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Published: December 15th 2017
I put forward a series of options to the Man in the Middle. As always, there is a wild card. He often likes the wild card. The prospect of a trip to the San Siro loomed. The Queen of the East Midlands is now well used to groups of Italians paying homage. Juventus fans make much of their famous black and white stripes - stripes inspired by and borrowed from the Meadow Lane gang. They even chose the said NG2 residents to play in their centenary match. Champions of Serie A versus a sub standard Football League team - and the cannon fodder guests even had the audacity to pinch a late equaliser. However, the more plentiful recent visitors have been from Milan. A C Milan to be precise. A local Mansfield Road lad left his home to work in the textile trade in Italy. Herbert Kilpin. Herbert initially made his way to Turin. He relocated to Milan in 1899, where he became known as the founding father of Milan Football & Cricket Club aka AC Milan. Meanwhile back in Blighty, he was sadly ignored for the best part of a century. Today, his stock is on the rise. As well
as a healthy number of Italians looking him up, he has a plaque at his birthplace on Mansfield Road, a piece of history about him on a bus shelter (with some very dodgy spelling), a NCT bus and a totally unrelated pub named after him in the Lace Market that serves a resonable pint of Herbert Kilpin Pale Ale.
The Easyjet route to Malpensa wasn't straightforward. The Radio 2 traffic announcements gave the country a relatively trouble free morning, except for the M1 South. Lorry crash. 2 lanes blocked. We had a detour through Northampton and Newport Pagnell. The majority of the passengers on the plane were Italian. The dead giveaway was the number wearing sunglasses to board - those Easyjet cabin lights are just so bright! We touched down early. The passport check was nothing more than a cursory glance and we had boarded a Malpensa Express bus to Milano Centrale within a few minutes. 8 Euros. The late afternoon sun was struggling to break through the mist. The plains of Lombardy are notorious for fog and poor air quality. The airport is about 40 kilometres north west of the city, so we settled down for
the journey. There was little activity as the bus sped past the dormant factories. Bank Holiday Friday in Lombardy means just that! We had a stroke of luck as the bus entered the inner city area. There was a request stop that conveniently happened to be right outside Casa Milan - the newly constructed headquarters of AC Milan. The red and black clad building was a giveaway. Milan have plans to vacate the ageing San Siro in favour of their own stadium and this complex with museum, art gallery, restaurant, megastore and importantly for us, ticket office, is the start of the project. 10 minutes later we were in possession of our 35 Euro 2nd tier tickets behind the dugouts. I will have completed the hat trick of tiers with this appearance in the 2nd, after my previous visits to rivals Inter in 1993 and AC Milan in the Champions League in 1999. The ticket process in Italy these days is a long winded farce designed to combat the hooligans and having recorded all our passport details, our tickets were personalised with our full names. The Man in the Middle shook his head at the whole process, but I reminded
.....another photograph in the European Cup winning brothers series
him that it still had someway to go catch up with technology of the Polish Regional 4th Division where tickets came with an electronic photo embedded that flashed up at the turnstiles! We wandered through the megastore, which in addition to the usual fayre offered AC Milan crash helmets and the completely obscure AC Milan surfboard. I can't quite see it catching on in the NEPSR, but the red & black striped board is a useful addition for the football fan who has nearly everything. We completed the rest of the journey to our hotel on foot.
My last visit to Milan was nearly 20 years ago. Had it changed? Yes, it had. The majority of Italy is now seriously expensive, at least to the average Brit abroad looking to unwind on a Friday night with a couple of pints. The Brera area known for the bars and restaurants was charging 6 and 7 Euros a pint. I was prepared for 5, but those prices are akin to throwing money away. It didn't seem to be upsetting anybody else mind, as most places were packed. It was close to freezing, but in the see and be seen
mentality of the Italians sitting outside was the order of the day. We settled for a pizza restaurant back near Porto Garibaldi, where the drink came in nearly as expensive as the pizza. The Man in the Middle rated the pizza as in his top 5 lifetime pizzas. We wandered back to the hotel via Chinatown. As in Barcelona, it isn't just the nail bars that the locals have relinquished. The beer was slightly cheaper, but we would find the value market the following day.
