GESET - El Blocko's Story of Alaves

"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.

El Blocko’s Story

The Stars
Tom (forum name Tom E) – ladies man, (or is that lady man?), born in England, lives in the Everton heartland of Rhyl.
Barry (forum name El Blocko) – christened amongst other things the ‘Mr Sensible’ of the Forum and your author for the trip.
The Supporting Cast
Arwell and Phil – our travelling partners.
The RAOTL forum.
30000 Scousers in Germany

It is Monday evening. I am sat in the car on the A33 trying to get out of Reading, the skies are dark, the road resembles a car park and the possible highs of Wednesday 16th May are only distant dreams. I’ve just finished lecturing a group from Yellow Pages and putting their IT world to rights. Turning left onto the M4 and its destination Dover. Around the M25 I get a couple of text messages and phone calls from RAOTL forumites “Have a safe journey”, “Get me a Programme”, etc.

The Dover (West) Travel Inn is reached about 8:30pm. I had booked in that night and was to be picked up the next morning by Tom E (forum male slag), Arwell (the Driver) and Phil (the Beer Monster). They were travelling down from N. Wales overnight and I phone Tom up to give directions and tell him where to meet me.

After checking in, I wander into the Beefeater next door. Over my meal, I get talking to two guys on their way home after working in Switzerland. They are returning to Bolton the next day. One of them was an apprentice at Blackpool in the days of Jimmy Armfield, later playing non-league for Altrincham in the 60’s. The chat about all matters football related ensues which passes a couple of hours ‘til I am ready for the sack.

Tuesday morning dawns around 5:30 as a car alarm wakes me. BBC News 24 provides the ‘entertainment’ and I eventually text Tom to see where they are. ‘Just on the M25’ comes the reply. I calculate their ETA at 7:30 and after a shower and shave pack my bag, pull on the HJC Justice T-shirt, and sit in the car waiting. The phone rings and they have just passed the Channel Tunnel. As they arrive (aptly considering our destination in a VW Golf), the two fellahs from Bolton are walking for breakfast and wish us good luck. After I leave my car in the Multi Storey at Dover, Sea France tell us the 8:15am sailing is available.

Tom and I head straight for the bar. “Two pints of Stella, Please”, the trip to Dortmund had begun in earnest. We hang Tom’s flag up at the front of the boat. ‘RAOTL’ ‘No Splitters’ ‘Justice’ are the words, with two eternal flames either side.

A couple of guys engage us in conversation on the way over both claiming to be lifelong Liverpool fans. One has the most pronounced Public School accent you have ever heard. He could be talking with a pound (sorry Kilo) of plums in his mouth. In fact, he is so refined he could even be a Labour Cabinet Minister. The words “wagon” and “band” spring to mind almost immediately. Victims of our own success?

As Tom returns with the third pint of the crossing, he looked a bit miffed. “What’s up?”, I enquire. “The bastard barman just swore at me in French”, he exclaims. Tom knows the useful French phrases like “Fuck You” and can reply “et tu, aussi”. My French is a little less colourful and “Where is the Railway Station?” (Ou est La Gare?) isn’t much of an insult anyway.

Arwell and Phil have had breakfast while we were swapping insults with the hired help. We trundle off the boat into Northern France at about 10:45 (watches forward an hour). Phil is navigating and tells us we need the “E17”. “Stay now, stay now….”, Tom does his best East 17 impression. Those of you who have heard Tom’s dulcet tones will know why I warn him “Never sing within 3 feet of me when I’m sober”. In the words of Billy Connolly, “You know the noise you get when you shove a burning hot potato up a Donkey’s arse”.

After we pass a couple of LFC fan coaches, (one from Burton happily doing 50mph in the fast lane) we decide to stop at the services near Gent in Belgium. You have to pay for the privilege of having a slash and its possible to do so in a number of different currencies. I have never before and will never again have the opportunity to take a leak in 10 different languages. Off we set again and Phil is quickly sacked as navigator as we miss a turn off. Yours truly (Geography A-level) takes over the map reading duties as the atlas comes flying into the back seat from our directionless front seat passenger.

Passing through Antwerp, we quickly discover that in Belgium indicating is optional and judging by the lack of it almost certainly against the law. I was always taught “Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre”. I must ask Nico (a Belgian Forumite) if all his fellow countrymen are taught “Manoeuvre, Fuck it”. By 1:15, we have reached The Netherlands and later stop at the German border where Tom reveals you can only piss in one language (German).

The first road sign in Germany invites us to turn into a town called WANKUM. Titters all around the car but I remind everybody that a name like “EVERTON” might mean ‘shit’ in German. Who knows? Then again thinking about it it means that in English…. On into Germany and through the industrial heartland of the Rhine-Ruhr region. The barges are plying their trade on one of Europe’s major rivers as we cross the Rhine. Our first traffic jam is encountered approaching Bochum but with Dortmund a mere 20 miles away, none of us are too bothered.

