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Holland 2012

What a cracking weekend!!!!!!!!!!!!! After a fairly humdrum week which saw visits to Romulus on Monday evening for their 2-0 victory over Loughborough University in The Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 South (attendance 95), I went on Tuesday to an oddly named “King Power Stadium” in Leicester (the last time I had been there, I seem to  recall that a crisp manufacturer was involved in the naming rights!). Leicester City battered Nottingham Forest 4-0 in The FA Cup (with Budwieser – of course!) 3rd Round Replay before a pretty paltry crowd of 16,210 for such a potentially explosive derby match! We did see the miss of the season though from the Nottingham Forest forward who contrived the impossible by scooping the ball over the bar from point blank range when it would have been far easier to tap it into the net! Wednesday saw a humdrum visit with my son Liam to Daventry United. They almost never post the attendances for cup matches but there were around fifty people there to see them triumph by 4-1 (and 5-3 on aggregate) in The Quarter Final of The Buckingham Charity Cup over Buckingham Athletic who were a division below Daventry and in The Molten Spartan South Midlands League. Daventry United, of course, ply their trade in  The Chromasport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division. Liam saw most of the match but imbibed heavily of Guinness and when, at the end, he challenged me to a game of pool, I thrashed him so soundly that I felt embarrassed and sorry for him, so I offered him a second match and gave him the chance of a seven ball victory. He took the victory, but not by seven balls!

Come on Friday! We’d been looking forward to it for ages. James and Jonny and Mark flew KLM 1016 from Heathrow and were provided with an in flight meal! The Easy Jet Flight EZY2157 at 11.30am  from Luton was not so magnanimous. If you want it pay for it! The flight is only about an hour and we all met up outside Arrivals 1 at Schiphol Airport. The weather was much colder than in England with rain showers and a biting wind. We didn’t hang around much sampling the weather but dove down to the railway platform for a train to The Hague and a taxi from there to The Hotel Sebel on the outskirts of the city, little realising that the ADO Den Haag ground itself is on the outskirts of the city – at the opposite end to the outskirts we were at! The number 3 tram, would, apparently have taken us all the way to the stadium from outside the hotel, but not trusting to public transport on this occasion,  we all jumped into a taxi which drove us out to the Kyocera Stadion.

We were pleasantly surprised when we got to the stadium, to be met outside by Koos Roeg of ADO Den Haag with four complimentary tickets for the match!!!!!!! We had excellent seats behind the goal, but in truth the nominal 22 euro tickets allowed us to sit anywhere in that part of the ground! The stadium looked pretty full but in actual fact, it was the smallest attendance four any of the four Eredivisie matches visited only 14,003. They made a lot of noise however and the green and yellow flags were waving (and after the game we saw them being stored away for next time through an upper window in  the stand from outside of the ground!). The atmosphere and the match were brilliant. Roda JC thoroughly deserved their draw and it was an excellent start to Holland 2012!

James found the coffee shop and bought the wacky baccy. It didn’t do much for me and I left soon after for the little “local” down the road and opposite the hotel. They are not bothered about being pc in Holland, the small bar was full of smoke and full of people smoking and drinking quite heavily. I do like Dutch Ginnever with a little coke, but I seriously overdid it on that night. I must have had a dozen of them and I don’t really remember much of going to bed, though it  was fortunate that Jonny and Jim were in the bar later with me. What I do know is that I awoke the following morning still fully dressed with a stinking hangover!!!!

The weather continued blustery, cold and showery on Saturday, 21st January and I was very rough! In fact it was a good thing that Jim woke me at 10.30am otherwise I might still have been asleep there now! I felt no better after a shower, shave and tram ride to the railway station and even a strong cup of coffee failed to disperse the demons! We took a train from The Hague, which is on the western side of Holland and headed off to Enschede which is on the eastern side of Holland but half way between the two we changed trains at Amersfoot and took the Zwolle train to the small town of Nijkerk. We got there in plenty of time for a local 4th Division (Hoofdclasse) match at the neatly appointed football stadium in the middle of a pretty large sports complex. It was but a short walk from the station and we arrived a good hour before the 3.00pm (Dutch time) kick-off.

There was a bar and we downed half a dozen beers and eventually the game started and half time arrived with the home side a goal down, but not out of it. It had been my fixture to arrange and in response to my queries by e-mail, I had a wonderful fourteen word reply from Ton van den Brink at the club which covered all the main requirements: “15.00h start, ten minute walk from station, entry Eur 7.50, programme at gate.”. In the second half, Sparta were awarded a somewhat fortunate penalty and never looked back with a further late goal to win by 2-1. I am still trying to find out the official attendance which we thought might be in the region of 6 or 7 hundred, but after seeing how far astray our estimates for the Eredivisie matches were, it could have been a couple of hundred either way. The standard of football was generally considered to be no higher than Conference North/South.

