As I plan for my next trip to England to watch soccer, I thought I would share my working itinerary, as an example of the kind of adventure one can have.
Full disclosure: I am a travel madman. I don’t really expect a normal person to even attempt something like what I will be up to, but hey, I have a book to research. For me, these trips are not about relaxing or seeing the sights — beyond those pretty much directly related to soccer. I mean, I’ll kick around London on a “day off,” but I will also explore Norwich or Bristol because I am there for games and research.
Right, so here is what I have currently planned, just to
brag show the kind of travel and planning skills I have developed — and also, of course, to show the kinds of adventures one can have in English soccer. (I can help you, too!)
- Monday, September 11: Fly out of Portland. I’m using frequent flier miles, so my total travel cost is about $200 worth of fees.
- Tuesday, September 12: Arrive Heathrow Airport, take a bus to Oxford. Check into a $63 three-star hotel and go see Oxford United play Bradford City in a Tuesday night League One tilt. If tickets are more than £20 I will demand an explanation.
- Wednesday, September 13: Wander around someplace, doing research. Catch up on sleep.
- Thursday, September 14: Arrive in Bournemouth, stay in a $70 three-star hotel by the beach.
- Friday, September 15 — my birthday, by the way. Spend the day exploring Bournemouth and begging, cajoling, hustling, whatever it takes to get a ticket to AFC Bournemouth’s game that night against Brighton and Hove Albion. It’s a South Coast Derby in 10,000-seat stadium, possibly the hardest ticket in all of England, and the only Premier League club I haven’t been to. All I want for my birthday is a seat in the Vitality!
- Saturday, September 16: Transfer to Portsmouth, see them play Fleetwood Town in League One. Explore town.
Sunday, September 17: Go up to London, where I really, really hope to get a ticket for Chelsea v Arsenal.
- Monday, September 18: Relax in London.
- Tuesday-Wednesday, September 19 and 20: Attend League Cup games somewhere, probably around Greater London. These games will be announced in about a month or so.
- Thursday, September 21: Transfer to Gloucester, and possibly rent a UK car for the first time. The reason: Forest Green Rovers.
- Friday, September 22: Forest Green Rovers FC v Swindon Town FC.
I have to pause here and explain how excited I am about this Forest Green Rovers situation. You see, English soccer is arranged in a pyramid of leagues, connected by promotion and relegation, which means no matter how small you are, you can play your way up to … well, the Premier League. Just ask Bournemouth and their 10,000-seat stadium.
So for this year, I was looking at the new teams in the fourth tier, League Two, which is the lowest of the all-professional English Football League. And there is a new club called Forest Green Rovers, in the Football League for the first time ever. They’ve been a club since 1898!!!
I cannot tell you how quickly I googled that name and found out they are (A) in the Cotswolds, (B) in Nailsworth, the smallest village ever to host a Football League club (population 5,700), and (C) play in a stadium called The New Lawn, with 5,000 capacity, only 2,000 of which are seats. They’ve got a home game on Friday the 22nd, against Swindon Town, from 26 miles away, and I am all over it.
Also, I plan to explore the Cotswolds for a day or two (hence the possible car), and the town of Gloucester, so I’m pumped.
Right, so back to the plan.
- Saturday, September 23: On the train probably to Derby (three hours) for Derby County’s game against Birmingham City, who are from about an hour away. Might instead go back to a club where I didn’t take good notes before: Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa, or Leeds United.
- Sunday, September 24: If the Good Lord wills it, on this day I will go to Sheffield and see the first Steel City Derby since 2012. That would be Sheffield Wednesday playing host to Sheffield United, and all I can say is, imagine if Pittsburgh had the Steelers and somebody else in the NFL. Think they would get along? That’s what I’m saying. Please please please let me get a ticket to this game.
- Monday, September 25: Drag my tired arse back to Heathrow for a 1 p.m. flight home.
If it all works out, that is two weeks out of Portland, 13 nights in England, and 9 games. We shall see. If this kind of planning gets you excited, just book a consulting Phoner with me and I can work my magic on your behalf!