Archive for July, 2011

Jul 29 2011

Account of Trnava fan on fateful trip to Sofia

Published by under European

Last night saw Spartak Trnava take on Levski Sofia in the Europa League.  This was a big trip for the Trnava fans, signifying the end of their recent boycott.   1000 km between the cities meant that bus travel to the match was a feasible option.

Having left Trnava in high-spirits, no-one could have imagined the tragedy that was to unfold on one of the fans’ buses making the trip.

Levski fans show their respect


Here is a translation of a first hand account from a fan who was on that fateful trip, based on text messages and from the source

Fans of Spartak Trnava left yesterday evening at eight o’clock.  Two buses went the whole way. “The mood was excellent, the singing, chanting and drinking. But everything in moderation,” said Denis, who travels with other fans on the fatal bus #69 to the Bulgarian capital. “Shortly after seven in the morning we were almost in Belgrade, where the disaster happened. I have not seen it for myself because I was at the back of the bus. Tomáš probably wanted to open the sunroof and let the air in. Why he was sticking his head out, probably nobody knows. It was stupidity, that he would like to climb on the roof while the bus was driving. “ 

Serbian doctors said  the structure of the overpass cut of part of his skull. He was dead on the spot. His body fell to the floor of the passenger bus. “What exactly happened could be seen by the driver of the second bus. The ambulance was there within ten minutes. We asked the doctor what and how, we suggested gesture, as if to gave him heart massage. We thought they want to revive him. but he had a hole in the head, “says Denis. “Then came the police, and later a funeral car. They alcohol tested a driver, one of them reportedly blown up 3.1 per mille of alcohol. he was the spare driver, But no one who was driving. Then we were waiting, everything took so terribly long, we did not  talk to anyone. Some guys started spontaneously  hanging scarves, shirts and flags, on a nearby tree, someone picked a bouquet of flowers, lit the candles in honor of Tomáš. Those fans who had the stronger nerves,  ”cleaned the blood from the floor of the bus. ”

They stayed before Serbian capital for about four hours. “About eleven o’clock we finally moved towards Sofia. The mood on the bus is sad, quiet. Everyone is immersed himself in his own thoughts. We decided that we will continue along the path, due to Tomáš, that we honor him well. However, we were  silent, ” said Denis.

After the death of the fan, the bus continued to have bad day. “Before 17 o’clock the bus broke down as the motor overheated. To Sofia is reportedly only 57 km, we believe that we will arrive at the match on time,” wrote Denis by sms. However, the situation changed.  Trnavčania [Trnava fans] remained stuck at the border of Serbia and Bulgaria. “The bus engine overheats, perhaps because the driver tried to make up for lost time.  Probably the fans will not see anything of the match. The mood is a dog, it’s really a black day for Spartak fans. Parents, do not fear a lack of liquids and food – we have enough. It’s a pity that no one has sent us a bus from Sofia”, said Denis disappointed. 

Trnavčania were still stuck at the border at the end of the match. Still waiting for a replacement bus to arrive. “we are lingering at customs, lying on the sidewalk. Fortunately, no one says we are here in the way. We hope that the bus comes to us at around 18:00, but almost half eleven at night and still nothing. In life I will never go to such a trip again. Enough. Although we went to Tirana, our bus also broke down. Perhaps my luck” concluded Denis.

It is eight o’clock in the morning. The situation has not changed. Crew bus, in which Thomas Čeman was killed is already fifteen hours at the border of Serbia and Bulgaria. But not alone. The company makes friends from other buses, which carry Spartak fans for the match with Levski Sofia. “There will be the other two, in Trnava, we should go back together. We are still waiting for a replacement bus from Bohemia. It’s long, all night, we handled it. Still do not know exactly when they arrive. I hope soon,” Denis wrote by sms .

Their fate remains faithful.

Trnava fans who did make it to the match, respect the loss of a fellow fan.

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Jul 21 2011

Trnava v DAC / Season Preview

Published by under Domestic

You’d think that the day after a Champions League qualifying match, I’d be penning an article on Slovan’s progress to the 3rd round.  This time, I’m not.  We’ve talked a lot about Slovan recently, and for those interested, there was a pre-season look at their chances of success published here, and I answered a few questions ahead of the new season here.  For the record, an early Jiri Kladrubsky goal created a relatively comfortable evening for the Champions out in Kazakhstan, eventually drawing on the night 1-1, progressing 3-1 on aggregate to face APOEL next week in the 3rd qualifying round.

