If you’re a Chelsea fan and you can’t remember what you were doing this day 12 months ago, you were probably either under five or consuming illegal substances. I remember very clearly, and wrote a ‘Travels’ (published here in a slightly abridged version) to prove it….
This night had it all. There was hope. There was despair. There were tears. There was joy. And that was just the three and a half hours it took from the time we got on the U-bahn until the time the 03.25 Munich to Stuttgart express departed Hauptbahnhof. At 04.25. But most of all it was a night at the end of which, for all those who travelled to Munich, we will never be able to hear the words “German” and “efficiency” without uttering a hollow laugh.
So as Julie Andrews says, let’s start at the beginning. Despite many of the advance party setting out for Munich as early as Wednesday, my own little group were leaving on Friday, heading for Munich via an overnight stay in Stuttgart, and I was up at the unearthly hour of 04.20, having managed five hours sleep; a pretty good effort. Dawn had already broken as I left my north London home, and so worried was I about missing connections, that I was at the bus stop for the first stage of the journey a chilly 10 minutes early. However, it was only 10 minutes to Kings Cross, leaving me in good time for the first Piccadilly Line train of the day to Heathrow, at 05.37. Not having even had a coffee, I regretted there just wasn’t time to grab one from McD’s before I boarded the tube. Or so I thought. Because the 05.37 was evidently cancelled, leaving a score of disgruntled travellers on the platform till 05.49 (the time the next train was due), with no information from control as to why the first train was cancelled. After that, however, it was plain sailing to Terminals 1,2,3 and I reached Security by 7am, and having taken all possible precautions to avoid setting off the dreaded alarms, fairly zipped through. I hadn’t yet received word that my travelling companions had arrived, so nipped into World Duty Free to pick up a couple of things and then headed over to what looked like a fairly upmarket Wetherspoons. And lo and behold, the first thing I did see were Mr E. and H. (who have both made a previous appearances in Travels) and Pick Six, a season ticket holder of many years standing, who very rarely does Europe. We were to be joined on the flight by Dazza A. (also with previous form) and the lovely Mrs A., and when we reached Stuttgart would be joined by Matt and Steve who were hacking their way in via Frankfurt and Paris respectively. The boys had just ordered their breakfast, so I beckoned the waiter, having decided that porridge, toast and coffee would provide a nutritious and slow-release start prior to lunch in Stuttgart. Dazza and Mrs A. then arrived, and Dazza quickly departed for Dixons, being in need of a new camera. The boys were already drinking beer, but that wasn’t part of my plan so I started with a juice.
We’d been agreeably surprised that Germanwings let you choose a seat without charge on checking in, thus avoiding the usually budget rush for the gate, so we sauntered down to the departure lounge and boarded in a leisurely fashion. It was a short flight to Stuttgart and we soon found ourselves on the S-bahn to the main railway station, and on arrival headed straight for the nearby hotel we were booked in for the night. Whilst checking in (a somewhat laborious process), Matt arrived, but there was bad news from Steve. His flight into Paris had had a short delay, and he’d missed the connection. However, he was being put on the next flight and hoped to be with us by mid-afternoon.
As readers will recall from the Copenhagen edition, Mr E. loves his beer. And to that end he had drawn up a tour of beer gardens and halls. I wasn’t really bothered as it wasn’t the day of the match and I wasn’t planning to drink anyway, and we set off for the first venue, the Schlossgarten, which was conveniently located next to the train station. It was 13.30 now, so with breakfast just after 07.00, it was time for lunch. And as well as huge steiners of beer, the Schlossgarten did a pretty good lunch, with even picky semi-veggies (no red meat) like me catered for, and I opted for kartoffeln (potato wedges) with salad. And very good it was too. We sat around for a couple of hours eating, drinking and chatting. We were also waiting for Steve, who had gone to his hostel to leave his bag, but was having difficulty in finding us. So we set off for the Nil Cafe, further down the Schlossgarten. Dazza’s phone rang again and he wandered off, followed by H. Pick Six and Mr E. had steamed on ahead, leaving Mrs A and myself to meander quietly down the park. In the distance we could see Dazza and H. standing around, so we decided to wait…then Dazza started waving his arms expansively around in the air. Mrs A and I kept our eyes fixed on the horizon and….yes! A third figure was hoving into view. Steve had finally made it to the Schlossgarten. After saying hello, we trundled down to the Nil Bar, which was attractively situated by a lake. The weather forecast for Friday in Stuttgart had predicted rain, but although it had clouded over since our arrival, it was still warm, and perfect for sitting outdoors. I was still on the coffee, but everyone else sank another couple of steiners. About 17.30, we decided it was time to move off to the next venue, which was called the Platzhirsch, and on passing through the bar part of the complex, Pick Six, Mr E. and Mrs A shot off into what appeared to be a dance hall. Mr E and Mrs A. partook of a waltz, and Mr Six cut some serious solo moves. All of which have been captured for posterity on video by me. Something else captured for posterity in a slightly more juvenile style was the arse-kicking competition on the way to the U-bahn, but I think it’s best to draw a veil over that.
