We need to talk about Harry..

Hey dear followers. Be warned: this is one of those football chats! I said a while back that the blog would be a bit “whatever I fancy talking about” rather than specifically travel and this is one of those football reads that might not interest you. If so, now is the time to look away!

This however is going to be a little more analytical, statistical and just generally applauding one of the very best – Harry Kane!

Why does dear Harry justify a blog post of his own? Honestly? I just need to explode about it somewhere because it drives me bonkers how little people appreciate what we’re witnessing right now.

I think about it constantly as Kane achieves another record or closes in on the next. I’ll start throwing numbers at you soon but the lack of recognition & the level of criticism he still receives is genuinely mind-boggling and also infuriating to me.

I don’t know if it’s just because we’re a social-media driven society that is overly critical and abusive of anything and everything but my hope is that future generations will look back and be more appreciative of Harry fucking Kane. Much in the same way that current generations look back at Jimmy Greaves and think – “wow! What a player”.

Jimmy Greaves is in my mind the greatest striker this country has ever seen and the stats undoubtedly back that up but there’s a little part of me that hopes that he got stick every week to make sense of the criticism I see for Kane today. It baffles me endlessly and I get so defensive about it because please just give the man the respect he deserves! Someone tell me Jimmy Greaves got slaughtered in the stands every week?

I may be jinxing the man but before the end of the season Harry Kane will be Tottenham’s greatest ever goalscorer, England’s greatest ever goalscorer and likely also surpass 200 top flight goals. So here are some numbers for you..

Bear in mind, these are correct as of today (13th October 2022) but will likely be higher dependent upon when you read this!

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Tottenham’s greatest goalscorers (the 100 club)
1 – Jimmy Greaves – 1961-70 – 266 goals in 379 appearances
2 – Harry Kane – 2011-present – 257 in 399 appearances
3 – Bobby Smith – 1955-64 – 208/317
4 – Martin Chivers – 1968-76 – 174/367
5 – Cliff Jones – 1958-68 – 159/378
6 – Jermain Defoe – 2004-2014 – 143/363
7 – George Hunt – 1930-37 – 138/198
8 – Son Heung-Min – 2015-present – 136/338
9 – Len Duquemin – 1947-57 – 134/307
10 – Alan Gilzean – 1964-74 – 133/439
11 – Teddy Sheringham – 1992-2003 – 124/277
12 – Robbie Keane – 2002-2011 – 122/306
13 – Les Bennett – 1946-54 – 117/294
14 – Jimmy Dimmock – 1919-31 – 112/438
15 – Glenn Hoddle – 1975-87 – 110/490
16 – Bert Bliss – 1912-22 – 104/215
17= – Billy Minter – 1908-19 – 101/263
17= – Johnny Morrison – 1933-39 – 101/154

I never thought I’d see Jimmy Greaves record broken. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Greaves is the greatest striker this country has ever seen and had he played for Tottenham for longer he’d likely have scored many more but that record is going this season. Maybe before Christmas?

Year after year I’ve seen Kane inch closer but whilst so far away you’d still be sceptical about seeing the record smashed. However in recent seasons I’ve actually started believing that Greaves could be caught and this is finally the season it will happen. The bloke already has ten for the season and I’d be amazed if he doesn’t add another ten to his tally with thirty-odd games to go. Harry Kane will end his career as Tottenham’s highest ever goalscorer and I do believe that THAT record will never be beaten!

A Premier League comparison!
Going in to this historic season I was curious as to how our Premier League counterparts compared. Who are the highest goalscorers at each of the 20 Premier League clubs. How does Harry Kane stack up against the rest?

Everton – Dixie Dean – 383 goals
Liverpool – Ian Rush – 346
West Ham – Vic Watson – 326
Leicester – Arthur Chandler – 273
Spurs – Jimmy Greaves – 266
Manchester City – Sergio Aguero – 260
Harry Kane – 257
Manchester United – Wayne Rooney – 253
Wolves – Steve Bull – 250
Aston Villa – Billy Walker – 244
Leeds – Peter Lorimer – 238
Bournemouth – Ron Eyre – 229
Arsenal – Thierry Henry – 228
Southampton – Mick Channon – 228
Nottingham Forest – Grenville Morris – 217
Chelsea – Frank Lampard – 211
Newcastle – Alan Shearer – 206
Fulham – Gordon Davies – 178
Crystal Palace – Peter Simpson – 165
Brentford – Jim Towers – 163
Brighton – Tommy Cook – 123

Never say never with Harry but I think that top three may be beyond his reach. Ultimately it’ll depend on how many more years he plays for Tottenham but even as one of Harry Kane’s biggest admirers I’d be surprised if he touches Dixie Dean’s record for Everton. Nevertheless, his goal tally would place him as the highest goalscorer at most clubs in the division.

More to the point, is this the last club record to go? People are raving about Erling Haaland at the moment and might suggest he could smash Sergio Aguero’s record for Manchester City but the reality is doing it consistently for so many years is difficult to do. Likewise, changing football clubs is much more common in the modern era. As good as he is, I don’t expect Haaland to be at Manchester City long enough to beat the incredible Sergio Aguero – who would have scored many more himself but for injuries.

However even looking at clubs lower down the list.. Brighton’s record looks remarkably low for instance but as I said, it’s so rare for players to stick around for long enough to beat such a record. If Brighton found themselves a 20-goal-a-season striker, how long would he be at Brighton before being prized and tempted away by a bigger football club?

I haven’t drifted through all of the thousands of football clubs in England but certainly at the highest level, I think Harry Kane might be the last striker we see break such a record for one club – unbelievable!

England’s greatest goalscorers (the top 10)
Wayne Rooney: 53 in 120 caps
Harry Kane: 51 in 75 caps
Bobby Charlton: 49 in 106 caps
Gary Lineker: 48 in 80 caps
Jimmy Greaves: 44 in 57 caps
Michael Owen: 40 in 89 caps
Tom Finney: 30 in 76 caps
Nat Lofthouse: 30 in 33 caps
Alan Shearer: 30 in 63 caps
Vivian Woodward: 29 in 23 caps
Frank Lampard: 29 in 106 caps

Harry Kane could have a terrible World Cup in November but realistically, Harry Kane is also going to end 2022 as England’s greatest goalscorer. Personally I hope he surpasses the record in Thanksgiving week v the USA as it’ll make my trip the little bit sweeter.

US Bank Stadium

However even if he doesn’t surpass Rooney at this World Cup, it’s an inevitability it happens at some point. I expect it to happen in Qatar but that might be tempting fate.

I actually think England’s record is fairly low in all honesty. According to Wikipedia (the most legitimate of sources obviously..) 75 players have scored more than 50 goals for their country. Cristiano Ronaldo has 117 and counting for Portugal which shows how far off England’s record is by comparison.

Nevertheless, Harry Kane is going to continue playing and scoring for England for a few years yet so it’ll be interesting to see how high he sets the standard.

A lot of criticism surrounds Kane’s England record in particular which is daft but should also be offset against the reality that he’s won a golden boot at a World Cup and has scored the most goals at international tournaments for England – again a pitiful tally of 10 goals at major international tournaments but it’s the record and another he’ll undoubtedly add to.

