England have just crashed out of EURO 2016 in potentially the most embarrassing way imaginable, an humiliating 2-1 defeat against Iceland in which England deserved nothing more. Months of anticipation and excitement and promise, all washed away in one cruel blow. England are terrible, we all know this, but yet again we foolishly let ourselves to believe.
The pub is quiet now, it’s Monday night and everyone has now shuffled home in disappointment. Joe and I are sat at the bar, him drowning in Baileys and me sipping whiskey. Slowly getting steaming, we decided to move on the conversation from England to a much less depressing topic: Bolton Wanderers.
Around ten minutes later we had booked a trip to Denmark to watch the Whites play their first pre-season friendly, against FC Helsingør. Myself, Joe and Ben, who had no say in the matter, would be flying to Copenhagen to go and see Wanderers play away.
In 12 days time we were in Nyhavn, a picturesque strip of bars in Copenhagen along a canal. It’s late at night and the rain is beating down in a rampant fury, so much so that we had to run from the taxi to the first bar we came across. Sat under a canopy and wrapped in provided blankets we began to sample the Danish beer and, as you probably know, it was rather quite expensive. Struggling to keep our eyeballs in their sockets, we drank up and continued down the street to the next haunt. The sound of an acoustic guitar lured is into the next pub and we stayed for the entirety of the very talented singer’s set, singing along all the way. Joe, being Joe, wanted to try the local delicacy and thus ordered us all a shot of Fisk, a type of back liquorice vodka. Despite it’s initially off putting scent it actually went down incredible well, like the cough medicine that actually tasted nice when you were a kid.
I dropped my beer on the floor. It didn’t land anywhere the woman who was sat on the table right next to me, nor did it smash a drop on her coat, but yet she still got in a mood. Her and her girlfriends then left in a huff and my master plan to get us a table was therefore completed. A few more drinks and countless conversations about Brexit (they all talk about it) and we headed back to our little ramshackle hotel and after I navigated the ladder to the top bunk we turned in at around 3:30AM.
After awaking the next day we headed straight to Helisngør, arriving at the completely normal, seaside town after a forty minute train ride through luscious Danish countryside. All you could see from when we left Copenhagen was expansive forests and sprawling meadows, no industrial scrap yards or derelict buildings. It was all lovely.
After touching down in Helsingør we stood waiting for a taxi for sometime but to avail, which is when the friendly, helpful nature of the Danish people truly showed itself. As we were stood there clearly bored of waiting, a woman just randomly started talking to us and said she’d ring a taxi for us. When one still didn’t show she got on a bus with us and told us which stop to get off at to get where we needed to go. Imagine that over here, we’d all just purposely put someone on the wrong bus and send them to Carlisle.
We then finally arrived at 12’er Pubben, a sort of clubhouse for the FC Helsingør fans and where a lot of the traveling contingent of Wanderers supporters had based themselves. With beers costing about £1.50 and the pub kindly cooking us all (properP hotdogs for free, everyone was having a great time. Helsingør fans were just as friendly as the previous lady and they were handing out Helsingør scarfs, hats and pin badges to us. A couple of fans even swapped shirts with Bolton fans. A great time was being had by all and there were even rumours of the Bolton team coming back to the pub after the game, which sounded quite weird at the time.
The group of around 30 Bolton fans then, led by the Helsingør supporters, walked to the ground. Down the road, through some woods and down a hill later and we were at the scenic home of FC Helsingør. There wasn’t much to the Helsingør Stadion, but it still had more character than most of the soulless bowls back home and had a great charm about it. A backdrop of pine trees overlooked the ground’s one small stand, which was opposite a set of bleachers. Behind the goal in front of the entrance stood a fire pit where more hotdogs were being cooked, a bar selling more cheap beer and picnic tables where you could sit to enjoy them both. The sun had turned out and it was just a really chilled, laid back stadium that I’d certainly come to to watch football again.
With about 50-60 Whites fans in attendance, the players walked onto the pitch to polite applause and the typical Bolton chants from one corner. The dark memories of last year, while not forgotten, weren’t thought about here, hardly surprising being that we were in a small town in Denmark watching Bolton.
The football itself was a bit of an afterthought, the excuse for a great trip and to see another part of the world. Having said that, it was still great to see Gary Madine smash the ball in from 25-yards after just five minutes. Queue the “goal machine, Gary Madine” chants.
Centreback Alex Finney should have doubled the tally three minutes later, as he towered over a defender to win a header from a corner, but his effort went wide of the post. Spirits were high, as English and Danish chanted good natured songs at each and made a racket. Even a Bolton fan pissing his pants didn’t, ahem, dampen the mood.
Kaiyne Woolery then could have done better as he used his blistering pace to rinse his marker and get towards the goal, yet ultimately nothing came of it.
Being halfway through their season, FC Helsingør proved to be good opposition. They were fit, passed the ball well, attacked in numbers and were rather solid at the back, too. Centre back and captain, Andreas Holm, rightback Ricki Olsen and attacking midfielder Philip Zinckernagel all particular looking impressive.
