Colin Grainger

Madrid 2019: The Good, Bad, downright Ugly … the Brilliant and Shambolic!

We lived the dream, but fell at the final hurdle.

No one can ever take away from us that we made it to the Champions League Final in Madrid. The glory of the last season against the odds for Spurs will remain forever in our hearts.

It was 57 years ago that I last witnessed a European Cup semi-final. That was my first game ever at The Lane. As I entered the stadium in Madrid with my son James and friend Jess Culver in the heat of Saturday night, we had to pinch ourselves.

  • We’re in, Jess, James and I inside the stadium

This moment was payback for the loyalty we had shown in tolerating nearly two horrible seasons in soulless, horrible, overpriced Wembley. It drove some of us to miss, albeit only a handful, of games for the first time in many decades.

But making it to Madrid and being there really was a case of the good, the bad and the ugly. And add in the unexpected, the brilliant, the shambolic and the threatening.

There will be many inquests into a host of things. But first, the game.

The atmosphere inside the stadium was electric. The noise we made was deafening. The support, incredible.

  • Just before the drama started

The start. Jaw dropping. If there had been a foul, okay. If there had been a shot going towards goal, and a deliberate handball, fair enough. But how typical of UEFA’s bid to destroy our beautiful game, ringing the life out if it, that it had to be given by a rule change starting that day.

If that is applied in the Premier League next season, there will be five penalties a game. No English ref would have given it.

It was the worst start to a match for us, and the worst start for the quality of the game. Once bitten, twice shy. Liverpool were going to time-waste like masters. Throw-ins, corners, subs. They weren’t going to let history repeat itself and let this game slip.

It was a poor game. We huffed, we puffed. Our finishing let us down. We had the chances. We were in the game until the needless corner near the end. 2-0 and it was over.

  • End of the dream. The players wait to get their medals

The players and fans showed their love for each other. Lucas, Sonny and Tripper went into our fans. For one minute, I thought Sonny would give his runners-up medal away. If you can’t come first, come second.

The hurt for all of us was painful. But realisation quickly set in. The achievement itself was brilliant. Top four again and we’ll be back and we will win matches again. Three days on and it is still raw. But To Dare Is To Do.

The day started fine. Getting to Stansted airport on Saturday morning was almost trouble free. Just a few traffic jams but only the £48 fee for one day’s parking was out of order.

Seeing Big Chiv, Graham Roberts, Pat Jennings, Cliff Jones and Gary Mabbutt in the queue for boarding passes was a joy. Meeting Jess even though she was on a different Thomas Cook Sport flight was just smashing and enjoying bacon sarnies and a couple of pints set us up nicely.

Meeting fellow fans on the plane and chatting over our experiences of supporting the Lilywhites was great. Only a 40 minute delay in take off was a bonus these days.

Despite a Keystone Cops style bus journey from plane to terminal, the police at Madrid airport were a dream. Welcoming and passport control with no hold ups.

We were on a coach within minutes to the car park…which turned out to be the motorway slip road that had been closed by police. Then the fun started. But now it was 2pm and we were left in the middle of nowhere and initially sent the wrong way.

Our Playing Legends of all ages were left in the 90F heat with nowhere but a small tree for shade. I was waiting for my friend’s coach (she arrived on another plane about five minutes after me).

But then these gentle men made it special for myself and Jess. I had struck up a conversation with Ricky Villa as my son, who edits the Buenos Aires Times in Argentina, had been lucky enough to visit his ranch last year.

  • Jess and I with Ricky Villa

  • Meeting The Legends

The Legends posed for pictures and were absolute diamonds in the heat. They were eventually picked up and taken to the Fan Zone in Madrid to put on a (late) show for thousands.

Meanwhile our long trek to find my son ended when we met him at a bar next to Canillejas Station. Seeing my son having made his way there from Argentina was mind blowing. Together again watching Spurs as we had done for many years before he moved to BA.

