Monday, 20 June 2016

Slovakia v England. 20/06/16

"I don't mean to worry you about the flat we are staying in, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out Jihadi John was our next door neighbour."

Slovakia 0-0 England. Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
Monday 20/06/16
There have been many inventions that have changed the world down the years. The wheel, sliced bread, the internet, fried chicken. But could Airbnb go onto become the greatest of them all? Even better than Colonel Sanders secret recipe of 11 different herbs and spices coated over a bit of poultry? If the latest instalment of my Euro 2016 travels are anything to go by, yes it could.

One of the problems with following England away, particularly in tournaments with the number of fans who travel, is the cost of finding a bed for the night. The Slovakia game was a particular nightmare. Saint-Etienne where the game was to be played isn’t exactly known for its booming tourism industry and so available rooms were rarer than a good Jordan Henderson set piece. The hoteliers of neighbouring Lyon showed the capitalist traits you simply wouldn’t think existed in a country where everybody goes on strike at the thought of having to work more than six hours a week by whacking all their prices up for the influx of up to 30,000 English supporters.

And this is where Airbnb comes in. For as cheap as just £24 a night in this case, you can rent a room in somebodies house or indeed their entire abode if they are away. For Joe and myself, this was an absolute God send as we decamped to a small flat a few tram stops from Lyon’s main station.

Our Airbnb accomodation - no French SWAT teams
on site as yet
There is of course an element of risk with this arrangement as, although you can view photos of the accommodation before arriving, you never know exactly what you are going to get. Take our first impressions here. We were renting off a young female student who had gone away for a couple of days to visit a friend in Auxerre. On arrival at the location, it appeared as though the flat was on the sort of estate that you traditionally see being raided by police for suspects in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Now I’m all for trying new things and experiences, but staying in a potential ISIS stronghold might have been a step too far.

But first impressions are a funny thing. Take my first impressions of Les Dennis joining Coronation Street. What a bloody terrible decision, you can’t have a bloke who presented Family Fortunes on the Street. But Michael has been a revelation and, once you got past the fact that French riot police could burst onto the scene at any minute, so was this flat. Sure, there were a few problems like not being able to work out how the window opened when it was 27 degrees outside and my sofa bed being riddled with creatures that bit when you were asleep but for £12 each, there could be few complaints.

A comfortable "bed" for Sunday night in Gatwick's North Terminal
And at least there was a bed, which was a far cry from the previous evening when a bed consisted of a seat in Gatwick’s North Terminal that afforded about two hours of sleep before the 6am flight to Geneva. Having three hours to kill in Geneva struck the sort of fear into my wallet that seeing John Leslie wandering down a corridor strikes into a young lady but in a blog that is fast becoming a gushing piece handing out praise left, right and centre (don't worry, it won't last) then Geneva is another that needs to take a bow for providing the first ever sub £8 pint I’ve had in Switzerland. The last time I visited everyone’s favourite home of Nazi gold was a trip to Basel in 2014 where it was £12 a pint yet here in Geneva a delightful Feldschlosschen weighed in at £5.70. Keep them flowing please barkeep.

Lake Geneva
It had to be photographed - a £5.70 pint in
From Geneva, it was a two hour train journey to Lyon through the rolling hills that represent the Swiss-French border and from Lyon, another 45 minutes onwards to Saint-Etienne. I’ve always had a soft spot for AS Saint-Etienne, ever since a trip to Bordeaux seven years ago when in a rash decision that had nothing to do with a lot of French beer, I went into a sports shop and forked out €80 for a full ASSE kit – shirt, shorts and socks – based purely on the fact that it’s combination of three shades of green was one of the best things I had ever seen. So to visit Stade Geoffroy-Guichard was going to be a real treat, even if it was to watch England rather than Les Verts.

