Notts County father and son fans Paul and Harry Mace have been on the march to the Magpies second pre-season friendly.
Here they file their third report after completing a 120-mile round trip to Oulu to see Notts in action against the Tervarit All Stars...
It's gameday and a shortish 120-mile round trip south to Oulu beckons.Now Kemi is very picturesque and hospitable but after four days here it’s definitely time to see another part of Finland for a little while.
Kick-off has been changed to 5pm so there’s a hasty revision to our train timetable. Full marks to the hotel for printing us off new e-tickets and it’s a short 500m walk to Kemi railway station from our hotel.
Our train takes an hour and the Finnish trains really are quite something – special carriages for passengers with dogs, special kids’ playpen carriages, and a two-person compartments for the Magpies travelling army!
Thanks to a study of Google Maps, we know it’s a one and a half kilometre walk to the stadium from Oulu station (when you’ve walked four miles from Yeovil Pen Mill station to Yeovil’s ground, it really is a walk in the park).
Notts are far from the first British visitors to Oulu – in an annual Summer Ball fixture dating back over the past 17 years, Ipswich, Crystal Palace, Leeds, Tottenham, Charlton, Hibernian and Wimbledon have all travelled here.
First impressions of the stadium are very favourable. As is customary here, the pitch is inside an eight lane running track.
The stadium is housed on a small island in the bay of Oulu and, for the first time on our travels, there’s a swimming pool housed inside the main stand. It's modern, bright and airy.
As it’s a little sparse on the crowd side, we’re able to sit in the main stand bang on the half-way line. But during a walk around the ground, it started me wondering how Olympic Park will translate into a football stadium for West Ham given the good 50-metre distance from the other sides to the perimeter of the pitch.
Temperature-wise, we might not quite be able to compete with the mini-heatwave back home in Nottingham but it’s still a very respectable 70-plus here.
Crikey, are there some other mad Notts fans here? We spot two supporters in black and white striped shirts. Upon closer inspection, they are Finns in Newcastle jerseys.
Tervarit All Stars clearly have their work cut out against our boys. They are two goals down inside the opening 10 minutes. While the result is never in any doubt, it is a surprisingly feisty affair.
The game finishes at just before 7pm which gives us about an hour to get back to the station for the 8pm train home. Sadly it’s running half an hour late from Helsinki, but McDonalds – they get everywhere – helps eke out the time a little with a Big Mac and some Chicken Nuggets.
Now, of course, we wouldn’t swap, but one of the challenges here has been that we have completely missed out on the glorious successful British sporting weekend of the Lions and Andy Murray. I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised that we couldn’t find any television coverage of the Lions’ decisive third Test victory over the Aussies. Finland is not exactly a rugby stronghold, is it?
But we had hoped we might sneak a little bit of Wimbledon and the Murray v Djokovic epic final. Not a bit of it.
No matter there aren’t too many Notts fans, Scots or Brits who can say they were there to see Romello Nangle’s 20-yard rasper in Oulu, are there?
Look out for more from Paul and Harry here on the official site later this week.