Wednesday, 1 April 2015


You enter the Augustiner Brau Bierkeller in Salzburg through a monastery, open a large oak door and descend a long flight of marble stairs. There’s total silence until you turn left at the bottom, then – bang – you’re in a series of vast halls roughly the size of the Metro Centre packed to the brim with merry Austrians, waving European Cup scale earthenware beer mugs and pretzels roughly the size and shape of Bill Gates’ ears. You pick up a mug, pay at a till and take the ticket they give you to the bar, where a man with the fierce rustic face of Horst Hrubesch fills the mug and slings it across the counter at you, sloshing lager down your shirt front.

A couple of years ago I was in the Augustiner Brau Bierkeller. I’d got my beer and was queuing up at a counter to get one of the giant pretzels when a smiley blond woman came up and asked me – in German - if I would mind taking a photo of her and her husband. I explained that I was English. ‘Ah English,’ the woman, whose name was Brigita, said, ‘We are football fans. Are you a football fan? What team do you support?’

When I told her, she shouted across to her husband, ‘Hans, he supports the Boro!’ and her husband raised his huge tankard, bellowed ‘Mad Dog Pogatetz!’ and drained off several litres in one gulp, and then launched into a chorus of ‘You are My Boro…’

It turned out that Hans and Brigita, were supporters of Sturm Graz, ‘The Boro fans are our favourite fans’ they said, ‘Before we played Middlesbrough in the Uefa Cup we had never heard of you, but now we always look for your score!’

Our friendship thus established, I plonked myself at their table and soon were ordering more beer from the waiters in leather aprons and I was telling them about the time Poggy had suffered that facial injury and had to wear the mask. An away fan had remarked to a friend of mine, ‘He looks a bit scary with that thing on’. And my friend had replied, ‘If you think it looks scary with it on, you should see him when he takes it off!’ And Hans and Brigita laughed heartily and bellowed ‘Mad Dog!’ and we all drained miniature flagons of apricot schnapps that seemed to have appeared miraculously.

At some point I noticed that I could no longer feel my legs, which I generally take as a sign that it is time for me to go home. As I took my leave of Hans and Brigita, Hans patted me on the arm. ‘We knew you were a good guy the minute we saw you,’ he said, ‘because you look just like one of our heroes. You know who?’

‘Billy Bragg,’ I said, ‘Or Nigel Worthington’

Hans had clearly heard of neither the Bard of Barking or the former Northern Ireland boss, ‘No, no,’ He said, ‘The person you look like is….Sir Alex Ferguson!’

I think they must have been in that bierkeller for several hours before I arrived. At least I hope they had.


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