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  1. This is a piece that has been penned with a view to publication in Scottish football periodical Nutmeg No.16 in the summer about my friend Fabian Yantorno. The mere mention of the word Uruguay in a footballing context might still send shivers down the spine of Scotland fans of a certain age. The scars following the clash between the two nations at the World Cup in 1986 in Mexico live long in the memory, as well as with those immortal words of the late, great Hugh McIlvanney “These Uruguayans are coming in with awfully high tackles Jock”. It was an understated analysis of the hardman Garra t
  2. I have had the pleasure of bringing more than a dozen towns, cities and regions of Italy to life for Football Weekends and only once from Serie A when newly promoted SPAL rumbled into the top flight. My world is more the characterful under card of Serie B, C and D, and writing a piece about Como has been high on my “must do list” for a long time, as it was on the banks of this beautiful lake where my love for Italy started way back in July 1982! I was on holiday with my parents in Como the night Italy beat West Germany in the Bernabeu, Madrid to be crowned World Cup winners for the first time
  3. I guess the Austro-Hungrian and Ottoman Empires both helped the displacement of people throughout the Eastern side of Europe in particular with Bosnia, Macedonia, Romania to name just three who have significant ethnic populations. I had certainly experienced morsels of such in Trieste, with its dual language status for Slovenian and Italian, but in Italy’s most Easterly outpost, it still felt distinctly Italian, with their language and the cuisine the dominant partner, albeit in a more Austrian feeling architectural setting. Rijecka, who played a European tie at Aberdeen at the start of the se
  4. I have rarely ventured to the famous parthenons of World football, although I have gradually ticked a number of them off, albeit on a tortoise timescale. Occasional big gigs have been drip fed onto my stadia CV over a forty plus year passage of time! The Azteca in Mexico City and Racing Club’s Il Cilindro in Avellaneda run the Centenario in Montevideo close as my favourite, but It took the first ever Kazakh club side to play in England to get me eager to head to Old Trafford to notch up only my fourth “big” English club stadium after Anfield, Hillsborough and St James Park. I guess it makes me
  5. Click to view slideshow. I am sure when you hear the name Monza in sporting chat, unless you are a Formula One guru, you’ll switch off! The town just slightly north of Milan is synonymous with the race car scene, so fire up the guitar solo from Fleetwood Mac’s, The Chain, but while Monza might be the home to the Italian Grand Prix, there is also a football team too, and they might just be on the cusp of the clubs grandest days! AC Monza are the football option in the town that have been up to this point, in various guises, solidly and reliably playing well under the radar to anyone outside It
  6. Click to view slideshow. As Henley the Scrounger said to the poorly sighted Colin the Forger, “twenty minutes over this ridge, next stop Switzerland” !! Buckle up, we are off to the land of clocks, chocolate, cheese and Calcio Swiss style! I am sure when readers are planning a trip there is always a desire to collect information on all available fixtures within a given travel distance of your chosen base ahead of making the finalised plan. It is always a little more of an allure if that plan includes a cross-border game! That was exactly my situation when contemplating the options for an earl
  7. To celebrate Football Weekends 50th edition next month, Jim the editor asked me to nominate three of my favourite “old school” stadiums there. Having been at 40 Italian grounds I am undoubtedly qualified to make such a call, and it was quite entertaining coming up with my choices, which I guess true to form are quite eclectic! This is a relatively short piece as it will be incorporated into a much larger Pan European article in the November edition of the magazine, but ahead of publication, here are my picks Click to view slideshow. Largely the Italian stadiums are either modern, similar in s
  8. Click to view slideshow. The first competitive home game of the season is always worthy of getting out the bunting, especially when the visitors are from relatively close by. This was the lure for my Italian friend Stefano from Ancona and I as it took us to Great Grimsby, or Cleethorpes if you want to get picky, as Grimsby Town play in the neighbours backyard so to speak! The town is prefixed by Great to distinguish itself from Little Grimsby a little further down the road, but as we were to discover it felt like an ironic title. The “by” at the end of any town or city in this country sign
