So Thursday evening 11th July 2019 had arrived and I had met up with Steve (Fraser) at John Lennon Airport to fly out to Alicante for AFC Liverpool's historic first trip to Continental Europe to play Alicante City. We met up with supporters of the year Chris (Brooks) and Mike (Urban) who were booked on the same flight and we became the unofficial Advance Party as the players and other supporters were travelling the following day.
We arrived at Alicante on time and got to the Hotel about 11.30 p.m, so it was straight to bed ahead of Match Day ....... Come on you Non-League Reds!!!!!
7 a.m. I awake to Mr Fraser getting ready for a run (Good Luck with that I thought) resplendent in his AFC running kit - and off he went. The great day had arrived - I turned over and had a doze... Better get up I thought - so washed and dressed I'm ready for Steve's (Emile Zatapek) return. He's buzzing - he's just done his best 10K time of the year. And so out to the beach side Bar/Restaurant Steve had passed on his run for Breakfast. Our Hotel was only about 100 metres from the Beach so a pleasant stroll down in about 80 degrees of heat and it's only 9.30 a,m. Now picture the scene Mr F and I sitting facing the beach "Watching all the "People" going by" waiting for our scrambled eggs and then "Woooosh" a cool mist hits us!!! This was a wonderful sensation as the heat was already getting to me (More about this later), and it certainly was a Godsend! The awning above us had a mist dispenser in it that sprayed mist every 45 seconds straight at you. So breakfast done talk about the match concentrated on the "Heat" and how kicking off at 5 p.m. might not be the best decision of the day. Steve and I went for a walk along the promenade taking in the "views" (What a lovely place Alicante is) including what looked like the local "Gentleman's Club", perhaps a good place for a post-match celebration if things went well! (Ahh those were the days I thought!!). By this time we'd arranged to meet Mike and Chris on the Prom, so we all headed back to the Beach Bar for drinks and discussions on the Day/Night ahead. Mike and Chris were a little "delicate" as their evening had gone on to about 3.30 a.m. and a few drinks had left their mark!! So now were into "wasting time" mode before the game. More drinks and some food more chat about football and AFC quiz questions to break up the mid-day early afternoon session. By the way, how many of you can name the 125 Goalkeepers who have worn the AFC Shirt? We tried a failed to get passed 10. Answers in writing please!! And so off to the ground...
By this time I'm wilting a bit, even the walk back up the prom was an effort for me! However "Sherpa" Fraser had calculated the ground was only about a couple of miles away. Thank God we found a cab - mid-afternoon Alicante heat (about 90 degrees) was not part of my recovery plan!! So about 4 p.m. we arrive at the ground. Not a soul about! So the lads need a drink and I need to sit down! We/I find refuge in the local Private Hospital which the cab driver had said had a "Cafe" were I could get a cup of tea! However the cafe was shut but the Hospital had "Air Conditioning" Ahhhhhhhh lovely. Steve, Chris and Mike went on down the road for their drinks and I stayed put saying I'd see them in half an hour or so. I made myself comfortable in the foyer in a cool leather armchair Air Conditioning on just me and the receptionist who was out of sight round the corner. The next thing I remember is being slapped on the face by a burly Spanish male nurse in a bit of a state! I'd fallen asleep and he'd found me and panicked - think he thought I was dead - certainly when I awoke I didn't know where I was and just for a moment I thought I'd died and was in Heaven!!! Then the reality hit me and I'm shouting "No No I'm fine - only here for the footy! Sorry!!" Shot up and ran out to meet the lads and walk back to the ground were by now all the players and staff were arriving!!
If I was feeling the heat the sight of Dave (AFC Official Cameraman) Williams arriving at the Ground gave a bit of perspective to my situation. I have never seen anyone look so hot in my life. My Dad had been a Desert Rat in the War and Dave looked like something out of a film of El Alamein!!!
