Monday, 4 August 2008

From strength to strength

go our tours. But this one was really special. As they all have been, mind.
We returned to Tallinn to take on our good friends from JK Jalgpallihaigla; and then ventured over to Finland for the day, two dats later, to have a run out against the fans from HJK Helsinki.

Old aquaintances met, and fresh friendships forged. What more can you want in life?
If the matches against the likes of Kingstonian, Bromley, Welling & co. are our 'bread and butter' staple diet of Supporters' Team football them weekends away like this one is when we feast out on a food hamper from Harrods.

If you're expecting a blow by blow account of the two matches we played then look away now. The following posts aren't really about the football, though the games will feature. For the two encounters were only the glue that bonded the time away together. It's not just about the football. But the cameraderie, the meeting of friends, and making new ones. Spreading the word of our small, albeit historic, Football Club, who we support, and without whom we would not be playing together at all.

And being humbled by welcomes on foreign shores, that almost embarrass us by the warmth shown to us as strangers, but which will not be forgotten for a long, long time, and the glow of contentment from meeting such great people in both countries will warm the old cockles as we struggle in the mud of Belair Park come the wintry mornings of December & January!

So read on, as I take you through our summer tour of 2008!

Before I embarrass myself

with my bog standard 'digital box brownie' efforts that I try to kid myself are a half decent photographic record of our latest foreign foray, I am truly grateful for both the Estonians and the Finns for having a decent photographic record of our matches.

These are from the 7-1 defeat against JK Jalgpallihaigla:

Click HERE

With the team photo HERE

There was also a match report on their website, unfortunately for us but not surprisingly, in HERE if you want to look at it.

And from over the 'Channel', or whatever the stretch of water it is between Tallinn & Helsinki, we are lucky to be able to show you lots of photos from the HJK Helsinki
Supporters' website:

There are some from our 1-1 draw with their fans HERE

After match socialising in their local bar, Pub Fidel, HERE
Snaps I'm extremely grateful for, as I clumsily accidentally deleted all of mine from here, and the tour of their Trophy Room, at the big stadium, in error, the day after.

And finally some more from the 'big boys' match in the evening, when HJK Helsinki demolished the visitors 4-0 HERE

And finally a link to the official website of the Finnish First Division, where our Supporters' game got a mention HERE!

As with our previous tours

We are organised, in an 'independent' sort of way, if I were putting it politely. Truth is we're not known as 'The Rabblers' for nothing, and we make our way across the Channel in dribs and drabs, hoepfully all meeting up in time for our football, or not, as the case may be. Sometimes people manage to make it to foreign climes, but are still mysteriously absent from the football, as happened to Paul Griffin not once, but twice, in Belgium in the past. In 2005 he appeared at the ground in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of Liege, appearing out of the woods, halfway through the RFC Liege tournament. And a year later he got as far as Namur, but failed to get to the ground at CS Onhaye at all! But I digress..this is about 2008!

I was fortunate enough to be in the 'advance party' that arrived on the Wednesday, fortunate in that we saw not one but two football matches that evening. First up was no less than a European Champions League qualifier between Levadia Tallinn & Drogheda United, from the Republic of Ireland. The Irish were two one up from the home leg, which left the tie delicately poised with an 'away goal' for the Estonians. If you're unsure how an away goal works just ask Larry Marsh for an 'Oirish' explanation! Or maybe not...
Anyway a few of us went along to this match, which was enjoyable enough to watch, and it was Irish eyes that were smiling, with a one nil victory, an 'away goal' no less, to clinch the tie three one on aggregate.

This was followed by a dash to meet us with some of the others, who had been sampling the local ales, so to speak, as we went to the small ground next to the National Statium, where are opponents JK Jalgpallihaigla, from the fourth division, had an Estonian FA Cup match away to FC Elva, from the second division. Despite clearly being second best, they had a number of chances. and i thought did themselves proud in only going down by the odd goal in three.
There's a match report-again in Estonian-from their website HERE

Time now for my first photos of the trip...I warn you now there are a lot of them, so sit back and enjoy, or simply log off now! ;-)

This was the old scoreboard, at halftime, in the Kadriogu Stadium.

We were at the far end of this stand, furthest from where I
took this.

The Irish had about 150 fans with them, plenty of colours,
this was my 'pick' of their flags.

This local girl kindly posed for me, a snap for the majority of
our squad who have an eye for the ladies!

And here is the 'Rabblers' contingent at the match!

And so onto the less salubrious setting of the Sportland Arena!
Jalgpallihaigla are in the green.

Open seats, right in the shadow, literally, of the National

And here are some of our lot, supporting Jalgpallihaigla

With Shaun Dooley, on his first ever tour, setting the scene
for his weekend, as he meant it to go on! ;-)

This poor girl was subject to a lot of his chat up lines,
which didn't seem to have much effect, I hope her
English wasn't too good, as I can't repeat some of
his choicer ones here on a 'family' site! ;-)

But spare a thought for absent friends

Not just those who couldn't find the time away from work, or families, to travel with us, but those who DID but erm, didn't!

First up, probably the unluckiest man in the squad Ian Gannon.