45 of his 51 England goals have also been in competitive fixtures and no England player has ever scored more goals at major tournaments. Remarkably at the most recent tournament there were calls for him to be dropped – from England pundits who arguably achieved less in their England careers.

To add a little controversy, if Kane were to win a World Cup that’d cement him as England’s greatest ever for me personally. He’s been England’s most successful player outside of that famous ’66 squad. If Kane caps off his England career with a World Cup it’s undoubted in my mind.

The 200 club (200+ goals in the top division!)
This was a personal discovery around the time of the deaths of Jimmy Greaves and Diego Maradona – two of the greatest footballers to have ever played the game. Moreso Sir Jimmy’s death as it sparked up discussions about his goalscoring record.

I’ve never been too unfamiliar with Greaves record but he not only currently holds the record for the most goals for Tottenham but he’s in a league of his own when it comes to goalscoring at the highest level in English football.

It was only looking at comparisons around the world however that I saw a remarkable lack of English goalscorers with significant goals to their name.

Understanding that football in this country began in the mid-late 1800’s, it’s remarkable that only 27 players have ever scored 200 goals in England’s top division.

1) Jimmy Greaves: 357 goals in 516 games (1957-1972)
2) Steve Bloomer: 314 in 536 (1892-1914)
3) Dixie Dean: 310 in 362 (1924-1938)
4) Gordon Hodgson: 287 in 456 (1925-1940)
5) Alan Shearer: 283 in 559 (1988-2006)
6) David Jack: 257 in 476 (1920-1934)
6) Charlie Buchan: 257 in 482 (1912-1928)
8) Nat Lofthouse: 255 in 452 (1946-1960)
9) Joe Bradford: 248 in 410 (1921-1935)
10) Hughie Gallacher: 246 in 355 (1925-1938)
11) Joe Smith: 243 in 410 (1908-1927)
12) George Brown: 240 in 366 (1921-1935)
13) George Camsell: 233 in 337 (1921-1939)
14) Ian Rush: 232 in 515 (1980-1998)
15) David Herd: 222 in 412 (1954-1970)
16) Harry Hampton: 219 in 357 (1904-1922)
17) Billy Walker: 214 in 478 (1919-1933)
17) Tony Cottee: 214 in 548 (1982-2000)
19) Dave Halliday: 211 in 257 (1925-1933)
20) Geoff Hurst: 210 in 519 (1959-1975)
21) Ronnie Allen: 208 in 415 (1950-1961)
21) Wayne Rooney: 208 in 476 (2002-2021)
23) Bobby Gurney: 205 in 348 (1926-1944)
24( Arthur Chandler: 204 in 309 (1925-1935)
25) Vic Watson: 203 in 295 (1923-1932)
26) Denis Law: 201 in 377 (1960-1974)
26) Harry Johnson: 201 in 313 (1919-1931)
Harry Kane: 191 in 288 (2012-present)

Only twenty seven players have scored more than 200 goals in England’s top division in 150 or so years of football? That’s BONKERS!

I raised this point on a football forum I frequent and someone also rightly acknowledged that the early days of football tended to feature more high-scoring contests, for whatever reason (before my time obviously!).

So of the 27 I singled out the post-war players and that made the list shrink to just ten remaining players!

Jimmy Greaves: 357 goals in 516 games (1957-1972)
Alan Shearer: 283 in 559 (1988-2006)
Nat Lofthouse: 255 in 452 (1946-1960)
Ian Rush: 232 in 515 (1980-1998)
David Herd: 222 in 412 (1954-1970)
Tony Cottee: 214 in 548 (1982-2000)
Geoff Hurst: 210 in 519 (1959-1975)
Ronnie Allen: 208 in 415 (1950-1961)
Wayne Rooney: 208 in 476 (2002-2021)
Denis Law: 201 in 377 (1960-1974)
Harry Kane: 191 in 288 (2012-present)

Only ten players have scored 200 top flight goals in 80 years of post-war football in this country. Ten!

Shout-out to Tony Cottee too because that was a surprising name on the list for me (I’d also never heard of David Herd or Ronnie Allen).

Jimmy Greaves has always set the bar for me as a Spurs fan, that’s the standard but I’d never considered 200 goals to be that unattainable. Players generally have anywhere from a 10-15 season career, sometimees longer. Scoring 20 in a season is the sign of a good striker, do that for 10 years – job done – 200 top flight goals! Easy peasy!

The reality though is that it doesn’t happen. There’s a higher influx of foreign players now, players switch clubs more frequently, players are rotated much more frequently, injuries happen so I understand it in more modern times but over an 80 year period it really surprised me that so few have ever scored that number in the top division.

Harry Kane is going to become only the 11th player in post-war-times to score 200 top flight goals. He’s got a good few years left too!

EnglishFootball

The Premier League (top 5)
Alan Shearer: 260
Wayne Rooney: 208
Harry Kane: 191
Andy Cole: 187
Sergio Aguero: 184

This tends to be the record that the media focus on the most – particularly with Shearer holding a punditry role in the media. This season Harry’s surpassed Cole and Aguero to take 3rd spot on the all time Premier League list (1992-present).

I’ve no doubt that Kane passes Shearer and the goalposts will then shift. People will start to point out Alan Shearer actually scored 283 in the top flight but I expect him to smash that too. I don’t think catching Greaves is realistic but what the numbers show, in any metric, is that Kane is one of the best strikers this country has ever seen.

More than a goalscorer
What shouldn’t go unsaid is that Harry Kane’s all round game is phenomenal. Some of those great goalscorers listed above were just that, players who’d stick the ball in the net and offer nothing more from their performances.

Admittedly I might be more biased when it comes to our Harry but I often find myself in awe watching Kane make everything look so easy. Forget his goalscoring and he’s still one of the most talented footballers I’ve had the joy of watching.

His range of passing is incredible, his decision-making is an art. Every players makes mistakes and has their share of bad games but I so often find myself applauding everything he does. The passing, the hold-up play, the flick ons, the clever fouls he wins – it’s unbelievable how good he is and then he’s a thirty goal-a-season striker on top of that? Come on..

The critics
and yet Harry Kane is one of the most abused players on social media. I see it daily, constantly. Any time he shares something on social media – BAM! Sometimes minimal criticism, often genuinely abusive stuff. It’s constant.

and whilst I don’t understand the mentality of abusing anyone, I’d be less sympathetic to it if he was a bit of a dick. Referring to that particular article, the most abused footballer on the list has very serious allegations around his name to at least give the statistics some context.

Kane in contrast you hear nothing about the life he lives. It’s all very quiet. He may well be the biggest asshole behind closed doors but he’s never found in the limelight in the way other superstars over the years have been. By all accounts he comes across as an individual that is professional and focused on little more than his football.

On the occasions you do hear from him publicly it’s supporting mental health charities or issues such as racism and homophobia. He was a big supporter of the women’s England’s success this past summer and in doing so was subjected to another barrage of abuse (“women showing you how it’s done..”)

Is it jealousy? I don’t know. Personally I think he has little to prove and yet people find something about his game or his personality or speech impediment to want to tear the man down – it pains me to witness the abuse he receives when he should be respected as one of the greatest ever and seemingly a decent role-model too.

