Follow, Follow, No Matter How Far

Distance and difficulty was no object for 500-odd Evertonians who made the trek to Krasnodar for Everton's first competitive match on Russian soil.

Having been drawn into a distinctly Champions League-esque Group H featuring Wolfsburg and Lille in Monaco on 29 August, it seemed only fitting that the last ball out of the pot to join the Blues would be FK Krasnodar a tricky-looking journey to southern Russia to go along with matches against top sides from the Bundesliga and France's Ligue 1.

Of course, since returning to the UEFA Cup and its successor, the Europa League, Everton have been no strangers to far-flung places once hidden well behind the Iron Curtain. Their 2009-10 campaign took them to the Belarussian capital of Minsk two years after they made the journey to Kharkov cracked, rutted runways and all level on aggregate with Metalist Kharkiv but down an away-goal.

Such superficially daunting forays far afield don't appear to have fazed successive Everton teams, though the Blues beat Metalist 3-2 in a thrilling game, overcame BATE Borisov 2-1 and came away from Krasnodar with a potentially vital 1-1 draw and they haven't put off a core of adventurous Evertonians who have taken on difficult journeys to support the boys and take pride from the fact that they were there.

@philn1 - Defo one of my favourite away trips

There is nothing routine about the 4,000-mile round trip from Merseyside to the eastern side of the Black Sea at the best of times good luck trying to find a direct flight from LPL to Pashkovsky Airport but the not-insignificant matter of the ongoing border conflict between Ukraine and Russia just 100 miles away was enough to prompt many Blues to proclaim, "swerve that, lad" and fire up the booking sites for Germany and France when the draw was made. After all, a Malaysian jet liner had been shot down flying over the region only seven weeks earlier.

About 500 intrepid Blues did make the journey, though, to experience Everton's first competitive match on Russian soil and were rewarded for their devotion by the club with free tickets to the next Europa League game in Lille. They also took home memories of a unique away-day and two of those travelling Evertonians share their impressions and some photographs.

Paul Wharton

When the draw was made for the Europa League group stages, Everton were paired with Lille (France), Wolfsburg (Germany), and Krasnodar (Russia). Very interesting as we haven't played French or Russian opposition in European competition before.

Lille is very easy to travel to; Wolfsburg, I have attended a pre season game a few seasons ago. So the Krasnodar game in Russia was a must-see country as people from my generation and a little older have never really travelled to what was the USSR as it wasn't on the tourist map because of the Cold War, Berlin Wall, etc.

We have seen the films From Russia With Love, Sean Connery as Bond and Michael Caine in Funeral in Berlin so I had all these images going through my mind. What's Russia really like?

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Sorting flights via Moscow and the 125 visa wasn't easy but achievable. 1st October arrives and off we go to London Heathrow on the 2.50pm from Lime street. The flight leaves at 21:35 to Moscow with the news that Liverpool are getting beat against Basel, A great send-off as other Blues are on this flight.

@philn1 - Beer barrel urinals!

Landing in Moscow just after midnight with a four-hour layover for our connection to Krasnodar. I wasn't expecting Moscow airport to be just as nice as Heathrow! You could buy any type of food or drink you wanted.

Landing at Krasnodar Airport, my pre-arranged taxi from the Hilton was hijacked by three amigos from our flight, so we had to fend for ourselves, as I was with the Keig family Peter, Kathy (of Radio Merseyside fame) and Nicky. One of the Russian Blues came to our aid by the name of Alex (Golden Vision he was) as we negotiated a price.

Finally we got to the Hilton. A great surprise as the team and club officials were staying there and we got in the lift with Big Dunc (my daughter is now jealous).
I had a walk to pick up the match ticket, the streets were spotless! The old tram cars from Funeral In Berlin were still in operation. One of the ideas we in Britain could pinch off the Russians is loud speakers on the traffic light poles as they were playing music. A very relaxed atmosphere as the locals seemed friendly.

Brendan Connolly had a friend request on Facebook by a lady called Maria. Don't get too excited, Maria was an interpretor and had a boyfriend, Dima. A really lovely couple! Dima's English was fantastic considering he had never met an English-speaking person before. Just puts us Brits to shame!

I had ordered a coach to take us from the Hilton to the game and there were 180 of us on the return, nuts!

Fans had travelled by all different routes. There were some Irish lads who travelled 22 hours on a train from Moscow to Krasnodar... wow!

The "Arr A" award goes to the fan who thought he was on our flight out of Krasnodar, but he should have been on the one an hour earlier! He had to pay another 400 to get home. Ouch!

Liz Wyman

When our plane landed it was funny to see all the Evertonians spill out. Some had arranged transport through their hotels but others were left to organise cabs and the prices charged varied wildly from 360 roubles (ours) to over 2,000 as people couldn't communicate or even read signs.

My favourite part of the trip was in the bar before the game (the view of the stadium and the lake is taken from there). As soon as we walked in a group of Russians from the next table sent us over a bottle of vodka. As I speak some rusty Russian I was soon in great demand as various Russians shouted questions over about us and the team, and told us off for sipping vodka, drinking it without food and the worst crime of all mixing it with orange in some cases.

They were all laughing at the English who are known for drinking beer and other weak drinks. After the game, some of them drew me in for a long and complex discussion about Putin, Khrushchev and Ukraine. My Russian was getting better and better as they poured vodka down me for several hours! They asked me if it was a similar situation to England and Scotland erm, not exactly, was about the best my Russian could cope with.

The ground was all open with a couple of portable toilets, and a makeshift refreshments bar with a kettle, teabags and sachets of coffee, some chocolate and some strange sausage rolls. The away end was full of the usual suspects but none as entertaining as the block to our left full of uniformed soldiers who had been drafted in to bounce up and down and sing in unison. Quite a sight, although not as good as seeing a group of them changing into their civvies in the middle of the airport the following morning!

Obviously the game was the worst part of the trip for almost all of us, even the lads who were in our hotel who slept through their flights and ended up being sent off to other Moscow airports with harrowing trips across the city ahead of them.