He broke his foot a month before we were due to travel, and was thus ruled out of a run out. But he'd booked his flight, paid for the hotel, and was planning a nice break away with his kids & sister in law. Broken foot, new customised boots bought for the trip, and then injured. What else could go wrong?
Erm, on getting to the airport there was a problem with his young daughters passport documents. So his older boy travelled on with his sister in law, and he would fly out with his girl the next day. A hiccup that could easily be overcome. Except that the very next day the Passport Office were beginning a three day strike, so trip cancelled for him. So Ian still remains a 'tour virgin'!

And what about Matt Hammond?

He was looking forward to another tour, having been on a number of the previous ones, including our first trip abroad, to Amsterdam, back in May 2002. But unlike Ian he never even got as far as the airport! He spent the entire twenty four hours before his flight searching in vain for his passport, and turned his house upside down in the process! Apparently he gave up searching at just before four in the morning, a few hours before his flight!

Whilst we might all smile at their 'misfortune' I was genuinely sad not to see them make the trip, and hope they are available for our next tour, wherever that may be.

The 'Tour Virgins'

Despite having been a touring side now since May 2002 there are still a number of our lot who have not been abroad with us before.
The 'tour virgins', so to speak!

What made this trip a bit unusual was that there were no less than four of them-three of which were making their "Rabblers" debuts to boot!

Shaun Dooley is an old veteran of the team, having been a major part of our earlier years, including a spell as manager. He returned to playing last season, but was only expecting a 'few minutes' on foreign soil on this trip, as he had suffered a recurrance of an old knee injury in the seven-a-sides a few weeks before. But he played the whole tour between the sticks, with trademark bandana, after a passportless Matt Hammond failed to appear.

The new three were Mick Spencer, despite the grand 'Diana-esque' surname he is as 'rough & ready' as you can get! Introduced to the Hamlet terraces by his ex-work colleague & mate Dawn Taylor, hopefully he'll have some more run outs for us this coming season. His professional team is Reading, despite the fact they've knocked the Hamlet out of the FA Youth Cup twice in the past, he's a great addition to the squad!

Next up is Stephane Tournay. 'On loan' to us for the tour from our Belgian Second Division counterparts from the home town of another very good Belgian friend of ours, Nicolas Lucas, UR Namur. He was part of the Belgian group who came over & cheered the Hamlet on, at home to Sittingbourne last season. He was made honourary captain for the match against Jalgpallihaigla, which is why he has a pre-match memento to present them in his hand.

And would hardly beleive it...but gaffer Mick O'Shaughnessy has a sensible son! If I had a pound for each time someone mentioned how different he was to his younger brother James, who also turns out for us, over the weekend it would have paid for my flight! David O'Shaughnessy is obviously the more sensible lad, & the fitter one, if the HJK girl's tastes who was with him all Sunday was anything to go by. Lucky girl! ;-)

Playing the tourist

One thing I like to do when I go abroad is visit museums and see the sights. Last year I-to my disappointment, even though I enjoyed myself-I only visited one museum. This time I was over here for longer, flying in Wednesday, & getting the plane back a week later, so I got a chance to see a lot more. I went to Helsinki a day before the majority of the team, and got the early Saturday boat to Helsinki, with Larry Marsh & Andy Tucker. But I failed to get to our rendevouz on time at Helsinki station on time at 2.00pm, so you're spared any touristy snaps I might have taken with them. Instead I have a few from Tallinn, just before.
On the Thursday a few of us took a train to a coastal town called Paldiski, where we got lost a bit and wandered through some woods, looking for old Soviet military bases, listed in (maybe an old?) Lonely Planet, but which had since been demolished! But it was still a pleasant day, in good company. At least I wasn't in the group led by 'tourguide' Griff, who went out to the television tower in Tallinn, only to find it shut!

Anyway here's a few snaps:

Marching into the unknown....we didn't have a clue
where we were 'yomping'. At one stage we bumped into a local.
Dawn decided to ask him for directions.
She asked if he spoke English. He shrugged and indicated he
At which point she said very loudly to him "WINDMILL"
Even though we weren't looking for one! He went off thinking we
were loonies, only to stop twenty yards away, come back and ask us:
"tourists", which appeared to be the only English he spoke!

Well at that age you'd have a dodgy bladder too...Hutty
needs a wee-wee!

On the train home Dawn smiles for me, unlike the local lads
sat behind!

This is the Photography Museum in Tallinn, small but
well worth a visit.

Had one of our number been there before us, and signed the
visitors' book not once, but twice?
Or were these forgeries?

We also popped into the Maritime Musuem. A cracking
museum, and well worth the admission price of just over
two quid!

Mick couldn't stop playing with the exhibits!

But Larry's one was a lot bigger than his! ;-)

Thursday night...

and more troops arrive, to bolster the advance party.

including Lucas Green. Where on earth did he get that shirt?
Surely the biggest fashion faux pas since Myles Quinn (sadly pre-digital camera days) in Rimini?

Meanwhile the squad get into 'tour mode' in their hotel bar...