Fun and game in Saint-Etienne's main square
But before heading off to the Green Hell as the locals refer to it, there was plenty of fun to be had in the city centre. A right party was underway on in the main square where people were flocking from many of the bars around. The traditional boot a football as high as possible into the air game was going on as one of the local cafes blared out a playlist that included Three Lions, Vindaloo, The Beatles, Oasis and of course Will Grigg on fire – or in this case, Vardy on fire - the teaching of whose lyrics to a group of a young local ladies who had come to join in the fun proved to be no easy task. England fans danced around throwing beer, pot plants and in the case of one particularly cultured individual, red wine into the air. One bloke came onto his balcony above the square to watch events. He was greeted with a huge cheer when he headed the ball that was booted up to him back down into the crowd. An even bigger cheer went up when he introduced his wife to the crowd. And then an even bigger one for his daughter, no more than five years old, who waved and led the crowd in a Mexican wave. Bloody English hooligans eh?

Stade Geoffroy-Guichard was a 10 minute tram ride from party central and on arrival we were met with huge queues to get into the stadium. Could there be thorough security checks here for the first time at an England game in the tournament? Perhaps they had heard a couple of England fans were staying on an ISIS estate in Lyon and might have been radicalised? No. The queues were actually being caused by the genius decision to have just four entrances to the stadium on each of the four corners. Each entrance was manned by no man than five security staff responsible for patting down every person entering. So a 42,000 seater stadium, four entrances, an average of over 10,000 people per entrance and five staff. Now I’m no mathematician but that was never going to add up without complete chaos which needless to say ensued.

 Stade Geoffrey-Goichard. Another very English stadium
Fantastic floodlights behind the goals

But what about when inside the stadium? Well it isn’t hard to see why ASSE are famed for having one of the best atmospheres in France. The acoustics of Stade Geoffroy-Guichard are superb and despite the lack of inspiration on the pitch from England in a turgid 0-0 draw, the Three Lions support was loud and proud throughout. Around 80% of the ground was England and it really did feel like a home game – if a home game at the corporate bowl that is Wembley had any atmosphere at all, of course.

Just like the venue for the Bales game in Lens four days previously, this was another stadium with an English feel to it. Four separate stands, all two tiered raising into the sky with some fantastic floodlights perched under the roof behind each goal. Thank Christ the stadium and the atmosphere was something to marvel at as there was bugger all on the pitch to. Roy Hodgson made six changes and while that garnered a lot of criticism, the fact is England had 29 shots and 61% possession. England didn’t play terribly, they just couldn’t get past a stubborn Slovakian defence. Whereas in the Bales game on Thursday you just knew at the 60 minute mark that England would eventually go onto win, here the clock ticked past an hour and everyone could sense that even with the introduction of Wayne Rooney, it was finishing as a stalemate. Better to concentrate on relentlessly singing The Great Escape and having the news filter through that Wales’ hammering of Russia would relegate England to second place in the group, putting them in the same half of the draw as the likes of Italy, France and German. At least there shouldn't be the need to break through an 11 man blockade to score against any of those three.

Everyone under the England flags to keep out the rain in the queue
for the station
If the queuing system to get into the ground was bad then back at Saint-Etienne Station afterwards it was farcical. Even Paul and Barry Chuckle would have blushed as it took three hours to get onto the station platform for a train back to Lyon. We’d booked on the 00.45 but one of the police guarding the line said rather helpfully “Don’t worry about tickets, just get on the train. They will run until this queue is cleared." £10 well spent on a worthless bit of paper then. Things got even worse when it began hacking down with rain until England supporters began unfurling their flags and passing them over heads to use as makeshift marquees.

Upon finally reaching the station entrance it became apparent as to why we had been kept out in the rain for twice as long as the game we’d come to see had lasted. The station staff were taking the Noah’s Ark approach to loading up the trains and counting people in two at a time to ensure that there was not so much no overcrowding as a lack of crowd at all. While it was pleasant for everyone to have a seat for the journey back to Lyon, I’m certain most people would have traded having to stand for the journey for an hour and a half less spent in a queue. We finally boarded a train at around 2.45am, arriving back at ISIS HQ at 4am for some well deserved sleep that was thankfully not interrupted by anti-terrorist police raiding the building.

