As our train pulled into London Euston station, we had to be reminded that we had reached our destination by the turning off of the train engine. Our journey from Manchester had been so enjoyable and certainly seemed much shorter than the two and a half hours. We had plenty of entertainment on board from a Manchester City supporter who was star struck even before we'd been on the telebox, and a joyous and camp conductor who seemed to take a strong liking to Will.
We actually pulled into the station about 10 minutes early, and so our transport had not yet arrived, however after not too long a friendly looking bearded man appeared with a board sporting the Sky Sports logo and my name. As we followed him outside I suspect we were all expecting to be met by a couple of taxis, instead he gave us a hint as to how we would be treated throughout the weekend by leading us towards a silver BMW.
The time in the back of the car was spent comparing and contrasting London with the North. James even went as far as saying that one area we drove through reminded him of Padiham! However, we eventually reached the five star Radisson Edwardian Hotel by Heathrow. It was clear by the faces on all of the lads that it was a quite some way different to a Travel Lodge. From the off you are greeted by a great hanging chandelier outside, and an even bigger one as you walk through the revolving doors, when your eyes are then drawn over to the huge marble staircase that centred the reception area.
We had four rooms between the eight of us and three of those were located next to each other on the second floor, the fourth, though, was oddly up on the fourth way out of the way of ours. They were very nice rooms with large comfy bed (yes, one bed in each room, after questioning by the receptionist resulted in Ric and Brad deciding double beds would be better than two singles, worryingly). A nice widescreen TV was surrounded by a glass table with three or four large comfy seats, and a big bathroom with all the fittings.
After settling in, we headed outside to check out the local area. On spotting a pub down the road we set off in that direction although we were not allowed in as it was close to closing. There was a woman in the middle of the road so her we asked for the nearest entertainment venue. Cue ignorance. She just ignored us twice, and the third time we asked we were warned off by her husband (or a bloke she was with anyway).
So we headed back to the hotel bar (where a vodka and coke will set you back £9) and just had a chat in there for a while. Behind us we spotted (only just) R2D2. Well, the guy who played him anyway. We recognised him from the show with Justin Lee Collins the other week on Channel 4. After a while we went up to Ste and James' room to relax a little before heading for bed. Myself and Ste were betting on the American football on the tele. My adopted team for the night (DC United) came back from behind to beat his (New England) 2-1 thanks to a Francis Doe brace, although we should have won by a much bigger margin.
Breakfast was served from 5am onwards so we decided to wake at 5 and head downstairs for about 6. I think it's fair to say that we all found it pretty difficult to drag ourselves out of bed but after a shower, and being able to smell the sausages waiting for us, we were as wide awake as you can be at that time. I personally opted for a three-course meal, starting with a fruit salad, before moving onto the Special K and then a Full English. It was a brilliant start to the morning, and I know that a number of us had a fair number of those sausages.
After changing into our Burnley kits, our cars arrived to take us over to the Sky studios. On arrival we had to sign in before being taken up to the canteen and being invited to help ourselves to whatever we wanted. With it being on Rupert Murdoch, several of us took the opportunity to stock up for the journey home. When Adam (from the show) walked in to brief us our eyes all turned to his right hand, or more so what was in them. Yes, he had with him seven pairs of red Y-fronts with 'Bad Beat Bob' emblazoned on the backside. The club had supplied them but had only included seven, so for me was a pair of white with 'Hells' on the back for Helen. She later decided against this so I had to just show my 50p Asda Brown Credit Crunch Boxer Shorts (TM). Speaking of Helen, prior to meeting Adam, we had seen an Aston Martin DB9 enter the car park, and as we gazed it ran into a cone, pushing it along for a fair distance. As we laughed and mocked the door opened and out jumped Miss Chamberlain.
At 9am, as we were seated on the legendary Luther Blissett Stand, the cue was made for a huge roar to soar around the studio, which looks much smaller in person than on the screen, to signal the start of the programme. Despite the compact studio, it is impossible to hear what Helen and Max are saying over on the sofas, especially when the nature of the show leads to everyone around, from the crew, audience, guests and us fans to cheer and shout out at all times. After not too long it was our chance to shine, as Helen came over to chat with us.
Before that a short 'trailer' for the club was shown featuring former players and the better of our current crop. At the end of the clip we had to perform our chant of 'The Longside'. We replaced the 'na na na na" with 'Ade, Ade, Ade' as we are big fans of him for sponsoring two supporters team players and ringing us on Friday while we were heading down to wish us good luck.
When Robbie Blake's celebration at Coventry was mentioned, it was time for seven of the guys to turn around and pull down their shorts to reveal their pants. As I had not been supplied with any, however, I was told to just stand there and then throw out my 50p Asda Brown Credit Crunch Boxer Shorts (TM) after the others. We also had to present Helen with our gift to the show, which was a flat cap (inspired by the talk on the message board on here) which she loved but Will snatched it off her to wear for the show.
For one of the final parts of the show, we had to leave the Luther Blissett Stand, head through Jimmy Bullard's Back Door and into the Frank McAvennie car park to play the 'Road to Rome' game. In our practice earlier in the morning we had only managed to get about 3 through in 5 minutes, so it was a huge relief when Ged got the ball through with the very first kick.
We then managed to get another 4 through, and although our total of 5 was not enough to knock Rovers off top spot it was very respectable. The end of the show was welcomed, we had had a brilliant time, but after so little sleep and jumping around all the time we were knackered for the last half hour or so.
We received so many compliments after the show, most focusing on how well we rose to the occasion. We were told that most fans have to be encouraged to jump up and cheer but we were going far beyond that and going 'mental' and it was very entertaining which was great to hear.
We got photos around the set and chatted to the crew, guests and Helen and Max after the show and I had a chance to talk to Adam about the possibility of a charity game between them and us. He admitted that they would be 'well up' for that, and encouraged me to get back in contact soon to discuss it.
We again boarded the BMWs and were taken to the Valley for the Charlton game after the show. As we had to rush after the game to get back to Euston (we would have to leave five minutes before the end of the game) we made the decision to go and get our tickets to Euston before the game so that after we could rush to the train and then get straight onto the underground. We then enjoyed the game, and after being very impressed by the first half performance we're very pleased with the point we earned.
All in all we had a fantastic weekend. And all it cost us was our ticket to the game and the price of a baguette at Euston station, coupled with a couple of drinks. Sky had paid for our train down, transport around London and our five star hotel. The experience of being on the show was unreal and the atmosphere around the studio was quality. Highlights from the show have to be 'Kerry Katona' and the American footballers diving into us, and Will and Allan attempting a toe touch.