  9. Working on the assumption that Aberdeen nibble by Chikhura Sachkhere tomorrow night, this piece will be submitted to The Reds programme on Friday for use in the Europa League Third Round second leg versus Croatian visitors, HNK Rijeka, otherwise brown paper bags all round! Having been at three European games in Luxembourg, it would be great to enjoy more than one here! I am still gutted at being denied my first Partizan Beograd viewing. With HNK Rijeka having twice been an opponent in recent seasons, it is maybe from variety’s perspective a good thing that Fola Esch lost out to Chikhura, or i
  10. This is a relatively short piece I have put together for the Aberdeen match programme when they welcome Georgian side Chikhura Sachkhere on Thursday 1st August having already played the first leg in Georgia. For those who ventured out to Georgia for the first leg, I am hopeful that they will have returned full of tales as to just how wonderful Tbilisi is, as well as how friendly the Georgian people are too! Georgia is one of the best kept secrets of Europe, a truly diverse gem of a country, from the amazing beach resort of Batumi, through the mountainous beauty of Svaneti, Kakheti and Tusheti
  11. A skip through South West Luxembourg, the hotbed of Grand Duchy football, whilst enjoying a trio of European ties. Click to view slideshow. The day before the First Round of the European Draws were made in Switzerland for the 2019/20 season I decided that given the Edinburgh sides had let me down, I’d head overseas to catch a game. Perusal of the teams going into the hat brought Luxembourg to mind, as oddly the relatively small town of Esch-Sur- Alzette was providing two sides to the Europa League, so I reasoned one must surely be drawn home in the first leg. Having only been in the
  12. Click to view slideshow. If you have ever seen Roberto Benigni’s film, Life is Beautiful, the funny first half of the movie is set in Arezzo, a real gem of Southern Tuscany. It is a wonderful region of Italy, perhaps the most famous, and also the most visited in its entirety. Yes, Firenze and the Torre Pendiente in Pisa are the main attractions, but Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca as well as my destination for my last game of the season, Arezzo, they are all “classic” Tuscan towns. Three of the aforementioned towns were involved in the protracted, but increasingly popular 28 team Serie
  13. The six venues chosen for this summer’s U21 European Championships in Italy is a curious mix, strandling two countries too! The North East pairing of the Friulian cities of Udine and Trieste are quite a distance from the other four. Reggio Emilia and Bologna form the “central” pairing, but it is the appointment of fourth tier stadiums at Cesena and San Marino, acting as the “southern” venues that might have been the surprise picks! Part of this article was penned for Football Weekends embellished with anecdotes of my travels to the latter duo for football. CESENA Had Cesena (pronoun
  14. Click to view slideshow. It is often said that a game under the lights adds a certain extra special element to the experience. This is a cliche trotted out at a variety of venues, along with the notion European nights are even better. Whether any such thoughts are even vaguely true would require experience of both at any given stadium to know for sure. I consider myself very lucky to have watched as much football in so many corners of the globe as I have, but the volume of different grounds would have been double the 250+ if it wasn’t for my support attaching to certain clubs away from my
  15. Click to view slideshow. As Michael Palin’s Ripping Yarn “Tomkinson School Days” begins, “training for the hop was a nightmare”, and sitting having a look at the roster of games, as well as plotting routes between the venues, the idea of six games in 41 hours including four games in a day was simply terrifying! I love my football, and while I had done three games in a day twice, four seemed daunting. Following last year’s hop which was weather hampered and reduced to four jousts, with just three on the Saturday, good sense prevailed in delaying this seasons diet by two weeks. It certainly
  16. Click to view slideshow. This article has been penned with a view to appearing in the Football Weekends magazine in August or September, hence the reference to last season when the dust has yet to settle on the present one! History was made at the end of the last Scottish season with a Highland League club stepping into the league for the very first time through league effort, and as the 19/20 campaign gets underway Aberdeen will join the rest of Scotland’s big cities with two clubs. Cove Bay is a small coastal satellite town (population, 7,000) but the clubs new Balmoral stadium is
  17. There are certain badges of honour in my world, the most important remains the absence of the USA on my 51 country travel CV. Another is borne of a longstanding fascination with the old DDR, East Germany, and a desire to watch football only in this part of the unified land! It all started in the mid ‘70’s when Lokomotive Leipzig were involved in my first ever European match at Tynecastle versus Hearts, and what a night that was, with Hearts 4,2 down from the first leg, and conceding first in Edinburgh, only to storm back and win! No other European match has come close to that drama when I have