The French-Swiss border. It is goodbye to the EU here...
The following morning Joe and myself went our separate ways – he to spend 20 hours and a night in Lyon airport before a flight home on Wednesday, me to the French border town of Saint-Louis. After walking into Switzerland where the beer was more expensive – see, it’s not always brighter out of the EU – I returned to France and what must rank as the best pub of Euro 2016 so far. Tabac Altay was its name and confined within was a stunning piece of technology. The television in the bar was showing horse racing and this contraption allowed you to place a bet direct with a bookmaker via an ATM style machine. You could pay with cash or card and pick up your winnings as soon as the race was over. Why do we not have these in England? If this hadn’t have been the trip I discovered Airbnb, then the gambling machine would easily have won best invention of the trip.

Bet direct with a bookies with this fantastic machine inside a
pub. A genius idea
After dragging myself away from Tabac Altay it was onwards to the continents most confusing airport, Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg. Straddling the border between France, Switzerland and Germany, it has one big terminal that is split into a two – a Swiss side and a French side. The Swiss side deals in Swiss Francs, the French side in Euros. This resulted in a steak dinner (not horse this time) in France and seeing as I was flying from the Swiss area, a few beers in Switzerland.

Managed to get a steak that wasn't horse this time
Stunning sunset at Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg
There was a beautiful sunset to send us off from Switzerland and after 48 hours in which sleep had been confined to two hours in Gatwick and five hours on a bug ridden sofa, it was a relief to finally get home and climb into bed in a building were there was little worry of being dragged out handcuffed by some balaclava clad SWAT team. We'll save that one for the next Airbnb experience.

Slovakia: Matus Kozacik, Peter Pekarik, Martin Skrtel, Jan Durica, Tomas Hubocan, Robert Mak, Juraj Kucka, Viktor Pecovsky (Norbert Gyomber), Marek Hamsik, Vladimir Weiss (Milan Skriniar), Ondrej Duda (Dusan Svento).

England: Joe Hart, Nathaniel Clyne, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, Ryan Bertrand, Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier, Jack Wilshere (Wayne Rooney), Daniel Sturridge (Harry Kane), Jamie Vardy, Adam Lallana (Dele Alli).

Attendance: 39,051

Thursday, 16 June 2016

England v Wales. 16/06/16

"If I had to take an educated guess at what we're eating, I'd say it probably ran in the 16.05 at Auteuil on Sunday."

England 2-1 Wales. Stade Bollaert-Delelis.
Thursday 16/06/16
I live in a reasonably sized Mid Sussex commuter town by the name of Burgess Hill, about 15 miles north of Brighton with a population of 30,635 according to the 2011 census. By comparison, Lens in 2012 had a population of 32,663. That meant that UEFA were basically holding England v Wales, set to be one of the most popular group games at Euro 2016, in a French version of Burgess Hill. Is it any wonder that people were kicking up a fuss about the venue?

Well, yes actually and they really shouldn’t have been. There are some not-so-subtle differences between the town in northern France and the one in southern England. Take the respective communities football clubs. RC Lens' Stade Bollaert-Delelis is capable of holding around 38,000 people which is slightly more than Burgess Hill Town's Green Elephant Stadium with a capacity of 2,000. Lens is famed for its huge coal slag heaps which are a UNESCO world heritage site. It is unlikely that Burgess Hill's slags of a quite different sort that can be found of a Saturday night in the town’s one nightspot Pulse are likely to receive honours from the UN anytime soon.

Police horse in Lens - coming to a dinner table near you soon?
The French and British authorities were desperate to keep ticketless fans away from Lens. Their first tactic was to say there would be no alcohol on sale in the town. Then they told supporters to go to neighbouring Lille to watch in the fanzone and bars there. After people heeded that advice, altered their travel and booked accommodation in Lille accordingly, another problem belatedly dawned on the organisers – Russia were in Lille the night before. Forget everything we told you and go watch the game anywhere but Lens or Lille was the next piece of guidance. With all this hulaballo going on, you’d have been forgiven for expecting it to be absolute carnage in little old Lens, but the truth is that it actually proved to be an excellent host for the Battle of Britain. Although I nearly didn't make it there to find out.