The ground was beautiful surrounded by forest and hills set into a hillside, it's quite the most stunning setting for a football ground I have seen. Part of a municipal sports centre the all-weather pitch was being watered in preparation for the game. Imagine the response to the Alicante Club's wonderful gesture of providing free iced beer throughout the match for our AFC party. Well Chris, Mike and the other supporters felt it rude not to accept this gesture and enjoyed all aspects of the match day experience Alicante City style.
By this time the players and staff were ready and by kick-off time it was 87 degrees at pitch side. The "warm up" didn't take long and just after kick-off AFC's very own George "Mr Motivator" Marsh arrived to make sure spirits were high and rally the troops!! So with 10 supporters in place (That equates to 5,123 by the AFC Duckworth Lewis adjuster) the game was under way.
With the ale flowing and the heat bearing down it wasn't the most comfortable viewing area for me out in the sun, so I found some shelter behind the players dug-out and was much happier in these surroundings. AFC were playing well and with only 13 players plus Kieran (sorry) we had to juggle resources somewhat through the game. AFC strike first 15 mins in Anthony Lyons scores after a great move. Easy this European stuff I thought - the lads doing great and the heat not slowing them up and there keeping up with Alicante really well. Right on half time Alicante equalise with a punt upfield that the "Lad" finishes well. 1-1 half time. Step up George. "Don't worry Lads we'll do this no problem". Well I'm not going to argue the toss with George in this heat so on we go. Couldn't help thinking of our trip to Holker Old Boys last season in the wind and rain (I missed a similar game at AFC Blackpool last season) and here I was gone 6.30 p.m. and still 85 degrees. Ah well what do they say - Funny old Game! Second half gets under way and again AFC start really well and score a second just after the hour mark through Jordan Foster. From here on in floating subs and great ball management enable AFC to keep Alicante at bay and manage to hit them on the break to make more chances. 84 mins gone and on comes Kieran - what a "cameo" performance (I've not been paid for this comment but......) and AFC play the game out and win the match 2-1. Great performance and a wonderful experience for all who were there!!
Enter George this time with camera snapping here there and everywhere. We thank the Alicante City Club for their brilliant hospitality and say we hope to see them again - and promise we'll have more numbers if we play again, and then were off down the hill players still in kit to catch the tram back into Alicante!!
George "still a happy chap" talking to the locals saying who we are and were the lads are going to celebrate leading the party down the hill. I'm absolutely exhausted by now and decline the invitation to join the after match "party" in a local sports bar but Steve, Mike and Chris go and join in the fun. I decide to stay in the hotel have a bath and follow the St Helens RL game on Twitter. Steve meets Adrian Chiles in the Bar and we wonder what he's doing in Alicante - perhaps reporting the Match for BBC!!!
A Happy Day Indeed.
So we've arranged to meet Chris and Mike at the Beach by the Melia Hotel for drinks and food about mid-day on the Saturday prior to our flight home at 5 p.m. We're chatting about the trip and having a drink and George arrives! It's obvious that he's had a good night as he's buzz buzz buzzing and talking about diverse subjects as his Tinder Profile, taking AFC to Dortmund for next pre-season (why?) and the setting up of an AFC Football Library were he would donate his paperback copy of a Brian Clough autobiography! Steve, Mike and I decide to move back to our Beach Bar for food and Chris and George will follow after drinks! We find out George is on our flight but we can only fit four in the taxi back to the Airport so George will get a Tram and meet us there. Still time for George to show off his "courting techniques" whilst serenading a young lady (whose Boyfriend didn't look to pleased!) to "Sweet Caroline" played by a Beach Busker. His dance moves look a little dated to me - but hey each to their own!!! And so off to the airport and time to say goodbye to Alicante.
What a great weekend - great people, great city and good football. When we return we'll have many more supporters, and we can guarantee a wonderful time on all levels. Our reputation enhanced and "The Brexit Cup" won. Unbeaten in Europe and another step on Ando's pre-season journey. Thank You to everyone who made the trip possible, a huge thank you to players, staff and supporters who all represented the club brilliantly and "Lets do it all again".
COME ON THE NON-LEAGUE REDS - ON THE MARCH WITH ANDO'S ARMY YNWA!