We awoke and investigated breakfast at the hotel. The hotel was a notch above our usual standard, courtesy of a cheap deal through Easyjet. The lack of a decent sausage or bacon option marked the experience down, but the coffee machine proved great entertainment value throughout the stay. The machine was up there with the all time classic "push button only ones" model at Hotel Slavija, Belgrade. The cappuccino, expresso and hotels water were dispensed from separate dispensing pipes. An expresso cup under the cappuccino dispenser was clearly going to lead to disastrous overflow. A constant stream of hotel guests failed to master this concept. Similarly, pressing the hot water button twice
was a mistake. I watched with amusement, as fingers withdrew scalded by the heat of the water overflowing the cup. The machine did helpfully flash up "caution, hot liquids" in English at this point. After being suitably fed and watered, we ventured outside into a cold, sunny morning. The sky was so perfect blue, that it looked like it had been edited on a computer. First stop. San Siro for a photo shoot. The hotel was a mere 100 metres from Geruserlamme. This one - spelt with a G - was a shiny new metro station on Line 5. Fortunately Donald hadn't decided to move a US embassy here, so there was no signs of any protests or 3 days of uprising. Line 5 was conveniently a few stations from the San Siro on a direct line. I would say great planning, but it had been pure luck.
The Man in the Middle adopted his iconic pose with the concrete mass of the stadium loving over his shoulder. It was another in the series of "European Cup Winning Brothers" snaps. The result was launched into cyberspace for the world to admire. The world of "likes" generally seemed
to like the outcome, except for the predictable nit picking by certain of the Meadow Lane gang. The huge red concrete girders on which the 3rd tier hangs contrasted with the sky. The exterior is brutality concrete, devoid of club allegiance. Along with the bright red girders, the most striking features are the huge spiral walkways giving access to the upper areas. We walked a circuit of the ground. A biting wind was funnelled between the low 2 tier side and the adjacent horse racing hippodrome. There few folk about. A driving lesson was in progress. A loud crash of crumbling metal broke the silence. The driving pupil reversed straight into the concrete barriers that surround the car park. The instructor shouted abuse, exacerbating his displeasure with animated arm waving. The pupil seemed unfazed and didn't bother to get out the vehicle to inspect the damage. The world of Italian driving demonstrated before us. Watch out other road users of Milan, should the guy succeed in getting his licence. We opted against the Stadium Tour and had a look in the San Siro store. Half AC Milan. Half Inter. If you are looking for a shirt, the Casa Milan is
selling the red and black stripes about 30 Euros cheaper. The pin badges though were 1 Euro less. Crash helmets were available, but it seems the Rossineri surf board is a Casa Milan exclusive. A window at the back of the store opens out to a view at pitch level. Huge banks of lights were busy heating the pitch to perfect the grass surface for the game tomorrow. Photos sorted and there being no other car crash incidents, we boarded the metro bound for the Duomo.
Duomo Square was heaving. Humans competed with pigeons for the available space. A huge queue snaked around to get into the Duomo. An equally long queue was formed to purchase an entry ticket, which seemed to qualify you only to stand in the former queue. We opted against entry and avoided attempts to push pigeon food at us. A surprising number lapped up the opportunity to get up close and personal with the rats with wings. We circumnavigated the Duomo. A half finished collection of wooden sheds was bring assembled as yet another Christmas Market. The Galleria Victor Emmanuel looked as prosperous as ever. The tourist hordes shuffled past the retail
emporiums of the major players in European fashion. The numbers within the stores was minimal. Executive looking shop assistants looked bored. The store security looked even more bored. This is the Milan the world knows. Glamour and fashion. Siper models. Price tags irrelevant. The cold was an opportunity for the locals to sport their latest designer jacket. There was little activity at La Scala. The most famous of opera houses is a bland building. As culture vultures, we have experienced this acquired taste in entertainment. We decided we would live on the memories of our great Romania opera experience - special seats made available so we could see the screens with Italian sub titles of the Romanian narrative. An unforgettable experience and probably 200 Euros cheaper than the bad seats in Milan.