After some hesitation over the route to the next bar, we eventually found ourselves in a very pleasant pedestrianised square, and sat down to order. As it was 18.00 by now, I was going to have a drink – rather unfortunately for such a beer-orientated trip, vodka is my tipple of choice, as regular readers will recall. Having not eaten for nearly four hours, I also ordered some olives and bread by way of a pre-dinner appetiser to share with the others, although Steve and H. fancied chips, which came with rather vinegary ketchup, reminiscent of Crosse & Blackwell. We decided to have one more drink before dinner, and I saw that cocktails were available, so I chose a White Russian. Pick Six’s eyes lit up, and, being fond of them, decided to have one too. We were starting to get decidedly merry by this time, and, having settled the bill, set off for the final venue, the Zum Paulaner, whose famous beer came highly recommended by my Leipzig-based nephew. As we wandered off to the Calvinstrasse, we felt the first drops of rain fall. I used my maps to cover my head. We appeared to have lost Dazza and Mrs A, who’d probably wandered off for a romantic dinner. The rest of us scurried into a pleasant looking inn and were seated by a traditionally-dressed Frau. A glance at the menu ensured that this would indeed be the last post. There was even something that wasn’t hugely meaty. The beer and vodka arrived and yet another toast was drunk. Then the food turned up, a meat-lover’s dream. Huge knuckles of port. Platters formed of various birds. A massive steak. A pasta thing with mushrooms that had a small amount of meat in it (mine). Everyone tucked in, and by the time the meal was finished, it was 21.30. We could see outside that the streets were less busy than early due to the heavy rain that had set in. So we decided to wait and have another drink to see if it cleared up. By 22.15, we decided that in view of the next morning’s early start, we’d better call it a night. As Pick Six and Matt had ended up in a room with a sofa, they kindly offered Steve overnight hospitality on that instead of the hostel he was booked into, and they went off to collect his bag. As the evening had turned out slightly less expensive than I’d though it would be, I told Mr E. and H. that I’d pay for a taxi back to the hotel. By 23.00, I was climbing into a very small bed, and trying not to think too much about what the next 24 hours would bring.
The alarm clock on my mobile rang. I was surprised. Why was I using my mobile as an alarm? I reached out and looked at the time. It said 06.00. Why was I in an unfamiliar room? Suddenly I realised I was in Stuttgart and in less than two hours I was going to be on a train to Munich to watch my beloved Chelsea play in the Champions League Final. The previous day’s beer-garden tour had tired me out. We should have been taking it easy instead of walking several miles. I hauled myself out of the little bed and headed for the bathroom for the first major hurdle of the day-washing and drying my hair ahead of getting it into it’s lucky bun. The small hairdryer in the bathroom proved unexpectedly efficient, and the bun went up first time; a lucky omen, I thought.
By the time I had dressed (black vest, Chelsea shirt, pink hoodie, jeans) and hurled my belongings into my holdall, it was 06.40. The party had agreed to meet in the breakfast room at 06.45. I was down at 06.42. Somewhat to my surprise, I was the first one down. I decided not to hang around and helped myself to coffee and cereals. A couple of minutes later Matt appeared, looking a little fragile, followed by Pick Six, on whom the previous day’s drinking had taken its toll. Matt said that Steve was doing his hair too. By 7am the whole squad, including Steve, were making inroads to the buffet. I decided that after the cereals and coffee, I really couldn’t face anything else but a yogurt. About to pull the lid off, I noticed something. The brand name was “FRANKENLAND” – Frank? As in Lampard? My mind went back seven years to Chelsea winning the league at Bolton, when hoardings behind the goal advertised “Franking Sense”. Could this possibly be a similar omen?