Friday night you see was spent in Paris. Before Euro 2016, Paris was just about on a par with Baghdad, Tripoli and Caracas as places I was in no hurry to visit. On every previous visit I'd hated the place but something magical has happened during this tournament in that I've grown to actually quite like it. It's got to the point now that not even the fact that I ended up eating what can only be described as a former racehorse for dinner before getting locked for an hour and a half in a shopping centre that resembled a building site has put me off the place.

"Piece of meat, depending on the market" -
sounds promising
Big old slab of horse anyone?
Firstly, to the dinner. My good friend Joe and I had met up in the Rue Saint-Denis area to watch Les Bleus late victory over Albania with some beers and food. On the menu was the generically described "Piece of meat, depending on the market" that weighed in at around half the price of a standard issue steak. No need to worry the waiter explained, the “piece of meat”was also a steak. What he neglected to point out however, was that "the market" was obviously a faller from Sunday's racing at the nearby Auteuil track as a huge great piece of horse came out accompanied by some chips and a healthy serving of some much needed salad. Undeterred by the fact that Shergar’s cousin was winking up from the plate, Joe and I both ploughed through and weren't left disappointed. It is little wonder that nobody complained about Tesco's meat until they knew they were eating My Little Pony as horse tasted bloody good.

After that, we were joined by Coventry fan Sara for a pub crawl of Rue Saint-Denis, after which the sensible decision was taken to get the metro home. Sensible, that is, if the metro had have run all the way to its final destination which needless to say it didn't, instead inexplicably stopping at a station that exited into a closed shopping centre in which a lot of overnight building work was going on. It was hard to know what to be more surprised at, the fact that I was seemingly locked in a Paris shopping centre in the early hours of the morning or that there were builders in France actually carrying out work and not on strike.

Builders work through the night on this Paris shopping centre while
McCarthy wanders around locked inside for 90 minutes taking selfies
The shopping complex itself was an elaborate corridor of mazes with no unlocked doors that it took over an hour and a half to finally find an exit out of. Not that anybody inside the building seemed overly bothered about a lone, slightly drunk Englishman wandering aimlessly around. Again, for a country and city on the highest state of security alert it is just as well I did not have a bomb on me. Eventually, I was out of the building, from where it was another 45 minute walk back to the hostel, finally clambering gracefully onto the top bed of a triple bunk at around 5am. And then to round things off nicely, when I woke up perilously close to missing the train to Lens five hours later, I discovered my trousers were missing. Excellent.

Lens beer ban in full flow
The only way to get over losing a pair of your favourite jeans is to have a beer to toast the happy times you spent together. Thankfully, the Lens alcohol ban proved to be the myth that most of us strongly suspected it would be. The entrepreneurial kebab shop opposite Lens station was doing a roaring trade in cans of Kronenbourg and when they ran out, out came some 8.6% Belgian beer. From fears of no beer to hallucinogenic beer being consumed on the streets, this was the most welcome of developments. Meeting up with fellow Brighton fan Mark and Man City Dave, we went to another bar that had ran out completely of draft beer and was very close to being drunk out of Sol as well. Despite the fact that Lens seemed to be on the verge of running dry, there was no trouble (no Russians = no trouble, who'd have thought that?) and England and Wales fans were soon meandering through the town on the short walk to Stade Bollaert-Delelis.

Plenty of trouble en route to the stadium as these gripping and
violent photos show
Stade Bollaert-Delelis was basically a traditional English ground - four separate stands, all two tiered and all rammed with supporters of both sides. Lots had been made of Wales - and in particular, Gareth Bale's - comments about the Welsh being far more passionate than the English in the build up to the game. If Bale and co truly believed that then they would have known by the final whistle that they were gravely mistaken, the atmosphere from the English end being as loud, if not louder, than the so-called more passionate Welsh. There was a sense of respect between the two sets of supporters as well, with the rousing rendition of Land Of My Fathers even getting a smattering of applause from the English support.

Stade Bollaert-Delelis
A very British feel to things
Wales went into half time 1-0 ahead thanks to a combination of a Bale free kick from 35 yards and Joe Hart developing chocolate wrists, which led to England being booed off by elements of the Three Lions support. Raheem Sterling was on the end of most of the flak. "England's going home" sang the Welsh. Roy Hodgson gambled in the second half, sending on Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge and his boldness at the break saw the supporters as well as the team galvanised. That second 45 minutes was one of the best in terms of support from the stands that I have witnessed and once Vardy equalised the general feeling on the terraces was that there was only going to be one winner of the game – and it wasn’t going to be Bale and co.

