Here is one reason I dream of living in London. I was sitting here recently, planning my next English soccer research trip — which already puts me into what I call #luckyboy territory — when I made a startling discovery about life in that great city.
See, whenever I go on these things — and I’ve seen more than 100 games at 64 different grounds — I try to make it a two-weekend trip with games during the week. That way I can see as many as 9 or 10 games in 11 nights, which is (A) fun as hell, (B) exhausting, although I would never really complain about it, and (C) proof to most English people that I am insane. But they think going 200 miles for a game is impressive, when in the States we call that a local derby. Or just going to a game.
On this next trip, I will range from South London to Preston, up past Liverpool, and maybe farther north than that.
But back to my planning. And London.
I picked the last weekend of November and the first of December, because during that week there are European games, and the second weekend is the Second Round Proper of the FA Cup, when the clubs from League One and League Two are newly in the competition. This can lead to some fantastic matchups.
Right, so I was looking at the Tuesday-Wednesday games, and all the Champions League games in England are places I don’t really need to go, even to research hospitality packages that I sell. So I checked the Championship, where I’ve been to 21 of the 24 clubs, and lo and behold there’s a game Tuesday night at Luton Town, fresh in the Championship and a place I’ve never been. About five minutes and £26 later, I had myself a ticket to Kenilworth Road.
Then something flickered in my brain, and I thought, “What is happening in the Champions League that week?” This could have been something I saw in the fixtures, a memory of a client asking about Ajax tickets, possibly combined with my recollection that Luton has an airport.
So I looked at the fixtures again, and like a golden ticket in a chocolate bar, there it was: Barcelona v Borussia Dortmund, Wednesday night at Camp Nou.
My soccer and travel brain went haywire, but my planning brain went into gear. Google Flights: Roundtrip from Luton to Barcelona is … wait, what? $60?
If Football League clubs having to play at Boreham Wood is the magic of the Cup, then flying to Spain for $60 roundtrip is the magic of London. I checked it. It’s real. I have to live there. Now.
Hell, it got better: I booked a package deal for about £200 that included two nights in a hotel! I’ll pay more than all that — something like $350 — for a decent seat at the game, but I mean, if I don’t go, when I get to the end of my life am I going to say, “Sure am glad I saved that $600 instead of blowing it on two nights in Barcelona for a Champions League game”? Methinks not.
So it is that on consecutive nights I will see Luton Town host Charlton Athletic for a mid-table clash in England’s second tier, and then the following night see Messi (please, let me see Messi) against Dortmund in Barcelona. #luckyboy indeed.
And then, after a day of wandering and eating, I’ll come back to England for the FA Cup. Back to my future home, I should say.
Because this is the kind of thing an English person can do. My friends who live in London just got back from Mallorca, Spain, for example. Just for a weekend getaway. You know, to Spain.
This is the kind of thing we groundhoppers can work out, as well. Dreams, plans and reality all meet at the football ground.