One hell of a trip

I’m back in the USA after three weeks away. I am here to report that the calamitous finale to the States’ World Cup qualification campaign does not seem to have infected the nation’s psyche. I think I am more upset about it than any American-born citizen I’ve come across so far.

I’ve lived in the USA for 13 years so it’s always great to get back to the UK, although I once went three years without going home. It’s usually the same routine. A stop off in England for a couple of days to see Chelsea on the way to and/or from Northern Ireland and a spell there to catch up with friends and family. This trip though I packed a lot more in.

The morning I arrived I went straight to Stoke for the Blues’ Premier League game at the Bet365 Stadium, three days later I travelled to Nottingham to watch Forest play Fulham in the Championship (I know, I know, my friend is a Reds fan). Straight after the match we drove to Windsor and spent the night there, before an early-morning flight to Munich and then onwards to Madrid for Chelsea’s Champions League fixture - and the inaugural European match - at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano ground.

After one day in the Spanish capital, we flew to Zurich and then back to England. Two days later, we headed to the Bridge for the top-of-the-table clash with Manchester City. Fewer than 20 hours after that contest ended, we were at Wembley to watch our adopted hometown NFL team the New Orleans Saints face off against the Miami Dolphins. My footballing fiesta finished with a week in Ulster and the World Cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and the world champions Germany at the National Stadium (or Windsor Park, as it was known when I was last there four years ago).

That is the footballing highlights as I saw both forms of the sport played on either side of the Pond. I spent 11 nights in total in England, travelling in cars or on trains, visiting friends who had made multiple trips to see me in Louisiana. It was a punishing itinerary that meant I slept in a different city for nine successive nights, but my creaking middle-aged body coped with the jetlag as I took in the most scenic and interesting destinations in Blighty like Henley-on-Thames and London, along with, ah, well, places like Blyth, Carlisle and Derby…

My odyssey is over while the Blues are still on theirs in an attempt to retain the league title. Let’s hope it ends up being a successful journey.