  • Hello son. James and I meet up

The food was great, the company superb and the drinks flowed…and flowed.

Meeting genuine Liverpool fans was brilliant. Not a hint of trouble. Two bars joined at the hip and plenty of laughs.

We decided not to head into the Fan Zone after finding they had stopped serving and moments later our group was six. Mark Callanan, John Mullins and Lennie Bartlett who sit with me at The Lane turned up.  It was excellent. even if the price of a pint increased suddenly from 6 to 10 Euros. You are only young once!

No wonder inflation is bad in Spain…

  • Lennie, Jess, James, Mark, John and I. Cheers!

Our tradition at The Lane is to leave our watering hole about ten minutes before kick- off. But knowing there a 25 minute walk in the heat, and security searches and such like ahead, we lapsed briefly into sensible mode.

While all this was going on, our families were watching at home in England and Argentina, willing us to win.

  • Granddaughter Laura in the mood

  • James’ wife Ire with children Julia and Toby

We were at the ground. Cue team photo and in we went. It had been a mission for us to actually make it. Six people had four different routes involving Argentina, France and various different parts of Spain…and of course England. Some were present in Spain for two days, others four. Brilliant memories.

The ground itself afforded great views. But the pricing was shocking. 6 Euros for a small bottle of Pepsi. They didn’t even have Coca Cola. The minute selection of grub looked naff as well.

But…now for some not so happy revelations.

As we left the Madrid stadium we got a shock to our system…and the brutal behaviour of Spanish police within minutes of us ascending the stairway to the area outside .

Three of our main group of six (another dozen or so friends were also inside in different areas) were together. But James, Jess and I were in three different stands because of the ticket allocation.

Jess and I phoned each other to meet but when we got outside police had erected a ridiculous ‘human wall’ to prevent Spurs fans from leaving in the direction of their arrival – and coaches.

I politely asked a baton-wielding police officer to allow me to meet with Jess who was on the other side of their ‘wall’ and go back the way we came. The request was refused time and again. Officers blew whistles in my face and ears and eventually pulled one of my arms up my back and pushed me.

The same was being done to Jess. She was then knocked to the ground.  She was eventually allowed to come back to the ‘wall’ and I asked what looked like a senior officer if I could talk to her. He said he would let me go through with her and leave the opposite way to where we needed to go back to our coaches. By this time, my son had joined us from his upper tier and tried to reason with them in Spanish.

Numerous times we asked them in both Spanish and English why they were being so aggressive.

The situation was getting out of hand with baton waving and whistling and threats into our faces by the police. The heroine of the day was Bev Kent, a steward we have known for many years, who managed to wrestle Jess away from the idiotic officers so we could get away from the stadium. It was completely uncalled for and we understand from other sources that hundreds of other fans were treated appallingly and that Spurs are making an official complaint.

It was the complete opposite to the welcoming smiles and chats with police at Madrid Airport.

Jess made it to the coach and to a hotel for a few hours respite. I was able to spend the next two hours walking for what seemed like miles trying to get a cab or bus back to my son’s hotel. No cabs to be had. Having been told the Metro was closed, we eventually found out that a train had broken down. It started running again and we managed to get back for two hours rest. I got up at 4am to get a cab to the airport. My phone told me I had walked 18,000 steps on Saturday.

Phew! Still with me? And now for tales of the ludicrous…

And so how did we get there? I could write a book but will try to keep the drama tight.

It was, in short, a nightmare. I have had some great stresses in my professional and personal life that I have managed to cope with, as most people do in their lives.

But once I pressed the yes button and booked what seemed like a straightforward booking with Thomas Cook Sport (in partnership with Spurs), nothing could have prepared me for what followed.

‘Early morning flight out’ and ‘early in the morning’ flight back was promised in the documentation sent out. My account was to be debited £560 once the ticket purchase was confirmed.