Wild scenes as Daniel Sturridge scores a 91st minute winner
for England
England left it late to prove that theory right, Sturridge scoring at the death to spark wild scenes as bodies went flying over seats and grown men who didn't know each other kissed and embraced. Football, bloody hell as somebody once said. "Footballs coming home" now the English fans sang back to their earlier tormentors. There was little sympathy for Wales' players given all their comments in the build-up about their passion and how no England player would get in their team, but it was hard not to feel just the smallest bit sorry for their fans. Hopefully, they can join England in the last 16 and knock Russia out along the way. 

As for the English support, that second half performance when fans and players were united as one (#TogetherForEngland as The FA marketing bods would put it) as well as Hodgson throwing caution to the wind and going on the attack to win the game felt like a genuine turning point. England aren't going to progress far in this tournament by being defensive, their back four isn’t good enough for that. But play on the front foot like they did in the second half, and who knows - maybe it won't be the traditional exit on penalties in the quarter finals.

That was certainly the feeling on the train back to Paris after the game, from where it was the Eurostar home. They say bad things come in three's and so after Shoppingcentregate and Losttrousersgate there was bound to be another cock up and that duly arrived when trespasses on the line outside Gare du Nord meant that the train was nearly two hours late leaving for St Pancras; a delay which meant missing the last connection back to Burgess Hill - the Lens of southern England, lest we forget - and a night sleeping rather uncomfortably on the platform of London’s international train terminal.

But when England win like that, it's hard to mind. Especially if football does come home.

England: Joe Hart, Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Wayne Rooney, Adam Lallana (Marcus Rashford), Harry Kane (Jamie Vardy 1), Raheem Sterling (Daniel Sturridge 1).

Wales: Wayne Hennessey, James Chester, Ashley Williams, Ben Davies, Chris Gunter, Joe Ledley (David Edwards), Joe Allen, Neil Taylor, Aaron Ramsey, Hal Robson-Kanu (George Williams), Gareth Bale 1.

Attendance: 34,033.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

England v Russia. 11/06/16

"It's a shame the French didn't show as much spirit and determination in fighting foreign visitors in 1940 as the locals have down in the port area over the last few days."

England 1-1 Russia. Stade Velodrome.
Saturday 11/06/16
First things first - yes, I am alive and well. It's never a good sign when the most commonly asked question you get when away on international duty from those watching back home is "Are you safe?" Thankfully, it very rarely happens but England v Russia in Marseille was one of those occasions when the messages came flooding in.

"England fans riot" is the sort of the headline that people love to write. It sells newspapers, it gets clicks to websites and if you are a certain Labour MP who failed catastrophically to become the parties leader and looks suspiciously like a Thunderbid puppet, then it gets you retweets.

From the way the events in Marseille have been reported, you'd be forgiven for thinking that once the English and Russian fans clear out and head north to Lens and Lille respectively for their second games in Group B, they will leave behind a city that has been reduced to rubble after 72 hours of running battles.

Marseille Saint-Charles Station - still in one piece
Outside Stade Velodrome - England and Russian fans having
a drink and a sing song

In reality, most of the trouble was confined to the port area. Avoid that and you would generally avoid being hit with a bottle, a water cannon (which wouldn't necessarily have been a bad thing after I’d spent 24 hours in the same clothes) or the French police's liberal deployment of tear gas. Do they have a contract with a supplier? There must be an incentive for them to get through so much, such as the more tear gas they use, the cheaper they can get it for. Even when there was no sign of trouble, they were only too happy to inflict it on supporters who had the nerve to gather, drink and sing. You suspect that if The Last Supper had taken place in Marseille, Jesus and co would have ended up tear gassed. 12 foreigners gathered together having a good time? We can't be having that.

