Updated: Sep 10, 2018
Alashkert away - yerevan armenia.
Another qualifying campaign and another trip to the furthest depths of europe - if you like to even class it as Europe.
So the bags were packed once again and a 1 day trek began. We left Glasgow at about 5am from Buchanan bus station to head to Edinburgh. From there we would travel to Heathrow - Moscow and then on to Yerevan. The thought of a flight from Heathrow to Moscow 3 days before Englands world cup semi final left a lot to be desired.
We arrived relatively unscathed minus a few questions from police in London asking if Celtic were also playing in Moscow.
Got to the Ibis in Yerevan at around 5 am Armenian time so when inclusive of time changes had been on the road for best part of 24 hours. After a jaunt like that all you are wanting is a quick pint and a few hours kip. Us trying to be fly thought arrive at 5am lets not pay for a room night before the game and hope for early check in when we arrive - this is clearly a system that Ibis Yerevan does not have in place. So now we are homeless for the night in the middle of Armenia, thankfully we managed to get 1 room (3 beds) between 7 of us to try and at least relax for a few hours.
10/7/18 Match day
We awake in our overcrowded room about 10:30am, the 3 or 4 hours sleep doing enough to recharge the batteries. The kick off was scheduled for 9pm due to time differences so still had plenty of the day to take in the sights of Yerevan and find a nice air conditioned boozer to base ourselves for the day. The average temperature on match day was around 38°C and it never really cooled much even into the evening.
We gathered in the hotel bar before setting off, working our way through the very westernised city center - could easily be mistaken for a sunny Buchanan street - passing by the main square aptly named Republican Square and then onwards to the beer garden area next to the marriott which would be our base for the day.
Around 100 odd fans made the long trip over and the majority could be found here for most of the day, the longer the day went on the more the songs began to break out, with the locals looking a little perplexed at a large group of drunken Scotsman breaking the tranquility of their capital city.
The club had organised coaches for the support to take them to the national stadium around 15 minutes drive Away. We boarded the coaches at around 7pm and began possibly the most uncomfortable bus journey ever. With the temperature still in the high 30s and Squeezed on to a coach with no air conditioner you can understand why.
Arriving at the stadium you got a good look at it's almost ampitheartre like design, from the outside it looked like a cracking arena for a long haul first qualifying match - a far cry from the 1 stand attached to a runway in Gibraltar.
Inside the stadium could not have been more different. The celtic fans were penned into the far corner with no toilet facilities or access to kiosks for food/drink like i said earlier when the temperature is pushing the high 30s all you really want is a bottle of water.
The game got underway and in typical celtic fashion we didn't seem great at all - granted it was the first competitive match of the season. Finally the deadlock was broken and we got more into the game, we finished with an extremely strong 2nd half performance and coasted to a 3-0 victory in the end. A far from familiar result when it comes to celtic away in europe.
The crowd on the night was as you would expect with a 3-0 victory in blistering heat and turned in a similar performance as the team a slow start with a fantastic finish.
As per European tradition the away fans were kept in the stadium for around 30 mins after the game before being bussed back to the city center.
The following day a small squad decided to do a bit of groundhopping and visit another Yerevan side FC Banants who happened to be hosting FK Sarajevo in a Europa League qualifier.
We caught a quick taxi through the back streets of the city and into a much rougher neighbourhood than we had been a custom to the last
Tickets for the match cost the huge price of 80p and the 4:30pm kick off on a wednesday afternoon was also a change to the norm.
Was a decent crowd considering the time of kick off albeit there being 0 away fans.
In their honor we decided to fire a few quid on Sarajevo to give us a reason to give them a little bit of support.
The match finished 2-1 to Sarajevo with a cracking first half but the less said about the 2nd the better.
Our support also didn't go unnoticed, at the end of the match the team captain led chants of celtic towards the 15 or so in attendance and we were greeted by some of the board members of the club who advised that to give them a call if we ever fancy a trip to Bosnia.
All in all a cracking way to pass and afternoon in Armenia.
We returned to the hotel that evening in time to watch Croatia knock England out of the world cup at semi final stage, which resulted in probably a bigger celebration than the match the day previous that we had traveled to see.
Once again was back to 3 flights and a bus for the route home before thinking about the potential next round opponents and trips in the weeks to come.