(GROUND NUMBER 109)
Date of First Visit: 11th NOVEMBER 1992
PORTA ELISA, LUCCA, ITALY
A.S. LUCCHESE LIBERTAS 1
NEWCASTLE UNITED 1 (Benny Kristensen)
ATTENDANCE: 744 (200 Toon fans)
"IN THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS OF LOO-CHEESE-EEE!"
"ON THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINT!"
A unique opportunity tih travel with the players and 'King Kev' on the same plane AND stop in the same hotel, waz an offer any true 'black 'n' white' just couldn't torn doon---could they?
For this iz what the club had organised for wor forst 'sonte' intih Europe for fifteen years!
It waz an offer that AH could'nt torn doon anyway, alang with two hundred other diehards and at ower £300 a piece (remember this waz 1992!) it waz a very expensive offer aall the same!
The arrangement on the plane was that the players and officials sat at the front of the plane and us 'plebs' sat at the back, oot the way!
Lucchesse (pronoonced 'Loo-cheese-eee' to aall yeez ignoramanissseess who cannit speak 'propa Italian' like me!) is 'just a few miles doon the road' from the 'leanin tower city' (ie: Pisa) in the town of Lucca
"TEN! QUID A PINT!?"
Once off the plane it was onto (separate) busses for the jorney to the hotel which we were telt was in the Tuscan mountains.. The busses torned off the main road near Lucca and started gannin up and up this windin' road past some old women herdin' donkeys with heavy bales of tree branches on their backs up a steep track. (are we in the 'thord world' or wot? ---Aa thought!?)
We just went up!---and up!---and UP! and we must have been a canny few thousand feet up when a luxury hotel suddenly appeared between some pine trees in the distance and in the middle of 'ne where'
The mountainside hotel we were stoppin' in was aalso a trainin' base for Italian clubs like AC Milan, Juventus and Roma and had a full size trainin' pitch next to the hotel so it was the 'bees knees' as far as we were concerned!
Aa had a huge room to meesel with a massive double bed and a fridge that was like 'Aladdins cave' as it was stocked to the hilt with bottles of lager and beer. "It must be on the house!?", aa thought as aa grabbed the nearby bottle opener and quickly opened the forst ice caad 'liquid lubrication' and poured it doon mee 'john o groat'!
After a few more bottles of 'lubrication' it was time to meet up with the rest of the party in the hotel bar where 'Grumpy Stumpy' was orderin' the forst roond (brilliant timin'!)
The money in them days was Italian Lira which was like 'monopoly money' and we couldn't work oot how much the forst roond had cost, but it wasn't cheap!
'The Caped Crusader' got the second roond in when some clever shite worked it oot that we were payin' the equivalent of TEN QUID A PINT! (aboot TWENTY QUID! in todays money with inflation!)
It was my torn next and as there were seven of us in the roond aa realised that aa didn't even have enough 'bit' to buy ONE! roond! ("Help!---aa can feel a 'heart attack' comin' on!")
Douglas Hall, wor Millonaire chairmans son was in the bar and when he hord wor predicament he bought the next roond for the whole bar ("cheers Doug!") but it didn't alter the fact the we 'paupers'simply couldn't afford to buy anymore drinks there.
Ti mek matters worse the nearest village (which looked 'shut' when we passed through it!) was aboot three miles away doon the bottom of the moontain! (ie: a non starter!)
A frantic discussion then ensued between the hotel manager and wor guides and it was agreed to open a wooden 'log style' cabin 'come bar' which was situated forther doon from the hotel, hidden by some pine trees, which was apparently closed for that time of year, but doubled up as a bar in the summer season.
An hour later it was open and at a mere THREE QUID a pint! aa could just aboot afford to get mee roond in now! ("horray!")
Harry Palmer was there with his guitar (remember him!?) alang with a TV crew from 'Tyne Tees' who had travelled to film wor 'historic retorn' to European competition and Harry gave us a rendition of such 'classics???' as---'Slap your mother with a Christmas tree!' and!--- 'Oh when the beans come oot the tin!' (enough to drive ANYBODY to drink!)
HELP!---aa can feel a 'Laurel and Hardy' 'moment' comin' on!
♫"On a mountain in Italia!—stands a lonesome pine!"♫
♪♫And next to it stands a 'boozer'---lets open it, it's drinkin' time!♫
♫"In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Loo-cheese-ee!♪
♫"On the trail of the lonesome pint!"♪♫♪
Anyway!—we kept as far away from 'yee naa who' as possible and got totally 'rat-arsed' on the strong lager that was on offer before staggerin' through the pine trees back to the hotel for some much needed 'beauty sleep'?
