Three games in Poland including the delayed England international plus an ice hockey match.
13th October 3pm Rozwoj Katowice 2 Energetyk ROW Rybnik 2 Liga 2 West 600
‘Rybnik and their ultras under control’
I took a flight to Katowice and bus transfer to the centre then a tram to the Brynow area.
In a way this felt like a non-league game except for the five vans of police to keep control of the 80 or so (all male) Rybnik ultras.
They were placed in their own section of the open seating opposite the ‘main stand’ (another section of yellow and green coloured seats)
The rest of the ground is grass banks with a scoreboard at one end and a small ‘tea’ bar.
In reasonably mild weather the visitors went ahead early and were two goals in front after 25 minutes. It looked a solid away win until a decent shot from Gacki was deflected past the Rybnik goalie.
And in the second period Rozwoj played much better, eventually getting an equaliser from a route-1 goal kick over the defenders heads and a strike from sub Krol.
It as tough on ROW who probably thought they should have won.
I got the bus back to the centre then a train to Bytom.
13th October 7.45pm Polonia Bytom 1 LKS Lodz 1 Liga 1 1,328
‘Play misty for me’
Like a foggy night in a northern industrial town. The mist remained, with no wind over the Edwarda Szymkowiaka stadium.
The home ultras kept up their support and their team would eventually fight back to get a draw.
Polonia had gone behind after 32 minutes but played better in the second half getting the equaliser with about ten minutes remaining following a parry by the away goalie.
The ground itself is reassuringly retro with swathes of open end terrace, a partial cover over part of the seating and a mix of small seating areas on the other side.
The surroundings matched the slightly eerie weather.
The result didn’t really help either team as they are currently in the last two places in the second level & Polonia remain winless.
Afterwards as the cold closed in I took a convenient bus, actually much quicker than the train, back to Katowice and on to my hotel.
Then a Sunday morning in quiet, under construction Katowice - a look at a small flea market and a pleasant hour in the Silesian (Slaski) Museum where they had a special exhibition of old stereo pics of Warsaw plus the permanent rooms of Polish paintings.
Outside it was mild and dry.
14th October GKS Katowice 0 JKH GKS Jastrzebie 4 Polish Hockey League 700
Played in a small arena next to the main Spodek.
The result was tough on the home side who had gone behind very early on but competed well until the last six minutes of the third period.
Both teams played with two men down at times but the away goalie proved the better man, stopping everything from Katowice.
The match was played in a football style atmosphere at times and being in a small
location you were very close to the action.
Jastrzebie stay second in the league - the top level of Polish hockey.
A fifteen minute walk back to the centre for an Italian meal of escalope, profiteroles plus some red wine and an Irish Coffee to finish.
Onward by train to Kielce for a stopover on the way to Warsaw.
Then a three hour plus train ride to the Polish capital where it was rainy and cool.
17th October Poland 1 England 1 World Cup qualifier in Warsaw 43,000
‘Washed out - maybe’
Like many I travel to these games with very low expectations.
But this was grimmer than most.
Getting drenched walking around the stadium to get to the England section, hanging around for ages with little information when it was obvious they couldn’t play and then getting even wetter on the way back to my hotel - all part of the experience for many fans.
Feeling unwell for some of the time didn’t help my personal demeanour & having to find a hotel for another night and an alternative flight also added to the stress and, of course, cost.
And so to the game itself, rescheduled for 5pm on the Wednesday.
With the roof closed (a day late) the locals produced a vibrant enough atmosphere to help their team to a deserved draw.
A rare error from Joe Hart allowed defender Glik to head in with twenty minutes remaining.
Before then Rooney had converted a Steven Gerrard corner in the first half.
But overall it was a very patchy performance by England with little flow and lots of misplaced passing against a fairly moderate Polish side.
So plenty for coach Roy Hodgson to think about.
Was it a bad day at the office, perhaps partly down to the postponement, or a sign that we are not as good as we thought we were ?
What looked like a comfortable qualifying group could become tougher than we imagined at the outset.
Or we could get back on track with away wins in San Marino and Montenegro next March.
By the Thursday I’d dried out and got home via the new airport terminal in Lodz.
more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/1512566050