Last updated : 30 September 2005 By LITTLE BOY BLUE

Playing Inter Milan behind closed doors was always going to be an
unreal experience. Those of us who dipped below the radar enjoyed the
trip, we absorbed the ghostly nature of it all and, yes, we were
grateful we didn’t get the humping so many of the Hack Pack so
gleefully predicted. I’ll bet a few Charlie Sim videotapes have been
reused already.

Arriving in Milan on Tuesday night, strolling around without our
Christian anthems booming out from every bar and café took a bit of
getting used to. There were quite a few of the troops in town but
clearly most adopted the sensible approach, integrate incognito, don’t
give the local sheriff and his posse the opportunity to move us on.

But there is always one who draws attention to himself. A group of us
at a pizza parlour were flicking through the menu and one Bear, who
must remain nameless, plumped for a Calzone without really knowing what
he had ordered. The grub arrived at the table a few minutes later and,
with his pizza suitably folded, our gourmet diner was quite taken aback.

"Ah ordered a pizza, no a feckin Forfar bridie!"

Matchday in Milan was no less strange. It is perhaps an indication of
how far distant our club has become from its supporters that, when
spotting Laurence McIntyre and John McClelland approaching the main
piazza, one fan was tempted to hide.

"If McIntyre sees us here, we’ll never get tickets for Bratislava or

There were no closes to slip into but the guys played safe and nipped
into a shop until Hitchcock and his minder had passed.

Travelling out to the San Siro, there were more of us lurking around
and it was clear many were determined to beat the ban and get behind
the team.

Its amazing what you can do with a computer these days. A Glasgow
District Council street traders’ licence can be turned into a Press
card, all sorts of previous Champions League tickets need only the
slightest ‘editing’ to resemble Access All Areas passes for the San
Siro and a wonderful array of important looking permits and badges were
presented at the turnstiles.

I don’t know how many gates there are to the San Siro but the Carmyle
Loyalist must have been thrown out of every one of them. He was last
spotted wandering amongst the Hack Packers. It wouldn’t surprise me if
one of our ‘friends’ in the Press shopped him.

Then the camel coat mob, with some 'real' Rangers fans amongst them,
arrived and a few familiar songs were heard. Spotting one well-known
Bluenose uncharacteristically suited and booted, I couldn't
resist asking if he was wearing his lucky suit.

"Aye right!" he laughed. "Last time I wore this I got three years!!!"

The match itself was nothing special. Somehow, even the most
attractive football is hard to appreciate without the roar of the crowd
in the background. The Gers did fine, we might have stolen a point but
we can’t really have too many complaints about the outcome. In fact,
if not for the new UEFA ruling forcing Julio Cruz to play without his
white stick and guide dog, we might have suffered a 3-0 or 4-0 debacle.

I’m told Big Eck’s game-plan was to break the game down into nine
ten-minute sessions. We kicked off every segment pretending it was the
last ten minutes of an Ibrox game, the Subway Loyal had emptied the
stadium and the players comfortably adapted to the silence around
them. Mind you, there were times when the slackness in our play had me
thinking the players were waiting for the band to strike up God Save
The Queen.

The chief after-match talking point was the result in Oporto. Have
Bratislava found an extra gear, are Porto really that bad, what effect
does that result have on our chances?

One thing is clear. Our most difficult fixture is behind us, we are
masters of our own destiny and, if Inter can take care of Porto, our
place in the knock-out stages can be secured over our two games against

The 92-93 season apart, have we ever had a better chance of making
further progress in the Champions League?