Sorry to disappoint most of ya, but this full monte refers to the once in a life time achievement by my lil
Scottish Club - St Johnstone. It will not be a big deal to most,
but for about 1000 haggis bashers, the trip to Monte Carlo in
September 1999 was the best day of their lives!
Forget Man Utd, Arsenal, and Liverpool - teams
that have made countless sojourns into Europe in search of yet
more pieces of silverware to display in their cabinets, and their
supporters for whom these trips have been as frequent as trips to
the toilet after a bad curry. The only piece of silverware in the
ST JOHNSTONE cabinet is a spoon that the clubs tea lady
once almost embedded in Graeme Souness head . (Souness had
thrown a temper tantrum in the players dressing room after his
mighty Rangers side had only drawn with St Johnstone.) Its
only those grey haired folk that you see at the post office on a
Monday morning that can remember St Johnstones last trip
So when St Johnstone was drawn against AS
Monaco in the UEFA cup 1st round, it was a fixture not
to be missed, and there was no way that I was going to miss out
on the occasion. To be in the UEFA cup in the first place was a
dream, but to be playing one of the richest teams, in the most
glamorous of locations was beyond fantasy.
We flew from Liverpool on a cold wet Thursday
morning, and arrived in Nice where the early morning temperature
was in the 70s. We jumped in a taxi and took the short
(20km) trip into the principality, parting with a mere £60 for
the ride. We then walked through the steep and narrow streets,
past the plush hotels, and designer shops, dodging time share
touts as best we could, and finally located our hotel in a less
affluent area of Monte Carlo. Here, it was more like your bog
standard Holiday Inn.
After getting freshened up and changing into
formal gear, we headed back out in search of more Saints fans.
Some had gathered in Casino square, but as Place du Canton was
closer, we headed there. As we walked through the streets a local
office worker called us over, invited us into his office where he
gave us a commemorative poster and a beer and wished us "Bon
Chance". Thinking he was asking us if we thought St
Johnstone had any chance of victory we replied "nae
Place du Canton was a mass of Blue and White.
It is a shopping centre on three tiers with an open air bar area
at ground level. St Andrews flags were draped from each tier ,
and on each level, fans were singing and drinking the
party had begun. It was quite a remarkable sight. An area that
was clearly designed for those in Armani suits to gently sup
their glasses of Chablis had been invaded by hundreds of beer
swilling tartan clad foreigners, who even had the nerve to assume
land rights by raising their flags on the shopping centre
What was more remarkable however, was that the locals
who had been sitting there before the invasion, were still there,
only now were drinking from cans, supplied to them by their
vanquishers. Les Monsieurs disgarded their silk ties in place of
blue and white scarves, and Les Madames well they just put
the scarves on !.
About two hours before the kick off, the crowd
that had been in Casino Square arrived, lead by two bagpipers.
The Locals had now really warmed to the festivities and were now
even attempting the highland fling , and laughing as the Saints
fans chanted "In your Monaco Slums". Somehow, they
understood the irony. As kick off time approached, the bagpipers
took the lead, and playing "Oh when the Saints go Marching
In" lead some 1000 fans to the Stade Louis II.
For 69 minutes, St Johnstone held Monaco, but
in the latter stages, conceded three goals to a far superior team
boasting the likes of Simone, Barthez and Trezeguet But after the
game, the party continued. The bagpipers lead the fans out of the
stadium and the singing did not die down until the train came to
take the majority back into Nice.
The next day we wandered around Monaco, walking
the streets and realising that we were walking the very stretches
of road that the Grand Prix is held. We returned to the Place du
Canton. The flags, the crowd , and the empty beer cans had gone.
The only noise to be heard was the clinking of wine glasses and
ringing of mobile phones. Monaco had been returned to its
The return leg in Perth finished in a 3-3 draw
which meant St Johnstone were out of the UEFA cup.
For me, and most St Johnstone fans, the result
did not matter. The next time something like this happens, I will
probably be the grey haired bloke at the post office,
reminiscing, on what was such a fantastic experience.
Bing and Del Boy flyin the flag!
Back To Noggin's DEN!
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