But I’m not here to talk about Slovan.  We’re still lacking a season preview and after a recent trip to a Trnava we’re going to change subject.  Last Sunday I went to Spartak Trnava v DAC Dunajska Streda and I thought I’d combine a brief write-up of this match with a look at the chances of some of the other Corgon Liga clubs this time around.

Trnava have had a strange 2011.  Their fans did a good job of enhancing their already notorious reputation causing trouble at meaningless off-season friendlies in the winter and from there things seemed to start falling apart.  Or did they?  Thanks to several good results in the Spring, Trnava actually manoeuvred themselves into a relatively good position in the league.  A position which eventually was enough to see them take the 4th qualifying place for this season’s Europa League.  This relative success was all the more surprising given the state of turmoil at the club off the field.  Popular coach Dušan Radolský was sacked amidst general fan discontent at how the club was being run.  A boycott was organised by the fan club which was significant, effective and obviously sent a message. The ‘stay-away’ protest was continued into this season, where the first round Europa League tie [in a highly travelable destination, Montenegro] was completely ignored as was the away leg in the 2nd round against FK Tirana.

The fans released a statement last week saying the DAC match would see the end of the boycott.  New coach Pavel Hoftych [who has a very good reputation in the Czech Republic] had mediated discussions between the club and the fans and both parties appear happy with the plan laid out for how the club can return to a condition the fans feel it is worth of.   Anyway, what better time for my first trip to the Stadion Anton Malatinskeho, one of Slovakia’s few remaining genuine football stadiums?

Trnava; a proper football stadium

An hour before kick off the ticket desk was doing a brisk trade, we opted for the relative sanctuary of a seat in a side-stand and went for a walk around the ground.  Full of character, steeply banked uncovered terraces at both ends and with a buzz that told us there was a game on; this was worthy of a tinge of excitement.  This was a real football atmosphere, of the kind that is hard to find these days in Slovakia.  As discovered by this lot last season, they won’t open extra gates just because there are hundreds of people outside 5 minutes before kick-off.  There was a scrum to get in, but we managed to grab a beer and our seats just before kick off.  There was plenty of space, but a good crowd [4926 - by far the biggest of the weekend] was in on a balmy summer evening including 20 hardy souls from Dunajska Streda away to our right in the ‘cage’.  One feels there were little, or no, amenities on offer for the visitors, and a very passive bunch they were too, but credit to DAC, they always take a few away with them.

Another 'Cage of Rage' contender!

The Trnava stadium has two terraces behind the goals, North Side and South Side.  From what I’ve seen from the pictures, their hardcore fans gather in either or both of these ends.  Tonight it was the South Side, right next to the away section.  A good noise they made, proper singing, passionate support of the kind the team should be proud of.  A few provocative chants in the direction of the Hungarians were getting no response except for a look of real attitude from an attractive girl in pink, so the Trnava fans were left to concentrate on supporting their team.

DAC supporters show disregard of taunts from the home fans!

Miroslav Karhan may well prove to be the signing of the season in Slovakia, if he stays fit.  The 35 year-old veteran of over 100 international caps signed this summer from Mainz can play the Slovak league with his eyes closed.  Such composure, such ability to read the game and never ever give the ball away is practically unseen at this level.  It was worth the €5 entry fee alone just to see the guy play.  Superb, and while Trnava didn’t quite fire on all cylinders, an accomplished display by Karhan, coupled with an eye-catching one from Mário Bicák at the back and some decent finishing meant that they eased to a 2-0 lead with the minimum of hassle.  DAC weren’t as bad as their pre-season form suggested and they did score a consolation goal at the death, by which time their fans [and we] had left.

Karhan; pure class

This performance by Trnava along with the sudden debacle at Zilina raises Trnava to possibly Slovan’s biggest rivals for the title this season.  A lot will depend on how long Karhan stays fit, but this new dimension, together with a spring in the step of the fans from a possible foray into the Europa League, means it’s worth keeping an eye on Trnava this season.

Ahead of Sunday’s match with Kosice, Zilina announced the sacking of coach Pavel Hapal.  This was reaction to the 3-0 defeat in Reykjavik the following week, but seems slightly hasty, especially as it was less than a year ago that Hapal was the heroic Championship winning coach being hoisted in the air in celebration of the achievement of making the Champions League group stages.  Zilina’s playing personnel hasn’t deteriorated that badly this summer and their form looked good going into the European tie.  It was an awful result in Iceland, but one that the club could still recover from, and it seems strange to let the coach go on the eve of the first league game after spending the whole summer with his squad.  A 1-1 draw against Kosice who are effectively bankrupt and have made no additions to the squad which narrowly avoided relegation last season hardly bodes well for the season ahead at Zilina.