Breakfast finished, we handed over our keys and departed the hotel for the short walk over to the Hauptbahnhof. The station was pretty deserted and the train wasn’t due for 25 minutes. Dazza and Mrs A. wandered off to fetch coffee and snacks for the journey. A combination of yesterday’s alcohol and cuisine was leading Pick Six to create what can best be described as “gas incidents”. The rest of us mooched about. Finally, some ten minutes before the scheduled departure, and with more people now on the platform, including a number of Bayern fans, the train arrived. We located our seats and settled down for the journey. As the train made its way smoothly out of Stuttgart, the landscape changed from modern cityscape into woods and countryside, and as we sped through Bavaria, we passed towns with the typical red roofs and cream walls which probably originated prior to late 19th century German federation. The sun shone, and I got the iplayer out for some house and disco before listening to what @mowingmeadows describes as the winning playlist – Three Little Birds and The Liquidator.
The train made three stops en route, each time picking up more and more Bayern fans, before arriving in Munich just after 10.00 as advertised. The noise at the railway station was colossal. Air horns were being blown, and groups of Bayern fans were singing “WHO THE FUCK ARE CHELSEA LONDON!!” (a refrain we were to hear a lot of throughout the day). We gathered ourselves together on the concourse. Our plan was to locate the hire lockers in the station and leave our luggage there. It had also been thought a good idea to purchase some refreshments and nourishing snacks for the return train journey that five of us would be making to Stuttgart at the unearthly hour of 03.25. We found the lockers and stashed the bags. Pick Six decided to absent himself at that point to use the facilities. We hung around by the escalators waiting for him to return. Quite a long wait actually, until he returned with the look of a man at peace with the world, and providing too much information about his time on the lav. We then visited Munich’s answer to Whistle Stop and returned to the lockers to discover, to our collective anguish that we’d have to pay another 3 Euros to re-open and re-close them. However, that done, Munich was our oyster, and, leaving Dazza and Mrs A to head for the hotel they booked for the night, the remaining six of us we headed for the famous Augustiner Keller which wasn’t too far from the station.
Notwithstanding the fact that it wasn’t 11.00 yet, the beer garden was opened, and we negotiated with a traditionally dressed, albeit slightly surly, waitress to let us have a large table until 5pm. Originally I had tried to book a table indoors, in case there was a problem with the weather, but their 1000 seater capacity had already been filled when I had emailed them at the start of the week. We sat down, and the boys ordered a steiner each. I had Orangina. Half a litre of it. Decided I’d probably eke it out for a couple of hours. So we sat there under the chestnut trees in the warm Munich sun. Just after 12, we decided it was time to think about lunch. I chose red snapper, Mr E. had the nine sausage platter, and the rest of the boys ordered half a chicken, or hendl as it’s called, which caused us some merriment, especially as I started chanting
“Who put the ball in the Tottenham net?
Who put the ball in the Tottenham net?
Arfur ***ing hendl!”
The food arrived and was perfectly edible, and just after another party of my friends arrived for a drink,followed shortly after by Dazza and Mrs A. The beer garden was filling up fast, although Chelsea were heavily outnumbered by Bayern fans. However, everyone was in a marvellously happy, friendly mood and if I’m being honest there was something refreshing about sitting there in a civilised fashion, with the home fans everyone having a drink and a laugh. Speaking of which, I decided it was now time to have an alcoholic drink. “Wodka Lemon?” I asked our surly waitress hopefully. “Nein”, she replied. I settled for 20cl of pinot grigot, which meant I’d have to be careful. And it was served in a mug. Not even a glass. About 14.30, the oompah band arrived and, after playing a local song which all the Bayern fans sang, they turned to our table and struck up “God Save The Queen”. We got to our feet and sang with all our hearts. The noise volume around the garden was increasing and the Munichers massively outnumbered Chelsea fans. Although we’d told the garden we’d stay till five, Steve had had word from a friend in town that he was in the Marienplatz, and we decided that we would head off about 16.00. We called for der rechnung and the usual lively discussion took place as to who had consumed what.
