Friday, 25 November 2011

Why Aren't English Football Fans As Visual As The Italians?

Naples: chaotic city, brilliant fans

The welcome that the Napoli fans gave to their team as they emerged from the tunnel at the Sao Paolo stadium on Tuesday was the most spectacular I've ever seen at a football match.

We were among the first of the 1,000 travelling City fans to arrive at the stadium about an hour before kick off. By then, nearly every Napoli fan was already in position.

By anthem time, at one end, the crowd parted to form an N-shape that was brilliantly illuminated by red flares. At the other, every fan waved a small, blue flag while a '74-style World Cup football banner was unfurled in the middle of the stand. Along one side of the ground, fireworks exploded into the sky.

The crowd noise was deafening. It almost drowned out the Champions League tune until the end when in unison, 59,000 voices blared out "campione". A wonderful, emotional outpouring you just don't see in England.

I put this shoddy iPhone video on YouTube on Wednesday. It's had nearly 5,000 views so far, the vast majority of them from Italy. The comments, too, are nearly all from Napoli fans. They just love their club.

City's support is undoubtedly the best in the world for its unswerving loyalty. But it's characterised by witty, self-deprecating anthems (We Never Win At Home and We Never Win Away), irony (We're Not Really Here) and a torch song of lovelorn loneliness (Blue Moon). Inflatable bananas aside, until the newly-stolen Poznan goal celebration, it was all sound and no vision.

Perhaps Anfield is the closest we get. However grudgingly, you have to admit that the Kop end full of red scarves belting out You'll Never Walk Alone is stirring stuff when seen from the away end.

But there isn't much else worth writing home about in my experience: United are noisy by volume but lack much humour; the popular end at Molineux give Wolves fantastic support; West Ham's bubblers are in tune but often groaning; Newcastle is a fabulous frenzy bordering on religious fervour; the Britannia Stadium is stirringly loud when Stoke get a throw-in; Spurs fans are probably too exhausted by the walk from the tube to give it much welly; and the Arsenal faithful sometimes struggle to turn the excellent Emirates into a cauldron.

Maybe it's the weather. Maybe we're too busy boozing to organise such elaborate pre-match pyrotechnics. 

But I bet Napoli don't lose too many at home.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Whistling Wigeon On Cley Marshes

Eerily bright, warm and sunny at Cley Marshes this morning - it's the mid-November that feels like early September.

The highlights: hundreds of whistling Wigeon; vast flocks of Golden Plover looking like blown and sun-dappled leaves; two female and one male Marsh Harrier spooking hundreds of Lapwing; a vagrant Cattle Egret - feathers so white you could see it with the naked eye from the visitor centre half a mile away; flying Shoveler; Teal and Mallard waddling around; hidden Cetti's warbler and Bearded Tit calling from the reeds.

It was warm enough for a least three Common Darter dragonflies to take to the wing to add to the three Red Admiral butterflies we saw in Wells Wood yesterday.

And we saw a Barn Owl near Field Dalling at 9.10am on the way - the first we've clocked for a while in Norfolk.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Wandsworth Common Halloween Beer Festival 2011

Our first visit to the annual event in the rain-spattered courtyard of the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building - a suitably spooky Victorian Gothic pile formerly used as an orphanage and military hospital. Now the home of Le Gothique restaurant and some nice-looking flats.

The 15-minute walk from Clapham Junction was rewarded with:

Dark Star American Pale Ale 4.7% - a hip and hoppy happy glass from Horsham. (I've enjoyed many superb pints at their excellent Evening Star pub near Brighton railway station with my mate Paul.)

Dark Star Green Hopped IPA 6.5 % - strong as Superman and available just as rarely. Distinguished by a combination of Simcoe and green Target hops.  Wouldn't recognise either of them but they make an outstandingly tangy ale. 

Shepherd Neame Spooks 4.7% - a nothing-special one-off. Never been one of my favourite brewers. All tastes a bit ordinary.

Thornbridge Sequoia American Amber Ale 4.5% - tastes like they've picked a ripe grapefruit from a tree in tarty Bakewell and squeezed it into one of the best beers I've ever had. Fabulous. 

Batemans Victory Ale 5.9 % - a fresh and fruity mouthful of Lincolnshire peardrops. Brewed to celebrate Trafalgar Day on October 21. Nelson would think it was all worth it just for this ale. 

Sambrooks Pale Ale 4.2% - The light and refreshing zing of angry young Battersea. And they sponsored the jolly commemorative glasses.

Thornbridge St Petersburg 7.7%. - Back to Derbyshire for a stunning Imperial Stout. The treacly, smokey, roast chestnut taste of foggy Bonfire Nights.

Priced by strength from £1.70 per half for the standard-strength beers through to £2.50 for the less approachable 7 per centers.

A graveyard smash of an event and one for the diary next year.