This was the team that made up 'The Rabblers' squad for our game against Forza HJK, the supporters' club of HJK Helsinki at the Brahe ground, Kallio, Helsinki, on Saturday 25th July 2009.
Back row (left to right): Stephane Tournay; David O'Shaughnessy; David Doumont; Paul Griffin; Steve Rickerby; Shaun Dooley; Maxim Hamalainen.
Front row (left to right): John Prendergast; Mick O'Shaughnessy; Dawn Taylor; Phil Baker; Matt Hammond; Mark Hutton; Darren Nicolas.
Not in photo (taking photo!): Mishi Morath.
People say you always remember your first time....& while those of us who were lucky enough to be part of the squad that play the Forza HJK mob in 2008 certainly won't forget that time, our recent return was-dare I say it-not just as good, but even better!
This time, rather than a 'daytrip' from Tallinn we stayed for the whole weekend, and spent a lot more time with the HJK fans, who were perfect hosts. Friendships were made stronger, & new ones begun. Personally speaking I'm not the best of communicators with people I don't know, so apologies if I wasn't the chattiest of people, but I'm sure some of the others made up for that!
We arrived on different days, & I was part of the 'second wave' that flew from Gatwick to Helsinki on the Thursday. After going to our various hotels & hostels some of the others met up to go to the Europa League match at the Finnair Stadium between HJK & FK Vetra, from Lithuania. It was a shock when HJK got knocked out, and especially disappointing to us Dulwich Hamlet HJK followers,as the winners were drawn against Fulham! I chose not to go to this game, as I put on my 'groundhopping' hat, and travelled to another Europa League tie, at FC Lahti, who went past ND Gorica, from Slovenia. With hindsight I know I made the right choice, as I'd have had the right hump watching HJK lose! I would be lying if I didn't admit that part of the 'appeal' of the Lahti match was to watch a match with the unusual backdrop of a huge ski slope!
On Friday it was time for some sightseeing, and a few of us visited the excellent
Sports Museum, at the Olympic Stadium, which was also where my hostel was based! And you need to ask why I picked that one... ;-)
I can't believe these two never shared a room! ;-)
One of the many items on display...probably the most famous Finnish footballer ever...who I saw score for FC Lahti the night before!
Later in the weekend, on the Sunday morning I ventured up the Olympic Tower.
Where you have views down over both the Finnair Stadium
As well as the Olympic Stadium itself.
But still on the Friday, we walked into the town centre, as tourists do. You can't accuse Dulwich Hamlet fans of not being cultured..
We stopped at a sports shop with Mick brazenly showing his balls to one & all! Well we needed something to warm up with before the game the next day, & we let them keep them.
Strolling around we passed this establishment, with Hutty reminiscing about his trip to Elvis country, insisting I took a photo of him. He's easily pleased...
I'm not 100% sure, but I think this is the one Shaun wanted to fool the folks back home that he wasn't drinking from noon til night. Which wasn't true...he was drinking from morning til day break... ;-)
This beautiful building is actually Helsinki Cathedral, & it must be the most photographed spot in the whole of Finland, so here's one more.
I couldn't resist getting a photo of myself here, as-for those who don't know-1893 was the year that Dulwich Hamlet were founded!
No wonder he's grinning...first drink of the day!
By now it was early afternoon, and some went back to their hotels to rest, & start having a few 'sociable' beers. But some of us went on to the military museum.
Just what is it about the English and the War? It helps we won it I suppose... ;-)
Well if you can't beat 'em...join 'em!
Altogether now..."Two World Wars & one world cup, doo dah, doo dah!"
And time for the old 'uns to be little kids again...
How on earth he'll find his target with one eye I don't know...
In the evening I had planned to go to a local third division match, but the heavens opened, & it really did pour down, so I stayed under the canopies of the 'Happy Dayz' bar with everyone else, which became our base really, as it is the bar of choice for the Forza HJK fans. We were all given individual membership cards of their Supporters' Club, which also gave us very welcome discounts here, in a country that is very expemsive for drinking in. Many thanks for arranging that!
Here some of the lads chill out, includind Stephane, at the front, who has come straight from the airport, & not been to his hotel yet!
It's mayonaisse, in case you're wondering.
Hutty, Belgian Dave, Stephane, Dawn & Shaun relax outside, but under cover, as it was still pouring down!
As the rain eased we headed to a local Hungarian restaurant for a 'traditional' team tour meal, & although it was quite expensive it was really delicious!
The gannet gets ready to swoop...
Then it was back to 'Happy Dayz', before the more adventurous (Hello Shaun!) ventured into town!