Entering Dortmund brings an end to the journey and the new past time we have invented. Some people go for train numbers, others for stamps, even Eddie Stobbart wagons. Over the last 300 miles, we have been collecting Mobile Phone networks. Our list reads BT Cellnet, SFR, Interis, Digistar, Proximus, NL KPN, D1-Telekom, and D2-Privat. Sad? Oh OK, a bit but for pity’s sake Belgium is boring. A drive past the stadium, the now endemic search for the right route and we arrive at “The Gildenhoff” which turns out to be about 10 minutes walk from Westfalenstadion.

Tom checks us in and we make our way up to room 115. Bonus, having thought it’d be a double the room turns out to be a twin. The strange noises and unhealthy smells emanating from my travelling partner lead me to believe that the 3 feet between the beds still may not be enough. After quickly unpacking we head out of the hotel and straight into the bar next door. The Gildenschanke is empty save the landlady and an oldish bloke sat at the end of the bar. A number of pictures of Dortmund players adorn the walls in place is not dissimilar in feel to Amsterdam’s Brown Cafes. We slurp the first Pils and our host takes the group photo. She complains bitterly about the fact that she must shut on the match day. I can see her point a big payday missed.

It’s sunny enough for us to be in shorts, so we decide to walk into town. Twenty minutes later after dodging the trams, we are sat outside another bar. Eventually food becomes the priority. The town square where tomorrows ‘fans party’ is to take place has a number of cafes and bars lining it. We opt for one close to the guys setting the stage up. After a good feed its time for a wander again. Just away from the main square is a huge marquee. In we go and discover that Alaves have erected this for their fans. Free food as well. Shit, we’ve just paid a fiver for a meal as well. Never being one to look a gift horse…..The sausages were very good. Next to the main Marquee is VIP tent. “Watch this”, Tom says. I shake my head in disbelief as he tries to get us past the bouncers. Bear in mind he was telling them he was a director of the club, dressed in a retro LFC top and shorts. His ID? The ETC travel club card. Needless to say, his attempt proved fruitless.

We had been trying to contact fellow forumites Will M, John Mushrow and Alan Edge. As we sit outside another bar (Capriccio), with another Pils the message finally gets through. The Limerick next to the Railway Station is our destination. The other two lads are happy where they are so Tom and myself are off to find the rest of RAOTL’s crew.

Businessmen, School Girls, and Taxi Drivers help us locate the station and then the Limerick. The entrance is downstairs and the main bar upstairs. Alan, Will, John, Dug and countless other Reds are sat out on the terrace and seem well oiled already. With the same assurance that night follows day, that tick follows tock, so the singsong follows the beer. The list of classics we sang in the next three hours would fill the pages of a book. The sight of 200 or so Reds stood on chairs and tables singing “allez, allez, allez, allez, Gerard Houllier” for a good 5 minutes was one to behold. Then it happened. John Mushrow (King of the Paddock on the RAOTL forum) asked me for a pen. “Why?”, I asked. “I wanna right down the verses of the Gary Mc song”. Three times before the night was out, we sang (to the tune of Allouet) the song that excited more people in Dortmund than any other. “Ohhhhh Gary Macca, Gary, Gary, Macca……”, those who’ve heard it know what we mean. People wanted their picture taken with John, “Fuck Alan Edge, he’s only written a book”, was the cry. The beer flowed freely until a thunderstorm had us scuttling for cover.
The night ended with a couple of beers in a bar called “Abbey Road”. A group of Reds from Kensington in there with a big banner “Is anyone Uglier than the Nevilles? Luke Chadwick”. Twenty minutes later, after running into Dublin Red John Connor staggering around the town square it’s a walk home and off to bed.

Wednesday, the day of the match. We start with breakfast in the hotel where a number of Liverpudlians have already got stuck in. One guy moans about the toaster in the dining room being slow, “Fuckin’ Hell, it’d be quicker if I used me lighter”. The lads quickly work out a shift rota to ‘mind’ the toaster. The rest of us settle down to eat and to see if we can get the hotel staff to smile.
First port of call is the ground. The flag goes up with us and we take a few photos while its quiet. A number of LFC fans are camped out already waiting for tickets to go on sale later in the day. It’s about twenty minutes walk into town. We near the centre and hear an almighty crashing noise from the road. I can just see a bike on the floor behind a wagon. A few paces further and we see one of Dortmund’s Boys in Blue (Green actually) looking very crestfallen picking up his motorcycle. He seems to be OK giving us licence to piss ourselves laughing. After that fun by 11:00 we’re sat outside another bar (really, somebody HAS to do it!!). The sun is shining, the beer is flowing, the Reds were coming up (and down) the hill, all was well.

I hate being right. I really do hate it. A glance across the skies and a chance remark “It’ll be pissing down by 1pm”. “Never”. I’m not going to bore you with the physics of Cumulonimbus (Thunder cloud to the uninitiated) formation but as we walk over to the town square, it begins to bucket down. In the square a number of LFC flags have been taped to the side of a building. I spot a couple I know. “Citizens of Liverpool” reads young Chris Murphy’s flag. “There’s PSM’s flag”, I inform the rest of our bunch. PSM is Chris’ ID on the forum. Right on cue the flags owner appears from the throng and joins us huddling for shelter under a restaurant umbrella. We are dressed for a match in July, he’s dressed for one in February.

Shelter that is more permanent is found in a café beside the square. Kathy and her group from the Midlands, Bob K and a number of others have found this haven of tranquillity too. The Midlands lot had come over by mini bus and most hadn’t slept for 36 hours. Despite the rain, the decision is made to hit a few bars and look for a decent sports shop. One restaurant/ bar we go into is full with about 2 out of 3 Alaves fans. We start a friendly singsong, take the obligatory photographs and prove that LFC fans are a CUT ABOVE THE REST. None of your xenophobic “Ingurland, Ingurland” for us.

Around 3pm, we head back to the square for the fans party. The Alaves tent is rocking to the tunes of a Spanish DJ and the rain has relented. The square is heaving with LFC fans. We’ve decided to buy some Dortmund souvenirs and run into two mates (twin brothers Peter and Paul Raven) outside the “Fan Shop”. “Have you seen Jools?”, they ask me. Jools is the lad I sit next to on The Kop. “No”, I reply. “If you see him tell him we’re in the square”. “Oh, Yeah. He’s gonna find yers ain’t he. There’s thousands of us here”. “Oh, yeah”. The Runcorn brains trust strikes again.

The lads from Cast are on the stage as we make our way over. We spot Lou, Cherith, OST and a few other forum regulars. They make their way to the front by the stage. Tom joins me heading for the bar for another ‘sampling session’. Walking up to the bar and would you believe it. Fucking Hell it’s Jools. “The twinnies are looking for you”, I tell him. “What here?” “Yeah they said in the Square”. We look at each other, look at the square thronging with fans and shake our heads. He seems more interested in his beer than anything else, so am I when Tom finally arrives back from the bar. We spend an hour or so milling about the square, the flag is held up by Pete Wylie and the guys from Cast. I stand there open mouthed gazing across the thousands of Reds swarming around the square like so many worker ants.

The trail to the ground is a long and winding one. The obligatory photo UNDER the fountain is taken just before we join in a game of football. Tom is pleased that he has passed to someone on his team at least twice. I just content myself with the usual five-minute hat trick. Just before our hotel around 10 minutes from the ground, an enterprising German is selling cans of Becks off the back of a lorry. At around a quid a can we invest in four for the walk up the ground. The decision is also made to get the big ‘Shankly’ flag for the ground. Its about 30ft X 18ft and weighs a ton. I’m almost buried under it carrying it to the ground. Tom asks “Do you mind if Loz kips on our floor tonight?”. I’m in no state to say anything being as I am, buried under a veritable mountain of Red Cloth. Loz (Voice of Reason on the forum) is travelling from London via Frankfurt. His ‘trip’ to the ground is a story in itself. Planes, Cancellations and Taxis.

In the ground about an hour before kick off the flag is hung over the second tier of the Nord Tribune. It’s that big that a couple of friendly German stewards help stretch it over the big screen in that corner of the ground. The first thing that strikes me about this impressive stadium is the size of the LFC support. Save half of the stand opposite the rest of the ground is decked in red and white. The game itself has been well documented and 3-1 at half time is all but over in my opinion. Aidan, one of the Dublin Reds, tells me at half time, “Barry, I’m normally one of the most pessimistic of people but we can’t lose this can we?” Ten minutes later the score is 3-3. This team of ours never ever does things the easy way. God makes it 4-3 and we start counting down the minutes until the Manc reject makes it 4-4. There was only ever going to be one winner in extra time. The sending off of the first Spaniard confirms this. They are playing for penalties. Vlad goes down, the Alaves skipper goes off, Gary Mac curls it in, YYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s the first piece of silverware Tom has seen us lift. Whilst I’m a veteran of FA Cups, League Cups and Championships and even the European Super Cup “Keegan, What’s the score?” this is the first ‘real’ Euro trophy I’ve had the honour to be present at. The treble is ours, every last one of the fans, the lads, the backroom staff, the board and Uncle Tom Cobbley can take great satisfaction in it.

After the match, Loz meets up with us and tells us of his dash to the ground. Tom finally manages to swap his LFC top for an Alaves one having been through most of the 7000 fans. Eventually we install ourselves in a bar where numerous glasses of Pils are sunk before retiring tired, weary but very, very, happy.

The trip home is largely uneventful. Tom is sick a number of times between Dortmund and Calais. “It must have been something I ate”, he pleads. The rest of us have that knowing “Can’t take his ale” look on our faces as we agree whole heartedly with him. Rough weather in the Channel means I don’t climb into my car at Dover until 6pm. Four and a half hours later as Preston are beating Birmingham on penalties and Trevor Francis is crying AGAIN, I turn into the drive and unpack the car.
Now where is Monaco?

Copyright - Wooltonian

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