As aa waalked alang the corridor to mee room aa hord singin' in the distance and aall of a sudden a very drunken Toon fan came runnin' past shoutin' and baallin' at the top of his voice. He was baaldy and had 'NUFC' written in black felt tipped pen on the top of his heed as he ran past like 'a demented fairy'! wavin' his arms and jumpin' periodically.
Then!---a door suddenly opened and lo and behold 'King'Kevin Keegan appeared dressed in a full length dressin' goon and a pair of rather snazzy carpet slippers He asked me what aall the noise was aall aboot as he rubbed the sleep from his 'mincers' (the 'King' had actually spoken to ME!)
For a second aa was dumbstruck, but when a'd gathered mee composure aa telt him what was gannin' on and aall of a sudden the kidda reappeared and went he saw Keegan he got doon on his hands and knees, bowin'in homage and started kissin' his carpet slippers! as we both looked on in amazement!---it was SUREAL!
He then got up and ran off doon the corridor singin' Keegan's praises before disappearin' into the distance!. Keegan muttered sommik aboot the players not bein' able to get to kip because of aall the noise ,before gannin' back to his room and slammin' the door shut! (he was NOT a 'happy bunny'!)
To 'celebrate' meetin' the great man aa dashed back to my room and 'polished off' the rest of the 'free' lager before 'hittin' the pillow' meesel! ('vino callapso style')-------------------"ZZZZZZZzzzzzzz!!!!!!!"
Part Two (Day Two) "TEKIN' THE P***!"
It was match day and to start the day off it was off for continental brekkies in the alacarte restaurant before boardin' the coach to Lucca for a bit of 'sight seein' (ie: find as many boozers as possible!)
Aa telt 'Grumpy Stumpy' that a'd 'polised off' aall the 'free' lager in mee fridge and he just looked at me in amazement before blurtin' oot------"Yi daft b*****d! yiv got to PAY FOR IT!---it's NOT FREE!, there's a price list on top of the fridge to tell you how much it iz!"
A feelin' of 'dread' suddenly came ower me and aa dashed back to mee room to see what the 'damage was'! and usin' me vast knowledge of the Italian language (again!) aa worked oot that by readin' the English translation that it was!-----FIVE QUID A BOTTLE! after convertin' the Italian Lira price list into poonds!
As a'd downed TEN bottles of the stuff that came to FIFTY SMACKEROOS aall told!
Aa was shakin' like a leaf as emptied mee wallet onto the bed but aall aa had left was the equivalent of TWENTY FIVE QUID in Lira!--------"PANIC STATIONS!"
Luckily the chambermaid hadn't cleaned mee room yet, so aa took the bottles oot the waste bin, filled them with waata from the bathroom and then searched frantically for the bottle tops which were lyin' aall ower the place and banged them back onto the bottles before puttin' them (neatly!) back into the fridge.
Anotha piece of good fortune was that the bottles were green and therefore yi couldn't see the colour of the liquid inside!-------PHEW!---a'd gettin' away with it---but anly just!
Aa telt 'Grumpy Stumpy' what a'd done and before yi knew it---EVERYBODY knew!
A loyal white haired Toon fan of pensionable age caalled 'Vi' who taalked with a posh accent was aalso on the trip and had hord aall aboot it as well (but she didn't naa that it was me who had done it!)
She pulled me to one side and said in a very frosty voice: "Do yoo know whot thay've been doooing 'Fink'---they've been drinking the beer out on the refrigerator, filling the bottles back up with water and pooting the tops back on and pooting them back into the refrigerator so they downt have to pay for it!"
Aa just looked at hor 'straight in the eye', shuck mee heed and replied: "YI CANNIT TEK THEM NEWHERE 'VI'!" , and waalked away towards the coach which was to tek us to the match tryin' not to look guilty!
Vicious rumours then started on the bus jorney to the match that I in fact had NOT filled the bottles with tap waata, but had filled it up up with some other waam 'body fluid' instead!---a rumour that I categorically deny to this day! (did they think that aa was tekin' the P***! ---or what???)
"AN 'NAPPLE A 'NORANGE AND A NARNA!"
It was time to heed for Lucca and so we set off on the windy road back doon the mountain to 'civilisation' below. They'd given us a 'packed lunch' to keep us gannin' on the bus jorney which consisted of!---an 'napple a 'norange and a 'narna? , as well as a huge crusty'doorstop' cheese sarny which was aboot an inch thick with a slab of cheese hoyed into the middle! (where's mee hammer and chisel?)
"ARE WE AT THE REET GROOND?"
We arrived ootside the groond with two hours tih spare and everythin' waz locked up and shuttered and not a soul in sight! This resulted in 'The Caped Crusader' havin' a panic attack as it suddenly dawned on us that the floodlights we could see could'iv just as easily been a rugby groond or sommik and that we were in fact at the wrang groond as there was ne signage on the main stand to say who played there anyway!?