Just as we were leaving, we met our mate Seb going in, who took little persuasion to accompany us to the Marienplatz, and further down the road we met Darren Mantle of The ChelseaFanCast fame, who was heading to the Augustiner to meet his twin Steve and Ross Mooring from the fancast, who had arrived shortly before we left. We decided to get on a tram back to the Hauptbahnhof to take advantage of the free travel for matchgoers. However, we got into a tangle around the station’s complicated underground/S-bahn complex, and after milling around for a while, we eventually found our tube train thanks to a German Chelsea fan. The Marienplatz was absolutely heaving, and we headed over towards Bohne and Malz, the bar where Steve’s friend had said he’d be. Everyone else dived into the express bar, where pints were on tap, but that wasn’t much good to me, so I wandered off down to the arcade in the hope of finding something more to my liking. And I found a divine little bar where they were selling vodka and sprite to take away, which made me very happy. When I got back, the rest of the class were still hanging around the front of Bohne and Malz, but we could see a little courtyard which appeared to lead into a residential block, which had tables and benches. After the short but very hot journey from Augustiner Keller, we were happy to have a drink and sat down. I’d suggested moving off at 18.00 to give us plenty of time to get to the ground, as there was the possibility of not getting on the first U-bahn, but eventually we all compromised on 18.45. The Marienplatz was still heaving, and the U-bahn was crowded. When we got down to the platform, it was to a heaving mass of humanity. We lost Mr. E. and Steve, although the rest of us managed to stick together. In fact we were quite lucky to be at the back of the crush. One train came on and we couldn’t get on it. There was a 10 minute wait. Another (empty) train came in and didn’t stop. After another 10 minutes, a train which would get us part of the way to the ground arrived but it would mean a change five stops on. People heaved themselves bodily on to the train. It was incredibly hot. The train kept stopping. It took about 20 minutes to travel five stops and we were relieved to get off at (check station name). I had a pleasant surprise as I found myself standing next to two friends from the CIU where I drink on matchdays. My only fear was that when the next train came in, it would be even fuller, and we’d have another wait. It was about 19.30 by this time and although the game wasn’t starting till 20.45, I was starting to fret about the possibility of missing the kick-off. However, much to our surprise, the next train that came in was an empty, air conditioned heaven, and the remainder of the journey was comfortable. We got off the train in high good humour. As we came out of the station, the vastness of the stadium became apparent and I realised, this is it. We are here. And we are playing in the final. Mrs A. had managed to get separated from Dazza on the way out of the stadium, so she accompanied me and my CIU friend on what was a fairly long walk to the ground. We arrived at a little merchandising area where I stopped to get a programme and, after fairly light security checks, we made our way around the stadium to the entrance for our adjoining blocks in the middle tier. Just as we were nearly there, I heard a booming Irish voice calling “Blue Baby” (see, it does help to have your name on your shirt) and my joy for the day was complete or so I thought, as my favourite Bruvvas from Dublin hoved into view. They’d been drinking at the Shakespeare in town, and filled me in on what they’d been up to, and vice versa, as they knew all of my travelling companions.
Once inside the ground, it was time to visit the facilities as kick off was now only some 20 minutes away. I found my seat towards the back of the middle tier. The stadium was a breathtaking site. Bayern had a huge advantage in numbers, and as the opera singer Jonas Kaufmann bellowed his way through a new version of the champions league anthem (although it later turned out he’d been miming due to a respiratory infection which has caused him to pull out of his engagements at Covent Garden this week), the Bayern fans lifted cards which spelt out the slogan “our team, our stadium, our trophy”. We defiantly waved our flags in return.
Just before 20.45, the teams emerged from the dressing room into a frenzied stadium. Tens of thousands of words have been written about what happened next and I can’t imagine I’ll improve upon any that have been penned before. From my own point of view, the first 45 minutes seemed to last about 10. The team were holding their nerve on the pitch, even if it was already squeaky bum time in the stands, with Mikel putting in a superb performance. I was slightly miffed by the fact that having paid a hundred and thirty odd pounds for a seat in an attempt to save my wonky knees, I was still having to stand, and a plan was starting to formulate in my mind. As soon as the half time whistle blew, I headed for downstairs to the Ladies and then to the bar for much-needed water. Coming away after making my purchase, I met Dazza and Mrs A., who’d managed to locate each other. “Dazz”, I asked. “Are they checking people’s tickets going into the lower tier?” No, he replied. “Right”, I said. “I’m relocating”. Because I’d decided that if I was going to have to stand for the second half, I might as well sneak into the lower tier and be with my mates. And as I reached the ninth row of the lower tier, not only did I find Mr E., Matt, Steve, H. and Pick Six, but yards away in the next block were the Bruvvas, Mrs A. who’d obviously made the same decision as me, and a host of other friends, including The Former Mr Baby.
