Sunday, 17 June 2012

Thanks for the Mem

ALL the talk is about England against Ukraine.
Can we qualify? Will Rooney take us from also-rans to genuine contenders? And where will be the best place to watch the game to get into the spirit of Euro 2012, to really feel the buzz of this major football tournament?
I would have thought you would want to find a lively pub, with St George's Cross flags hanging from the rafters, Football's Coming Home booming out of the speakers, and ales flowing from a well-staffed bar.
Alternatively, operate an open-door policy at home, fill the fridge with cheap booze and invite the neighbours in to share the excitement in front of your new plasma widescreen tv.
But hang on.
There is an alternative venue.
Why not go to a delapidated football ground, in the middle of a built-up housing estate, hand over £5 of your hard-earned cash and sample the true atmosphere of the occasion.
You could pretend you are in a Ukraine slum-clearance area, twinned with Chernobyl and surrounded by poverty-stricken locals and stray dogs.
Welcome to the world of real football, people.
Welcome to the Memorial Stadium.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE my football club. I never fail to promote its cause wherever I am in the world. 
I wore my quarters with pride on the Ashes tour of Australia, and have braved donning them in a Cardiff pub while watching the epic play-off semi-final against Lincoln five years ago.
But sometimes the powers-that-be do make me chuckle.
And the most recent promotion on the Gas website had me laughing out loud:
"Stuck for somewhere to watch England this evening?
"Support Bristol Rovers this summer and enjoy a great night out, by watching England's European Championship games at the Memorial Stadium.
"For just £5 you can watch the game and enjoy a pie and a pint, and soak up the great atmosphere in the Memorial Room bar.
"There will be large flatscreens as well as a number of TVs, and you can bring your own flags to decorate the place."
Oh, can I? Really? Thanks very much!
I shouldn't really take the mick. Anything that raises funds for our manager Mark McGhee and helps keep the creditors from banging on the door is welcome.
But I think maybe they could have put a bit more effort in... say by offering some Polish Kabanos sausages and a shot of Rekty, which is 95 percent alcohol and can really get you into the Eastern Europe mood (my pal drank some at a Polish wedding once and ended up on a saline drip!).
Perhaps pipe in some music from that part of the world, too, by the Ukrainian composer Sergei Prokofiev.
And how about decorating the bar with the flags of each nation or, at least,  provide a St George's flag to wave for everyone who turns up.
Still, knowing my fellow Gasheads, they will still give it a go.
In fact, I expect they will put a certain Premier League winning club to shame.
The Etihad Stadium, the luxurious venue that is home to Manchester City, attempted a similar thing last week.
They had giant screens and all manner of gimmicks to attract supporters to their own Euro 2012 big night out.
I saw the pictures. It looked great.
The only thing missing was people...

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