Saturday morning came, & it was time for the highlight of the weekend! The match we've been waiting all year for! No matter how much we enjoy (or not!) run outs against the likes of Worthing supporters' or the followers of Bromley, it's the tours that are always the highlight of our year. No matter which country we play in there will always be a part of foreign soil where we have played for England! ;-)
Wvwn if you're from Belgium! Here are two of our guests from over the Channel-UR Namur fan Stephane; & Dave, who supports Anderlecht.
'Big nose' warms up in the only way he can..with a can!
Shauns looks as though he's taking it seriously...more like trying to sweat out some alcohol!
None of that exercise lark for Griff!
The management lay down the law & explain their tactics...
People listening, but Dawn doesn't look that impressed!
"Look!" she says, "three at the back!"
Wonder where she got that idea from? ;-)
"let's get this game over" says Shaun, "so we can get over the road to the pub!"
The management duo display the mementoes they have arranged for our hosts.
Which are handed over at kick off by Matt, made honourary captain for the tour, in recognition of him missing out on last years match, after he couldn't travel having booked all his flights, when he couldn't find his passport!
We were extremely lucky weather wise that the heavy rain that had been forecast came down the night before, so it was bright sunshine that greeted us. On the downside, as the game wore on it was quite warm in the midday sun. Mad Dogs & Englishmen again...I'm sure those on the bench were happy not to start...
As we had an older, smaller (apart from round the waist!) squad, we were kindly offered one of their number for the first half, a gratefull received guest player in Maxim Hamalainen.
He then had to dash off, as he playing in another game, but not before he'd put us into a one nil lead!
It was a slender one, which we couldn't hold onto, as the HJK squad was more plentiful & fitter but, despite some of our advanced years & girth, we never gave up & every single player gave their all throughout, & we certainly were not disgraced by going down by the odd goal in three. By our standards recently a respectable result! ;-)
It would be unfair to single out anyone's performances, as all Hamlet men & women gave their all, no matter what their ability or age. We battled well, got stuck in, eventually wilting a little in the heat, but not fading away completely. Chances may have been at a premium for 'The Rabblers' but we did have some. Unfortunately one fell to Darren, who should have scored when it seemed almost impossible to miss the target....as I said, almost impossible. The Gaffer himself, Mick, almost covered himself in glory, when he almost scored, which would have matched his son David's goal last year! Now that would have been an interesting Christmas dinner table if he had...how would James have coped listening to them both reliving their goals. Maybe he didn't hit the back of the net out of kindness to his other boy..
John Prendergast was on his 'virgin' tour, and was voted our 'man of the match' by his own team mates. As I say everyone did their part in making it a close scoreline, but I'd also like to mention Dave O'Shaugnessy, who shouldn't really have risked palying with a bad leg, but defied doctors orders to do so. And special mention to another 'guest' for us, Sisko, one of the HJK girls, who swapped sides with Dawn in the latter part of the match, so Dawn became the first ever 'Rabbler' to play for 'Forza HJK'!
There follows a few poor shots from the match, the camera I had wasn't ideal for sports snaps, but it was still a much needed tour accesory for me, thanks to Hamlet fan bck home, Tony Squires, for lending it to me.
And then the final whistle!
Stephane is fit...hardly breaking into a sweat!
My god! Is that really water? Call a doctor!
Looks like Shaun enjoyed it, despite the heat!
The two team organisers together...Vellu & Mick.
Vellu presents 'The Rabblers' with an actual First Team HJK shirt! Thank you from everyone, we are honoured!
Dawn & Sisko..with a dirty old man behind, getting ideas for a new line at work...
That's better..proper shirts! ;-)
Dawn likes the camera...with the Belgians!
time for our own post-match team presentations.
John receives a new trinket, which is for new tour 'virgins'.
A gift for our foreign guests, an Edgar Kail Way t-shirt.
Looks like he can't wait to put it on!
No presentation here...just two dirty old man wanted to grab her! ;-)
A t-shirt for Vellu too, but our gaffers don't see as happy as they were with Sisko! ;-)
One of the Finns poses for the camera...bit busy in the showers! Everyone must be rushing to get over to the pub.
Which is exactly what we did,crossing the road for a few well earned drinks in a local bar, although someone looks a bit impatient for his beer!
Some local sweets were handed round...licorice tasting, they really were awful!
If you think Matt wasn't impressed with them....
Wait until you see Dawn!
Wash away the taste girl!
We headed back to 'Happy Dayz' later in the afternoon, waiting a little while for the tram.
Dave checks where we are...it's Helsinki mate!
