Postcards from Europe: Five Britons tell of their exploits on foreign fields

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Steve Bruce

Manchester United

In his ninth season at Manchester United, the 34-year-old Bruce captained the team who travelled to Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, in Russia and drew 0- 0 with Rotor Volgograd in the Uefa Cup.

WE'D played in Moscow before, but this was completely different. The people who looked after us were very nice, but without wishing to sound ungrateful, the hotel was, let's say, passable, just.

We'd brought our own cook so we never had to eat any of the hotel food. It might have been interesting if we had. For a couple of days there wasn't any hot water, and the beds were a bit of a problem. They were all about two feet wide by five feet long. It was good seeing Gary Pallister trying to get into his. They were all right for Denis Irwin and Paul Parker, but not for us bigger lads.

We didn't have much of a chance to look round. We did see the statue to Mother Russia which commemorates the war dead. That was fascinating. I'll look back on that and be glad I've been there. Some parts of the town, by the river, were very nice. But you saw people queueing up in the shops and it made you appreciate what you've got at home.

Mark Crossley

Nottingham Forest

Aged 26, Crossley has been a one-club man since he joined Forest in 1987-88. He kept goal for them in Sweden when they were beaten 2-1 by Malmo in the Uefa Cup.

WE WERE all a bit surprised by the atmosphere. As with most of us, it was my first experience of European football, and we were expecting a bigger crowd and much more noise than we got. There were only about 12,000 people in the ground and it was all a bit subdued.

The facilities were excellent. A beautiful stadium, surrounded by a running track. We were very well looked after. From what we saw of it, Malmo looked a beautiful place. We didn't see much of it because we were staying quite a few miles outside in a converted castle and only came in to train and to play the match.

What we weren't surprised about was the quality of the opposition. We'd played in Sweden before on pre-season tours and I'd thought then how good technically the Swedes were. So we reckoned Malmo would be. We never thought it was going to be an easy match. Still, it was disappointing to lose on the night, especially after taking the lead. But it's up to us now in the second leg.

Gary McAllister

Leeds United

The 30-year-old Scot is a veteran of Leeds United's short-lived European Cup campaign of 1992-93. He helped his side to a 3-0 win over Monaco.

I SUPPOSE compared with the teams who had to go to Russia we did quite well being drawn in Monaco. It's one of my favourite parts of the world. In fact my wife and I had been on holiday near there during the summer, so it was quite a quick return for me.

I'd have liked to see more of the place, but we didn't have much of a chance. We flew out on the Monday, played on the Tuesday and came straight back afterwards. But the view of the bay at Monte Carlo on the way in from the airport was fantastic.

It's a strange ground. Magnificent in many ways but lacking in atmosphere. I've played in better, but then I've been lucky enough to play in the Nou Camp. If it hadn't been for all our supporters it would have been completely dead.

They'd had athletics there the previous weekend, so the pitch was still a bit bumpy. Still, by scoring so early we were quickly in control. I like French football. They've got a lot of skill, but the pace is much slower.

Peter Robinson

Liverpool

Liverpool's chief executive has been accompanying the team into Europe since the 1960s. But he was making a trip into the unknown with the visit to Vladikavkaz in southern Russia, where Liverpool beat Spartak Vladikavkaz 2-1 in the Uefa Cup.

I THINK it was the friendliest place we've ever been to. Even when the team coach was leaving for the airport quite late after the match there were people lining the road for miles.

The town is only 70 miles from Chechnya, and although I didn't see much evidence of military activity on the streets, there were soldiers at the airport and a lot of helicopters flying overhead. Security at the ground was incredibly tight - about 5,000 police.

It is a difficult place to get to and the club are saying they want to expand the airport. We chartered our own plane from Liverpool, and they had to set up customs especially for us.

One thing I was curious about was that whereas most of the buildings obviously needed a lick of paint, the ground was freshly painted in pink. It turned out that the club was sponsored by an American paint company.

David Unsworth

Everton

The 21-year old Everton defender, playing his first match in European club competition, had a mixed night in Iceland when his team beat Reykjavik 3-2 in the Cup-Winners' Cup.

WE WERE all expecting it to be a bit bleak, but actually it wasn't that bad. The hotel was excellent and the facilities at the ground were good too. There was a lot of interest in us. There is even a branch of the Everton supporters' club in Reykjavik.

I'd played in Iceland before with the England youth team. We won that match 3-2 as well. But that was at a different ground. This one was quite small. It was full with about 6,000 people in it. But the pitch, although bumpy, was very big. That suited us with a couple of wingers. I noticed the ball was much lighter than the one generally used in England. It took a bit of getting used to.

I was disappointed to give away a penalty. But then Andy Hinchcliffe was brought down and I scored from the spot. I've been taking penalties since last season. I was very impressed with the Reykjavik team. But we didn't play well. We can do much better.

Interviews by Simon O'Hagan

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