Dortmund blonde the centre of Vinny’s attention

A whirlwind day as Vinny and daughter get to Champions League final

Wed, May 29, 2013, 05:00

Billy. His name is Billy,” said Vinny Fitzaptrick, reaching out to pat the flank of the giant white steed standing at right-angles to him on Wembley Way. “In Germany, you would call him Wilhelm, I’d suggest,” he added, proud of his Teutonic tongue.

Beside him, a blonde lady clad entirely in the black and yellow of Borussia Dortmund, looked quizzically at the bulky Dubliner. “I’m impressed, mein freund . But why the name, Billy?” she asked.

Vinny shrugged his shoulders and smiled. “Let me tell you why,” he said.

With that, Vinny recalled the story of the first FA Cup final at Wembley, played 90 years earlier between West Ham and Bolton and how far greater crowds than expected turned up for the game which coincided with the opening of the stadium.

As he did, other Dortmund supporters gathered around, clearly intrigued. They had nothing else to be doing as they waited until the mounted police gave the go-ahead to continue the slow march towards Wembley Park tube station.

Warming to his task as a seanachai, Vinny continued. “There were thousands of spectators on the pitch and the game was about to be abandoned, which would have been a massive embarrassment, when a policeman appeared on a white horse from one corner of the pitch.

“Somehow, he managed to usher spectators off to the sides. It took several minutes but he cleared the pitch and the game went ahead. It became known as “The White Horse Final” and Billy was the name of the horse.

“Not this Billy, surely?” said a bemused Dortmund fan.

“Of course not, but he could be related,” said Vinny. “He’s a police horse, he’s working at Wembley at a cup final, and he’s white,” he grinned.

Around him, there were nods of agreement. The Dortmund blonde, leaned closer to Vinny. “You talk a good story and you make us good cheer. As you know, we are not happy now.”

Famous stadium
It was 10.30 on Saturday night and Vinny was one of thousands of supporters making their way out of the famous stadium after the Champions League final.

Most of them were Dortmund fans as the boys from Bayern were still inside milking it up. Once Vinny had seen the trophy presentation, he was keen to scarper, aware of the quirky licensing laws in London.

The Champions League final trip had been hastily arranged, at the suggestion of Vinny’s daughter, Niamh, who had recently dropped anchor in Clontarf, along with her toddler son Vinny, to escape the bruising fists of her husband.

On the Friday morning, Niamh tossed out the suggestion of a quick-fire overnight trip to London. Her sports editor had cried off and there was a spare ticket going.

Soon flights were booked, along with a hotel in Earl’s Court and the following morning the footie-daft father and daughter were on their way to their first match together.

It had been a whirlwind day, and Vinny was catching his breath among the battalions of Borussia fans, who were waiting, with admirable stoicism, for the go-ahead to continue to the Tube station.

That he was wedged in close beside a rather attractive lady, in her mid-40s, made the delay all the more pleasant.

Pushing his luck
He was thinking about pushing his luck and inviting the finely built Frau for a nightcap in The Hansom Cab pub, which was close to his hotel, when he was stirred from his reverie by his daughter. “Well, Vinny, hasn’t it been a blast?”

He turned to Niamh and felt an immense sense of affection to the daughter he was still getting to know. “Yes, love, it truly has. Thanks for making your old man happy,” he beamed.

Niamh was everything a father like him could hope for – intelligent, sensitive and sports-mad. That she was a ringer for Natalie Wood only add to her charm.

From the moment,they had caught a mid-morning flight to Heathrow, the day had rattled along apace.

After a high-calorie lunch of double chips and battered cod which Vinny insisted was “for soakage purposes” they’d mingled with Germanic hordes over several beers outside The Globe pub in Baker Street before catching the Tube to Wembley.

It was Vinny’s first visit to the Twin Towers since the 2009 FA Cup final where his beloved Everton had faltered against Chelsea. The loss had stung, but being a foot soldier in the Blue Army was a day he would never forget.

This time, Vinny was sitting in the press benches and Niamh requested him to keep his head down and his thoughts to himself. She even furnished him with a note book and pencil.

They arrived an hour before the game and Vinny was astonished at the way journalists were catered for. There were two plush restaurants, serving tomato soup, lasagne, spuds, salad and a delightful carrot cake for dessert – he availed of the lot.

As Niamh worked the room, making small talk with her colleagues on the Premier League beat, Vinny looked about him while he flicked through the complimentary match programme.

He spied someone who looked suspiciously like Steve McClaren before realising it was Steve McClaren – “what a wally” he thought.The game itself had been wunderbar, a free-flowing chance-rich duel which was settled by a player, Arjen Robben.

All through, Vinny was rooting for Dortmund as their fans were closest to his side of the press box and, from the first minute to the last, they were magnificent.

Outside the stadium, as the fans walked vorwaerts, Vinny spied a large turd just in front of the Borussia blonde he had befriended.

Quickly, he reached out for her elbow, and directed her gently around the steaming pile. “We don’t want you to get your nice shoes dirty, do we love?” he smiled.

The lady turned to him and planted a suggestive kiss on Vinny’s stubbly cheek.

“You are my hero,” she purred, linking arms with the bus driver.

As Vinny blushed, it took a wagging finger, and a raised eyebrow, from Niamh to prevent her father galloping off at speed.

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