Park’en Ride – Taxi for David James

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Denmark 4 v 1 England (17.08.2005)

I’ve never been a fan of the August international friendly. Friendly matches can be pretty dull affairs at the best of times, and the August one tops the list for me. The fixture usually takes place a few days before the start of a new Premier League season, and traditionally comes around with most managers seemingly bemoaning its existence. I don’t know whether this transpires across into player’s minds but I’ve always had the feeling this game is the last thing players want for fear of pissing off their manager.

You can imagine the look on a players face as he looks his manager in the eye whilst hobbling back in to his club training ground after returning from ‘August’ international duty. All that pre-season planning and preparation ruined by a meaningless game that very few people want on the calendar except international managers.

Putting the date of this fixture aside, I’d never been to Scandinavia before and I was intrigued to visit the city of Copenhagen and use football as a vehicle for doing it. To be honest I would use football as the reason to visit many more foreign lands in years to come, and as many ‘England fans’ will agree, watching England can end up being the most frustrating part of your trip anyway!

46160017Copenhagen is a small and quaint city, and as a tourist you could probably get out to see what the city has to offer inside two days. Small enough to cover on foot, you can do worse than starting off in the Nyhavn area (see below), the colourful harbour side area in the centre of the city where picturesque restaurants and bars have replaced what used to be the city’s commercial port. From here you can catch one of the popular boat tours which weave through the city’s canals and take you past many of the city’s sights.

You can also walk to most other major sights including the Little Mermaid (right), Christiania, Strotget, Amalienborg Palace and the Rosenborg Castle.

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On match day we headed to the Vesterbro area of the city where there are a series of five rectangular lakes curving round the western margin of the city (see photo below). Away from the main city centre, this was a great place to enjoy a few beers before the game. There are a number of small quiet bars and cafes dotted along the lakes. The Parken Stadium is located in the north west of the city and is walkable from the centre taking about 25 minutes. Our lake point ‘stop off’ breaks up the walk.

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The Parken Stadium doubles up as the home of the national team but also to club side FC Copenhagen. Arriving at the stadium about 20 minutes before kickoff, we were led in to a caged fencing area that was funnelled around two turnstiles at the the away end. This funnel system and just to open turnstiles was supposed to facilitate controlled access to an entire end of a stadium and approximately 5,000 travelling fans. As with most English supporters, the mindset is usually to turn up to the ground 10-15 minutes before kickoff. This style of entry management wasn’t geared for that amount of fans (it would have been just about ok if Azerbaijan were in town) and there was complete chaos outside the ground. Fans started getting impatient and frustrated with the slow entry process as kick off fast approached; and the riot police started getting baton twitchy at the building animosity shown towards them. The funnelled entrance far too narrow for the surge of fans that were building up and trying to make thier way in behind those already patiently queueing there. Not a pleasant experience and it felt like it could have ‘gone off’ at anytime.

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The game itself was one to forget – and was England’s worst defeat for 25 years. 0-0 at half time, we weren’t ready for what  to follow in the second half. The Danes scored 3 goals in seven minutes (60’, 63’, and 67’) and went onto win 4-1. The defeat was compounded by some erratic goalkeeping by substitute keeper David James who admitted after the match he wasn’t prepared as he hadn’t warmed up properly!

It’s amazing to think that at international level the goalkeeper didn’t feel the need to prepare for the game by warming up before the game properly, or even at half time shortly before he was due to come on? Sunday league stuff.

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Who says the August friendlies are a waste of time?

Goals:

Denmark: Rommedahl 60’; Tomasson 63’; Gravgaard 67’, Larsen 90’

England: Rooney 87’

Attendance: 41,438

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