So you've got a police force who think the answer to everything is to make peoples eyes burns and their throats choke followed by a traditional batten charge. Then you have the locals. Their role in proceedings seems to have gone largely unreported, but then again it doesn't really reflect well on the hosts if their own nationals are running around battering guests. Olympique Marseille's ultras are well known and they were out in force around the port, barging into pubs with weapons and ensuring things kicked off nicely. For England fans who had gathered in the run up to the game, it was largely the local population who were starting the fun and games of Thursday and Friday night, knowing that some of the less intelligent of England supporters who can’t handle their beer would be happy enough to respond in kind. Make no mistake, a minority of England fans were far from blameless.

This was a lovely little arch that seemed to serve little purpose
outside the stadium
And then of course we come to our friends from Russia. They were relentless inside the stadium once the final whistle blew, some masking their faces and storming across the "segregation" (a small strip of tarpaulin that wouldn't have been enough to provide a tent at Glastonbury), past the flummoxed stewards and into England fans and neutrals. It was precise and organised like a military operation – a far cry from a few drunks luzzing chairs around. From the opposite end of the ground where the majority of England fans had their tickets, you could only stand and watch as a sea of bodies scrambled away from the charging mob who were throwing punches at everyone and everything with nobody in a position of responsibility willing to intervene to help. That section of the stadium would have originally been designated for Russian supporters but with them not selling out their allocation, it was used in the later ballots to allocate tickets to casual fans. Many of them were English but the ballot means that there would have been a fair share of neutrals, some even Russian. Not that that mattered to the Russian hooligans, anyone in their path of destruction was fair game.

Superb security checks ensured that no fireworks or flares could
get into the stadium
Russian fans charge into the English and neutral sections leading
to scenes of utter carnages
If it was frustrating watching from 100 yards away as your fellow countryman are innocently beaten by rampaging Russians, then it was excruciating to be met upon leaving the stadium by 100 riot police keeping an eye on the England support as we exited. An actual riot going on inside the stadium? Nah, we're not interested. We’ll stand here watching you instead. They were either happy to see the supporters scrambling away dangerously over fences and walls as if their lives depended on it, or Uefa didn't want them inside the stadium for fear of how it would look on television.

Giant flags were also on Uefa's list of banned items...
Uefa also didn't want flares, pyrotechnics or presumably things like bombs inside the stadium. We've been constantly told by the FA, the Home Office and countless others that France is a country on the highest level of terrorism alert. Now I'm not a security expert, far from it. There have been at least five occasions when I've driven off and left the front door wide open. But I suspect if you want to stop a terrorist attack occurring in a stadium, then you should probably have more than one casual pat down lasting all of five seconds as fans enter the stadium. My bag wasn't even searched, just given a cursory glance and waved through. Luckily, it had just a flag and a phone charger in but there could have been anything contained within. A bomb. A suicide vest. A gun - rather like the flare gun the Russian's used to launch fireworks onto the pitch and into the England section. The cue for that charge over the segregation came from a very loud explosion which one fan in front of me actually mistook for a bomb, hitting the deck when it went off. That reaction provoked laughter around but think how serious it could have been. Anything could have been smuggled into that ground with a minimal amount of effort. It was only marginally safer in the Velodrome than you would be walking down Raqqa high street with an "I hate ISIS" t-shirt on.

The brilliant Stade Velodrome
A packed Stade Velodrome moments before kick off
Which is a shame as I'd hate to see the Velodrome blown up. It is a fantastic stadium, earning an instant place in my top five, perhaps even going straight into the top three. The steep curved stands are a thing of beauty, disappearing high up as far as the eye can see. The main stand in particular is a mish mash of tiers and a seat right up the top - from which the view must be stunning - would be no good for anyone with vertigo. The stadium underwent renovation for the tournament, the biggest part of which included the installation of a huge new roof engulfing the ground. This greenhouse like structure kept all the noise in and that made for one of the best atmospheres I can remember being part of. It was genuinely deafening and the place was rocking from at least an hour before kick off. If aliens were suddenly to be appear on Earth, this was the sort of stadium and game you would take them to in order to show them just why the beautiful game is the most popular sport on the planet. You’d just have to get them out before the charge of the light brigade on the final whistle and hope they have a tolerance to tear gas.

