Prague's charms are no substitute for fuel crisis drama

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The Independent Online

Yesterday morning I went panic-buying. Except that there wasn't a panic. Gambling a few drops of petrol on a trip to the supermarket, I jumped into the car at breakfast time only to turn on the radio and discover that the fuel lorries were rolling again.

Yesterday morning I went panic-buying. Except that there wasn't a panic. Gambling a few drops of petrol on a trip to the supermarket, I jumped into the car at breakfast time only to turn on the radio and discover that the fuel lorries were rolling again.

I arrived at the store, prepared to wrestle furiously for the last bag of carrots... and found that carrots were in plentiful supply. There was more milk than you'd know what to do with. And, worst of all, there was hardly a queue. I did buy a 24-pack bag of crisps in a pathetic attempt to appear to be hoarding, but no one seemed to notice.

Frankly, it's a disappointment. Before we know it, the filling stations will be full again and the whole "crisis" will have passed without becoming all that critical. Bristol City v Brentford was postponed - almost symbolically, but I was away for that announcement and I feel as though, by being in Prague for the 48 hours of the most profound panic, I've missed out on one of those once-in-a-blue-moon periods of national bonding.

Wasn't there a period during the 1970s when power-cuts (as opposed to Malaysian betting syndicates) meant that floodlit games couldn't happen? Well, this was all set to be football's first big domestic drama since then; only now, we're just going to go through the regular drudgery of a normal weekend's fixture list. How close were you to making alternative arrangements?

Prague was beautiful. But, boy, were its petrol stations boringly reliable. The Skodas just rattled through the city centre without a care. We could only stand and watch, ruefully imagining all those forecourt friendships we might have been forging back home.

Spurious reasons were conjured for ringing the office just so that whoever answered the phone could excitedly describe the extent of the chaos. In the Czech Republic, we had nothing with which to reciprocate and were therefore rendered conversational eunuchs. Generally, sport parallels life (or vice-versa); here it had taken us away from it.

Of course, at six o'clock, sitting in the sunshine outside the Letna Stadium, the news broke that Chelsea had sacked Gianluca Vialli. At least this deflected attention away from the petrol issue, but hardly served to convince the English contingent (particularly those journalists who would love to have been at the sharp end of that story) that they were anywhere other than the wrong place at the wrong time.

It reminded me of a similar scenario, eight years ago, when Leeds United clinched the League championship. At the time I was working for local radio in Leeds and, for the whole season, had been heavily involved in covering the progress of Howard Wilkinson's team. On the day their title was clinched, via a win at Sheffield United, I was reporting on Yorkshire's rained-off Sunday League match at Hove.

Back in Prague, sport started mimicking life again. Arsenal's centre-halves, Martin Keown and Oleg Luzhny, were like a couple of juggernauts on the M6; their lanes were utterly blocked to the extent that the only potential route into the Arsenal area was aerial. Even that was pretty well patrolled and, when the Czechs did get a threatening header in, David Seaman's reflexes ensured that there would be no breach of the barricades.

Meanwhile, Silvinho escaped the congestion by repeatedly steaming up the hard shoulder. His goal was magical; but, beyond that, his adventure and verve rendered him the contest's great entertainer. In a captivating head-to-head battle with the promising Czech Under-21 international Radek Mynar (a similarly forward-thinking full-back who ran out of bodily fuel midway through the second half), Silvinho refused ever to be pinned onto the back foot.

More and more, it seems to me, the modern full-back is both the most demanding and potentially the most attractive position on the football field. Think of the touch-line as a 100-metres track and consider how many times such a player completes that course during a match; now add countless shuttle runs, plus many twists, turns and tackles. The physical exertion is immense.

In addition, though, a really good full-back has the capacity to create. Silvinho's delivery from the left, crafty out-manoeuvring of his opposite number, nimble-footedness and swirling shot, mark him out. Bixente Lizarazu, Roberto Carlos, Paolo Maldini; mention this chap in the same breath.

Speed and stealth down the outside lane. Come to think of it, if you've been queue-jumped in the petrol-rush this week, it was probably by a full-back.

Peter Drury is an ITV commentator

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