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September 30 2020 3.32am

The Italian job

July 1 2001

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace

The HOL team won a trip to Italy as prize for having the best independent football website by the Guardian newspaper.

This is the full version of the article which appeared in One More Point fanzine.

Me and Pete's prize-winning match was a weekend in Turin to see Juventus play Lazio, staying in a four star hotel.

It meant missing the Palace against Fulham game at Craven Cottage, but ask anyone which game they would rather be at, and I was not complaining.

Compare Craven Cottage to the Stadio delle Alpi, players like Clinton Morrison to Marcelo Salas, Simon Rodger to Zinedine Zidane and there was just no contest.

A few mates came along to make a week of it, Pete joined us for the last weekend (the free bit, cheapskate!), so we decided to do a round tour of Northern Italy visiting Milan, Rome and back up to Turin for the game.

After flying into Milan, we checked into our B&B and checked out the food and sites. The first thing we had to do was to buy a pair of sunglasses, even though it was raining, as we felt a bit out of place with the locals.

But we all said to ourselves that we had to take in a bit of culture during the week, so we did. We avoided all the McDonald's (except for once when we had to have a beer with our Big Mac as it doesn't happen in England), had loads of pizza and pasta and even visited the world's biggest cathedral.

It also meant we just had to visit the San Siro stadium and, much to our delight, we found out that there were stadium tours. So we popped along the next day.

The stadium is truly amazing. Not as big as you would think when you're pitch-side, the Italian architecture was top stuff, I was now getting into the culture side of things!

We had a look in the club shop and we were quite surprised at how small and bad it was.

Here, we had one of the greatest stadiums in the world, the home of the European giants Milan and Inter and it was just a small room with two tables, which was only open on match days and tours.

Compare this to Man United who have numerous mega stores and make millions in merchandise revenue. Because they bizarrely sold stuff from other teams, I was able to buy a signed Lombardo picture, which was a result.

The tour-guide noticed my Palace sweatshirt and started asking questions about our financial situation at the time.

Surely news of our financial problems was not known by half the world? But this guy's English football knowledge was good.

I started slagging off Padavono to the woman who works in the shop and it turned out that her mum works with Padovano's mum in a car factory in Turin.

Small world, eh? I quickly changed my conversation saying that he had bags of skill and Palace did not use him to his potntial. But what was even stranger was that there was a Palace scarf amongst a collection of scarves from around the world.

Palace scarfPalace had made it to the San Siro stadium! I had to get a picture of that, with the woman of course.

That night we sinked a few crazy cocktails at Bar Magenta and grabbed a few cans for our overnight train journey. We very nearly missed it as we lost track of time in the bar and our Millwall mate Steve, was sick out the train window (had to get that one in, bloody Millwall puff!).

After having about two hours' sleep, we staggered off the train in Rome and found a B&B. More pizza and sightseeing including the Coliseum and the Vatican City followed.

That night, we went on an organised pub-crawl with a load of different nationalities including Americans, Irish and Australians, which was a good laugh. It was funny teaching these American girls Ali G speak and Cockney rhyming slang and they thought it was hilarious.

And yes Ben, your one was wearing braces! But the funniest thing had to be us singing at the top of our voices the "Just One Lombardo" song to this short bald-headed bloke in one of the bars.

He was loving the adulation we gave him and was the centre of attention in the bar but he started getting angry when we continued it all night, sticking beer labels on his head.


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