10 of football’s weirdest pre-season friendlies
Bamber Bridge vs Czech Republic (1996)
The Czech Republic proved dark horses of Euro ‘96, besting Italy, Portugal and France on their way to a runners-up spot. But Dusan Uhrin’s men warmed up for their heroic exploits with a rather random friendly against Lancashire semi-pros Bamber Bridge.
The Northern Premier League champions had only just been denied promotion to England’s fifth tier, with their Irongate home ground failing to meet the required standards for a step up. But spirits were temporarily lifted with a balmy summer’s evening friendly in front of 2,300 fans – albeit one which ended in a 9-1 defeat.
Aylesbury United vs England (1988)
The Czechs weren’t the first nation that attempted to boost confidence by steamrolling a bunch of non-leaguers on the eve of a Euros. Eight years previously, Bobby Robson’s England visited newly promoted Conference side Aylesbury United.
As expected, a Three Lions side featuring the likes of Gary Lineker, Chris Waddle and John Barnes ran out comfortable 7-0 winners in front of a record-breaking 6,031 crowd. Still, the friendly didn’t quite have its desired effects: England returned home from West Germany having lost every single one of their three matches.
Cabinteely vs Muse (2016)
Spectacular live visuals, crackpot conspiracy theories, unashamedly overblown prog-rock: Muse are renowned for many things, but football isn’t one of them. Yet amid the Hysteria, League of Ireland First Division side Cabinteely deemed them the perfect opponents to help kickstart their 2016 season.
Bassist Chris Wolstenholme was the only actual member of the group to line up at Dublin’s Kilbogget Park, with the rest of his team consisting of family and crew members. Although the Irishmen initially took little mercy, going in at half-time 7-2 up, they eased off in the second period to let Wolstenholme & Co. mount an unlikely 9-8 comeback. No Absolution for Cabinteely.
Leeds United vs Leeds United (2014)
Having just been bought by entrepreneur Massimo Cellino, Leeds’s 2014 summer tour of Italy was a no-brainer. Less so was their decision to prepare for a gruelling Championship season by playing amateur side FC Gherdeina. Dave Hockaday’s men inevitably crushed the minnows in a 16-0 victory where second-half substitute Matt Smith netted six. Things got even stranger when their next opponents, Romania’s Viitorul Constanta, failed to show up at all.
Unwilling to disappoint their travelling fans, the Whites took the unorthodox decision to simply play themselves, splitting their squad into two for three 20-minute sets which ultimately finished Leeds 3-1 Leeds. Hockaday's proudest moment at Elland Road, we're sure.
Dallas Tornado’s 1967 tour
Bankrolled by their oil tycoon owner at the height of the Vietnam War, the Dallas Tornado’s 1967 Asian tour was intended to serve as a goodwill trip. It ended up being anything but.
Their match against Singapore FC descended to a full-scale riot in which one player was attacked with a corner flag, half the side were temporarily left stranded in the Bengali jungle due to visa complications, and their two matches against Vietnamese select teams were played just weeks before the Tet Offensive.
Unsurprisingly, the battered and bruised Tornados returned home shellshocked to finish their inaugural NASL season rock bottom with a goal difference of -81.
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