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Point of the post? 
Honestly, just to make myself feel a bit better I think. I think about Kane’s record-hunting constantly – I’m obsessed and I don’t think anyone really cares or appreciates the greatness enough. I figured no social media post could have done my thoughts justice and that a blog post may do the trick and allow me to wax lyrical about him a bit.

I think in 20-30-50 years time people will be looking back at Kane’s record in the same way I reflect on the great Jimmy Greaves.

“Dad / Grandad, just how good was Harry Kane..?” – “He was the best..”

My dad still refers to that ONE Clive Allen season in the 80’s and I get it – 49 goals in a season, a club record that remains to this day but Harry Kane will always be that guy for me. 80 years old and still watching Spurs – “he’s no Harry Kane though is he..?”

Tottenham’s all-time record goalscorer, England’s all-time record goalscorer, the Premier League’s all-time record goalscorer. The latter still seems a way off but let’s be clear, Harry Kane has 4-5 more years left playing football and retiring before he’s surpassed Shearer would be the biggest surprise to me.

Will this post do anything to change people’s perceptions of Kane today? Probably not but the records he’s toppling are mind-boggling to me. I can’t imagine what numbers he’ll finish his career on and I dread the day he moves on from Spurs – how the hell do you replace him?

I’ve watched some sublime footballers and fantastic strikers at Spurs over the years but this standard is irreplaceable. The sooner robotic clones are introduced to the game the better, Harry Kane 2.0 scoring against Arsenal for the 500th time in 2052 will do me nicely!

Anyway I suppose I’ll wrap this up. I wanted to talk about it before the records start tumbling but be sure that they will do. I’m sure people will still find ways to dismiss his record. Three goals were against San Marino and one of his goals for Spurs was on a Monday afternoon at 15:06 so won’t count for some made-up reason.

People seem to find all sorts of unspoken clauses that diminish his record that little bit more. Seemingly the first striker in history to not have scored against an all-star-11 in 200 consecutive games from 30 yards out with his weaker foot.

Give me whatever metric you like, his record will hold up. He’s consistently done it at every level and has goals against a ridiculous number of teams including the very best that football has to offer.

257 and counting for Spurs, 51 and counting for England, ambitions to play in the NFL so he’ll probably go and tear up that sport one day too!

Perhaps we don’t need to talk about Harry but I certainly did so thanks for indulging me.

Harry Kane – generational talent! Oh and “he’s one of our own” too!

Madrid – May / June 2019

Hello dear readers! I hope all is well with you? I thought that I’d get back to writing about some travel.

I have written about football-related travels many times on the blog but this? This is a post I never in my lifetime thought that I’d be writing about.

I was listening to an episode of The Travel Architect’s podcast recently and the “travel quiz” on this particular episode revolved around the concept that people travel locally, nationally and internationally to watch sports or any event really at “bucketlist” venues – I am one of those people.

My love of football is no secret, I’ve been obsessed with the sport for as long as I can remember. Football is the biggest sport in England – by some distance. Football is the biggest sport in the world even and I’ve heard it nicknamed the “global language” – regardless of your native language, everyone understands football.

I think that’s particularly true for myself. I’m an introverted person, I’m quiet but that was multiplied tenfold as a child. I was so shy and so reserved but football was my comfort zone, I understood football and if we had a mutual love for the game it made it infinitely easier to connect with you. It was an easy bonding subject I suppose.

As a kid I just immersed myself in to all things football. To this day it’s probably the only passion I have that exceeds travel. I love and loathe it in equal measure, it infuriates me like nothing else can but the highs of the game are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

It didn’t matter what it was growing up. I could be playing football in the streets from dawn ’til dusk, collecting football stickers for the latest Premier League sticker album, reading Match magazine every single week or watching football on the telly. Playing computer games such as Championship Manager (“move aside Gerry Francis.. I’m taking Spurs to the lofty heights of the UEFA Cup!”), reading football-books.. whatever it was, I was obsessed!

I heard so many football stories from my dad’s youth – a very different time in football where tickets were more accessible and affordable. My dad would travel up and down the country with his mates and even experience the occasional foray in to Europe for the ultimate “away day” experience – hearing stories of Spurs in Belgium and UEFA Cup glory in 1984 was something I was so envious of for such a long, long time.

My dad’s “heyday” came and went. Marriage and kids and responsibilities followed and my dad had to stop going. Football became too expensive and required too much sacrifice to follow with the same frequency – sadly resigned to a life of “armchair football” but he still had enough love for it to pass on the reigns to his son. We’ll not give too much mention to the rebel Arsenal-supporting daughter! – “Why haven’t you disowned her dad?”

I loved football so much but my dad couldn’t afford to take us regularly if at all, it’s an expensive day out but my love for it was unrivalled. Growing up I’d firstly dream of playing on the biggest stage, playing for Spurs, winning the FA Cup and once the realisation kicked in that I’d never be good enough to achieve that, my hopes turned to my “idols” achieving that success on my behalf.

NationalFootballMuseum

I wanted to see Spurs win an FA Cup (I still haven’t!), I wanted to see Spurs in Europe. Even as a deluded, hopeful child you’d never dream of Premier League or Champions League glory for little ol’ Spurs – that was beyond our limitations but just give me something to remember. Give me something to match up to those stories my dad has from the late 70’s and 80’s.

Year after year I’d witness disappointment after disappointment. I still haven’t forgiven Shearer for breaking my heart in the FA Cup semi final in `1999. Likewise I have held a bitter resentment against Germans, Kaiserlautern, for ending my sole European memory of Spurs far earlier than I was prepared for. Just the one European excursion in my pitiful Spurs-supporting memory – my dad’s fairytale stories are all a lie!

Jokes aside, I dreamt of football on the biggest stage – imagine going to watch Spurs in Europe or England at a World Cup. My dad went to France in 1998 and I watched on again, envious albeit ultimately with similar feelings of disappointment and heartbreak following another painful England World Cup defeat.

My school years were particularly painful, arguably Spurs worst era and similarly coinciding with the years (92-04) I was most susceptible to teasing from my peers.

I left school and typically Spurs fortunes changed. More importantly though, I left school. I was now of working age – the financial limitations my father had had, I did not. I had no responsibility and despite taking a weekend job in a supermarket I was finally free to spend my hard-earned cash as I pleased – going to the football regularly.

I remember little of the first time my dad took me to White Hart Lane but I remember running up those steps and seeing that pitch for the first time – “wow!” – you dream about it but I don’t think that first time can ever disappoint. It’s Disneyland levels of magical – now that I was working I could finally come as often as I wanted.

Better yet, Spurs were improving on the pitch! In 2006, at 18 years old, I finally got to watch my beloved Spurs participate in a European competition – in the flesh! Tottenham vs Slavia Prague in London. A “glory, glory” European night under the famous lights of White Hart Lane!

The allure of European football, playing on the continent in places you have and haven’t heard of, has always mesmerised me. You read blog posts about the hidden gems of Europe – “secret off-the-beaten-path cities no-one has heard of” and it’s like mate, you underestimate the obscure places across the world that football fans know about because of some random football team that play there.