We managed to leap aboard the 17.00 train back to Amersfoort and from there, the 17.38 to Almelo where we changed to a sprinter for the last leg of the journey to Enschede. Along the way, it actually stopped at the Twente Enschede Stadion which has its own station. We realised that we would be catching a train back here for the match, but first we had been booked by Jonny into the very impressively sounding Hotel Amadeus. It wasn’t that far from the station but it did take a bit of finding! The game was SShteve McClaren’s first back in charge after a year which had seen him sacked by both Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest, but the fans seemed really pleased that he was back even singing his name! The stadium did nothing for those with a dislike of heights – amongst whom I include myself – It was steeply tiered and the stairways were treacherous, especially in the wet.The match was a very one-sided affair and the away team were not helped by a very dodgy keeper who was responsible for conceding at least three of the goals, dropping the ball for the first one at the feet of the home striker!

We hung around at the end and Jonny and Mark helped themselves to loot from the club shop and then we had a terrible confusion about which platform the train back to Enschede left from. I hold my hands up. It was all my fault, but I did get the duff information from a ticket inspector at the station!!! Back in Enschede, Jonny, James and Mark stayed out for drinks in the very pleasantly appointed cobblestoned central area of the town which was very busy on a Saturday evening even until well after midnight! Still feeling

slightly groggy from the previous evening’s excesses, I slunk back to the hotel on my own! I had a good book to read on my Kindle: “Zulu Rising” by Ian Knight which tells the story of both Isandhlwana and Rorke’s Drift from the 1879 Zulu Wars.

Sunday January 22nd 2012, was another grey, cold and wet day.

Getting James out of bed was a problem and he missed breakfast! Waiting for him, I went down to the railway station to collect tickets for the journey to Arnhem. Even so we struggled to catch the 10.57 to Arnhem and when we arrived it took a taxi drive to the ground and

we only just made it in time for kick-off. We had to run round half the station in pouring rain to find the right entrance, but once inside, we saw that the roof had been closed and all the nasty weather had been kept outside! Nasty result for the yellow and black festooned home side who subsided meekly to their lowly visitors by a single goal! At the end of the match both away team and fans celebrated noisily and passionately!

It was back to Blighty for Mark, James and Jonny and we parted at Arnhem station, they to entrain for Schiphol and me for the thirty minute or so journey to Utrecht. I had a ticket waiting for me – very expensive at 39 euros – and then I left my rucksack in the ticket office with my pass port and boarding pass!!! Fortunately I remembered before I got into the ground! The Utrecht Stadium is called Stadion Galgenwaard, because, it is built, apparently in a part of the city where public executions took place in days long gone by. It is a cold cavernous ground with little protection from the elements despite the four fluted and cantilevered stands.

Each corner of the ground is empty and the wind howls across the ground through the corners and the roof of the stand is too high to offer protection from the rain. The view is very good, however and the game, which should have been won easily by the away side, eventually turned into a knife edge after the home side scored an unlikely goal just after the hour mark. PSV equalised a little over five minutes late and a cagey last twenty minutes was played out! After the match, free bendy buses were laid on for fans to get back to the town centre and railway station and there was some rough house behaviour to ensure a seat on the bus, something I hadn’t

seen before in Holland the people have always appeared to me to have had a fairly laid back approach to life!

The 19.15 from Utrecht took me way up north to Groningen and arrived there at 21.14. That, however, was not the end of my journey. The NL (Dutch Railways) have re-opened the line fro Groningen to Veendam and Arriva have cashed in with the contract to run the half hour six or seven station journey with flashy dmus (almost all of NL is electrified). However, the train did not leave until 22.03 and it was after 22.40 when I got into Veendam. A friendly bus driver took pity on me and gave me a (free) ride to within 400 metres of the Hotel Parkzicht where I had booked a two night stay. i managed five or six Ginnivers in the bar before bedtime (never learn do I), but the following morning discovered to my horror that there was no hot water in my room!!!! I didn’t have much of a shave or a wash the next morning, but I ate a hearty breakfast and set out to explore the town. It was still very cold and blustery, but at least the rain had ceased, albeit temporarily! I went to the town hall and asked for directions to the football stadium (don’t say “ground”, they don’t know what you mean!).