Senica showed that losing Filip Luksik to ADO Den Haag shouldn’t have too much effect on their form, with new striker Karel Krupa scoring along with fellow Czech strikers Hosek and Kalabiska in a 3-0 home win over Tatran Presov.  Senica may still feature towards the top of the league and it will be interesting to see how they fare in their first ever European match, against Salzburg next Thursday as well as in their first visit to Pasienky this weekend.

Ruzomberok took a few fans along to ViON Zlate Moravce, but they couldn’t help their team to a result, the home team running out victors in an entertaining match with a few long range efforts that on another day could all have flown in and been contenders for goal of the season.  If Zilina and Senica are slightly weaker than last season, it may well be ViOn to look out for pushing up from mid-table.  Or Nitra, who also won on the opening day 2-1 at Dukla Banska Bystrica.

I had tipped Trencin to surprise a few people this season, but they will have to improve dramatically from the performance they put out at Slovan on Friday.  Jorge Salinas looked slightly out of his depth and clearly needs to adapt to the step up in class in the top league.  David Depetris showed he can cope, scoring a tidy goal, but he will need the support of his midfield and more importantly Trencin’s defence needs to improve remarkably after a shambolic display at Slovan.

To summarise, I think it’s clear who are favourites for the title this season.  It will be interesting to see who turns out as primary challengers.  Last season Senica got 2nd place, it could easily be them again, or Zilina, or more likely I think, Trnava.  I predict mid table will be made up of Nitra, Zlate Moravce, Banska Bystrica, Ruzomberok and possibly Trencin.  Down the bottom, the teams who have not added to their squads will surely be battling it out to avoid relegation once again, Kosice, Presov and DAC.

Game 2: Spartak Trnava v DAC Dunajska Streda


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Jul 16 2011

Slovan Bratislava 3-1 AS Trencin

Published by under Domestic,Guest

Yesterday saw the season opener in the Corgon Liga with Slovan’s match against Trencin moved forward by a day to better accommodate the team’s 6,000 km trek to Kazakhstan.  It being holiday time, my brother Rich was in town, so what better way to start the season on the blog than with his account of the match, and the experience, at Pasienky:

Before this game, I had heard a few different tales about what to expect from a game at Slovan, with the only common theme between all of them being “it’ll be an experience…” So I headed off the stadium not knowing what to expect but promising myself to ignore what I’d heard before and just soak up the atmosphere in whatever form it presented itself.

Before the game we’d popped in to the old Slovan ground at Tehelne Pole and got a couple of pictures of ‘Britski Belasi’ in amongst the trees now replacing the stands there. Whether this was a deliberate ploy or not, I was now quite eagerly looking forward to getting to the new stadium and mixing in with some fans. The atmosphere outside the ground before the game was very relaxed, and with my new Slovan away kit I was looking forward to a good game of football.

Parking place outside Tehelne Pole, gates open? Oh, go on then ...

The lack of away fans really doesn’t help an atmosphere develop – there were 4 guys standing in the corner of the away fans’ section right up until 5 minutes before kick off when they were asked to leave. I thought this was a shame – I was looking forward to hearing how they would get on taking on the Slovan ultras in the singing stakes. But alas it wasn’t to be. We heard later that the Trencin fans had been put off by political differences between them and the Slovan ultras. How true this is I don’t know, but it certainly meant that the Slovan fans were going to have to make all the noise. They managed to get themselves together after about 10 minutes or so – once the fat bloke had the megaphone taken off him the drums got going and the atmosphere picked up.

Belasa Slachta doing their bit

Away end. This sight is becoming rather too familiar ...

The game itself started at a good pace – a well-taken early goal from Marko Milinkovic ensured that Slovan didn’t make a sluggish start, which could have been forgivable considering this league game falls between Champions League qualifying matches. The goal was well deserved and in all honesty, Slovan looked dominant in every area of the game.

A rare Trencin attack

This was the first game for AS Trencin since promotion last season, and to be fair, coming to Slovan is probably as difficult a first game as it gets in this league. Their core players, including their number 10, David Depetris from Argentina, looked like they could be fairly useful but were just muscled off the ball any time they got near the Slovan goal. Slovan looked quicker, stronger and more assured on the ball and after the second goal, another neat finish, this time from Milan Ivana, they looked like they could score when they wanted to.

