CSKA Sofia (a) UEFA Cup First Round, First Leg
Half time: CSKA 0 Newcastle 0
A free kick some 25 yards from goal was
rightly given after Kieron Dyer was cynically chopped down by an opponent. Nolberto
stepped up to bend in a great free kick 1-0
Sir Bobby said:
As your correspondent never got any further than his front room due to being grounded by the doctor from flying with a gammy leg, here's an on-the-spot report from a supporter who made the trip to Sofia (and on his his birthday as well, bless!) Step forward, Dave Greaves:
"Unexpected hospitalisation of my travelling companion meant meant a solo trip behind the former Iron Curtain. Last train from York on the Tuesday evening was delayed long enough to miss the last tube, so it was across to Trafalgar Square and thence Night Bus to Heathrow. Now that's an experience for you. People snorting coke openly and at least half a dozen managing to fall down the stairs when they approached their stop. Not to worry, arrive unscathed at Heathrow long after all the best kipping seats were taken, so it's "make the best of it" and incur a stiff neck. Give up entirely about 05:30, get some scran before checking in on Czech Airlines flight to Prague.
Good flight but no other Geordies visible to the naked eye! Into
Prague on time and a walk around the very cheap duty free to select a pressie
for the wife, thus gaining the brownie points to ensure the next round sees me
there. Picked something out, but decided to wait until the return trip before
Anyway, I happen across a hotel booking service and ask for a hotel
where i've been informed fellow Geordies are staying. Surprise, surprise - no
such hotel in Sofia. I now opt for another choice, where Toon Travel are
apparently booked. One quick phone call establishes this isn't the case... A
polite "bollocks" not going down well. Quick decision to book in
anyway, and out comes the plastic.
The deal done, I'm offered a taxi to the hotel for £12-£15 which
gets bargained down to a tenner. However, before money changes hands, the
alternative of a bus is mentioned by the booking lassie. What the hell, it's
still daylight and I've plenty of time to kill, so bus it was and for the
exorbitant sum of 8p I was dropped off at the door of my hotel.
Shortly after 9Pm and the aforesaid gentlemen arrive, most of them wearing toon tops and looking the worse for wear. I hitch myself to three faces familiar from many reserve games and other continental jaunts and it's off for a few bevvies. No problems encountered and the luxury of an early night, around 1:30am.
Thursday is Match Day and my birthday (the second I've spent in
Bulgaria) and it's off to the Princes Hotel where rumour has it that the elusive
match tickets can be collected from a club official.
Club officials appear only 30 minutes after the scheduled meet and envelopes containing said tickets are handed out. Things are looking up. An excellent programme is spotted by someone and we are told they are available from "administration." This turns out to be a bloke sitting at a card table in the car park, who also has some nice commemorative badges on sale. £8 secures three of each, although curiously the programme lacks a price....
Into the stadium and now the man known as "The Undertaker" can celebrate making it to his 200th different ground watching Newcastle United. Well done John! If you watch the video of the game, he can be glimpsed standing in the very back row of the away fans, looking like...an undertaker.
The match? well you've seen the telly and read the reports, but suffice to say we were comfortable in the first half and almost dominant after the break after goals from Nobby and Kets. Good performances all round, but Goma, Dyer and Speed were the pick for me.
Post-match plans went perfectly as we grabbed a taxi without it actually stopping to pick us up. John Wayne eat your heart out (!) Back to a bar selected after the previous evening's tour, before venturing into the nightclub in our hotel. Some people were disappointed to learn that it wasn't in fact a strip club, but to compensate, one of our number gave us his version of the "Full Monty."
Friday, and my colleagues left for the airport at 09:30, leaving me a
day to amuse myself in Sofia. No difficulties there, thanks to a beer festival
going on in the town square.
A great trip, a good result and a memorable birthday. Roll on the next round!