Filed: Wednesday, 15th September 1999
By: Dan O`Rourke
I've realised that I am still buzzing, so with one of my duty free lagers and some of the obligitory Toblerone that I feel I simply have to buy every time I go abroad, I'll try and make some sense and convey what the last 24 hours have been like.
9.15 sharp(ish). Ian 'the bouncer' Offers is knocking on my door and we are off to Woodford to catch up with Richard Peace, Martine Gibbs, Gary Prior, Barrie Abrahams and Barrie's mate Mitch. The bouncer and I made it in good time, soon followed by Martine and then Peacey and Gary, although we were meeting at Peaceys! Into chez Peace and to celebrate a European tour the first beer is cracked open at about 10.20am. I started with a Tennants extra, 20 hours later as I write here it's harp Irish!
Barrie arived and we all oiled into the space wagon for the journey to begin, I guess I shouldn't really bore everyone with the details of who sat where and how many pies Peacey ate so I won't. We made Folkstone too late to get the 12.09 train across, eventually making it onto the 13.09. Booze had been thought of as a good idea, but warm lager was not on the menu. I couldn't find any Metz so after all working out what we didn't like a litre of Archers was purchased, no honest I am harder than Dodge! Rich, Gary and I had quaffed this within the hour and then had to make do with water for the 3 hour plus drive to Metz, which was most uneventful bar passing a few Hammers and a bloke in a Ferrari.
I think we heard "Bubbles" before we found Metz and after a few bursts of the cockney rejects we were ready ourselves. We parked up fairly quickly in Metz, passing probably hundreds of Hammers fans along the way. I have to say I was a little disappointed to see the usual smattering of thugs, including those that were in Finland and a bloke that was arrested in the Bobby Moore lower last year and banned from ever returning. We had a quick drink and made our way to the ground with Simon Eappariello, who somehow or other found us. The streets were packed with mainly pissed Hammers, but that's none of my business. It was quite pleasing to see one utter thug arrested as we made our way to the ground.
After being politely searched we found our seats (and Manny Om, Stephen Bywater and friend). After much pottering around and general atmosphere soaking our heroes came out. The standing area unfurled a large flag, with something about Bobby Moore, which looked quite impressive. However, the main Metz stand unleashed a Metz Shirt the size of the whole stand, bloody enourmous!
The game kicked off and much noise from both sections of the Hammers was equally matched by the flag waving chanting and jumping of the Metz supporters behind their goal. Early on it looked quite even, with plenty of midfield scrapping, it didn't honestly look like we were going to create a goal but I didn't care, I was in Metz. Suddenly, a break down the right - di Canio passes it inside and Trevor puts it low into the left. 1-0 up and mayhem in the areas of the ground containing West Ham.
It was simply amazing, just leaping about with unfounded joy - a joy that was surpassed when Frank scored the second again from good work by di Canio and Sinclair. The realisation on the faces of the many Hammers around me was just bizarre, to see the almost realisation of life long dreams for many of our travelling party, that is namely European football was almost too much for me.
Half time passed quickly with calls to friends and family back home, who I'm sure were no doubt watching this drama unfold.
In true West Ham style the second half was a little different, Metz seemed to have remembered that they should infact try and score and now they needed to score twice. Not quite hanging on, but not quite dominating, the first 20 minutes of the second half seemed to almost pass in slow motion for me. I must have looked at the clock in the main stadium about every 30 seconds.
Metz eventually scored a very good goal from (I think) one of their second half substitutes. The atmosphere in the ground changed somewhat, Metz perhaps realising that they could win, us perhaps realising we could lose? When perhaps the atmosphere was reaching flashpoint our third away goal came, some good work again from the lacklustre Wanchope gave us our third; many around me had been calling for him to be subbed at about 70 minutes as to be honest he was looking disinterested. Perhaps he (Wanchope) should be used as the supersub and Kitson should start? We might get loads of goals.
Once again the celebrations were bonkers, just pure adrenalin filled joy, I have never seen such a showing of emotion, and if you have a copy of the game and know what Martine looks like you can see her and the rest of our travelling party celebrate the third - famous at last eh! ]
The final minutes of the game suddenly seemed to quicken and then the whistle went and we had won, fans going mental, players going mental, it was simply mental. Big shout to Rio, Moncur and Frank who seemed to particularly enjoy it. In fact big shout to every player, because we deserved to win, played like winners and would you believe it actually won, amazing.
I don't think there was much that could have curtailed our joy, not even the 45 minute wait behind, where once again we were treated like animals. I wouldn't be surprised if they (Metz officials) actually treat their pets better. Any how we got out all well and safe and made it back to the car and hit the auto route straight away. The journey back was full of planning the next round, snoring, denial of snoring and filling up with booze at Calais.
Getting in at 6am hasn't done anything to affect the memory and in the past few days it's been since starting and finishing this tale, there are still people to be found and told of our European tour.
Next round Croatia, hmmmm.
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