Football Commentator & Columnist
End of the line
Martin Tyler hails England's focused fans and tells the tale of an all-star queue at Donetsk Airport.
Last Updated: 25/06/12 9:23am
"Going Down in a Blaze of Glory" was the track on the taxi driver's radio as I climbed in outside the Spartak Hotel in Kiev. England's Euro 2012 exit had more than a touch of that.
Familiarity too. I have been at all the penalty shoot-out losses in major tournaments.
No fair-minded Englishman could dispute that fact that Italy deserved their win. Same old same old for them too, defying an unsavoury situation in their domestic football prior to a major tournament.
Roy Hodgson has restored a sense of pride in the international team. The fans who spent heavily to be here deserve a special mention for their focused support. Admirably they refused to join in the "Mexican Wave" which starts so early at the matches at Euro 2012. They enjoy a party but they had come here to watch the football and support their team to the hilt.
Among the players, there have been no dissenting voices about the strictures of tournament life. They have backed the management as the supporters have backed them.
The FA too deserve a mention for restoring some accessibility to the squad, a more open policy which has gone down very well with the locals in Poland and Ukraine, and, one would hope, with UEFA too.
With hindsight I guess I should have feared the worst because of the day-of-the-game difficulties getting to the England game from the previous night's quarter-final.
What should have been a routine trip within Ukraine from Donetsk to Kiev was thrown into confusion by a computer breakdown so that the check-in had to be done by hand. With three separate flights along that route scheduled in a 40-minute slot the congestion was considerable.
But 75 minutes of queue time was made much more bearable by some very good company. Regular readers of my travellers' tales know what an opportunity working at tournaments brings for catching up with old friends.
The waiting in line was made much more bearable when I found Philippe Albert in the same predicament The former Newcastle defender is out here working for Belgium television.
Then it became a case of spotting who else was entrapped. John Jensen, that unlikely scorer in the final of Euro 92, joined us. The Denmark and Germany sides from that Final will meet again, he told us, in a 20th anniversary re-match on July 7. Sixteen of the Danish winning squad will be turning out.
In a parallel line I could hear a familiar chirping sound. The early morning start and the frustrations at the airport had not dampened the spirit of Sky's own Geoff Shreeves.
His travelling companions included Andy Townsend, whose own natural good humour also survived the difficulties. Ray Houghton, who like all the ex players would have been used to more luxurious travel, was remarkably positive as the minutes ticked on.
When Ray finally got on the plane he immediately found that he was not the only passenger allocated seat 29E!!! It was that kind of day!
There is no doubting the willingness of the host nations in their attempts to make the tournament a success. Those of you old enough to remember the frostiness of the old Soviet Union would be amazed at the warmth of the welcome.
But it is the travel which is sorting the men from the boys. Two countries. Two time zones. Two currencies - neither of them the euro. At least three languages, Polish, Ukrainian and Russian, in three different alphabets. And on June 24 at Donetsk airport zero computers.
I am setting off now on the return trip and the Euro 2012 show will go on with four excellent semi-finalists in Portugal, Spain, Germany and Italy. So more blogging to come.
England have done as much as could have been expected, better than some pessimists feared. It wasn't on the radio in my taxi this morning though the driver certainly was tuned to a Ukrainian retro station. Check out "Bringing on Back The Good Times" by the Love Affair.
Roy's Boys are going home having made a decent start in that respect. Bring on the World Cup Qualifiers.