Authored by Max
Let’s be honest, twenty four hours in the Polish city of Poznan to go to watch the England non-league team play away does not sound too exciting does it? The game wasn’t even in the city, but in some outpost town about 40 miles away called Grodzisk Wielkopolski. Anyway, quite a few other people had said they were up for this trip and knowing Poland is meant to be cheap if you fancy a beer or two, my thought was ‘why not’ as me and fifteen other Barnet fans set off.
Stansted airport at 6am on a Tuesday morning. At this point it really was a case of questioning what we were doing. The night before I’d accidentally ended up having a few drinks with friends and had minimal sleep, on a mate’s sofa in Barnet. The 4:30am wake up was horrible. Anyway, by the time we were at the airport we’d woken up a bit and once we were through the first gate we ended up having our first pint’s of the day in the Wetherspoons, at about twenty past six. The plane was at 7:15am, so after a swift beer we made our way to boarding.
The plane to Poznan didn’t take too long. Tail winds of around 170mph more or less blew us across Europe towards the East. Some of the lads had a little doze, but I’m rubbish at sleeping on public transport and ended up awake for the duration. Not really a fan of flying.
Anyway, we got to Poznan and with it only being a short stay we didn’t have to wait for anyone’s bags or anything, as we all just had hand luggage, so within a very short space of time of being off the plane we were in taxis on our way the hotel. It was about twenty minutes to where were staying in central Poznan. The driver couldn’t speak English, us saying Lech Poznan (the name of the city’s team) was about as much understanding as we got. Still, we tried. Once we got to our hotel we dumped our bags and made for the city centre.
It was only about 11am, though it felt a lot later having been up pre-5am, so it certainly didn’t feel too earlier to go straight to the pub. We found a place called Londoners (appropriately) in the rather nice market square. Once we were in there the pints of Polish beer Lech were soon flowing. Most of the others decided to move to another pub after the first round, but three of us remained here. It wasn’t a bad little pub and we were watching the slowest window cleaner ever, which was amusing in a way. Either way, beers were costing just over a £1 in their money, so we were happy. We did end up leaving in quite brisk fashion however, when a group of about ten big, burly Polish blokes came in and sat down near us. They didn’t say anything, but we all of a sudden didn’t feel too welcome, so made our way out and back to the hotel to meet the others.
Time had gone round quite quickly and once we were all fully checked in and a few of us had showered and stuff it was near enough time to leave. The game was being played at Grodzisk Wielkopolski, a smaller ground and place than Poznan to the West. We’d arranged for a minibus to take us to and from the game. Leaving Poznan just after 3pm, we were set to have plenty of time in this other place. Traffic was a bit heavy leaving the city and for a moment we weren’t sure our Polish driver knew where he was going, but we got there in the end, around half four. It’s always an experience on the roads abroad, the minibus driving certainly was interesting, especially over speed bumps.
Grodzisk Wielkopolski was a very strange place. Clearly it was the Polish equivalent to some of the sort of random, boring towns we’re used to going to in England to watch Barnet play. It was absolutely hammering down with rain when we got there and a bit of a search for a pub was not the most fun. In the end, we couldn’t find one, but we did find a Pizzeria, where they were happy for us to come in and just drink. To be fair, we certainly put a few quid, well, Zloty, behind the bar in there. A fair few beers were consumed before the silly decision to get shots in. Six of us agreed to do it and all gave one of the lads a bit of money each to go to the bar and get a round in. We assumed we’d be getting one each, however, something got lost in translation because for not a lot of money a tray with 24 shots on was placed on the table. Oh dear. They were blue and tasted a bit like mouthwash with vodka in. They certainly tipped a few people over the edge, it all started to get a bit silly in there after that and luckily it wasn’t long before it was time to get back on the bus across the town to the ground. We left all trying to shout our best thank you in Polish at the attractive girl behind the bar, one of us may have walked out with a near full pint, as we were walked back across their main square to the bus.
The match was to kick off at half six, we arrived at the ground about fifteen minutes before this, each purchasing our match tickets. They cost One Zloty each, that’s the equivalent of about 20p. There was no bar at the ground and they had the cheek to charge the same amount for you to go for a piss in there as it had been to get into the game, but other than that, it wasn’t bad, thankfully the stand was undercover given the awful weather. There was a crowd of probably about 300 there, which at least made it a little more ‘real’ having opposition fans. We were asked to sit in a certain section of the stand, but it wasn’t actually segregated. We had three Barnet/England flags behind the goal, in a strange way, this was all quite good.