  18. Click to view slideshow. The passion of football in a number of countries is all part of the rich tapestry of the game in these lands. The commercial orchestration of the larger European leagues has taken something away from the fan versus the action, sanitising it all taking the games ultimate colour away in the process. Nowhere has managed to retain its passion in the stands as well as Argentina. The lunatic fringe may have brought national disgrace when the second leg of the Copa Libertadores Super Clasico final between River Plate and Boca Juniors ended up being played in Madrid
  19. If you say the name Shay, the majority of “Sports” fans will assume you are talking about a famous baseball field on the other side of the pond! For the true football romantic, and supporters in the UK especially it can only be the home of FC Halifax Town. The Shay is a wonderful traditional football arena, in the truest sense of the word, it’s a proper football stadium where you can almost smell the grease paint, catch the faint whiff of a pie (They come complete with mushy peas here!), and the mighty thwack of boot to ball, all standing up, if you so wish!! The modern main East stand ma
  20. Last year’s World Cup in Russia was a wonderful event. It may have surprised a lot of onlookers, but those who ventured to the largest country on the planet returned home with glowing testimony. The cynical still refused to accept that Russia could so wonderfully organise the event, endeavouring to pour scorn on the positives with suggestions it was merely an elaborate stunt! I have been very fortunate in life, to travel extensively and indulge my passion for football at the same time. Despite the constant lure of Italy that has maybe accounted for around 50 trips alone, June 2018 and the
  21. Click to view slideshow. The capital of Uruguay is without doubt a hotbed of football. Indeed, given it hosted the first ever World Cup in 1930 single handed, its passion for the beautiful game has never diminished! The iconic Centenario Stadium, built for that tournament is coined as “the home of football” has FIFA heritage status, coupled with a fantastic museum within its walls, taking you back in time. Despite a population of only just over 3 million people, by South American standards Uruguay is a very small country, by area size too, but on the International football scene it is a n
  22. Click to view slideshow. The heading to this article will see smoke billowing out of any ardent Vicenza fans ears! But if they were honest, they have to be thankful for the owner of the team from Bassano del Grappa for keeping the “il biancorossi” in the third tier this term. This modern story is yet another classic Oliver Hardy tie fumbling moment of “another fine mess”, and it’s such a real shame to have fallen upon the oldest club in Veneto. Last season Vicenza were really struggling in the third division, and they fell into administration. They continued to play and avoided any u
  23. Click to view slideshow. Veneto is one of the most visited regions of Italy with the lure of Venetian canal splendours and Veronese balconies being the main draw. The more adventurous travellers will doubtlessly have a look at Padova too given its proximity to Venezia with it’s beautiful piazza’s and slightly less manic tourism, but equidistant between Verona and Padova on the main Milan to Trieste railway line is Vicenza, which is a real gem of a city. Here is the home of Andrea Palladio, a great architect of yesteryear, and like Gaudi in Barcelona, his mark has been left all over t
  24. Click to view slideshow. Readers of a certain vintage will perhaps recall the UEFA Cup Final of 1981, when Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town defeated AZ’67 their Dutch opponents, 5-4 on aggregate, complete with Dutchmen Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen in the Portman Road side. By modern day standards it was perhaps an unusual double act for a European final, but in the days before excessively seeded draws, coefficients and big money made the route for the lesser clubs to a final more protracted, the European competitions, especially the UEFA and Cup Winners Cup finals, did throw up a curve bal
  25. Click to view slideshow. Every time I see the words “The North”, it brings back memories of a great Argentine friend of mine who had flown into Britain for the first time, lured here by Monty Python’s re-union at the 02 in London! Post the “bleedin’ demise” of that entertaining gig, the next day we set off on the drive to Scotland and as we hit the M1 just outside the capital, one the first signs he clapped his eyes on said “The North”, and every time subsequently he saw these words, he’d repeat them in a Pythonesque fashion and laugh!! I am sure the controversial columnist Julie
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