourselves comfotable and watched the football on another huge tv (Jon has also got one of them). But there was some more excitement. Two police cars arrived with great speed in the street opposite to Mark and Sam's. About 6 policemen got out and busted into the house. Dominic was again sent outside for a check. And he came back with the news that there was a big fight going on inside. So nothing ever happens in Haswell Plough.....
But Pep had to get his flight back home (he had to work the next day) and we had to get to Durham 'cause later that night Paddy would arrive in Durham. But not without a farewell drink. Mark got into his special drinks cabinet and took out a cinnamon liqueur. But he had also ordered a taxi, so the taxi was waiting outside, and he still had to put the liqueurs in the glasses (and I can tell you, that were no liqueur glasses). But we had to go, so get the liqueur inside and then off to the taxi. Wow, what a special liqueur that was!
The taxi dropped us off at the Bridge Hotel. Jonathan, Pottsy and Dave were also there. We had something to eat and Jon took Pep to the train station to get to the airport. We also got some text messages from Paddy that he was on his way, so we stayed in the Bridge Hotel as it is close to the station. There was a quiznight on, so we decided to join in. Jayne Stout also arrived from Murton. Jayne had lived in Hillegom for a couple of years. And now she was back again in the North East of England. Nick and Jayne still keep contact with each other, so when she heared of us getting into Durham, she came over for a couple of drinks. The quiz was good. There were no prizes for our table, but Pottsy demanded a recount 'cause he thought that was impossible. So did I. It was amazing how much Jonathan knows about films and actors.... For the rest of the night we stayed in Durham. We went into a couple of bars in the town centre (Wetherspoons and Walkabout), and late on we took a taxi back to New Herrington.
In the morning Nick was the first to be awake (at least he thought he was). So he got in the living room, turned on te huge tv and watched SKY sports news. After about half an hour Paddy came in the living room. He slept in a room next to the living room and he was reading a book for the last hour, cause he thought no-one was awake yet. After that everybody was soon awake, and we had to because it was match-day! And what a match. Newcastle (or Scum as they are better known) were the opposition at the Stadium of Light. Fine, Sunderland was already releagated, but this match had to be won to give the Mackems some good feeling at the end of the season.....
The kick-off was at 3PM, so there was plenty of time for some pre-match pints. We had some in the Howard Arms and then it was off to the Stadium of Light. Sunderland wasn't playing well this season. The were on a record low points but still everyone thought that today there might be a different feeling. It was tensed in the beginning. But Sunderland was definetly the better team. All they needed was a goal. And it came on the half hour. It was Justin Hoyte, on loan from Arsenal who scored. The crowd went mad. This was what they needed after a miserable season. Could this change the feeling of the Sunderland supporters? At half time Sunderland was still 1-0 up and how do they get out for the second half?
It was still a nervous game. No real great chances on either side, but Sunderland was still the team with the most advantage. Until the 59th minute. It was Michael Chopra who got the equalizer. No-one could believe this. All the Sunderland fans had their hands in their heads. And so did the players. Right from the kick-off a Newcastle player robbed the ball at the half way line and he walked past everyone inside the area where he was pulled down and the referee awarded a penalty. Shearer got behind it, he already had missed one versus Sunderland, but not this time; 1-2. Unbelievable how this could have happened. Sunderland was until the 59th minute in control. The players lost it all and five minutes later it was N'Zogbia who scored the 1-3. Over and out. The crowd was furious. Football can be a cruel game. A Sunderland supporter walked on the pitch and threw his season ticket on the ground. Behind us there were some problems with a couple of supporters who thought they spotted a Mag in the executive boxes. So they wanted to get in there. No one was paying attention to the match anymore. Everybody was amazed about what had happened. I think a lot of them didn't see Shearer got off the pitch after a tackle from Juliooooh. It was (as we know now) Shearers last game ever. There was also another goal. It was Luque who scored the 1-4, but the Stadium was only half full at that time. Everything looked good at half time, but almost all the fans felt they were let down by the players for the last half an hour of the game.
After the game we got into the pub. It was a strange night. There was no need to celebrate anything. We were still feeling amazed about what we had witnessed. But it had happened and we knew it would take at least two seasons to get a revenge. After a couple of hours we still went to the Indian restaurant. This was also a bit strange. We weren't that drunk when we got in, so we had a lot of food. Paddy had a hot madras and after that we took a taxi to New Herrington again.
The next morning we woke up, had a quiet morning and headed for Leeds/Bradford in the early afternoon to get our flight back to Amsterdam. The end of another great trip. Great was the time we had, but not great was the result we saw.....
(written by Nick)