On the road with..........Liverpool: It's not quite Beatlemania but John Lennon Airport had a busy d

25 February 2009 01:28
Sportsmail online's series 'On The Road With.' brings you the behind-the-scenes accounts of following British teams on their European adventures this season. Today's comes from John Edwards (right), who is with Liverpool

in Spain ahead of their Champions League match against Real Madrid.       

Liverpool

have already been to Madrid in the Champions League this season, but this time it is the real deal - with an upper case 'r'.

The scenes at Liverpool's John Lennon Airport yesterday confirmed as much, as I parked up and made for the check-in desk for the 10.20am flight to the Spanish capital.

Imagine, to quote the erstwhile Beatle who gave his name to what was once plain, rundown Speke Airport but has since been transformed into a state-of-the-art gateway to a multitude of foreign destinations.

Any other European trip, and the players, officials, VIPs and humble hacks tend to have the place almost to themselves for the official Liverpool FC trip.

We are used to strolling up to the departure desk at around eight o'clock, taking not a blind bit of notice of the seat number on our ticket and stretching out on a half-empty Titan Airways charter jet.

It's not that Liverpool fans don't turn out in numbers, just that they tend to set off a little nearer kick-off.

Certainly a lot nearer than the players and journalists, who have training sessions and press conferences to attend to, and the sprinkling of well-heeled supporters who have splashed out for the privilege of travelling with them (the players, not journos).

Imagine having an airport named after you: Legend

No time to waste for this one, though. It's Real Madrid and the Santiago Bernabeu, and it seems everyone wants to soak up as many pre-match minutes as possible, prior to one of Liverpool's most glamorous and challenging ties in recent times.

Suddenly, there are at least half-a-dozen check-in desks bearing the name of Liverpool's opponents, rather than just one, and queues everywhere, each one buzzing with speculation about whether Steeeevie might be fit.

Even the usual free-and-easy approach aboard Titan's 757 goes out of the window.

I claim my usual window spot and arrange my jacket and laptop in the seats alongside before doing a double-take at the sight of a second bus rumbling across the tarmac and stopping by the steps. More passengers? Surely not.

'Scuse me, mate,' says a voice seconds later. 'D'yer want me to put these in the overhead locker for yer?'

'No thanks, they're fine.'

'Well, it's not going to be very comfy for me and me mate, cos they're our seats.'

No, it's ok. You can sit where you like, honestly.'

'Don't think so, mate. That baird at the back (stewardess) says it's a full flight and we have to stick to seat numbers.'

Fair play. One seat should be enough for anyone, and Titan do lay on a palatable cooked breakfast, with choice of tea or coffee, and free headset for the in-flight movie.

It doesn't come cheap, mind. £1,200, to be exact, for return flights and one night's accomodation (Rafa likes to head home straight after the game), yet the Barajas-bound jet is packed.

Says everything, really, about the appeal generated by the mere sound of Real Madrid versus Liverpool.





Madrid man: Former Atletico hero Torres is put through his paces in the Bernabeu

It was the same when we landed two hours later. More crackers than Barajas, and a total contrast to four months ago, when a Liverpool squad minus Fernando Torres caused hardly a ripple of interest on arrival for the group game with Atletico.

Torres was back in town this time, and didn't the locals know it. The former Atletico favourite scarcely had time to breath in the warm air of his home city before baggage handlers pounced with requests for autographs and pictures.

To be strictly accurate, requests may not be the right word, since it suggests he had some choice in the matter.

Dressed in flourescent lime jackets, they swarmed round the hero of last summer's European Championships, thrusting autograph books under his nose and draping an arm round his shoulder while mobile cameras clicked away.

There were just as many interruptions on a noisy, slow route through the arrivals hall before he finally made it on to the waiting bus, to be whisked away to the sanctuary of the team hotel.

Will he play? Stevie G

It's not just football the Madrilenos are enthusiastic about. They like their entertainment in all forms, and there is a performer who hardly ranks as a galactico taking centre stage as we sit in traffic en route to seeing the players train.

Every time the lights turn red across the six lanes of one of Madrid's busiest thoroughfares, this would-be P.T.Barnum sprints into the middle of the road, climbs on to his six-foot high monocycle and begins flinging three bowling pins into the air for all he's worth. As jugglers go, he's a class act, to be fair, and he clearly knows exactly how long it takes for the lights to change back.

Each time, he leaps off the saddle Frankie Dettori-style, gives himself a round of applause, then passes his hat round before bemused drivers can press the accelerator.

It seems to go down well with the Liverpool contingent among a growing audience, one of whom offers words of encouragement by bellowing: 'Ey mate, I'd like to see you try that down Scottie Road!' (Scotland Road is a tough area near the docks in north Liverpool).

On to the serious business, and Steven Gerrard's fitness.

Few clues in the training we are allowed to see - 20 minutes of light exercises and throwing a ball around before we're all turfed out, but the outcome could have some influence on the amount of activity at the Cibeles Fountain later on.

Real fans evidently celebrate any notable triumph by frolicking in the water.

Let's hope they all make it home dry as a bone tonight.

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Toure leaves it late to jump to the top the charts in Sportsmail's guide to the most superstitious sportsmen in the world

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LIVERPOOL FC NEWS FROM ACROSS THE NET





 

Source: Daily_Mail