Leicester City and England Fan Remembers The Ernst Happel Stadion
Thursday 26 Jun 2008 20:31:00
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EURO 2008 – “It means nothing to me...”


With the final of Euro 2008 about to be played in Vienna at the Ernst Happel Stadion, I thought I’d write something about the time I went to that very stadium to watch England. 
Every time I see it on the TV I think about what might have been had we had a decent manager in charge of our national team for the qualifiers.  We may well have gone crashing out in the group stage but at least we’d have been there for a week.  As it was we weren’t good enough to beat Macedonia at home or Israel away and they were the games that cost us second spot in the group.

Vienna looks a different place from the one I went to last November.  The friendly game between Austria and England was on a Friday night so we flew to Bratislava on the Thursday night.  As the flight was coming down to land we could make out the snow covered ground in the dark and the pilot informed us the current temperature in Bratislava was minus 7 with heavy snow.  Great, this is a long way to come for a game to be called off.

I woke early the next morning with the intention of getting to Vienna early enough to have a full day there.  However, beer is quite cheap in Slovakia so I still felt pretty rough from the night before and went back to bed for a few hours!  I eventually set off on the walk to Petrzalka Station at about 1pm - the snow was ankle deep in some places and it really was freezing.  The highest the temperature got while I was there was zero.

The train ride to Vienna was pleasant enough.  It took just over an hour and cost about £5 return.  There were quite a lot of England fans on the same train.  We arrived in Vienna at 3pm and walked to the city centre.  We only had an hour before it was dark so didn’t really get to see much culture and it was far too cold to go wandering around, so once it was dark we dived into the nearest cafe for a few drinks. 

We got the Metro and then a tram to the stadium.  The match was definitely on and the snow had all been cleared off the pitch.  Nice stadium.  We were in the very upper tier (out of 3) and with there being a running track around the pitch we were quite far away from the action.
The stadium looks a lot more welcoming on the TV now, it seems to have been spruced up a bit and the spike topped cage around the away section has been removed.  I keep expecting to see large mounds of snow piled up on the running track around the pitch.  The match was a non-event, we won 1-0 thanks to a Peter Crouch header in the 2nd half.  Austria were awful and we weren’t much better.

I know now why eastern European football fans all jump up and down together on the terraces - it’s to keep warm.  This was by far the coldest game I’ve ever been to - I couldn’t feel my feet by half time but we were dreaming of coming back here in the summer – all shorts, tattoos and sunburn.  Lovely.  Little did we know that in 5 days time we’d be unceremoniously dumped out of the competition on a sodden night at Wembley by Croatia, when all we needed was a draw.

The packed tram ride back into town gave us a few minutes to defrost but just as I could start to feel my legs again we were back at South Station with 45 minutes to kill before the 1am train to Bratislava.  I sat with a group of Birmingham City fans on the train who seemed to have an endless supply of Vodka and some horrible black stuff which, although it made your face go numb, did at least warm you up.  Had a bit of a drunken sing song culminating in the inevitable and painfully out of tune - “Ooooooh Vienna, It means nothing to me...”

Thanks to Steve Maclaren and his troop of nancy boys, Euro 2008 means nothing to me.

England and LCFC

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