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10 ridiculous football trips from hell: metro mania, kit cock-ups and a very dodgy bus

Portsmouth D.C. United

Humdrum pre-season tours and run-of-the-mill away days – what could possibly go wrong? Er, quite a lot actually...

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Spartak go off the rails 

As anyone who’s spent any time on the Northern Line can attest, underground rail travel is soul-destroying. So when Spartak Moscow found their bus stranded en route to their game against Inter and decided to hop on the rush-hour metro in 2006, it was always a recipe for disaster.

Coach Vladimir Fedotov may have delivered a unique team talk in front of a carriage of cheering commuters, but his side conceded in the first minute and lost. At least they didn’t endure signal failure at Tooting Bec, mind.

Bermuda’s triangle (of woe)

A four-hour wait at New York’s JFK airport, a missed connection in Miami and another delay the following day meant that Kyle Lightborne’s Bermuda side arrived in Trinidad for their October 2007 Digicel Cup clash against Haiti with daylight fading. Just when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse, the team were then forced to warm up on a disused rugby pitch with grass “at least 15 inches high”. “It’s not been ideal,” said master of understatement Lightborne.

Pompey take flight

With Portsmouth on the brink of implosion in July 2010, their pre-season U.S. tour always seemed doomed to disaster – and lady luck did her worst, showering Steve Cotterill’s men lavishly with foul fortune. First, they endured a 42-hour trip to San Diego before a storm grounded them in Chicago. A 4-0 defeat to D.C. United – while wearing the opposition’s away kit, as theirs was lost in transit – seemed an apt way for it to end.

“Painful,” concluded Cotterill. 

Hard labour on the hard shoulder

Fulham warmed up for their first European semi-final against Hamburg by doing a spot of training – on the hard shoulder of the autobahn after a crash briefly left them stranded in April 2010. “It’s not ideal preparation, but it was good to get out and stretch,” said keeper Mark Schwarzer, after the Icelandic volcano had grounded flights across Europe. Still, nothing peps up a shuttle run like an oncoming Audi doing 153mph.

Frosty reception 

Amid the big British freeze of December 2010, Colchester United thought they’d outwit the snow by travelling to Bristol for their clash with Rovers a day early. Big mistake: a seven-hour Friday haul meant they arrived late that evening.

The game was then called off on Saturday morning, forcing the U’s to hop back on the coach for a 14-and-a-half hour slog home that terminated early on Sunday morning. 

Thai’d in knots 

There’s never an ideal time for your coach to conk out, but Bangkok, in a heatwave, with a full-blown riot going on, takes some beating. Peter Reid had that unique pleasure in October 2008 while managing Thailand.

“It was 110 degrees and we were pushing the bus up a ramp,” remembers the gaffer. “And they were fighting outside the airport.” No wonder he later described the Plymouth bus – aka the Black Pastie – breaking down as a “walk in the park” in comparison.

Fight for your right to party

“Pipe down with that bloody carnival, won’t you?”

Never say this to a Rio resident: if you want to bother a Brazilian, tell them the party’s over. That’s what happened when the Seleção's World Cup-winning victory parade was cut short in July 2002. One stop short of the Copacabana, the bus turned and headed home. Rocks rained down and players feared for their lives as the fun-hungry revellers became dangerously irked.

Tangerine nightmare

Blackpool’s Christmas haul to Portsmouth in 1954 was an absolute rotter. “We had to take the bus from Blackpool to Preston, then a train from Preston to London, stay overnight in London, get up the next morning, get on a bus to Waterloo station, where we took the train to Portsmouth,” grumbles Jimmy Armfield, before probably adding some stuff about sleeping in a hedge and cleaning his teeth with bark.

The long and winding road

But sorry Jimmy, that's nowt: spare a thought for supporters of Baltkia Kaliningrad who, back in 2009, unwantedly entered the record books after travelling 4,575 miles for a Russian First Division league fixture at Luch-Energiya in Vlapostok – a game that Russian footballers relish as much as a trip to the gulag. “They should play in the Japanese League,” fumed knackered CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev.

Welcome to Buenos Aires

Before the 1978 World Cup Final, Argentina’s shadowy junta ensured that their opponents Holland’s team bus took an impromptu tour of the surrounding areas, so that as many Latin maniacs as possible could scare the bejesus out of them. The regime also delayed kick-off in order to whip the home crowd into a frenzy. Argentina won the cup; the Dutch won the friends.

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