Come on David smile...just because she's not Finnish I suppose! ;-)
Time for a sit down back at 'Happy Dayz'
And here are the gents toilets at 'Happy Dayzs'...I'd have been happy to take a few snaps with chaps weeing, to make it more authentic, but I don't think anyone would have been to happy if I did! ;-)
I didn't stay long, I dashed off & was fortunate enough to catch the Second Division match at FC Atlantis mearby, big thanks to HJK fan Arto for getting me a programme! One of the teams listed in the league table amused me, the unfortunately named Jippo.
As the evening wore on we headed into town , jumping on the tram. I had a pass, but nobody else paid, as Vellu naughtily encouraged us to bunk the fares, as it was only a few stops and nobody checks tickets. He was right!
we were heading to a karaoke bar...oh dear! Not my 'cup of tea' at all! Listening to out of tune wailing all night! But some seemed to enjoy it, & Hutty led a team rendition of the old favourite 'Cheri Baby'!
Griff gets into the mood, looking at the tunes.
Hmm...not looking so impressed!
David sits with the locals..almost more Finnish than the Finns!
After that some stayed, while a few of us had suffered enough, & headed to the 'Molly Malones' bar a little more into the town centre, where a late night was had by all! Is Stephane having a dance there? ;-)
Not drinking myself, I didn't stay that long, and left early, at about midnight. But the night was still young for the others.
Sunday came, and after I'd done a little sightseeing myself, including the most disappointingly poor 'Tram Museum' I've seen anywhere, & I met some of the others at the market square, by the harbour. I think, for Darren, the party the night before never ended! ;-)
Not quite the west ham ICF...this is the Dulwich Hamlet Ice Cream Firm!
We were getting a boat over to the island of Suomenlinna, which is justifiably a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's a short 15 minute boat ride away, which puts the Woolwich Ferry in the shade!
Matt relaxes on deck in the sun.
One of the more surprising things on the island is a submarine from the Second World War!
That's it lads....stick close to that submarine, in case you're out of your depth! ;-)
Oh dear Darren...when I asked you to stand over there I didn't think you would!
What an anchor! ;-)
A rare touristy photo of myself!
we all took our own little routes round the island, before heading back to...where else...'Happy Dayz'!
Then it was time for the main footballing course, a veritable feast being dished up. A top of the table match between HJK & Haka. First versus third.
Before we went into the ground we were shown around the club Trophy & Press area, the gaffers making themselves well at home!
Even though we had been kindly been given complimentary tickets by Forza HJK old habit die hard, & our very own hack couldn't resist trying to blag his way in. You can take the man out of Bermondsey....
The game didn't go as we hoped, & there was no easy 4-0 home victory like last season. Unfortunately the visitors hadn't read the script, & after having taken the lead HJK equalised, but then imploded once more, before getting a late equaliser to share the points. Not the best result, but certainly better than losing!
To our left fans protested about the European defeat three days before, not happy with team selcections, at a guess, as Ptrus kindly informed me on Facebook, that it means 'Now ends tinkering!'
The 'Up the Hamlet' flag was prominently on show. Thanks to Griff for bringing it over.
The Forza HJK fans get behind the team!
After the match it was back once more to 'Happy Dayz', we were certainly good customers, for more post-match refreshment, with one of the HJK players arriving for a post match interview broadcast to the fans! Very brave after a poor result, and apparently they do so after every game! I can't see that catching on in England! ;-)
Clearly points dropped, as the HJK fans are finding it difficult to put on a brave face.
What's Finnish for Teletext?
I couldn't stay long, as I was off to the port, on my own, for a crossing to Tallinn, from where I was getting a coach down to Riga, in Latvia. I was going there for a couple of days as I'd never visited there before. But that is not for me to tell you about here. What I can say is that although I was looking forward to Riga I left Helsinki with a very heavy heart. The country may be expensive, but the welcome from the Forza HJK crowd was priceless, & it was a very sad me that shook a few hands & sat on the tram all alone towards my ferry crossing.
The HJK have expressed an interest in coming over to London, maybe next year, helped by the introduction of low cost flights by Easyjet. It would be wonderful if they can, so that friendships made can be continued. It would be an honour to play them in London, & take them to a Dulwich Hamlet match!
My last snap goes to the Belgian Stone Island boys. A big thank you to them for being part of our tour, we look forward to catching up with them when we go back to Belgium next year.
My final words of thanks go to the people 'in charge' from our end. Well done on another succesful tour to our management duo of Mick & Hutty, and also to their secondary assistant 'Big Nose' Baker.
Roll on the 2010 trips!