First stop on the Euro 2017 tour is the 24426 capacity Stadion Galgenwaard in Utrecht. FC Utrecht were formed as recently as 1970 by a merger of 3 clubs. Utrecht are the only club outside the big three (Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV) never to be relegated from the Eredivisie and last season they were 4th. Their average attendance was just over 18000.
The modern stadium dates from 1982 but has had a couple more revamps since then and the current look of the place dates from 2004. Apparently the name is from the site in Utrecht where the gallows was. Our tickets were in the Noordzijde which is the main stand. To our right, the Cityside, and to our left, the Bunnikside. We were actually staying in Bunnik, a village to the East of Utrecht, so at least we knew our way home.
The day started for us at 6am. When we got up, we discovered a text from EasyJet saying our 10.10 flight from Edinburgh was delayed till 12.35. We still had to check in on time anyway and then somebody took the piss big time as our gate was announced as 6, then 7, then 19, then 7, then 14, so there was a plane load of angry fliers keeping fit by traipsing from one end of the airport to the other. Eventually we boarded and sat on the tarmac for ages, but finally we got away and emerged into a baking hot day in Schiphol, almost 30 degrees, at about 2.30 local time.
The next problem presented itself at the car hire. My computer had given up the ghost a few days earlier so I just had an email on my phone from Rentalcars which was not the hirer, just an agent, and no reference number. I spent a (not so) happy hour asking at various desks whether they actually had my name down for a car. Eventually I found an angel of a young woman at Sixt who made a few calls with only my email address for ID, and she found that my car was with Dollar, out at Hoofddorp. One shuttle bus later and we had the keys to a dinky wee Fiat 500. Not long after that we were clear of Amsterdam and heading round the Utrecht ring in rush hour, and into the village of Bunnik.
A quick shower, bite to eat and a beer, change of togs into the match gear and off we go. We’re based about 5km east of Utrecht but, this being Europe, there’s a regular bus service for €2.70 that stops right outside the stadium and runs till about 1am. What exactly were these imbeciles hoping to get by voting to leave? I’ve forgotten.
Being early, we had a walk right round the outside of the Gargenwaald, a very pleasant wooded area with canals. Utrecht is a very bike-friendly city with bike traffic lights at the busiest junctions. There are, however, no bars in the vicinity of the ground so I asked one of the orange-shirted helpers (they have a huge balloon floating above them with a question mark on it) if there was beer sold inside. He assured me there was, so in we went, to find that the only beer was 0.5% Carlsberg in plastic glasses of maybe 250ml, or possibly 330ml, for €3 a pop. Oh well, never mind.
Anyway, no putting it off any longer. Well, just a little longer. I was chatting to a couple from Stirling when these two England lads with the cross of St George painted right across their faces started putting up this huge flag right in front of us with the Butcher’s Apron on it and they were told to remove themselves…
The line-up on a historic occasion for the Scots:
Anyway we’ll quickly skim over the match details. Scotland drove forward from the start and Jane Ross hooked in a shot from 30 yards out which was tipped over by Karen Bardsley for a Scotland corner. And, emmm, that’s about as good as it got.
Not forgetting that England are ranked no 5 in the world and Scotland 21, it was a disappointing night as Scotland enjoyed a lot of possession and corners, and won most of the fouls against the England girls, who showed their class at times, especially on the break where sloppy passes by Scotland were quickly punished. Despite Scotland forcing the majority of the corners, they were all cleared by English heads.
The Scots lassies also gave away a bit in size and physicality to their opponents, who weren’t averse to the occasional cynical challenge, and there were bookings for Houghton and Scott, while Caroline Weir was also booked late on for Scotland. It has to be said that the Scotland defending was suicidal at times, starting with the 10th minute opener, and #ourgirlsourgame will be looking for a big improvement on Sunday in Rotterdam. The attendance was 5587 and although outnumbered the Scottish support were magnificent as always.
At the end of the game we only had a 5 minute wait for the 41 bus back to Bunnik and a walk in the dark back to the very comfortable hostel in the company of some Belgian fans who had been at the game. They were very knowledgable and had a lot of encouraging things to say about the team. They were playing down in Breda the following night and beat Norway 2-0, a terrific result. Still time for a nightcap – La Trappe Tripel from Brouwerij de Koningshoeven near Tilburg.
We’ve been chilling out and biking around Utrecht today and trying even more excellent beers. My experience of Dutch beer before now was Heineken and Amstel but it’s been a revelation.
We leave Utrecht behind tomorrow and head north to Groningen and Ameland in the Friesian Islands. We’ll stay a couple of nights at a B&B called ‘Middle of Nowhere’ up at Warfstermolen before heading back down to Rotterdam on Sunday for the Portugal game. In the meantime here’s a bit more of Utrecht for you: