Posted: 12/1/2017


        The last, and only time, that I visited The Kremlin, was in late summer 1964 on the way from Britain via Copenhagen, Helsingor, Halsingborg, Stockholm. Nortalje, Turku, Helsinki, Leningrad and a day in Moscow before catching The Trans Siberian Railway via Omsk, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk.. Khabarovsk and finished up at the port of Nahodka (Vladivostok was a closed military port)..and a three day trip by ship to Yokahama, then hitching to Tokyo in a British Embassy limo for the Olympic Games.

          In Red Square I was offered roubles for my drip-dry crease resistant trousers and my Hush Puppy shoes before I viewed Lenin's Tomb and toured The Kremlin, but said NYET !,

        Today in the heart of The Kremlin with an introduction from Vlad Putin and then the Walker's Crisp Man  Gary Linecker, (£10,000 fee) the former England star introduced the ex  stars  who broke open the plastic balls and pulled the slips with names out. (Fortunately Qatar was not in any balls). Some gorgeous women in very strange psychedilic dresses and some odd make-up and suit for Armando Diego Maradona (who was his make up artist and dresser?) with his yellow bow tie..and accompanied by his latest girl friend in a tiger fur coat.

        ' Safe Hands  Gordon Banks was wearing a Stoke City neck tie and didn't drop a ball, despite one glass eye. My best memory was being at Wembley Stadium for the World Cup Final in 1966. He got paid £1,000 by Puma for wearing their shoes..big money in those days..while the other 10 got paid the same to wear Adidas. The whole squad shared £22,000 between them for the win.  I was also in the Jalisco Stadium in Guadalajara 4 years later to see his wonder save from Pele against Brazil, but the eventual 3 times winners won 1-0.

         Another ball breaker was Laurent Blanc. I vividly remember his Golden Goal (The first in World Cup history) for France v Paraguay June 28th in the Round of 16 at Stade Felix Bollaert, Lens in 1998 that sent them into a quarter final in Marseilles and another lucky pk win over Italy, I was standing behind the opposite goal in Lens.

          England had a really good draw. The hardest will be the last group game against Belgium in Kaliningrad. Go pick up some amber on the Baltic Beach. First a visit to former Stalingrad, now Volgograd on June 18 to face Tunisia. Alan Shearer scored the first and Paul Scholes the second when they played each other in 1998 in Le Stade Velodrome, Marseilles.. Next trip is to Novgorod on 24th June against first timers Panama, and then 4 days later against the Belgians. England have already selected their base in Repino on the Baltic about 19 miles outside St. Petersburg and flight times in a luxury charterd plane are relatively short.

          I met the Russian delegation at their double decker booth at Sandton near Johannesburg in 2007 and over hot tea and chocolates was given an individual chat. The Three Pods of cities, only in the Western part of this giant country/continent were chosen. Eleven time zones from the Baltic to The Pacific (When I travelled on the Trans-Siberian Express they kept Moscow time throughout which is a bit confusing).

         Moscow is three hours ahead of London and 8 hours ahead of New York right now, but Russia does not practice Summer time, so it will be 2 hours and 7 hours ahead next June. If you purchase match tickets you get a World Cup pass in lieu of an expensive Russian visa, and this gives you free local transport to stadiums and free rail tickets to the host city where your matches are.

         No real Group of Death this time.