GESET - Notte cela di Roma 2001

"The Greatest European Story Ever Told" is an epic undertaking started by the brilliant Wooltonian to raise money for The Hillsborough Justice Campaign. It is no longer available in book-form and not hosted anywhere for free access but Wooltonian sent it to us to share with Reds all over the world at The Greatest European Story Ever Told (GESET) stands at over 100 pages and covers every match the Reds have played in Europe since Liverpool's first game against KR Reykjavik in August 1964. It tells the stories of the games and interweaves many humorous fan recollections regarding their adventures away from home.

Will M’s Story 
Notte cela di Roma (on an evening in Roma)...
TUESDAY – 14/02/2001
If God had intended us to get up at the distinctly ungodly hour of 4.45am he wouldn’t have created nice warm comfy beds and pillows. Jesus I felt like shit. I have enough trouble arising from my pit before 10.00am but FOUR FORTY BLOODY FIVE !
I’d intended an early night but a touch of last minute ironing and the early valentines day “celebration” with the Lovely Julie , bottle of champagne and not much else – meant I didn’t get to sleep until 1.00am.
After a quick bath and a phone call to the wonderful Halewood Taxis it was off to Liverpool International Aerodrome to meet up with my fellow travellers (Mum , Dad , Roy and his wife Linda).
The first blow of the day came while we where queuing to check-in. I heard a lad behind me say the flight had been delayed for FOUR HOURS ! Surely not? It’s got to be a wind up? Sadly it was true. The DC –10 we where flying on had been delayed the previous night and the pilot had to have his 12 hour rest period. So bang went most of our first day in Rome.
It’s hard to find things to do in Liverpool Airport when you’re delayed for 4 hours. Coffee, Breakfast, read the papers, more coffee etc. Things got a little better when we entered the departure lounge and the bar was open. Everyone seemed in good spirits – even “Tin Head” (from Brookside) had escaped from Prison for the trip! 
Finally we actually board the plane. Some fellah in front of us starts having a go at the stewardess for the delay (yeh right mate – it’s all her fault !) so a fellah behind him says;
“Look on the bright side mate – if we’d have got to Rome by Midday you’d be bladdered by 7 O’clock, throwing up in the gutter….now stop moaning you blurt”
Marvellous stuff.

If we assume that 5% of the world’s population are dickheads and on a flight of 389 people this equates to approx 19 people. WHY WHERE THEY ALL SITTING FIVE ROWS BACK FROM ME?
Don’t these pricks know how to behave? You are ambassadors for your city. Act accordingly, It is not funny to throw in-flight magazines and cans at the passengers in front of you. It is not sensible to smoke pot in the bogs either. It is not funny to give verbal sexual abuse to a perfectly nice air stewardess.
Because of these knobs we where met by hundreds of Rome’s Alsatian handling , baton wielding finest upon arrival in Italy. I’d have loved to see these lads nicked and sent home but NO ! THEY’RE IN OUR F**KIN HOTEL AS WELL!!!!!!!!
We finally arrived at the Hotel Madison (near the Termini Station) at 6 O’clock in the evening. Time for a quick shower, change and off to The Albert pub for some much needed refreshments.
(Small point – I had to pay £25 extra for a “single room supplement”. One would assume this was for taking up a double room with only one occupant? Or am I being silly? I was in the box room. The space in the Hotel which was too big for a wardrobe but too small for a room – so lets stick Will in there !)
We all meet up in the lobby of the hotel and set out to find a taxi to the Trevi Fountain. By this time it’s rush hour in Rome and taxis are a bit thin on the ground. We wander around the Station for a while and we are approached by some fat Roman.
“Taxi? You want Taxi?”
“Trevi Fountain – How Much?”
“50,000 (£17)”
Now my knowledge of Rome is not first class but I knew the Trevi Fountain was no more than a mile away and this fellah was ripping us off good style but because of the delay we just wanted to get this trip going and we reluctantly got into his battered Fiat for the two minute “scenic” trip to the Trevi.
Things where looking good. Everything is falling into place. In less than 12 hours we had ;
a) Been delayed for over 4 hours
b) Been ripped off by a local
This could only mean that we would win tomorrow night based on Will’s inverse law of Shit Travel = Good Result)

We arrived at the Trevi and what a spectacular sight it is .Took a couple of photos and threw three coins in over the left shoulder. People think you make a wish when in fact it is supposed to mean that you will return to the Eternal City – which in my case (1977 and 1984) is proving pretty accurate.
We walk up the road and my Mum is the first to spot THE ALBERT in big , glorious gold letters. Yes! Result!
It’s pretty early and pretty quiet. I find my mate Norris Green (Peter Croasdale) , his brother Ian and Jake and Longy in the back of the pub after arriving on the Ancona special.
It really was a typical “English” pub and the ale wasn’t too bad – but a bit pricey at 8000lire a pint. The wallpaper was even the same as THE ALBERT on Walton Breck Road…all we needed was the sticky carpet, Lenny Woods warbling some 87 verse dirge in the corner and Peter Evo doing his funny little dance to complete the scene!
After half an hour or so the pub starts to fill up and as the ale starts to flow so does the singing with;
“When Robbie Fowler scores a goal
You can stick your Totti up yer hole
And we’ll all get blind drunk
When Liverpool win the cup”
Being a favourite for the night.

