Euro 2000 - Camper vans, the Germans & a special lodger
Euro 2000 following England
For me, Euro 2000 was one of the best tournaments following England. Great countries, great venues, great people, brilliant friends new and old, just an overall top trip. Ultimately let down by two things, terrible management and Phil Neville.
The trip started with an overnight stay on the outskirts of Harwich. The birthplace of Christopher Jones, captain of the Mayflower famous for its role in the story of America, when in 1620 they sailed the Atlantic and discovered the new world.
Harwich was to be the port I departed for the Hook of Holland in my VW Camper, a few days before England’s first game with Portugal. I made my way across the Netherlands, stopping at different venues along the way. Then the day before the game, finally arriving in Eindhoven, a beautiful city known as a technology and design hub.
Euro 2000 England v Portugal
On the day of the game, I made my way towards the city centre. Already awash with England fans, flags, and as usual, plenty of noise. I met some friends in the city for a few beers, then headed to the Philips Stadium, a decent ground and a brilliant atmosphere awaited.
England started well and quickly went two goals up. The turning point was when Figo produced a moment of magic from nowhere to score a spectacular goal and bring them back into the game. It ended 3-2 Portugal but, everyone could see we had played well and optimistic, we headed out.
That was the night I picked up my mystery guest, Mr Big Goldie Goldsmith of FDR clothing. From then, he occupied the push-up roof bed of my camper. Although he was a lot smaller than the ample that he possesses today, it was still a nervy week or so that he spent snoring above my head.
We hung around Eindhoven for a few days taking in the atmosphere of the Sweden v Turkey game. It was a very different place to the England game, with very few fans from Turkey, the ones that did turn up caused trouble with the locals and Swedes. It was not great seeing yellow dressed children in tears, not understanding what was going on and why people would behave this way.
Next stop Belgium
The next day we fired up the camper and headed off to Belgium.
We stopped at a small campsite south of Brussels. A bar with an array of ales etc was the highlight. There must have been at least 50 pumps. It was a small campsite at the rear of a pub and occupied almost entirely by England fans. Ten German Bombers was very loudly and often heard of a night as the beverages flowed. Lifelong friendships forged, friends from Somerset, Dorset and York amongst others.
The first weekend we arrived was pigeon racing weekend. Pigeon transports arrived one after the other, a procession that lasted all weekend, a crazy amount of birds loaded for a race.
Germany in Charleroi - Euro 2000
Our next game was against Germany; they had drawn their first game with Romania in Liege. The venue for our game was a small ground Charleroi, holding less than 30,000. We could have sold it out alone.
We got the train from Brussels South train station to Charleroi. As we arrived at Charleroi, the police and military stormed the train dragging people off and searching everyone. Only then did I realise I had a Swiss army knife from the campsite in my pocket!! I luckily managed to dropped it next to my foot and kicked it into the river at the train station before being searched.
We thought their actions excessive but, as we were soon to discover they had come for a good reason. German hooligans looking for English fans had been in the town already, smashing shop windows and running havoc. As usual, the police thought it was the England fans and had water cannons spraying everyone as they came into the town centre. We quickly got to the ground and remained surrounded by riot police and Alsatians for the entirety of the game.
The game itself was poor, uneventful with not much between the two teams. We win 1-0 with Shearer scoring the goal.
Happy but concerned, we made our way back to the station. Returning to the campsite, we sang with a group of Germans and a Jurgen Klinsmann cardboard cut out.
We found out later that our friends who went to Brussels Midi station had been attacked and robbed as they dispersed and made their way back.
Until the next game, things were pretty much the same, camping, drinking, Mr Goldsmith snoring, singing etc.
England v Romania Euro 2000
Next, again in Charleroi, we faced Romania. This time, we only needed a draw to progress. Surely we could do it against a poor Romania side?
It was a back and forth game. Romania scored, then we scored, we score again, then they score, we just had to make sure we got that point.
Then the mistake, trying to hold on, Paul Scholes off, Southgate on.
Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?.
Only Kevin Keegan knows why but we sat back and Romania came at us, compounded by the original mistake, playing Phil Neville at left-back.
They pressed and pressed, the more they pressed, the more we sat back.
Then wham, Phil Neville tackle, trip in the box, pen, quick look at the watch? 89th minute.
Keegan, I’ll kill you. I am out here as long as England are. The ferry back is weeks away. We all couldn’t believe it, waited with bated breath as the substitute Ganea steps up to take it.
Can Nigel Martyn save us and send us through? Of course, he couldn’t, Romania go on, we go home. Devastated, we all leave the evening kick-off to trudge back to be mugged and attacked again.
We are going home
The next day at the site is a very different atmosphere. Germany out, England out, fans of both gutted, locals gutted as the money train was soon to pull out of the station. We hung around a few days and then managed to change ferry, went home and watched as Romania lost to Italy and Portugal got to the Semis.
France eventually won Euro 2000, beating Italy 2-1 with a Trezeguet golden goal. Again we could only dream of what could have been.
Another excellent trip spoilt by the boys in white. Next time!!