It was then the Danish side who would pinch an equaliser after a penalty was given for reasons I could not detect, being at the other side of the pitch. Andre Riel then coolly slotted past Ben Amos to level the score.
There wasn’t really all that much of goalmouth action after that, with the only action of note being Amos having to rush of his line to smother the ball and Zach Clough having an attempt at a tight angle that was easily saved. However, the injury curse has begun again already, after Derik Osede was taken off after half an hour. He’s been passing the ball well at right back, and hopefully his injury isn’t anything too serious. He was walking around freely after the game.
Then the halftime whistle blew. I wouldn’t say any player particularly stood out or was particularly bad in the first half, there were a few slack touches and a few moments of quality, but nothing to spectacular - aside from Madine’s goal. But that is very much to be expected from a pre-season game, in which there players are feeling their way back to fitness.
As to clues about how Parkinson will line us up next year, the formation was a simple 4-4-2, with one of the strikers dropping a little bit deeper to play behind the target man. His centre midfielders sat deep, but moved around a lot too, to chase the ball. Long balls up to the target man weren’t that prevalent, and the main tactic seemed to be to get the ball out wide to the wingers. It’ll be interesting to see how Parkinson continues to set up his teams as pre-season rolls on.
A near completely different team entered the fray for the second half, with Ben Amos and Filip Twardzik being the only players to remain on the pitch. Jay Spearing had donned the armband from Darren Pratley and he was immediately his busy self in midfield. New signings Mark Beevers and Jamie Proctor made their first appearances for the club and Max Clayton returned to the pitch after months on the sidelines.
Much like the end of the first half, there was very little in the way of action for much of the second. With a lot of the busy work being done in midfield, as each team competed for the ball. In fact, the only thing of note for much of the second half was when Proctor picked up a booking for clattering a defender in an arial duel. Linus Muller, a local goalkeeper who had helped make up the numbers during the week’s training was then rewarded with an appearance in goal and other new signings, Chris Taylor, was also given a run out.
Nicolsd Marfelt ran down the left for the Danish side and fizzed the ball across the Bolton six yard box, yet no one was on hand to tap the ball in and Spearing then scuffed an effort wide from 30-yards.
Bolton to grow into the game a lot more and were knocking the ball around nicely. Mark Davies picked it up around 40-yards from goal and embarked on a searching run, dancing his way past three players before finally being halted by the outrushing keeper. Chris Taylor then hit a dipping volley from the edge of the box that nearly sneaked into the top corner.
With the game drawing to a close and having to face the prospect that I’d traveled 1,018 miles to see Bolton draw the unthinkable happened. Bolton scored a last minute winner, away from home.
It was that man Taylor involved again, he received the ball out on the left and hit a stunning cross into the box, which was met by the leaping Proctor at the near post who beat his marker and nodded the ball over a stranded goalkeeper into the net. What a lovely way to end a lovely match.
The final whistle blew and the game was over. Parkinson made a point of telling players to come over to applaud us after the game, he did along with Beevers, Taylor and particularly Lawrie Wilson. Many others then stopped for photographs and handshakes afterwards, but they did seems a bit unceremonious about it and quickly sneaked off to the bus.
No matter, back to 12’er Pubben we went. Everyone was a lot more rowdier now after a day of drinking, but everything was in good spirits and everyone was having a laugh. Chants were being sung by all as Bolton classics were intersected with war cries of “FC, FC, FC Helsingør” and it was all a great craic. Then the Bolton team bus turned up, pulling into the car park to cheers and chants.
The team had booked to eat in the pub after the game and staff had bought in loads of food for them. Parkinson and two of his coaches got off the bus and went inside, a minute later they were back off the bus again. So either because there was a fair few drunk Bolton fans there or because the inside of the pub was very smokey, they opted not to eat the food they had ordered. It would have been nice if the players had gotten off the coach literally just to say hello to everyone and have a photo, show some appreciation to the fans who had traveled and spent a fair bit of money to see them. But alas. I felt more sorry for the locals, who seemed genuinely gutted that they weren’t coming in. However, singing “time to go, fuck off!” at the coach as it pulled away was mighty satisfying.
With lots of fooding sitting around going to waste, the staff gave it all to us for free instead. So I do have to thank Bolton for the chicken in cream sauce and tomato pasta, because it was bloody lovely.
A lot more drinks, conversations about Brexit, drinks, talks with friendly strangers, drinks and a horribly rough morning later and we were in the airport ready to leave. Hardy 48 hours since we’d arrived. I’d bought a bottle of Fisk from the duty free and then dropped my bag, therefore smashing the bottle and making my bag stink of liquorice.
It was a rather frustrating end to an otherwise fantastic trip. Denmark is a place I’d honestly recommend anyone to visit. They’ve got life nailed over there, and you should go and try it for yourself.