The second half kicked off and sped by similarly. Then, on 83 minutes, disaster as Muller headed down, and the ball looped over Petr Cech. The Bayern end roared in delight. The Chelsea end were stunned into silence. With just seven minutes left, was it going to be yet more heartbreak in a European final? Optimist as I am, I couldn’t see how this was going to end well. I was resigning myself to defeat. Then, on 88 minutes, a mirace. Juan Mata’s corner was met by Didier Drogba, who powerfully headed the ball past Neuer, the Bayern keeper. The Chels support behind the goal erupted in ecstacy. I stood there whilst the rest of the crew jumped on top of me. When I emerged I subsequently found H. jumping on top of the seat back of the row in front and, fearful for his safety, I clung on to the waistband of his jeans until he jumped back down.
Five minutes later, we were going into extra time. Just three minutes later, we were staring disaster firmly in the face again. Drogba’s silly trip on Ribery resulted in a pen to Bayern. I said to the gang “Face it boys, we are not going to be allowed to win this”. Ribery had gone down as if presented with a teenage girl and required several minutes of treatment before the penalty could be taken. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and I resorted to prayer. Three Hail Marys, a Hail Holy Queen and a Memorarie, just finishing as Robben prepared to shoot and I put my right hand to my right eye – the “evil eye”. Seconds later, we were screaming in joy again as Cech got down low, blocked the ball with his thigh and then smothered it.
Half time in extra time led to another exodus to the bar for water before another nerve-wracking 15 minutes, of which I remember very little. I think that night was the first time I have ever been petrified with nerves whilst being in a stadium. Then it was all over. It was coming down to penalties. Again. We were in God’s/deity of choice’s hands now. We watched on in disbelief as it appeared that Bayern weren’t only being allowed to take the first pen, but to take them at the home end. We waited….
Cech was unlucky not to save the first, and we found ourselves behind. Mata, to my disbelief given his record this season, strode up to take the second. And missed. Gomez scored his. We were two down. Luiz put us back in with a chance following his quality penality. Neuer, the goalie, bravely took the third. Frank converted; 3-2. Then Olic – who missed. We were definitely in with a chance. Another quality pen from Ash. 3-3. Schweinsteiger stepped up, only to hit the post. It all rested on Didier’s shoulders. I murmured to myself “This ends. Now.” Time stood still as Drogs prepared a perilously short-looking run-up. A moment’s silence.Didier struck the ball. Neuer went the wrong way. We had won. In that one moment, our world and our club’s history and future had changed forever. I simply stood there, tears pouring down my face. I found myself being hugged by the boys. I went across to rejoice with the Bruvvas. Then I found myself face to face with The Former Mr Baby. Both in tears, we simply enfolded each other in a long hug. I then went right down to the front of the stand in the hope of getting some precious pictures and found myself next to H. I said to him “Could you ever have thought, that night in Naples, that this would be the conclusion?” (but that’s another Travels). His reply was drowned out as the players began to climb the stairs to collect their medals and the precious trophy.
The next half hour or so will live forever in the memories of all Chelsea fans. Luiz on the crossbar. Torres on the crossbar. Stamford the Lion on the pitch. The players with the trophy. Blue is the Colour, The Liquidator, One Step Beyond in a glorious segue. People in tears. People looking at their watches (it was now after midnight and it was going to be a tight schedule for those on day trips). I realised we’d be on the train back to Stuttgart in just three and a half hours. Eventually, hoarse and exhausted, we dragged ourselves away from the arena, laden with flags.
Hope everyone has a terrific Munich anniversary today – with the final home game of the season, Wednesday’s fantastic UEFA Cup win to celebrate and the departure of the Interim One, it’s going to be a super day.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the Chelsea Fancast team, especially podmeister David Chidgey, and the show’s sponsors, Expose Design, and their boss Bryan Marriott, for inviting me to the Fancast end of season party at Putney Station last night. Thanks also to Jason and Laurence from The Beautiful Game for their fantastic acoustic set. Over £1500 was raised which will be split between Regenerate UK, the charity run by Andy Smith, ably assistged by Walter Otton, and the Fulham Chronicle’s Dan Levene, who is riding from Tours to London in support of Right To Play in July . If you have any spare cash knocking about, I’m sure Dan would be delighted to receive further donations through his sponsorship page on Just Giving. It was also a huge thrill to meet Bobby Tambling last night – true gent and complete legend.
You can, as always, follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67 and I’ll be back later in the week with the Amsterdam edition of Travels With The Chels, and more Natters With The Chels, featuring Acting Chair of the Chelsea Supporters Trust, Tim Rolls.