England v Turkey, Sunderland, 2 April 2003, Euro 2004 Qualifier
have just got back into work after flying down from Newcastle this morning, hungover but still on a high after a superb 2-0 win over Turkey.
We flew up early Wednesday morning, had loads of time on our hands so wandered down to the Quay side area (that was the location of our Hotel), crossed over the Tyne on the Millennium bridge, popped into a local cafe for a coffee (and Piers to have his second breakfast!) then as the bell struck 11am we were in the 'Red ???????' pub very close to the famous bridge over the Tyne.
We soon met up with Phil, then Andy S and a few of his mates turned up. We checked into our Hotel just after 2pm and then headed back to the pubs up towards the station. The place was buzzing, despite the game being in Sunderland. We decided to stay around the station as rumours of trouble filtered through.
We caught the metro at about 6pm after we had met the Gainsborough and Northampton lads and by 6.30(ish) arrived into Sunderland. The Police were out in force, including horses, dogs and helicopters. We walked towards the ground, got in a local working mans club (20p entry fee - top place) and then on to the ground about 7.30. As we arrived so did a coach with Turkish fans and the Police had to circle it to keep people away. The atmosphere was tense, but not as bad as I expected.
Our seats were right at the back of the North Stand upper tier, great view and a superb electric atmosphere. The ground was definitely not full and empty seats could be seen all over the place, very strange. As for the game, I imagine most people saw it, but the end of the first half and the majority of the second half saw the best display by an England team for a long time, with 17 year old Rooney standing head and shoulders above most other players on the pitch.
When Vassell knocked in the rebound after 75 minutes the place erupted, and I mean erupted, the noise was deafening and the celebrations long and mental! After that the singing increased in volume and when James tipped over the only decent Turkish effort after 82 minutes I was starting to believe we would win. Dyer then came on, got tripped (mmmm seeing it again he possibly didn't!) and Beckham tucked away the penalty nicely! Between the goals the 4,000 Turks were stunned into silence.
After the game we headed back to the metro. The Turks were kept locked in the ground and they had horses and row after row of riot Police keeping the away end clear. There were a few England milling about, but no more trouble as far as we know. We caught the metro back, headed for a few beers in Newcastle, at 12.30 went for a curry and staggered into the Hotel about 2am and started watching the second half of the re run of the game on the BBC. I fell asleep after about 30 seconds and woke up as Beckham scored the penalty!
I was up at 7am and get a copy of the local rag called the Journal. There were 95 arrests in total, mainly Newcastle and Sunderland two main firms who clashed early on Wednesday (The Newcastle gremlins v Seaburn casuals apparently!). The Police also detained 30 Leeds fans before they even got to Sunderland.
A great game, a great win, Slovakia next (June 11th) in the quest for Portugal 2004. This is the first time England have played Turkey since 1993 and happily it's a game I will remember for the right reasons this time!!!!!!