After a discussion with the barman at the 'pub'? ower the road from the groond which aalso 'doubled up as a greengrocers! he confirmed in very broken English that we WERE in fact at the reet place. There was nowt else open so we sat and drank the local beer that was on offer as an aad wifey purchased a bag of taaties and a cauliflower ! (or was it a 'cabbage'?----mee momory's failed iz this time!)
Anyway!---aboot half an hour before kick off some gadgie torned up at the groond and opened the gates (horray!) so we 'made tracks' for the tornstiles as the streets remained deserted apart from the Toon fans waitin' to get in.
There was a bar underneath the smaall main stand so we heeded there but on lookin' oot at the rest of the groond there was hardly anybody inside
'John the Chap' then torned up literally with seconds to spare before the kick off. 'The Chap' you see had hitched hiked it from Washington Sorvices on the 'A1M' three days orlier and he arrived totally shattered and dishevelled and ready for a drink or ten!. He telt me that he thought that Italy was just ower the English Channel near France and didn't realise that it was another thoosand miles or so further on!
(ie:His geography is'nt very good---IZ IT?-----(he DOES! come from Birtley after aall!)
And what did he de?---he went for a drink in the bar and MISSED the kick off!
The groond was virtually deserted apart from us and a few 'Lucchese Ultras' behind the left hand goal in an open 'golf style stand'. The anly other people present were a couple of hundred in the far stand from us and aboot a dozen or so behind the right hand goal! It was defiantly the lowest crowd a'v ever seen at a Toon forst team fixture (later confirmed at 744!)
Aaltogether , includin' 'John The Chap', there were aboot 200 Toon Travellers who had made the trip tih Tuscany which (as we now naa!) was ower one qwaata of the total attendance!
The home side opened the scorin' midway through the forst half when Rosso netted at 'The Golf Stand End'
Benny Kristensen equalised with 20 mins tih gan with a fine effort, cancellin' oot Rosso's effort in the forst half.
Just afta this Micky 'Fat Boy' Quinn came on az a substitute and little did we realise it at the time but this would be hiz last ever appearance for the Toon.
Just before the end the 100 or so 'Lucchese Ultras' started battlin' with the Carabinieri (that's the Italian 'Dibble', you ignorant b******s!) and a full scale riot took place in the home end as we looked on in amazement from the main stand!
After the match they were still battlin' with 'The Dibble' and 'The Messiah' (Keegan), who was comin' oot of the dressin' rooms asked us what the hell was gannin on as the players made for the team bus
(it was unbelievable that 100 teenage/twenty somethings could cause such mayhem! )
'John The Chap' was then offered a free flight yem by generous club officials to save him hitch hikin' back---an offer he couldn't refuse!
It was then back to wor 'moontain retreat' for some more 'cheap beer?' before retirin' to wor rooms for the neet ------"ZZZZZZzzzzzz!!!!!!" (the fridge door stayed firmly shut this time!)
Day Three "THE STRAIGHT TOWER OF PISA!"
|A 'Stumpy' 'eye view' afta 20 pints!|
On the final day of wor trip we heeded back to the airport and az we approached the city of 'Pisa' the Italian guide on the bus excitedly telt wih ower the microphone that wi'd soon be passin' 'The Leanin' Tower of Pisa'! and tih look oot the reet hand side windows tih catch sight of this 'Tuscan Tourist Trap'.
"THERE EET EEZ!", she announced, nearly wettin' hor knickers in the process!, az shih pointed towards this lop-sided oddysy in the distance!.
A look of indifference went roond the bus az wih passed by, just as some some Japanese tourists were tekin' THAT! picture of friends and family, with their 'zoom lenses' in THAT! most famous:
"I SAVED THE TOWER FROM FAALLIN' DOON!", pose, az they held their hands oot tih stop it topplin' ower!.
'Grumpy Stumpy' made an interestin' comment, statin' that the 'tower' was in fact STRAIGHT! from where he was sittin' ? (but he HAD, had a canny 'session' the previous evenin', after aall!)
Personally, a'd much rather have seen Pisa's FUTBAALL GROOND instead, (even though it was probably az bad az Luccheese's!) and within thorty seconds we were passed it and on wor way tih the airport!.
Wih nevva did see the 'said' groond (and probably nevva will!) and the flight yem was uneventful at forst apart from some 'sour pusses' complainin' that 'John the Chap' should'nt' iv been allowed a free trip yem az they'd paid!. (Even though there were plenty of empty seats on the plane!)
Then some of the---shall we say---'more alcohol enduesed element' (includin' 'baaldy bonce'!) decided to have an impromptu 'sing song' on the plane as the players slept peacefully in front (whey!---they tried tih get some 'shut-eye', anyway!)
♫♪"IN THE BLUE RIDGE MOUN-----!"♫♪
©Fink™ (the mad-sad gr☺undh☺pper!)