Sorry that it has taken me a while to write about the Wales v England game. I think to be honest I needed a bit of extra time to get over what was an emotional and draining day.
This was a massive game for Wales. An unlikely victory and we would go through as the group winners. Of course that didn’t happen with England stealing a win with Daniel Sturridge’s goal well inside stoppage time. To be fair the best team on the day won but, having held out for so long, to lose in that way was hard to take. We had been given hope with Gareth Bale’s dipping free kick before half time but the second half was nearly all England with Jamie Vardy’s goal coming soon after the break and the boys did well to soak up the pressure for so long until Sturridge broke our hearts.
This was the game before the tournament that we were most worried about their being trouble at. The good news is that it passed off in a good natured way with everyone getting on well and behaving themselves. This goes to show that the vast majority of England fans just want to watch the game and have a good time like we do. It is just as well that everyone got on so well as segregation in the ground was non existent. I was sat behind the goal and the other side of a small vomitory were England fans. No stewards or divide between us at all.
Our day started early with a pick up at 8am in the coach that Richard (aka Brendan’s tours) had organised. We stopped in the small town of Peronne Somme, 45 minutes from Lens which gave us all an opportunity to have a bite to eat and a beer away from any other football fans. Great planning from Brendan. He has done a brilliant job with the whole trip.
Lens itself was a strange experience. It is like a small, industrial, northern English town with its terraced houses and a stadium that holds more than its population. The alcohol ban wasn’t in operation, and who can blame the local businesses who are probably very quiet the rest of the time and relying on this trade?
Thankfully the Welsh and English were all happily sharing banter over a pint and the atmosphere inside and outside the ground was excellent. I did find it hard to stomach though when at the final whistle the England fans sang our Don’t take me home song.
This is quickly becoming the song of the tournament and we have taught it to all nationalities and heard many of them singing it.
I’m still disappointed we didn’t get the draw but incredibly proud of the team. We are a small nation with just 3.1 million population and to go so close was a tremendous effort. England, with all their superstars, had to use all of their five forwards to narrowly beat us. As much as we all love Hal Robson Kanu, one of our better players on the day, what we would give to have some more quality striking options. It gets me down when people start complaining about the performance. Yes, we didn’t keep the ball and England stopped us playing. With their squad you would expect them to and we were so close. Never mind, let’s get the result we need against the Russians and get through to the last 16. Come on Wales.
The day after the game we did some sightseeing in Paris and visited the fanzone beneath the Eiffel Tower. I then met up with a former colleague I hadn’t seen for 15 years who currently works in Paris and went to a few lively bars in the Montmartre area.
I certainly gave myself some free time today as I managed to miss my flight to Toulouse! First we all got in a cab and the clutch blew. When we had been rescued and got to the airport I realised I had left my passport at our hostel in Paris. I went back to get it and missed check in by 2 minutes. Unfortunately there was no persuading the stone-faced Easyjet employee at Paris Orly airport to let me on the flight. So, I have spent six and a half hours on a train from Paris to Toulouse! It hasn’t been that bad to be honest. I’ve caught up on the last few day’s Guardians and it has been interesting to see the scenery change as we slowly move further and further South. I am hopeful that in Toulouse we will finally see some sun as the weather has been pretty dreadful everywhere that we have been so far.
I got in to Toulouse and quickly met up with the boys and headed to see the Super Furry Animals who were headlining Rio Loco, an annual Celtic music festival they have in the city every year. As always, the furries were excellent and there was a brilliant atmosphere with the Welsh and the French all getting on brilliantly. When the gig finished we headed to the Four Monkeys where there was a real party atmosphere. The locals well and truly joined in with the Welsh, singing our songs better than some of the Welsh fans. We finished the night singing and dancing in the streets with Cian from the Super Furries. Top lad, just a shame my selfie is rubbish!