Barnsley is a typical working class town in South Yorkshire which used to surrounded by coalfields, all now closed, but still big in glass production. I hadn't visited for a long long time, when Barnsley FC 'The Tykes' did well against famous opposition in an F.A Cup run in the 1960's.
It now has a brand new train and bus station, The Barnsley Interchange, and is a 10 minute walk from Oakwell the Tykes stadium. When I last visited it had one impossing stand with some seating and 3 other sides for standing in the rain. Now it has 3 huge new stands, one double decker and the old stand still there but that will be replaced soon. One of my favourite 10 players of all time, Danny Blanchflower a legendary future captain of Tottenham Hotspur and Northern Ireland played here as a teenager, and also Tommy Taylor, a prolific scorer later for Manchester United and England who died in the Munich Air disaster in 1958.They have always been a lower league club except for one brief one-season 'fling' in the Premier League in 1998-99. They are now doing very well in The Championship, the second tier. They were hosting an U 21 UEFA championship match between England and Belgium and with prices as low as £1 there was a pretty good crowd of 6,000 occupying two of the stands that were open. Toby Tyke, the club mascot was prominently displayed as was the club and town crest, featuring a coat of arms including a miner and a glass worker
In the thriving town centre (at least until 6.00pm when it gets really dull) they have a huge market with fresh fruit, vegetables, pies, meats,cakes, clothes and the usual bric a brac. I picked up 3 huge cornish pasties for £1.50, 30 penguin chocolate biscuit bars for the same price and 3 pounds of bananas for 50 p. I went to an Irish pub, Durty O'Dwyers, to watch Russia vs England from the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow(It used to be the old Lenin Stadium) with an excited bunch of thirsty fans. By half time with a rocket shot from Wayne Rooney England had a comfortable lead, and 3 guys at my table had already downed 9 Guinness stouts between them. As you will know by now Russia fought back and within the space of 4 minutes substitute Roman Pavluchenko of Moscow Spartak,(the only player to have actually played on the artificial Field Turf surface) had scored a brace of goals and the Three Lions were facing elimination from EURO 2008 Finals in Austria/Switzerland next summer.
Dancing up and down and hugging his buddies in the stands was Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, who pays for the salary of coach Guus Hiddink. Russia have to go to Tel Aviv to play Israel and also host winless Andorra in late November, so England can only watch and wait. I wouldn't be suprised if the Russian billionaire makes a 'sizeable donation' to some Israeli university or other good cause to 'help' with the softening up process, since the Israelis are out of contention.
After watching the match at O'Dwyers, I went to another pub on the Pontefract Road to watch Georgia vs Scotland from the Boris Paichalze Stadium in Tbilisi before going to a chilly Oakwell Stadium round the corner. I was suprised to notice the curly white hair of the Georgian coach, Klaas Toppmuller who once played for the Dallas Tornado of the NASL with a gammy knee. Scotland have been on a roll and beaten France home and away and Italy in Glasgow. The German born coach put in 3 teenagers, including 16 year old Leva Kenia, and the 17 year old keeper Georgi Makaidze, 3rd choice at Dinamo Tiblisi who had never played in a first class match. The goalie was never tested and Scotland were just plain ordinary and lost 2-0. They have to beat Italy, the world champions at Hampden Park in Novemebr and they will make it to Euro 2008. A Georgian fan ran onto the pitch in the first half in front of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini, and gave embarrasement to the host federation. I was looking at the advertising boards. The Georgian alphabet looks like a mixture of Sanscrit and Thai
Meanwhile Strathclyde Transport Authority, which runs public transport in the Glasgow area, have appealed to Rangers fans not to practice the Bouncy, Bouncy on the light rail to home matches at Ibrox Stadium. It's a traditional fan display at the stadium and on the journey there, but drivers on the rail line have complained that when the 80 capacity carriages suffer from the Rangers fans, there is a danger of an accident, and they have been asked to tone down their celebrations.