Going back to that previously mentioned podcast.. My love for European football in particular always came with an “I’d love to play there..” wish before materialising in to the “I’d love to watch a game there” dream instead.

There were and still are so many football experiences I’d love to witness one day – famous football stadiums, famous football matches and rivalries, famous football tournaments that would be incredible to see live.

Primarily I want those football experiences with Spurs of course but some aren’t possible and others aren’t realistic. I can’t watch Spurs in a World Cup but I’d still love to attend a World Cup one year – there’ll always be some regret that I didn’t go to Brazil in 2014.

It’s my dream to go and watch either domestic or international football in South America – Brazil and Argentina in particular as the footballing giants of the continent. It’s my dream to go and watch some of the big European rivalries, I have a list of football stadiums I’d like to visit before I die (or before they knock the stadium down!). I have so many football-bucketlist experiences to tick off!

European football again obviously holds a lot of those experiences and I never thought I’d see them with Spurs if I’m being honest. That Champions League anthem is mesmerising but I never really believed growing up that I’d watch Spurs participate in the competition, let alone multiple times as I’ve been fortunate to do. I never thought visiting the likes of the Camp Nou, San Siro, Bernabeu, WestfalenStadion or others would ever be possible.

After finally being able to go to home games regularly I attended my first Tottenham away game in 2008 – Spurs at Villa Park in Birmingham – what a historic, traditional stadium that is too. It’ll be a sad day should Aston Villa ever replace their stadium.

I went to multiple domestic away games over the years and then finally went to my first European away game in 2014 – Benfica of Lisbon, Portugal – one of Portugal’s biggest teams and a huge name in European football.

“Pinch me!”

It was “only” in Europe’s second-tier competition, the Europa League (UEFA Cup) but still – watching Spurs in Europe? “This is the dream!”

Lisbon2

Since that first European outing I’ve watched football in a number of countries and even in that elusive Champions League competition I thought beyond little ol’ Spurs and then ‘here’ we are – June 2019.

I kind of knew, much like my father 30 years ago, that my footballing days were coming to an end. I’ve had this nagging feeling about a different lifestyle, different priorities and different responsibilities that suggested I’d have to “hang up my boots” so to speak.

It wasn’t necessarily imminent but I knew it wasn’t far away and so I went in to 2019 with the mentality that the next European outing, this, could be my last ever European away game with Spurs. I wrote that blog post knowing I was bowing out soon – I just wanted one final away European away game and “anywhere but Dortmund”.

Ironically Dortmund was one of those stadiums I never thought I’d see Tottenham play at – one of Europe’s most famous football venues and undoubtedly fitting of any worthwhile football bucketlist – home to the famous “yellow wall” of Borussia Dortmund.

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Tottenham were drawn to play Dortmund in March 2016 and I’d literally only just come home from Georgia at the end of Feb and I was booking flights – I did not give a shit about work, I was not missing a “once in a lifetime” trip to Dortmund.

Seven months later we were back in West Germany in nearby Leverkusen and then in November 2017 we returned to Dortmund again! On that occasion I saw Spurs win but twice was plenty – there’s no other reason to visit Dortmund!

So faced with the possibility of a third “once in a lifetime” trip to Dortmund – I was praying to the football gods for some mercy and to send me anywhere else. My prayers fell on deaf ears: Tottenham Hotspur vs Borussia Dortmund – March 2019.

There were no guarantees of progress, no guarantees of more European games. This could be my last and only opportunity so reluctantly, back to West Germany for the fourth football excursion in three years. Spurs typically won comfortably which resulted in a Champions League quarter final against fellow English side, Manchester City.

Unbelievably Spurs succeeded and set up a first Champions League (European Cup) semi final appearance in 57 years – Tottenham vs Ajax – giants of Dutch and European football – “pinch me!”

Amsterdam

Next up Amsterdam – with a touch of irony perhaps. Spurs have offered so many disappointments over the years. Typically I’m on the verge of packing it in altogether and Spurs decide this is the year for a cup run in Europe? “Thanks Tottenham..”

Amsterdam was not in the budget for the year but of course I had to go, hoping that Tottenham may well just go one step better than they did in 1962 and incredibly they did – a first Champions League (European Cup) final appearance in their 137 year history!

and so this is where this story begins!

“Begins? Jason, you’ve already written a novel!”

I know, I know but what’s a story without a little context?

I was ready to pack it in, just one final European outing. I’d budgeted the first six months of the year perfectly so that I could think about next steps with Haleigh. This was the supposed to be me winding down as far as the football was concerned but Spurs said “sod that, we were your first love!”

Madrid

A Champions League final was an “at all costs” trip and boy was it. There was no scenario in which I wasn’t going to Madrid, with or without a ticket for the game, but I genuinely had no idea how I was going to make the logistics of this work.

As if the trip wasn’t expensive enough anyway, Tottenham’s European fate had been sealed on that memorable Wednesday night in Amsterdam. 24 hours earlier our opponents Liverpool had sealed their own fate – we’d face English opposition in Madrid but more importantly that meant fellow English supporters and travelers that had been afforded a 24 hour head start.

Reports suggest 100,000 or so traveled from England to Madrid for this game. I don’t know how accurate that is. I don’t know if it was more – quite possibly but for my fellow experienced travelers, try and book that trip with three weeks notice on very specific dates and when a vast majority have had a head start on your travel planning -it’s bonkers!

The simplest solution (“hey, we’re selling flights to Madrid sat on Ryanair’s wing for only £450,000 one way”) was a no-go.

I was 100% going to Madrid but it was time to get creative. Where do I fly from? What are my options? What’s the alternative to flying to Madrid? Barcelona? Bilbao? Where? Would it be cheaper to not fly from England? Maybe I’ll go out to Dublin or Paris or Marrakech or anywhere else first!

It was a headache! I was still in Amsterdam at the time and pondered if I just should start walking to Madrid now! I shared my frustrations with my parents and knew it’d probably have to wait until I got home.

“Your dad’s thinking of driving..”

Wait, what!!? Dad’s contemplating popping out of “retirement” for this one? Wow! I mean it probably shouldn’t have shocked me,  this is big after all but still, my dad didn’t even own a passport at the time.

That said, anyone who was anyone was going to this. I think it was about Liverpool’s 408th Champions League final in 20 years and they’ve been to one more since then too but for Spurs? This doesn’t happen to the likes of us – a genuine “once in a lifetime!” experience.

I know it’s a case of being privileged and having the luxury of football as a priority in your life that you can do a trip such as this but it still surprises me that any Spurs fan missed this.

If you have to sell an organ or that Arsenal supporting sibling, do it! A family friend of ours flew over from his home in Australia to be in Madrid because this was the big one! Admittedly his journey may well still have been cheaper than any flight from England going to Madrid but he knew how important it was, I knew that I had to go and my dad likewise – a first Father-Son European away game!

Road to Madrid

My dad drove! A European road trip from Peterborough, England to Madrid, Spain. Another friend of my dad’s footballing days joined us for the roadtrip, quite surreal how much of the old gang had come out of obscurity for this one – I’d never met Lloyd before and I don’t think my dad had seen him in decades either but a trip worthy of a reunion!

