After 35,808 hours (or 4 years, 1 month, 1 day), we were back in Europe.
This was the first time since we bowed out in Cyprus in 2019 (in a right state I might add) in what was looking like our last ever tour.
However, lucky for some; tour 13 eventually kicked off in Oostzaan, just outside Amsterdam in The Netherlands. The three-time aborted tour, due to the pandemic, was finally happening.
However, if we roll back a day, this saw Gourlay, Dixon and Tim (yes he did turn up) arrive in Amsterdam in the afternoon, while debutantes, John Harper, Mark McShane with myself (Sangha) arrived in the evening. Luckily, the weather was exceptionally hot, so the late comers hurriedly made their way to join the early three, doing our standard pre-match tactical analysis in various bars and smelling various fumes while doing a bit of window shopping in the Red Light District.
It seemed a long day and Dixon was next level maniacal, as we were tempted to take his boots and shoelaces off him just in case. Dixon is the king of one liners, but his state saw him rattling off twenty years of them one after another in around 15 minutes. Gourlay was hitting the heights as well, having spent around 95% of his money in three hours.
The next day was match day and Gourlay was a bit tender, as he was heaving due to his Greggs kicking in. He barely got past two stops in the tram, before heading back and long before getting into any boat trip (which he organised).
The relaxing afternoon saw us more than ready for the opening game against our gracious hosts, OFC Oostzaan, located north of Amsterdam. We UBER'd it there (and to all the games). We seemed to be evenly matched, but struggled with marking during the first game, as well as simple pressure on the opponents. This was probably to do with being fully loaded for the last 24 to 34 hours. Tim headed the balls as if he was heading a rolled up porcupine and Chris "Taibi" Dixon in goal flapped away. I lost my marker plenty of times but got away with it. McShane, Harper and Gourlay struggled to get in the game fully, but the performance wasn't too bad as we succumbed to two late goals in a 2-0 defeat.
Second game saw us a bit more prepared and probably a bit too quickly prepared. We played really well to rapidly head three goals up, with Gillespie, Gourlay and McShane hitting the target. However energy was sapped in the heat, combined with Digga's flap, due to his hallucinations, and Macca ready to chin Gourlay (add him to a long list). We were really disappointed and deflated to let a three goal lead go and concede five in return.
Afterwards we were hosted in their clubhouse area, but soon trudged off dejected, but grateful to our welcoming hosts. The game was kindly organised by Bauke Krijgsman and we're grateful to him and his excellent team.
Game 2 was to take place in the picturesque Dutch village of Broek in Waterland. We spent pre-match with an early start in the centre, with a bit of food, washed down in a deluge in the afternoon (that's not a euphemism for drink). It wasn't cold, but hurtled it down. All that recycling bollocks comes to a head when your paper bags with gifts get soaked.
This meant we were a bit more sober for the next game but we were struggling fitness wise. Leo Boon was added to our team from our hosts, SV SDOB, on a massive pitch, as they usually play 7-a-side. However, we conceded early, but then headed 2-1 up, with Leo Boon scoring first, then Harper put his opponent "clean on his backside" to add the second. We conceded again, but then raced clear with two goals from Gourlay and McShane (from a tight angle) to make it 4-2 and our first win on tour.
Second game was actually 0-0 for a while before SV SDOB scored and then quickly added three more with another flap from Dixon, still apparently seeing ghost balls. We did have chances in all games, but were probably a little bit off the pace - no doubt thinking about a nice cup of coffee later on.
We had a drink after in the clubhouse, and enjoyed the hospitality of our hosts. The tour was ruined again by Gourlay nearly losing his phone and then forgetting his scarf, kindly given to all the team by the SV SDOB team (I've got his scarf). The game was organised by Jorrit Verweij, and we offer our thanks to him and his team for the excellent hospitality. Both sides we played were great and welcoming and we appreciate it greatly.
Not much else to comment on. The last night saw most out and about, but not for long as we had an early ride to the airport. Dixon and Gourlay travelled later, only to be welcomed into Newcastle with an emergency landing - nice. They made it back in one piece though, ready for Sweden in 2024.
From a technical point of view, the stand out takeaway from the tour is that if going for a "no 2" always take a wet wipe and 20 Euros - just in case.
Sweden in 2024
We're making early plans to head out to Stockholm in Sweden in May or June 2024.
The cheaper flights are from Edinburgh, so it's likely we'll get the train up to Edinburgh, shared transport from there to the airport and then a direct flight to Stockholm. Similar on the way back.
We always hear 101 people saying they'll be coming, but it usually whittles down to 6 or 7 by the time money needs to be transferred. The process will be:
- Choose flight dates.
- Find opponents.
- Pre-book hotel.
- Book flights individually.
- Plan train or travel options to Edinburgh.
- Find a sponsor or self sponsor our kits.
Anyone who wishes to join after all these will have to arrange their own hotel in addition to what we have.