- 28 May 08, 10:25 AM
I had my last taste of live football on Saturday before heading off to Austria and Switzerland for Euro 2008.
The occasion was the Championship play-off final at Wembley between Hull City and Bristol City, two clubs not normally associated with days like this.
People were dressed as Tigers, behaving as though they would be similarly attired on any given Saturday, while men in red chanted "cider, cider, cider" as if it was some mystical mantra from a lost age.
Every now and again the two sets of fans would find themselves chanting "City, City, City" at each other.
As I sat in my seat taking this all in and broiling in the unexpected gaze of a piercing sun in the process, I could not help but wonder whether this was good preparation for what lies ahead.
In just over a week's time I will fly out to Basel (Or should that be Basle? Whatever, we'll resolve that issue later!) to cover the European Championships, endeavouring to document the colour, quirks and emotions of the biggest sporting show on Earth - World Cup and Olympics excepted - for the BBC's tournament blog.
I'm not exactly sure what to expect having not had the pleasure of visiting either of the host nations before, although words such as "organisation", "cleanliness", "picturesque" and "expensive" are randomly popping into my head with increasing frequency whenever I think of Austria or Switzerland.
I'd love to know if you have any suggestions of things I really should do or see during the tournament. Trying to out-drink German fans does not count, though attempts to negotiate a bobsleigh course - yep, I know it's summer - will definitely be considered.
As for the football, I hope that flair, technique and excitement are characteristics that will define matters on the pitch.
On Saturday it was a diet of determination, desperation and, all too often, long balls, that was served up as Hull ended their 104-year wait for top flight football.
Still, the sumptuous winning volley from Dean Windass was worthy of any occasion, though I doubt whether I will find myself watching too many 39-year-old former hod-carriers resplendent with beach-blond barnet at the Euros.
My wife celebrated with all the joyous enthusiasm of the casual supporter briefly turned serious by success. It sticks in the throat a little when I think about my own team, Preston North End, and their repeated play-off failures.
A season of gloating and, even worse, pity lies in store for me. Thankfully, there will be none of that during Euro 2008. Caroline will be back in London, tending our allotment, while I will be feasting on the best footballing fare Europe has to offer
I have no doubt, though, that as times ticks on, I will eventually start to yearn for the sight and taste of leeks, marrows, potatoes and broad beans, not to mention the wife herself.
As we left Wembley after watching Hull celebrate their famous victory, we made our way through the growing mountain of bottles, cans, burger wrappers and other assorted detritus that inevitably accompanies the big-match experience.
We then waited 30 minutes for a bus that proceeded to crawl along the roads of west London - here's hoping for a bit of European efficiency in Switzerland and Austria - before heading for a curry via a couple of drinks at our local.
Talk soon turned to my forthcoming trip. With Caroline adopting the label of "footballing widow", I listened abstractedly to her musings while the million and one things I need to sort out prior to departure raced through my mind with disarming regularity.
The clock is ticking, and computer cable adapters, railway timetables and missing hotel bookings are starting to penetrate my dreams
Roll on Switzerland - and don't forget those suggestions.
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