The match was on Saturday, we left England after work on Thursday and intended to drive back on Sunday so this was as quick and as budget-friendly as such a trip would allow – sharing fuel and accommodation costs between us.

We left work on Thursday and headed for Dover where we’d be picking up Lloyd and more importantly, catching the late-night / early-morning ferry over to France. I can’t recall what time it was but let’s just say it was dark in the crossing.

I was a little apprehensive about taking the ferry. It makes me a little cautious about ever booking a cruise too, I get a little seasick I guess and I felt so rough coming back from Amsterdam three weeks earlier which was weighing on my mind a little bit.

Nevertheless we had a beer on board and kicked off the trip of a lifetime in style. The rest of the ferry was packed with football fans, predominantly Liverpool fans but two sets of supporters all in good spirit – all ready for the big game on Saturday!

We arrived in France early Friday morning and was able to catch the sun coming up over the country – being the end of May it was particularly nice and came up quite early.

The trip made me feel quite nostalgic. We’d take the occasional family daytrip to France when we lived in London and I also visited Spain on a coach-trip with school that no doubt took a much similar route that we did for this trip.

I remember nothing of France from those trips other than stopping at service stations and such in random places. For a long time I didn’t really feel like I’d really been to France. It was only after visiting Paris and Lille that I felt like I’d actually been to France and started falling in love with it. Lille was particularly nice visiting France in the summer and getting to see what the fuss was about. Up until then I’d never really got the fuss about France.

We were on the road for a good few hours on France, stopping occasionally for a food break and chance to visit the grand service stations of the country – feeling very nostalgic for the France I remember from my youth!

Mid-afternoon we arrived in our stop for the night. We didn’t want to do the full drive on Friday so agreed to stop somewhere on route – I’d had a little read on options and suggested Bayonne / Biarritz might be a good choice. So we booked a little budget backpackers hotel in Bayonne for one night – it was very basic. Tucked away in the middle of nowhere really and more dorm-like accommodation but perfect for one night – we had no problems with it.

We dropped off our things and decided we’d go and spend the rest of the afternoon at the coast. We got back in the car and headed for nearby Biarritz.

This was meant to be a whistle-stop one-nighter so none of us were that bothered about where we stayed, we hadn’t done any real research about what to do or what to expect from the area. More than anything it was a good base for us to then hit the road again in the morning.

So Biarritz took all of us by surprise – it is stunning! We stepped out of the car and I was blown away by its beauty. This is why people rave about the South of France!

Biarritz

Biarritz
Biarritz, France

Surfing

The sun was shining, the water was gorgeous and it felt so relaxed. Biarritz were actually hosting the ‘World Longboard Surfing Championship’ this week but it seemed like we’d missed any of the major activity of the day. There were still a few people out in the water but it was so peaceful.

We found a little outside bar to pick up some beers and just sat by the water mesmerised. It’s so easy to glamourise travel places but this felt like paradise. The only disappointment was the reality that we were only here for one night. Part of me sat there, looking out to the water and thinking can’t we just sack off Madrid?

I’d been to Madrid before (and LOVED it), let’s find a bar for the game tomorrow and stay here forever. Why are we leaving this place so soon?

We enjoyed the views a little longer but didn’t hang around for particularly long. We got back in the car and returned to Bayonne, which also looked nice from the little we saw of it, before finding a place to grab some dinner near our hotel. We were pretty close to Spain by this point but still had a few hours drive ahead of us so were keen to get an early night and an early start in the morning.

On Saturday morning we woke up in eager anticipation of the day ahead. Champions League final day featuring Tottenham fucking Hotspur. This is actually happening!

Of course I was sad to be leaving the South of France, I am itching to return to Biarritz one day and also to explore more of the South of France because it had instantly won us over but nevertheless we had to go.

The drive over the border is gorgeous. As I said above, I’d done the school coachtrip to Spain before so this wasn’t of huge surprise to me but it was even prettier than I remember it being.

FranceSpain border

Even more Spurs and Liverpool fans were on the road by this point – all Madrid bound. We stopped off at more service stations along the way and picked up food for the morning to keep us going. Eventually we’d arrived in sunny, glorious Madrid.

I think Madrid is undoubtedly one of the best cities in Europe, I think I might go as far as saying it’s my favourite European city outside of London but on this occasion we weren’t here for the culture or anything else that Madrid has to offer. We found somewhere to park and headed straight for the dedicated fan-park hosting Spurs.

We picked up some beers and soaked up the building atmosphere. One of hope, one of optimism, one of disbelief. This fairytale-like story was one night away from reaching Hollywood. We’d been down and out so many times over the course of the season that there was this feeling of “it’s meant to be” and we just needed that movie-script ending to round it off.

Soon enough our family friend, Dave, had joined us. Coming all the way from Australia Barcelona, it was great to see him after a few years. I’ve seen him a few times over the years in England and we even met up a couple of times when I went to Sydney, now we were in our third country together and for a Champions League final! Had I mentioned that?

A little while later two more of the old gang, Dave number 2 and Mo, had come to join us for a little while too. A great opportunity for a reunion photo and a “we were there” moment.

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Soon enough the fan-park closed. Dave 2 and Mo went their separate ways whilst the four of us went off in search for elsewhere to drink and hopefully a bar to watch the big game tonight.

We picked up a drunk stray from Aberdeen who’d seemingly lost his friends and tagged along with us for the night. We tried a couple of bars without much fortune – finding that they were either completely rammed with supporters or that they were completely empty because they had no TV to show the game. Eventually we had some fortune in a restaurant-ish kind of bar showing the game and selling beers which was all we really needed.

The day had been lovely. Everyone was in good spirits. I think there was a fear that with tens of thousands of Brits descending on Madrid that there’d be trouble. The Brits, and English in particular, don’t have the greatest reputation on the continent. Some of it is fully justified to be fair but on this occasion there was no need for such concern – everyone got along swimmingly. Now for the football..

All that build-up, all that anticipation and excitement? Minute one: Liverpool penalty – game over.

It still feels unfair, unjust even. I don’t think the decision will ever sit right with me and it just killed the game. Spurs huffed and puffed but without any real quality, it was probably one of the worst Champions League finals in truth but to have this grand occasion go like this so early in the game was and still is hard to accept.

I don’t know how much I ever really believed. I was always hopeful and had optimism, there was definitely fleeting moments of “we’re going to do this..” but Liverpool were of course the favourites for the game, favourites to win the trophy for the Nth time and so it proved.

As ever for Tottenham, no happy ending. No fairytale, no Hollywood movie to come. I can’t and won’t question the effort because we tried but even accepting we weren’t ever expected to be at this stage, it was no less painful. We huffed away and Liverpool hit us on the counter late on – an undeserved 2-0 in a game lacking any quality. We never deserved to win and perhaps it’s the bitterness talking but Liverpool were barely worthy winners themselves.

I walked out at 2-0 completely deflated. I needed to just walk somewhere for a bit. I had no interest in seeing the final whistle, no interest in seeing the trophy presentation. Who fucking cares?

We didn’t have accommodation for Saturday night. I think we’d made the decision to just find some kip in the car later on and then head out Sunday morning.

Nevertheless we hung out in Madrid for a bit after the game, mingling with a few people from the bar that we’d met. I dare say I wasn’t really present at all. Maybe its the years of experience supporting Spurs, maybe its the fact the other three have all tasted real Tottenham success but I think the other three took the defeat much better than myself.

I don’t know how any of them could find the energy to be sociable enough for chit-chat. In truth I just wanted to be as far from Madrid as possible. After maybe an hour we went and found a late-night joint for some cheap and greasy food. I’m not sure you’d necessarily associate Madrid as a good place for a kebab but it ticked the right boxes after a day of beer and football.

From there it was back to the car. Lloyd seemed to find the time to talk to every passing celebratory Scouser. To be fair to the Liverpool bunch, they were very gracious about it and complimentary of Spurs but I didn’t really find any consolation in it.

More to the point was that Lloyd was constantly stopping on our walk back to the car. I lost count of how many Liverpool fans we stopped for in the end – admittedly Lloyd was fairly drunk but I’m sure he was seeking them out – “just keep walking Lloyd, come on!”

My dad seemingly had much more patience than I did. Perhaps I needed to be a bit drunker myself but I wasn’t particularly interested in baby-sitting someone 20-30 years my senior, nor stopping for chirpy Scousers.

We said our goodbyes to Dave, wishing him well for the trip back down-under, and eventually got Lloyd back to the car having stopped for conversations with seemingly every single person in Madrid.

We slept on the outskirts of Madrid for a few hours kip before hitting the road again – determined to try and do it in a day and be back on a late-Sunday / early-Monday ferry back to England.

Sidenote and a word of warning for anyone that fancies doing this road-trip – the tolls aren’t particularly suited to back-seat passengers and dare I say drivers too! Lloyd seemed near-dead in the front seat and was completely passed out which left me on toll-duty as my dad drove and seemingly few seemed to fall on the actual drivers sides for some reason.

Maybe my memory is rusty but thinking back to it, I don’t know what you’re supposed to do if you’re a solo driver. A few tolls on I was an expert on the pay-process but it seems bizarre that that was the case. Perhaps manned toll booths on the right side of the road were closed because it was a Sunday and this was our only option? Who knows?

Anyway, we looked for somewhere to break up the drive once again and as tempting as it may have been to return to Biarritz we wanted to see somewhere different. Bordeaux seemed like an obvious choice but we opted to go to ‘La Rochelle’ instead, I figured I was more likely to visit Bordeaux one day and why not go somewhere else.

We struck out unfortunately. Perhaps we didn’t give it enough of a chance but for a flying visit, we certainly didn’t see the best of La Rochelle and wouldn’t necessarily be inspired to return. I’ve heard good things so I’d be inclined to go back and see if it could change my mind but it was barely a lunch spot for us and left no real impression.

We hit the road again pretty quickly and from there it was the odd service station on an otherwise uneventful drive. Lloyd eventually woke from his slumber, still feeling the effects of a heavy day of drinking. Having perked up a bit we grabbed some food and then made the gradual return to Calais, Dover and Peterborough respectively.

Dam Square Spurs

Reflecting on the trip as a three-parter makes it more special: K̦ln, Amsterdam, Madrid Рwow!

It’s hard to detach from the finale, hard to detach from the pain of how it ended but when you take the whole experience in to account then I can only look back on it with fondness. Amsterdam was incredible, to follow that up with a Father-Son road-trip was particularly special and it’s a footballing-adventure I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

I’m gutted that this three-parter doesn’t get the Hollywood ending it deserves but hopefully you’ve enjoyed following along anyway. If this is to be my last football-inspired blog post and how I bow out of European football, what a way to do it!

Maybe there’ll be more European adventures to come, who knows? I’ve certainly cut back on the football this side of Covid and I’d be reluctant to go back to Dortmund for the 592nd time but watch this space I guess. There’ll almost certainly be a World Cup adventure in 2026 given that the USA are one of the host countries!

Anyway, time to wrap this up! Next time on the blog? No idea! Haha.

Stay tuned!

Jason

Thanks for the memories Spurs but it’s a goodbye from me..

Count yourself lucky maybe. It’s no secret that I’m a big, big Tottenham Hotspur supporter but it isn’t often I specifically post about football on here. Today’s the exception.

My rants on football elsewhere are “legendary” of course. Myspace, Facebook, Tumblr and other platforms over the years have seen many a tirade at the expense of football or Tottenham Hotspur – let’s be honest, it’s usually both!

Football is so, so important to me. I reject any claim that it is only a game. Football and Spurs in particular are such a big part of who I am, I can’t overstate just how significant an impact that football has had on my life.

I’ve always been quiet and reserved. As a kid I was very much a shy individual who never felt like he really fit in anywhere and some of those insecurities still remain as an adult. I’m much less shy than I was as a child but I’m still introverted and I still question where I fit in. What relevance or importance does my life really have? Do I matter? Do people really care or is it closer to pity?

FYI – no need to panic here, I’ve got quite good at reassuring myself of my presence in the world when I have those doubts but it’s just a small insight in to the person behind the post / blog.

As someone who considered himself an outsider or a misfit, football became an environment where I felt comfortable and found some sort of belonging. I discovered a world and a community in which the most important thing was your love for the game.

That’s not to say football is entirely inclusive and without discrimination but to me it always felt like people cared less about who you were and more for “who” you were. The moment of truth.. “who do you support?”

“Tottenham”

“Ugh.. why? They’re shit!”

As a North Londoner it was a no brainer. Additionally with a Spurs supporting dad it was a no brainer. That was my club, it was in my blood. I couldn’t understand it when I moved to Peterborough why so many people claimed to support teams they had no connection to.

I immersed myself in to all things football growing up. From playing football on the tennis courts to swapping football stickers in the playground, I was obsessed with every aspect of the game.

That passion has evolved countless times over the years and football has undoubtedly been one of the biggest influences on my life. It has strengthened bonds and relationships, it has helped me make and maintain friendships and I’ve watched football in more than ten countries now.

The reality is that if you have any interest in football, we’re much more likely to get along because it’s something I’m comfortable talking about. It’s my easy “small talk” go-to. Travel of course would be another but it doesn’t quite match up to what football has given me.

Some of the highs (and lows) I’ve experienced because of football are unrivaled and I’m not sure I could ever replicate those euphoric moments where it just switches in a second. That night in Amsterdam is one that will live with me forever and there are no words that could ever do it justice.

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Amsterdam, May 8th 2019

So it’s painfully heartbreaking to say, I’m done.

I knew there would come a day where I’d end up packing it in but not like this! Events in the last 24 hours have seriously tested any ties I have left with Tottenham. The club have put me through every emotion over my 32 years on this planet from the most incredible highs to the most gutwrenching lows. I’ve been embarrassed and angry more times than I care to remember but I’ve never been this angry, I’ve never been this embarrassed to be associated with this football club.

Late last night Tottenham announced themselves as founding members of a new “European Super League”. Proudly declaring themselves as footballing royalty! One of the 15 super clubs of Europe who’ll sit perched at the top of the game for eternity.