A beer break was in order. We randomly got on the metro to anywhere, adopting the same principles from Barcelona last year - further away from the centre will be cheaper. Anywhere turned out to be near Lodi. 660 ml bottles of Morreti for a mere 3 Euros. Less than half the price of bars in Brera. The same establishment was also offering 330 ml
bottles of "premium" beers for the same price. An unusual inclusion in the list was Tennants Super. It was bizarrely written as "Tenenments" on the board! The finest fizzy lager from north of the border transformed in a flash into a premium product. The power of marketing. The outside world was scathing of the competitively priced alcohol find. "Captain Correli's lager" was the Whats App verdict. We headed out into the cold looking for an old stadium on the edge of Park Sempione. If ever there was a stadium that you would associate with a certain dictator - this was it! How wrong could you be? It transpired to be built on the orders of Napoleon. We tend to be blinkered into just thinking Battle of Waterloo and the like, but the Little General also had his claws into northern Italy. He left the Vatican to run the southern half. The stadium was part of his grand plan for government buildings in Milan. It was never completed. Arena Civica was opened in 1807. The stadium was open with a guided tour. It was free, which was an even better reason to visit. We surveyed the stone bowl. The goal nets
were up. Inter played here regularly up to the late 1940s and AC Milan during the Second World War years. Athletics featured until the 1980s. A list of World Records broken here was recorded on the walls of the VIP balcony. Ed Moses - 400 metres hurdles superman of his day - was listed as one of the lady records. The stadium is the current home of Calcio Brera - a recently formed Milan club, who ply their trade in the lowly 6th tier regional tournament, Promozione. One of their former managers was none other than Inter goalie legend, Walter Zenga. Napoleon meanwhile had other ideas for sport at the venue. He had the place flooded with 2 metres of water and re-enacted sea battles for his amusement.
We wandered back across Park Sempione. The Torre Branca looms - a sort of Eiffel Tower in Milan. The Arch of Peace sits at the top side of the park. It was built as a tribute to the victories of Napoleon. There was a feeling that we had stumbled into Berlin at this point. After a siesta, we had a return trip to visit Captain Correli's ale
Birthpace: Mansfield Road, Nottingham
house. The food option was a small family restaurant up a side street. Pizzas were a competitive 6 Euros. The wine was 3.5 Euros for a half carafe, where on the main road it was 5 a glass. A no brainer choice. We had a full day to kill before the AC Milan game the following day, so we would be Monza bound in the morning. Once back in Milan, the journey to the San Siro was fairly painless. The advantage of our direct metro access would once again pay dividends. The car park turns into a series of stalls on match day, but we opted to get straight in should the ID checking be not so straightforward. The tickets were our name on were thoroughly checked and matched against our passports. It was certainly more thorough than getting in the country. AC Milan are not the force they were. This is not Gullit and Van Basten and the current crop of players are not exactly household names. The paying public obviously are used to better things - tired of ID requirements, high ticket prices and a lack of success, a mere 39,504 showed up for the game against Bologna.
It was very cold too, which didn't help. Snow flurries fell throughout the game, drifting slowly down in the glow of the floodlights. The late kick off at 2045 hours wasn't ideal either. My previous visits have seen a buzzing atmosphere. Today, rows of empty seats were visible in most sections and they don't even bother opening the majority of the 3rd tier. The few hundred Bologna fans were parked in the 3rd tier at the far end, where their presence largely went unnoticed. The Milan ultras did their best to generate atmosphere. Despite a huge investment in players last summer, results have been poor. "Big" names brought in and expected to do better. Quite what anybody expected from Franco Borini, who swapped the rows of empty seats at Joker Park for a half empty San Siro is anybody's guess. The fight for a Champions League place looks a tall order already. Milan changed manager last week. In came pint size midfield legend, Gattuso. 2 games. No wins to date. He paced the touchline, demanding urgency and effort from his players. He played every pass for them. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear though. A
2-1 win will be recorded in the history books, but in all honesty Bologna will be wondering how they didn't find an equaliser late on. At least Milan will be pleased that they managed to score at home for the first time in almost 400 minutes. Herbert will be looking on from above, expecting so much more from his club. Appendix 1 Serie A A C Milan 2 Bologna 1 Date
: Sunday 10 December 2017 @ 2045 Hours Venue
: Stadio Guiseppe Meazza "San Siro", Milano, Lombardy Attendance
: 39.504 Scorers
: 1-0 G Bonaventura 10 Min (A C Milan), 1-1 S Verdi 23 Min (Bologna), 2-1 Bonaventura 77 Min (A C Milan) A C Milan:
G Donnarumma, L Bonucci, M Musacchio, I Abate (P Cutrone 59 Min), R Rodriguez, R Montolivo, G Bonaventura, F Kessie, N Kalinic (A Silva 68 Min), F Borini D Calabria 83 Min), Suso Bologna:
A Mirante, V Torosidis, G Gonazalez, F Helander, A Masina (B Petkovic 83 Min), E Pulgar, G Donsah, A Nagy (S Taider 64 Min), R Palacio (O Okwonkwo 72 Min), M Destro, S Verdi
Tot: 0.264s; Tpl: 0.029s; cc: 15; qc: 29; dbt: 0.0178s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb