The merry band of Euros FC set off in foul weather on Friday April 27 to Bristol airport, in the safe driving hands of Steve, Graham (Cox – will be identified below) and Neil. Our local organiser in Padova, Nico, had advised the party to bring their wellies, as English weather was forecast for the weekend of the visit. But this prediction was amended shortly before departure, and the squad descended the Easyjet steps in Venice to be greeted by a cloudless sky and warm sunshine.
En route the team’s resident Candid Cameraman, Phillip Smith, better known by his stage name, Meat, had got his show on the road by inserting objects into the open mouths of sleeping teammates and taking embarrassing photos. Despite this forewarning, he managed to mete out [sounds appropriate] even more outrageous treatment to more or less all members of the party in the course of the next few days.
Instead of the local bus that had apparently been the form of transport used in the previous visit to Padova, Nico had laid on a luxurious minibus that whisked us along to our destination in air-conditioned comfort (and piloted by a gentleman who dispelled any prejudices about Italian drivers). The accommodation also turned out to be superior to that used on the previous visit, having on that occasion been regarded as too posh and expensive. No doubt the presence this time of the visiting club’s President ensured that no expense was spared.
On the first evening we were transported – again by taxi – to a splendid restaurant where the food and drink were much appreciated. The return to the hotel was not quite so simple, as some of us had not paid attention to the route from the taxi windows, and the party soon split into small groups who somehow eventually managed to navigate their ways home. Before the invention of mobile phones, most would have probably spent the whole night (rather than just part of it) wandering the streets of old Padova.
The hotel served a very good breakfast, fortifying the players for the afternoon’s game. (Some of them were perhaps a little over-fortified from the night before, when the evening had continued at a local bar that served some speciality beers.) The playing field had no shortage of grass, though it had been baked by the hot sun, which also promised to put the teams’ stamina to the test.
Steve had not managed to get his strongest squad on the plane, nevertheless he was heard to say not long before kick-off that he had a plan (or was it a ‘cunning plan’? – must have been, as it apparently worked). Whether this plan already involved recruiting a local guest player, Matteo, who turned out to have quicker feet than most of his new team mates, he didn’t reveal.)