A competition exclusive to the self-proclaimed best of the best – qualifying on name and reputation alone, opposed to any sporting merit.

It’s disgusting, disgraceful, arrogant, selfish, elitist, self-serving, plus a million other terms I could use and so out of touch with football supporters in this country. So disrespectful to 150 years of football and history in this country.

Self-proclaimed “super-club” – are you taking the fucking piss!?

Twelve football clubs among the tens of thousands playing across the entirety of Europe have decided that they have the divine right to be at the top of the pyramid and have put every measure in place to ensure they remain there. Twelve football clubs!

Let’s completely overlook the existing disparity in the game that already makes it a monopoly in favour of these arrogant football clubs, they want to widen that gap without any consideration to sporting achievements and what happens on the pitch?

The arrogance is astounding and this includes MY football club? Anger doesn’t go far enough. I didn’t sleep last night. I can’t fathom how anyone can lack the empathy for anyone else in football (or society for that matter). It’s so incredibly self-serving and selfish! This is what’s best for Tottenham Hotspur, to hell with the rest!

For what it’s worth, I don’t think these plans will actually materialise. There will be so much opposition from footballing authorities, football fans, individuals within the game and the government that I truly believe it will fall flat on its face but the intent is damning enough. The intent to fuck over the rest of football and the countless communities that rely so heavily on their local football club – wow, hang your head in shame Spurs..

I’ve suffered a lot of the greed in football over the last 15-20 years but this is just one step too far. It defies everything I believe in and I genuinely struggled sleeping last night as I pondered over and over about exactly how despicable and disgraceful this is.

The romance of the game is that anyone, theoretically, has the opportunity to compete and succeed. Realistically that isn’t actually accurate and there is a disparity between the biggest football clubs and those further down the pyramid but theoretically, if you overcome those stumbling blocks you reap the rewards. Ultimately there’s an integrity to the sport that your success is defined by what you do out on the pitch and you earn your place.

Proposals for that to change to monopolise the game in favour of the self-proclaimed royalty of football is something I just can’t accept. It’s immoral, it’s selfish and for the umpteenth time I’m just so angry and incredibly embarrassed to hold any association with Spurs right now.

I can’t picture my life without football but it’s time for me relinquish the season ticket and bow out. I refuse to support a club that has no care for anyone but themselves. Football without its fans and communities is NOTHING.

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My sincere hope is these football clubs are sufficiently punished and humbled. Additionally I hope these owners are run out of football.

I’m so thankful for the memories I’ve had following Spurs but, for the short-term at least, it’s a goodbye from me!

A sincerely heartbroken and lifelong Tottenham supporter,

Jason

P.S – it’ll be back to travel next time on the blog

Düsseldorf – November 2017

Welcome back dear readers! Last time out on the blog I kicked off the first part of a four day trip to Germany. My beloved Spurs were playing out in West Germany AGAIN, specifically in Dortmund which I had no desire to stay in.

The obvious alternatives in the region would have been to stay in Köln or Düsseldorf. I’d been to Cologne in 2013 and twice in 2016 so wasn’t interested in a fourth visit quite so soon. By contrast I’d yet to visit Düsseldorf but for some reason I just didn’t really fancy it. I think I just wanted to get away from the region.

So I decided to go to Bremen. It was cheap to visit (one of my flights was £4.99!), a new city and a little bit away from that pocket of West Germany I’d frequented so many times now. Saturday to Wednesday – booked – perfect!

The game in Dortmund was on the Tuesday but it left me with Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday to explore and enjoy Bremen! However after booking my flights I discovered there were no Tuesday night trains from Dortmund to Bremen, potentially leaving me stranded in Dortmund on Tuesday evening.

It scuppered my plans a little so I compromised and cut my time in Bremen in half. I’d fly in to Bremen, spend two nights in the city, spend two nights in Düsseldorf (with a trip to Dortmund) and then travel back to Bremen to fly home on Wednesday night.

You heard how the first half of the trip went here so here’s how I got on in the second half of the trip!

I’d had a bit of a lazy (Monday) morning in Bremen but soon enough was at the Hauptbahnhof to catch the train to Düsseldorf which if I remember correctly took about 3 hours or so, a bit of a journey so I just admired the views on route.

I got in to Düsseldorf at about 3-3:30pm and my first task was to find my hotel which I’d conveniently made sure was close to the train station. I exited the train station and did my best to locate it. It took a little longer than it probably should have done but with the help of Google Maps I found it and walked back IN to the train station. My hotel was IN the train station!

It’s certainly a first for me but I hurdled the various commuters and waiting passengers and slipped in to this door that took me in to the Ibis Hauptbahnhof hotel. I’d booked it for its location assuming it was close to the train station but hadn’t anticipated it being THIS close. Certainly convenient though!

After checking in and dropping off my things I arranged to meet up with my friend Daniel who was also in town for the football. It was about 4-4:30 by this point so we wandered over to the Altstadt area of the city in the hope of finding somewhere to grab a drink and some food at some point.

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First night in Dusseldorf

Unlike many other ‘old towns’ around Europe, Düsseldorf’s seemed to be little more than restaurants and bars. Admittedly we were looking for nightlife so it was ideal for us but it seemed to lack that old town, cultural feel that many other European cities have within their old part of the city.

Nevertheless it was beginning to pour with rain so we jumped in to one of the first bars we came across and ordered ourselves one of the staples of the region – Altbier! For those unfamiliar with altbier (old beer) I’ll leave Wikipedia to explain it far better than I possibly can but simply put, the biggest difference seems to be in how it is fermented (top-fermented rather than bottom).

It doesn’t seem to be particularly popular outside of West Germany but “when in Rome Düsseldorf..” we had to try it. It was good. I can’t really say the rest of the world is missing out on anything spectacular but it was a nice little novelty. Altbier seemed to be this bar’s speciality so we moved on to elsewhere after one pint and got back to the modern beer I guess?

After a couple more beers Daniel wisely suggested going to get some food and offered “Schweine Jane’s” as an option as he was keen to try their pork knuckle which are supposedly some of the best around. It’s quite a small place but has a few tables inside or a takeaway option which we opted for. Daniel enjoyed the pork knuckles and suggested they lived up to the place’s reputation, I played a little safe and went for some Currywurst with chips which was equally enjoyable.

Stomachs fuller, we decided to seek out another bar to end our evening with a couple of beers. The Old Town is lined with what arguably felt a bit like a “strip” of bars, it’d make a cracking place for a bar crawl but for whatever reason on this particular evening Düsseldorf was dead. The wet weather probably didn’t help but the city felt a little lifeless. I would love to go back to Düsseldorf and see the contrast in the summer. I imagine it is a great place for nightlife on warmer nights.

However without such luxuries we settled on getting a beer at this small bar which had a scattering of Spurs fans creating a little atmosphere. It dwindled and died down quite quickly so we called it a night. I’m convinced Düsseldorf would be a great night out but unfortunately we saw little sign of it. We called it a night and went our seperate ways in search of our hotels – simple for me – follow the signs to the train station!