Before being 'kicked out' at closing, & into the adjacent still open nightclub!
Not the busiest of places, & despite the handbag to jive around Griff refuses to hit the dancefloor. 'Broken hearted' after being spurned by Dawn, who he asked to dance!
Apparently he refused to dance the night away as there were only blokes out there..

Blokes? Oh come on Griff...lighten up. It WAS only Shaun & Stephane, drunkenly strutting their stuff!

The team photos

Before I continue it's about time I showed you the team photos from the two matches to come.

To me they sum up the spirit of our trips. Both sets of teams happily being snapped together after the matches. True friendship, and mutual respect. What more can you want?

Truly magnificent moments.

Friday 25th July 2008
JK Jalgpallihaigla 7, "The Rabblers" 1
Scorer: Larry Marsh.

Sunday 27th July 2008
HJK Helsinki Supporters' 1, "The Rabblers" 1
Scorer: David O'Shaughnessy.

The team squad, played in both games:
Shaun Dooley; Steve Rickerby; Darren Nicolas; Phil Baker; Mick Spencer; Andy Tucker; Lucas Green; Dawn Taylor; Stephane Tournay; David O'Shaughnessy; Larry Marsh; Mishi Morath; Paul Griffin; Mark Hutton & Mick O'Shaughnessy.

& so onto the game

As already mentioned we lost 7-1. Was this a fair result? Probably not, we deserved a goal or two more, but it did reflect the gulf between the two sides. They are much better than us, and play regularly in the Estonian Fourth Division, and seemed even stronger than last season ,when they beat us 10-6!

But despite the heavy reverse it was a friendly game, and we battled gamely on, never giving up in a still intense early evening heat.

For sure we will return to Tallinn at some stage in the future, maybe not next year, but maybe the year after? Who knows?

One thing for sure...Jalgpallihaigla are a wonderful bunch to play against, despite being clearly better than us!

Cheers to Madis & co, for their hospitality! Hopefully they can return to London to play us, having been runners-up in our 'Pa Wilson Cup' last year, which we staged at Champion Hill Stadium.

Meeting up at team HQ Hotel Olympia.
Hutty seeks managerial advice from the previous gaffer

Team group outside before we head off to the ground.

Pre-match managerial discussion before the match.
Plenty of time for that...Mick had us arrive for a 6.30pm kick
off, and was surprised when Mishi told him it was at 7.00pm!

You've overdone the sunblock there Hutty!

How many Supporters' Teams can genuinely say that they've
played in the shadow of the Estonian National Stadium, as
we actually did?
Maybe the hollowed turf of the A Le Coq Arena next time? ;-)

Is that a GENUINE Martin Eede flat cap worn by Mr. Dooley?
[I wonder who purloined that from the kitroom last season? ;-) ]

Dawn gets ready...lonely girl!

Didn't take Hutty long to nick that cap!

I don't suppose this is the time to ask about 'spit or
swallow'? ;-)

Not so much a pre-match warm up, as a pre-match
power nap!

Mick gets closer to Dawn than most of the team ever have!
Lucky chap! ;-)

Lining up before kick off, as is often the continental way.

There's always one that ruins it. Put your belly away

Madis proudly presents an actual JK Jalgpallihaigla shirt
with our nickname on it, a great gesture, and a treasured
addition to our Supporters' team memorabilia.

Looks like we won the toss of the coin, the only thing we did
we all weekend! ;-)

And so on to some decidedly average 'action' shots!

Shaun in command of his area.

Last year Lucas bemoaned the fact I took no photos of him.
So here's a nice one of his arse! ;-)

Is it me, or is Darren a bit too nonchalant on our back post?

Don't know what went wrong here. This one actually looks
like a proper football photo! ;-)

What's Estonian for: "Never touched him. Get us you great big

Phew! At last! Half time & a much needed break.
Despite it being almost eight o'clock in the evening, & the
temperature dropping, it was still in the seventies!

Mick does his Churchillian half-time motivational speech...

Some don't seem to be paying too much attention though!

Larry relaxes, while Griff gets ready to throw up again.
The poor lad wasn't well, and blamed a 'dodgy kebab', despite
no-one else falling ill, who ate at the same place.
Nothing to do with the copious amounts of local lager, and lack
of food then...

Only another 45 minutes to go!

A first for 'The Rabblers' as one of our games is shadowed
by a hot air balloon!

Debutant David takes a much needed breather!

The Jalgpallihaigla fans made all the noise!

At the final whistle we had a penalty competition.
Why? I have no idea! Apart from the fact it was a bit of fun...

Too knackered to stand in a group huddle.

Keepers ball!

We presented a Hamlet First Team shirt to their man of
the match. As we wore some of their scarves round our necks.
Thank you for them!

Rock beer...a local brew. Crates kindly supplied by our
opposition too.
Trust these two to get to them first!

Father & son pose for the family album.

Hutty adorned in all the local gear.

Our player of the match. She looks as though she needs
this sit down! Well done Dawn!

And another look at the team photo. Just what is Stephane up to?

Mick strolls off, can of beer in hand...

Oblivious to the fact Stephane is entangled behind him!