Listening to the news of the appalling Russian missile attacks on Kharkiv and a small village close by, I was reminded that 16 years ago (4 October 2007) about 500 of us had made the long journey eastwards to watch the Blues defeat Metalist Kharkiv 3-2 in the away leg of the qualifying round of the UEFA Cup, thus gaining access to the league stage.

We had flown to Frankfurt, on to Kyiv, and then by train to Kharkiv. I had expected the city to be industrial (I suppose because of the name of its football team), and was pleasantly surprised to land at one of the most ornate train stations I have ever seen. The Cathedral, although relatively modern, was absolutely spectacular –especially when lit up at night – and the central square was amazingly open and spacious. The beer was inexpensive, the locals friendly and inquisitive.

Regrettably, I am sure that Ukraine’s second city, being so close to the Russian border, will be considerably different now after 18 months of fighting. This seems to make a match report somewhat irrelevant so I will leave it at that.

I also remembered that Metalist’s history since that night has been an object lesson in how not to run a football club.

When we were there, Metalist were trying to become a force in Ukraine football, mainly by outspending the more illustrious Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk. If memory serves, at the time of our visit, there was a large section of one side of the ground missing, reducing the capacity to about 27,000. The team included some expensive second-tier Brazilians (Edmar springs to mind) and some first-class Africans.

The stadium was finally developed into a 40,000 all-seater and the Brazilians became expensive first-tier Brazilians (Cleiton). The dreams of their owner never reached fruition and, other than one season when they finished 2nd, they never overcame the stranglehold of Dynamo and Shakhtar.

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By 2014, their wage bill was crippling and they ceased operations in 2016 due to insolvency; they were expelled from the Ukrainian League and their owner had basically ‘done a runner’ and left Ukraine. In 2017, the club had its assets confiscated by court order and was placed under government ownership.

The club itself restarted as FC Metal Kharkiv, playing in the Ukrainian 4th division as an amateur team. It has now returned to the Ukrainian 1st division and has had its former name and history returned to it following the repayment of previous debts. 

I wonder if this series of events should ring any very loud bells???



Reader Comments (10)

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Derek Thomas
1 Posted 06/10/2023 at 22:06:17
Stephen; An interesting re-visit.

If it doesn't ring any bells — it should!

John Raftery
2 Posted 06/10/2023 at 22:39:58
Thanks, Stephen. That was one of my favourite European trips with a great win to celebrate.

Beware owners of limited personal resources with unlimited ambitions.

Rob Halligan
3 Posted 06/10/2023 at 23:37:35
My god, was that 16 years ago!

Like John, one of my favourite European away trips. In fact, a while back, I did a feature on my top three European trips, and that was my Number 1.

One night in Kiev, followed a 1-hour flight upto Kharkiv, and then two nights there. The non-stand opposite to where we were was being re-built for the European Championships in 2012, a joint affair between Ukraine and Poland.

Just one thing though, Stephen, I'm pretty sure that there was about 1,400 - 1,500 Blues in Kharkiv that night, and not the 500 you say. Pretty futile point, I suppose, but it did show the magnitude of our magnificent away support.

Rob Halligan
4 Posted 06/10/2023 at 23:57:32
Found my thread on the trip to Kharkiv, if anyone is interested………..Great trip.

My favourite European away games: #1

Dupont Koo
5 Posted 07/10/2023 at 01:28:42
Stephen, tipping my hat to you & all the other Evertonians making these Cross-Continental trips during the Moyes era!

Sad story indeed, but at least the club's history has been reinstated to the "Phoenix Club", so that the club's heritage can be preserved.

Not like the depressing tales of Bury, Scarborough, Halifax et al down in the Football League.

Kieran Kinsella
6 Posted 07/10/2023 at 01:37:54

I remember you're article – it was a classic.


I didn't realize they'd gone bankrupt but yeah that's what happens when idiots run clubs. Praying we can be an exception…

Paul Ferry
7 Posted 07/10/2023 at 03:07:08
Classic/classy stuff from Stephen, John, and Rob. Top Evertonians. Our lifeblood.
Derek Knox
8 Posted 07/10/2023 at 06:31:55
Stephen, great article, and a lesson that may be learnt, but most probably won't be. It saddens me that good people, and totally devoted Evertonians make these trips, or did, in this instance, whereas decisions that are made at Board and Club level, can affect the ones that care the most.

Personally becoming more and more disillusioned with the 'modern' state of Football and the immoral amounts of money being bandied around, and the players wages (?) plus greedy Agents.

Again, all beyond the control of dedicated loyal fans. Or, is it ? Only have to boycott certain matches (high profile Televised Games) then notice would be taken, and questions asked, . before it's too late...... Metalist...... what was their name ?

Sorry to possibly politicise your thread mate, and hope to see you later in the Harlech !

COYB 💙💙👍

Danny O’Neill
9 Posted 07/10/2023 at 06:40:09
A great recollection of what sounded like a great trip to a place that is now subject to mindless destruction not seen on a scale since the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Around the time you mention I couldn't follow the blues abroad as I was abroad myself preparing for or in Afghanistan. Not quite as magnificent as you refer to Kharkiv, but the landscape of Helmand Province was quite spectacular in certain places.

Despite everything that happed there, in reflection, I think what I saw in Bosnia upset me the most. Seeing what people can do to each other and the sheer level of destruction of towns and cities. From the images and reports I watch and read, parts of Ukraine look similar. Both examples unfortunately have echoes of the mindless destruction of World War Two.

To the football, when we get back into Europe, I will join you Stephen. Along with Rob and the gang. It's been too long for me as I was mostly on my travels of a different type the last time we were in Europe. I was elsewhere.

Everton owned by the state? Rishi handing the baton over to Sir Keir. Good Lord!

Really good thoughtful read.

Niall McIlhone
10 Posted 07/10/2023 at 16:31:49
Thanks for the update on Metalist Kharkiv, Stephen. I missed out on the away game, which was annoying, as a mate of mine was teaching in Kyiv at the time and I had hoped to get to the game with him.

I do remember the home leg, and having to battle through snow and high winds to get to Goodison, only to find there had been a massive muck up by the club with hundreds having to queue to collect tickets that had not arrived by post.

The game must have finished close to 10:00 pm, by which time, we were all frozen solid. Anyway, good luck to Metalist, it would be great to see them back challenging Dinamo and Shakhtar at some stage.

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