Dusseldorf
Miserable Dusseldorf

I’d so far only really experienced Düsseldorf after dark (being Winter, even 4pm onwards was dark) so I was keen to make the most of my Tuesday morning and explore. The football wasn’t until Tuesday evening so we didn’t have to make a move towards Dortmund particularly early in the day. We gave ourselves the morning to explore a gloomy and miserable city and arranged to meet up early afternoon.

My first stop was a small market in the Altstadt, I’d assume it’s busier at a weekend opposed to a wet Tuesday morning in the winter but it was pretty lifeless. Given I was already in the Altstadt I wandered down towards the Rhein river which has a nice little promenade but wasn’t the best day weather-wise to really enjoy it.

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Back of the Christmas markets

It’s here you’ll find the Christmas markets, unfortunately I was here in mid-November so they were in the process of setting them up but I was a week too early to actually enjoy them. Pretty to look at but not open for business. A bit of a shame.

From the river you can see the Rheinturm (Rhein tower) which is possibly “the landmark” of Düsseldorf. I debated going up it but it was a foggy and grey day so didn’t seem worthwhile – I wouldn’t have seen anything up there.

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Rheinturm hiding in the fog

I strolled through the Altstadt, parts of it are certainly pretty but as I said, it’s largely full of bars, restaurants and a few shops so nothing particularly noteworthy seeing. By the time I’d stumbled upon some of the museums in the city it was nearing lunchtime so didn’t really seem worthwhile going in to as I was a little short on time. I found a couple of religious buildings to walk around before grabbing some lunch.

Following on from lunch I met up with Daniel at the train station and we got on the next train to Dortmund. I’ve spoken of my fondness of German football many times and here’s an example of where they’re getting things right. If you’re a match ticket holder you get free public transport in the region on the day of the game so we didn’t have to worry about paying to get to Dortmund (we would have from either Bremen or Cologne).

March 2016’s trip to Dortmund had seen our fans take over the Altmarkt square in Dortmund with thousands of our fans basking in the sunshine with plenty of beers. This time around the square was home to Dortmund’s Christmas markets (not open yet) so there was much less space for our fans to congregate – additionally it was a miserable Winter’s day so our fans were largely spread across several different bars in the city so the atmosphere wasn’t quite the same compared to our last trip to Dortmund.

However in contrast, we were dreadful on the pitch last time we were here. Borussia Dortmund taught us a footballing lesson as they strolled to a 3-0 win and their fans completely drowned ours out. Our fans stuck with the team but we just couldn’t get any atmosphere going as Dortmund’s 81,000 capacity crowd were too noisy. Result aside, this was the Dortmund bucketlist moment ticked off – experiencing Dortmund’s famous atmosphere in the flesh!

Fast forward to November 2017 and Spurs had improved a lot on the pitch – I spoke about our impressive performance in Madrid here but Spurs maturity in Germany perhaps really came to fruition here. Dortmund took an early lead and you perhaps fear a repeat performance in that moment but the players stood up!

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Borussia Dortmund v Tottenham Hotspur, Nov 2017

The second half was just a joy to watch from us, not just in the result itself but the manner of it. It was such an assured and controlled performance in one of Europe’s most intimidating stadiums. We equalised and soon enough went 2-1 up to send our fans delirious.

The atmosphere had been a little tame in the city throughout the day but our fans were excellent inside the stadium and silenced the famous “Yellow Wall” of Dortmund. I’ve spoken so many times of my love for European football and feeling those “pinch me” moments in the past few years but this was it, this was the first time I’d seen Spurs win away in Europe in the flesh – on a big night in the Champions League away to Borussia Dortmund having gone 1-0 down – PINCH ME!

I walked out of the stadium feeling so proud, as I had done a month earlier in Madrid. Tottenham weren’t just playing at this level, they looked like they belonged at this level. How has this happened?

The train back to Düsseldorf was full of Spurs fans and there was such a buzz, everyone was on a high after watching that. Sadly the train journey back was a complete mess, delays and problems and whatever else. It was about 3am by the time we eventually got back to Düsseldorf which was well behind schedule. Fortunately the journey back to my accommodation was shorter than most! I didn’t even have to leave the station! Haha.

On Wednesday morning I had two options – explore Düsseldorf for a few hours and then get a train back to Bremen or get a train back to Bremen and then explore Bremen for a few hours.

In all honesty, my decision might have been different had I been staying somewhere else but already being at the train station made it an easier decision to just catch a train straight away.

Overall though I just didn’t really click with Düsseldorf, it’s somewhere I’d like to go back to and experience properly. A day and a half with half of that spent in Dortmund didn’t give me particularly long to maximise my time in the city and the miserable weather didn’t help either. I also think mid November is probably the worst time to be there. Either go in the warmer months or go towards the end of November / December and at least get the benefit of the Christmas markets which I missed out on. I’m willing to give Düsseldorf another shot but I didn’t feel any particular sadness in leaving.

I got back to Bremen a few hours later and the noticeable difference in just a couple of days was that the city was starting to get in to the festive mood with various Christmas markets in the process of being set up – sadly not open for business – starting to see a pattern here?

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Back in charming Bremen

Despite the fact they weren’t actually open for business it made Bremen, an already charming city, feel that little bit more magical. Pretty Christmas markets, festive decorations and a beautiful old town made for a perfect mix. My only disappointment was that I wasn’t going to experience a truly Christmas-y Bremen.

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Weihnachtsparadies – Christmas paradise!

After wandering for a bit I went in search of dinner, my last meal in Germany for a while. I typically found myself a place to get some delicious schnitzel accompanied with a big German beer – a perfect final meal of the trip.

Following on from dinner I strolled along the river and was just swooning over the city, not helped by the beautiful sight of the sun going down over the city. I’d seen so little sunshine in my five days in Germany and this sight just made me all the sadder to be saying goodbye to Bremen. Five years earlier I couldn’t have envisaged visiting Germany and here I was smitten with another German city I could easily have seen myself living in.

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Sun going down over Bremen

I had one last wander through the old town in admiration of the city. I still had a little time to kill so popped in to a bar by my nearest tram stop – a surprising Spanish-inspired place in the heart of the old town. After one beer I called it a night, time was up, time to go back to the airport.

I needn’t have rushed to the airport. I was the first one here, staff included! “Hello?”

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Empty Bremen airport!

Seriously, where the hell is everyone? I am flying tonight right? It was eerie with nobody around. There’s not much to do in or out of the airport so I had little choice but to wait and hope somebody would eventually turn up. One by one equally confused passengers would turn up and join me in twiddling our thumbs.

Eventually the airport and airline staff kindly turned up to allow us to pass through security. As one of the first through security I figured I’d grab myself a beer, albeit had to wait for the staff to actually open up the shop. Without doubt a unique situation for me but perhaps it’s more common than I realise in airports / terminals of this size, I’m assuming we were the only flight of the evening.

Once up and running it was quite smooth and an uneventful journey home so that wraps up another European trip in a busy busy 2017! I did squeeze in one last trip in to the year – a Hogmanay trip to Edinburgh!

However it seems I don’t have access to photos for that trip here in the US to actually put a blog post together so that story will have to wait for another time. Next up on the blog? My second trip to Washington State! Stay tuned!

Jason