I followed the directions and found myself back at the railway station. Somebody, I thought is offering subtle advice here! In fact the ground was not far from the hotel, certainly no more than a ten minute walk. Having got back on track, so to speak, I ended up at the Gjaltema Stadion, had a wander round and then I went inside!!! They really were most helpful. They sold me a ticket for the match with access to the Players Lounge before, during and after the match for 15 euros, I was given a guided tour of the ground by a very knowledgeable official who revealed a wide ranging array of facts about the club!

I hadn’t realised that SC Veendam  had actually been promoted twice to The Eredivisie in the late eighties and early nineties, each time surviving just one season in the top flight. Their players are all full time professionals, but the pay is only between 2-300 euros per week. The ground is owned by the local council who recently erected a new stand on the far side of the pitch which brings capacity up to around 6,500. They average crowds  of around the 3,000 mark and their record was 6,150 for a pre-season friendly against Feyenoord (or was it PSV, I can’t remember!). Last season after a bad spell, the club came out of administration and with a pretty thin squad,

actually mounted a sustained drive for Eredivisie status that went to the last day of the season! Then, during the close season, several of their better players were snapped up by Eredivisie sides and this season, they are struggling. Their coach, Gerard Wiekens is a former Manchester City player and one of their former players, Ruben Schaken is now starring for Feyenoord. I had my photo taken in the players interview lounge and I was given a special Veendam poster promoting today’s match! Well, I couldn’t have been treated better, but they had their own celebrated ground hopper, Tom Bodde is the Commercial Manager of the club and he had been to more than five hundred grounds in Holland, England, Germany and Poland!

I had a very expensive lunch which included a fine bottle of red wine and as a result, I slept for an hour before the match which kicked off at 8.00pm. There had been no hot water for the last twenty four hours in my hotel room so when at last it did come on, I had a serious shower and shave, but shoved back on the same old clothes I’d been living in for the past few days in Holland! Sadly, the match didn’t live up to expectations. SC Veendam are currently next to bottom of Eerstedivisie and FC Oss in comfortable mid-table, and they scored first and deservedly so, but Veendam were back on level terms by the break. In the second half, however, FC Oss were predominantly the better side and on the hour made the decisive break to take the match 2-1. It was a dismal night and not just for Veendam supporters, heavy showers punctuated the match and the itch and the ball were greasy and slippery, but fortunately the rain relented as I made my lonely way back to the Hotel Parkzicht. The following day was the return trip  to England. I had enjoyed a fantastic weekend and was now at the furthest end of Holland and the weather was still cold and windy with rain in the air AND my stinker of a cold just would not relent! I caught the 11.11 train to Groningen and then the 12.07 Schiphol Express from Groningen and reached the airport for 14.42. I really must say a word about the Netherlands Rail Service. It makes me embarrassed to be English when I see how efficiently the Dutch run their train service. This is my third rail hop to Holland and all done by train. I love travelling across their country by train, it is so soothing and relaxing. In comparison to the senile British Railways, Dutch trains are quicker, cleaner, prompter, more comfortable, cheaper (lots cheaper!), more efficient, roomier, longer, double decked. We should be ashamed!

Well!!!!!! Here’s to the next time………………… January 2013?


2012 Matches:

Friday 20th January 2012      Eredivisie    ADO Den Haag 3 (J Verhoek 3, C Vincento 24,58)  Roda JC 3 (M Junker 15, Sanharib Malki 48,82) Attendance:- 14,003, referee R. Weidermeijer

Saturday 21st January 2012  Hoofdclasse      Sparta Nijkerk 2 (Maurice van der Wilt pen 54, 85) Ter Leede 1 (Tristan Buchinhoren 8) Attendance:- 700 referee:

Saturday 21st January 2012    Eredivisie           Twente Enschede 5 (L De Jong 26, 54, E Bajrami 35, N Chadi 65, O John 81) RKC Waalwijk 0 Attendance:- 29,324, referee T. Van Sichem

Sunday 22nd January 2012     Eredivisie            Vitesse Arnhem 0 NEC Nijmegen 1 (L George 75) attendance:-19,381 referee J. Wegereef

Sunday 22nd January 2012     Eredivisie            FC Utrecht 1 (S Lilipaly 66) PSV Eindhoven 1 (O Toivonen 71) Attendance:- 20,347 referee R. Leisveld

Monday 23rd January 2012    Eerstedivisie           SC Veendam 1 (J Opoku 33) FC Oss 2 (T Nelemans 20, Z Kapralik 61) Attendance 3,176 Referee C. Bax

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