As the teams came out we gave it a bit of ‘EN-GER-LAND!’ and all that, then the national anthem, before the match started. The first ten minutes or so were pretty awful and was wondering what on earth I was doing with my life for a bit. However, England went one up through Cambridge United’s Chris Holroyd after about quarter of an hour and this livened things up a bit. Poland got one back not too long after, but it remained 1-1 then until with just 10 minutes left, substitute Matthew Barnes-Homer of Kidderminster Harriers banged in a late winner for England. We celebrated both goals quite a bit, which made it more fun and it was alright at the end as the players all came over applauding us. They clearly had quite appreciated having a few fans there; Max Porter (ex-Barnet) was loving it.
A few group photos were taken of us with the Barnet flags at full time, before we all got back on the bus to Poznan. The driver kindly stopped at a shop where we could get a few beers for the return journey, before being on our way. The ride home was a lot more fun, everyone was fairly merry to the say the least and it didn’t seem to take half as long to get back. A few of us headed straight out to the town centre, going for a beer in a bar called Bee Jay’s in the square, before making our way back to the hotel next to ours, where the England team were staying.
Paul Fairclough, still the England C manager, had said he was happy for us to come and attend the caps presentation at the team hotel, so we did. We got a nice little applause off the team and coaching staff, before watching the players get their caps. It clearly meant quite a bit to them, it’s still playing for England, even at this level, so fair play. As the caps ceremony came to an end Paul Fairclough said he wanted a word with the team, but would see us all in the bar downstairs shortly after. Just as we were leaving came a very amusing moment. One of our group was pretty hammered by now and had been very impressed by England’s number 4 during the game. So, with it all quiet, he went “which one of you was the number 4?” to which Darius Charles of Ebbsfleet nervously put his hand up. My mate looked at him and then with everyone wondering what was coming next he simply came out with “you were the bollocks mate” before walking out. Maybe you had to be there, but everyone who was found it very funny.
We ended up spending quite a long time in the bar in their hotel. Fair play to Fairclough, he came down and bought everybody a drink. Some of the players came down for a bit too, Darius Charles posed for a photo with his new best mate and we also quite confused Barnes-Homer, who’d scored the winner. Steve Burr, Fairclough’s assistant, was in the bar with us for quite a while and was a very friendly chap, as was ex-Barnet player Max Porter, who was a good laugh, especially given how hammered we were by the point we were chatting to him, when he wasn’t allowed to drink at all.
It was about half 1 in the morning by the time we finished getting plastered in this plush hotel. We decided it was time to leave when two of our group returned after being missing for ages. It was strange, they looked soaked. The reason being, they’d decided to explore the hotel a bit and stumbled across the swimming pool. Do I really need to explain what they’d done then, before eventually being kicked out? Anyway, after that it seemed like it was best to go. We tried to persuade Max Porter to come out with us, but he decided to be professional and stay in. To be fair, only three of us ventured into the city centre again after this. It was getting near 2am on a Tuesday night though and it was hardly jumping. Near enough everywhere was shut, so we decided to do what we’d do in England. Go and get a kebab and then bought a few cans to have in the room before bed.
We got in a little after 2am, I think. I wanted to go in the hotel casino, but the others didn’t, so we just went up to the room. We turned the TV on and cracked open a can, but all of a sudden the fact we’d been up for 22 hours seemed to kick in. Within about five minutes we were sprawled out on our beds and nodded off watching some very odd programme on Polish TV.
In the morning we had to leave the hotel by 11am local time for our flight. Felt pretty rough first thing, but after that it was more tiredness than anything. The flight took slightly longer coming home, with the wind against us this time, making for a bit of a scary landing, but we were still back on English soil by 2:30pm.
A very short but sweet trip, but a bloody good one at that. I’d been a bit unsure what it was going to be like, as I won’t lie, the England C team doesn’t massively excite me. However, the fact they won the game was pretty good and just everything about the day out was pretty enjoyable. To be honest, it was just an absolute mess. Not like we’re going to see Barnet in Europe anytime soon is it, so this is a pretty good alternative, if you will. Quality trip...EN-GER-LAND!