A greenhouse or a stadium? Either way it was wonderful
Getting to the Velodrome itself had been an interesting experience, with the Metro being shut in the run up to the game forcing those heading in the hours before kick off to walk. Thankfully, the Mediterranean sun was beating down for the 40 minute stroll from the city centre and with a plethora of little bars to stop at on route from the station for refuelling, it was a pleasant experience that was far removed from the scenes of chaos being reported as standard by the media. And, keep this quiet, but supporters of both teams mingled with no sign of any trouble as the beers flowed.

It was a totally different atmosphere for the walk back, with tension in the air given the scenes at the end of the match and local kids riding full pelt on their mopeds through busy crowds as if they were determined to crash into people. Which they probably were. England conceding in the last minute to throw away what should have been three points for the Three Lions after Eric Dier's brilliant free kick sent the 50,000 odd English fans wild would have dented the party atmosphere regardless as a draw felt more like a defeat given how well England played in the first half, but the scenes at the end also had their effect on the tense post-game atmosphere.

Bit of a discussion going on about what to do with this free-kick
as Eric Dier steps up...
Stories were passed around about Russian's going on the rampage again in the port area afterwards, England fans being locked into pubs and bars for their own safety by sensible and caring landlords. Marseille Saint-Charles station provided a refuge from the battles being waged 10 minutes away and on boarding the 1.30am overnight train back to Paris, the 50 or so riot police who had been ordered to take the journey north back looked pretty upset that rather than being able to pick up more commission for deploying their tear gas, they were simply greeted by a packed train of supporters of both teams going straight to sleep ahead of a 6am arrival in the capital.

Running away from angry Russians is a tiring days work - hope
this bloke at Marseille Saint-Charles woke up in time for his train
The train had taken the strain on the way to Marseille on Saturday afternoon as well, which meant that Friday night was spent in a Paris that was in party mood. Nearly every country was represented in the huge fan zone underneath the Eiffel Tower for the opening match between the hosts and Romania. There was no sign of trouble here as everyone gathered to enjoy the party, a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise under the shadow of France's most famous sight. The noise and celebrations when Dimitri Payet scored an absolute worldie out of nothing to secure a late win for Les Bleus were as if Hugo Lloris was on the podium lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy, rather than a scrappy win over what appeared to be pretty limited opposition. Goodness knows what the scenes will be like if Lloris is in fact back there on July 11th hoisting the cup in the air.

Paris Fanzone - an absolutely brilliant spot to watch France beat
Romania in the opening game
A Scotland fan in France. What are you doing here mate?
So it's been a mixed start to Euro 2016. Paris was excellent, the celebrations wild and the beer flowing even if Uefa's sponsorship deals mean that you can only purchase Carlsberg in the Fanzones. If Carlsberg did Fanzones, they wouldn't sell Carlsberg. They'd sell Kanterbrau, the best French beer of the trip thus far. As for Marseille, the pubs were good, the weather was good but the people and the police are the sort that you wouldn't piss on if they were on fire. If the boot was on the other foot and you were on fire, they'd probably pour more petrol over you or kick your head in for good measure.

An Albania fans admires the Eiffel Tower
It wasn't all tear gas and violence - some culture at The Louvre
After 12 hours in Marseille, it isn’t a place I would be in any rush to head back to – although I suspect an Olympique game in a packed Velodrome would be quite the experience. But a match with an English team involved? No thanks. And here is where the bad news comes. Finish second or third in Group B and England would face a potential semi-final back at the Velodrome. Think we all know what is going to happen now - and it isn't the traditional quarter final defeat on penalties.

England: Joe Hart, Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, Danny Rose, Eric Dier 1, Dele Alli, Wayne Rooney (Jack Wilshere), Adam Lallana, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling (James Milner).

Russia: Igor Akinfeev, Igor Smolnikov, Vasili Berezutski 1, Sergei Ignashevich, Roman Neustadter (Denis, Glushakov), Aleksandr Golovin (Roman Shirikov), Aleksandr Kokorin, Oleg Shatov, Fedor Smolov (Pavel Marnaev), Artem Dzyuba.

Attendance: 62,343