Away Day Review: Hajduk Split - 4/8/11

Last updated : 06 August 2011 By Dan Buxton
JOURNEY 4/10 due to problems.
A range of emotions.
En Route to Airport
The excitement was tangible, we were on our way – a quick stop at Tesco, some munchies and a drink for the drive to Stansted; everything was fantastic and the car was buoyant.
The Flight
We arrived at the airport in good time, the fight to Pula had not been delayed (my one big concern). On board the plane we found a seat, flew to Pula, listened to the celebratory Ryan Air announcement ‘we had landed on time’; everything was simple and running like a dream.
The Drive to Pula
It continued to be a fantastic journey. “No Golfs left,” the man said, “we will upgrade you to a Passat instead, it’s a bigger car, with more room, and it is more frugal with the fuel.” Fan-bloody-tastic we thought, this trip is getting better and better all of the time we all thought.
I was the designated driver for the Pula to split leg of the journey. To drive the upgraded Passat was like driving my lounge around on the Croatian roads: effortless, comfy, a breeze! The breath-taking views were an added bonus; forests, lakes, mountains – it was like driving through a picturesque postcard – everything that we had hoped for. I felt like Jeremy Clarkson bombing down some of the most wonderful roads ever encountered, through the amazing tunnels, over the vast bridges, cutting through the wonderful surroundings.
There was no real traffic to speak of, the occasional crazy Croat overtaking and cutting in, and the initial hassle of the ‘wrong way round’ roads and the toll booths (nothing major). Everything was perfect. Until…
A shitty little lorry was swerving in the way. Me, still being Clarkson in my Veyron eased on the power and began to cruise past. Bang… thud… bang… thud… “That lorry sounds nasty I laughed”.
“It’s us,” added my mate “we’ve got a flat tyre!”
Fan-boody-tastic… but nothing major, the lovely car hire lady had shown us the spare tyre. Five minutes and we’ll be on our way again. Although, I thought it was strange; the handling of the car hadn’t been affected, but the sound was definitely coming from the front right of our luxurious ‘sofa-mobile’, posh run flat tyres I concluded.
Out of the car we got – the tyres were fine… so what was the noise?
The surroundings were now attacking our ears as well as our eyes with wondrous beauty – the place was well and truly alive. This vigorous life was not echoed by our car. What was the noise? It wasn’t the tyre. We just had the small problem of the bottom of the fucking car falling off. How the bloody fuck shit has this happened? The four of us in the car thought. Well we were actually no longer in the car, we were standing by the side of the road in the middle of Croatia with our stoke tops on. Cars were zooming past: the occasional horn of a lorry or jubilant (mocking) horns of fellow Stoke fans from our flight laughed at us. What twats we said, we’d do the same we knew.
We tried to ring every number in the car hire leaflet, to be met with answering phones or stupid bloody non-English speaking people – how selfish of them.
Fuck it we’ll fix it!
After a bit of tinkering all was in place, and off we set again mightily pleased with ourselves.
Five minutes later…. Bang… thud… bang… thud… “FUCK we’re screwed!”
We knew we couldn’t contact anyone, so into the boot we went to see what we could find. All that was to hand was a first aid kit. Out came the bandage. We gently dressed the wound and tied the dangling limb back on. The trailing end of the bandage had to be brought into the car and tied to the seat to hold the fallen panel tight. That’ll do the trick said our resident nurse; we’ll have no problems now. We still have plenty of time. And off we set…again!
To ensure that the bandage held really tight the one of the lads rested his feet on the supporting bandage; great idea we thought. Tentatively we continued. Nearly an hour later our wounded animal was now galloping at a good pace once again. Our spirits were once again restored; we would make it without a doubt. Half of the Pula – Split drive to go, and surely nothing else could go wrong. Until the leg that was holding the bandage began to get cramp… bang… thud… bang… thud… FUCK!
There is no point now. We’re not going to make it, let’s somehow ring a recovery service, get raped by a ridiculous charge whilst not understanding what is being said. My mate seemed sure that this was what was to happen - all of this way… for nothing!
Our resident nurse had other ideas, and the body of the man with cramp in his leg now transferred into a master surgeon, and to work they set. Ten minutes later they reappeared from under the car: both smashing their head on the wing mirror for good luck. “That’ll do it!” said the newly appointed surgeon with certainty, “this will get us there!” My friend and I that had remained in the car had heard this before, we were not so sure, and were still certain that we would miss the match.
Over an hour later and we were still going, they were right, we were going to make it, and seemingly with time to spare. Half past five, 40ish km to Split, no traffic all the way here so far, no problem! We now dared to speak of the game, what would Tony do? Who would play? Would he rest the wingers? Would Salif be strutting his stuff? We didn’t really care at this point, we were once again confident that whatever he did, we would be there to see it.
Then there was the mother of all traffic Jams, no problems again we thought, these are all Split fans, we’ll make it, they are going to the match too. Somehow they all knew that we were Stoke fans, every car alongside gave us menacing looks (we had changed out of our Stoke tops at the last medical stop, due to the fact that we didn’t intend on getting murdered) it must have been our glowing white, un-tanned skin, and the ‘shitting ourselves’ looks on our faces that gave us away.
“Are you Stoke?” shouted a large bald beast from a car full of other beasts, then luckily our line moved before we had to answer. Then alongside he pulled again “ARE YOU STOKE?”
“Y-yes,” we replied.
“Really?” he replied with menacing tone that was a mixture of derangement, wonder and delight – they’re going to rip our heads of was our immediate thought and then thankfully the traffic moved again. After nearly an hour of traffic; ten million threatening looks and 15 million ‘why the fuck is that car bandaged up’ looks. We got into split itself. We now needed to find our hostel in order to park the car, and we would get there, but it would be tight.
Could we find it? Could we buggery! Round and round we drove, little alley after one way street we passed through. The maps we had were useless, google maps was shit, and we could find no street signs or names to help us. Regular stops to ask “S’cuse me duck, do you know where the ‘Three turtles Hostel,’ is? Were met with I can’t understand you, and why on earth is your car bandaged up looks.
Five to seven, once again we thought we were not going to make it. I decide to ask a topless brute of a man, fixing his gate down a little side street where our hostel was. He clearly doesn’t understand (or he had spotted the bandage) I thought, so I said it again, slightly slower and louder in a typical British way, he pointed back up the one way road, we had passed it, we, were there! He blocked the road off and allowed us to reverse back up, what a man! No wonder we had missed it, a printed off, crumpled up piece of a4 paper stapled to the gate identified its existence.
A wild dog and a lovely lady greeted us. She wanted to chat, we wanted to go. “We want to go to the match,” we told her “is it far, could we walk it? She laughed so we asked if she could ring us a taxi, she continued to chat, “can you ring us a taxi,” we politely asked again… she continued to chat, but eventually rang our taxi.
Luckily our taxi driver’s driving skills were reminiscent of a slightly more erratic Lewis Hamilton. We were there! 12 minutes on the clock; tired, hungry, thirsty, but relieved. We had made it at last.

Super ground, I loved the firm plastic seats on the concrete blocks, perfect for bouncing around on.

Like nothing that I have ever seen, flares, fireworks, constant bouncing and chanting. Truly amazing!

Didn’t have time for any due to the time we arrived in the ground. Surprised that they were serving beer, my mate got pulled away by the police when he went for one and they said they were stopping selling it.

Perfect Pulis away performance topped off with a winner. What more could you ask for? Brilliant.