Sadly some old prick from St Helens starts singing THE Munich song. I just glared at him. He actually looked over to us for approval when he’d finished but only got a shake of the head and I mouthed “you f**kin prick” in his direction. He looked totally bemused since we all looked like Liverpool scallies with the accents and everything so why did we object?
Later in the night he called me over and asked how the mancs had got on.. “couldn’t give a toss mate…couldn’t give a toss”…the silly arl Sod!).

I decided that I wasn’t going to let it get me down and hearing it MANY times over the next 24 hours you kinda get used to it. I was going to enjoy this trip if it killed me. So I spent the next few hours drinking and singing as much as I possibly could…before they ran out of ale, which they did at 11.00pm, or before the Italian bizzies stormed the pub, they where waiting outside at the time.
Tried to teach some St Helens lads the Robbie Fowler That’s Amore song and me Mum kept making me sing a solo version of the FIELDS OF ANFIELD RD. The night was topped off by me and me Dad singing OUR personal anthem IF YOU’RE TIRED AND YOU’RE WEARY (If you come to THE ALBERT…geddit?) and joining in with some old scallies to THE MEN FROM ANFIELD SPION KOP.
As I say we left the Albert and started walking up the hill towards Termini and bumped into Lou, Kenny, Cherith and Steve Davies. At this point I decided to dump the parents and find a bar with me mates. My Mum said “But I worry about you”…”I’m THIRTY FOUR Mum! I can take care of myself”.

After a bit of abuse from some Roma in a car “Union Jack Shit!” (couldn’t agree more boys – we found a little quiet bar and attempted to teach the tone deaf Norris Green THE FIELDS OF ANFIELD ROAD – you’ll get it one day Peter!
Eventually stumbled into my hotel box at about 3.00am and decided to give Julie a call . I think I just sang “Italy ! Italy!” down the phone to her – but she saw the funny side…I hope.

WEDNESDAY - 15/02/01

Jesus what a hangover. I need coffee, food and paracetomol NOW. I’m going to DIE. I didn’t have the faintest idea what time it was so I called the hotel reception who told me it was “15 to 10” and we had to check out by 10.… Bollocks – he can wait.
Left the hotel around 11 and got a taxi (20000 lire !!!) to St Peters Square. Now if you are ever in Rome take this advice GO TO THE VATICAN. If there is a more awe inspiring building in the world I’d like to see it. I was almost in tears by the sheer beauty of it. Magnificent. Even Roy and Linda (Orange Lodge – Anfield Branch) where on the verge of a conversion.
Next on to the Coliseum and Forum by which time I was badly in need of some food so we headed back to the Trevi and found a little Pizza place to fill our empty stomachs.

Seeing as we’d found somewhere that you could get a bevvie we stayed in there for a few hours and watched as the police kept coming in to have words with the owner about selling ale. They eventually closed it down about 4.00pm which considering there as only a dozen of us in there – half of the women – was weird. It’s okay to drink bottles by the fountain and throw people in – but not to have a quiet bevy in a peaceful bar. We headed back towards the hotel and spotted a sign “AMERICAN BAR” and decided that a re-fuelling stop was needed. Again the bar was full of Reds. Again the bar was closed down within the hour. The bar owner was having a right go at the Police saying “They cause no trouble” .

It was nearing departure time anyway so we thought we’d find a supermarket for some ale for the coach journey to the game. Bar after bar wouldn’t serve us but we eventually found a loophole and bought 3 bottles of Chianti from a news paper stand !
Sorted. Eventually we head off to the Stadio Olimpico with a hundred other coaches. Ticket checked, search by the bizzies. I was okay but they confiscated a hair brush from Linda ! What was she going to do – comb them to death? My mum gave the riot police a mouthful and had to be dragged away by a steward and my Dad before she was arrested by the over zealous cops.

Into the ground and the only space was near the back next to the riot police. I remember looking around me and thinking “Wow . We’re playing Italy’s finest. Totti , Batistuta , Cafu… Then I thought “What the hell”? They are the ones who are privileged. They are playing LIVERPOOL FOOTBALL CLUB”

The game ;
Well what can I say? The singing. The passion. Fantastic. I had tears in my eyes at the end. WE ARE BACK! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Sure we’ll slip up somewhere but in Gerard Houllier and this group of players we have something to cherish.
Kept in the ground for 90 minutes and come out to total chaos outside the ground. An hour later eventually find the coach and head off to the airport.
Organisation is not an Italian forte and the scenes at the Airport had to be seen to be believed. No communication – just 2000 people in a tiny departure “lounge” waiting for something to happen.
Some prick decides it would be a wizard wheeze to set of a fire extinguisher which leads to the building being evacuated and any semblance of order and organisation has gone out of the window.
We now have 2000 people wandering about on the runway. We eventually decide to jump on ANY coach that are ferrying people to the planes. Gladly the plane we are taken to is not ours but they let us on anyway.
Home at 5.00 am – tired , weary but SO happy.
Roll on Porto !!

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