To be given a chance of getting on the limited number of flights, I was advised that as I was in ticket sales application 2 to not wait till phase 3 otherwise I would not get on flight. I was promised I would be told if I was on the plane within 24 hours of my ticket purchase.

48 hours later I was told I was successful. A friend who bought her ticket before me was not told until four days after me.  We were all promised an itinerary on the Monday before the game. Days went by. We nearly bought other tickets and hotels costing thousands.

Various friends found out on Thursday and Friday they were on 10am flights. I was finally told at 12.02am the day before the game I was on 1.30pm flight. I was devastated that I would only see my son for a few hours. Any delays and I might not even make it.

During those days I sent about 15 Twitter messages to Thomas Cook Sport. I made many phone calls, hanging on for two hours at a time, never getting a reply or getting though.

Finally at 8.20am on Friday I got through to be told nothing new. They were ‘trying to bring the flight forward.’ Some Twitter responses from staff showed they were obviously beside themselves with worry.

At midday on Friday, I was told my flight was finally brought forward to 10am. I am sure the protests by the magnificent Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust had something to do with this. I also believe the Spurs Board may have had some say in the matter.

Others fared worse. Flights cancelled, horrific delays. The food and drink on the flight was poor, the staff lovely.

The huge queue to get on the homeward plane was farcical. But then when you have queued around the ground for Cup Final tickets in the 60s, 70s and 80s, you put up with it I guess.

  • Jess and I at Stansted

  • One of the signs at Stansted

And so to my final observations.

For the last few years, my admiration for Liverpool and their fans, built up over many years, had waned a little. But I have to now admit that’s because I shamefully allowed my feelings to be swayed by the keyboard warriors on Twitter that give them a bad rep in the eyes of many Spurs fans.

Just like social media allows some West Ham fans to behave appallingly and use outdated and awful terms, I know my genuine Hammers mates and I will always share a joke or two and laugh at ourselves – with each other. I have Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Man U, Man City and Leeds friends in real life and on social media. Why shouldn’t I?

Every Liverpool fan, male and female we met was nothing but charming and a good laugh, before and after the game. I apologised a number of times for the stupid chants some of our fans still sing. They brushed it off and even told us, before a ball was kicked, they had had more laughs with us over the last few days than those of other London clubs and “that lot from Manchester.” They urged us on to more glories. It was great to see fans of both clubs getting on and helping one another.

On the train on the way home they were generous in victory and said we were the better team.

No finer example of the spirit was revealed in the press the following day when the good side of social media revealed how a Spurs fan had found a Liverpool supporter’s wallet in a cab with 800 Euros, and a precious letter from his late father. He tracked him down, there were tears and hugs and friends of both spent the day together.

It is now time for us to grow even more as a football club on and off the pitch.

It is also time for us to grow up – as supporters. Keep the banter, but stop the nastiness. It’s time to give up the 70s ‘job and benefits’ chants to Liverpool fans.

It’s also time to forget Sol Campbell and cut out the mindless, moronic chants and songs. We’re better than that.

I’d like to end on a lighter note. I didn’t witness this but would have loved to.

Many fans had to sleep at the airport for upto ten hours waiting for their flight home and my flight pal Mark and I met up in the ludicrous queue to get on the plane back where we stood for 90 minutes.

He slept briefly at the airport but was nodding off when the Spurs Legends, so lovely to us earlier, turned up for their early morning flight. While delayed, Cliff Jones rolled up a newspaper and missed kicking it into a waste bin. Having had a bit of lighted hearted leg pulling, there then followed a kick about in the airport between Cliff, Graham Roberts and other stars… what a memory.


Just eight days till next season’s fixtures are out!



  • Pictures: Colin Grainger, James Grainger, Jess Culver, Angela Grainger Toon, Irene Grainger Brandt and Roberto Brandt

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This article was written on 05 Jun 2019, and is filed under Champions League, Madrid, Spurs, Tottenham Hotspur.

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