With Slovan looking comfortable (I’m not sure Trencin had had a shot on target so far), half time not far away and talk of steak sandwiches being banded about, we didn’t see the build up the to Trencin goal, but I did look up in time to see Depetris take a pass outside the area, round the Slovan goalkeeper and finish confidently. Were Trencin about to make the game interesting? In short – no. Slovan scored with their next attack, a goal from the popular Filip Sebo meant that Slovan went in at half time feeling comfortable.

Trencin, before they started parting like the Red Sea

The first half may have been a bit different if Trencin’s goalkeeper had even the slightest grain of confidence in his own ability – a couple of flaps at crosses and some poor kicking meant Slovan could, and probably should have scored more. As it was, the contest was in effect over by half time and the second half was played out with barely a mentionable act occurring. Slovan seemed happy to hoof the ball up towards Sebo but without much success. Trencin had more of the ball but couldn’t muster up more than a couple of long-range efforts on target.

Comparing this game with watching football in the UK is nigh-on impossible, for a start I don’t know of anywhere in England where you can get in for as little as €3. The ultras kept the players on the pitch going without the negative attitude and frustration that sometimes occurs from fans at home.

"We are here & you have fear" , Trencin had rather too much fear tonight

Next time we’re here, my girlfriend Millie and I will definitely try to get to a Slovan game again, a good night of football is hard to beat but hopefully some away fans will be there too!

Rich Richardson

Slovan's newest fan, author of a great article! Welcome back anytime, Rich!


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Jul 16 2011

Digi Šport Polčas Review

Published by under Uncategorized

We’ve had some requests for a season preview and that piece might well follow next week in combination with a look at the first round of fixtures.  In the meantime, James Baxter is here with a review of a review of last season, enjoy!

This should really be a preview of the new Corgoň Liga season which starts this weekend but, with going away for the next month or so, I feel a bit too detached for that. Žilina’s 3-0 defeat in Iceland on Thursday night, meanwhile, is subject matter too depressing to tackle on the eve of a holiday and I don’t know enough of the grisly details anyway. So it’s a DVD review instead! ‘Polčas’ (half-time), Digi Šport’s look back at last season’s campaign, was given away free with Tuesday’s edition of Šport and I’ve had a look at what it’s got to offer.

My previous experience of watching Slovak football on TV has been limited to a few live games and regular highlights packages on the various channels of state broadcaster STV, and TA3’s late-evening sports programme. What these have in common is that they devote themselves to showing the action and feature brief reaction from players and coaches as well as analysis from some wise pundit. What they don’t give an awful lot of thought to is presentation. To most football fans, I would guess, that doesn’t matter an awful lot.

Digi Šport, by contrast, seem to want us to think of them as artists as well as sports broadcasters. Thus the DVD’s footage of Slovan Bratislava’s title celebration party in the centre of the capital is clearly intended to put the viewer in mind of a documentary film about an era-defining nightclub or music festival shot by someone who’s just swallowed an ecstacy tablet. The football action that is presented is often shown without any real context and tends to be viewed from unusual angles and spliced with brief extracts of interviews with the participants.

The beginning of the film, though, leaves us in no doubt that Digi Šport is also a commercial enterprise. There are clips of representatives of various business partners – Šport, UFA Sports and the like – telling us that this DVD is a truly meaningful project which will offer a valuable record of the 2010/2011 season. Dušan Tittlel, head of the ULK (Union of League Clubs), comes on too to tell us, over-optimistically I fear, that he hopes the film will play a part in getting young Slovaks out of shopping centres, off their computers and into football.

But what seems to be the DVD’s centrepiece is an extended discussion with Filip ‘Šebogol’ Šebo and his personal fitness trainer. I’ve seen and read enough interviews with Šebo before to already have a fairly clear opinion of him. As a footballer, he’s a class above the Corgoň Liga and deserves the title, recently bestowed on him, as its best player of 2010/2011. More personally, I find him simultaneously engaging and irritating and nothing he says here threatens to change that. His infectious love of the game he plays comes across and we hear again how his team (Slovan) ‘proved they were the best’ last season. What I’d hoped for but didn’t get was any kind of insight into why things didn’t go well for him with Rangers or Valenciennes. Introspection, clearly, is not for our Filip. His trainer is occasionally revealing, however, notably when he describes Šebo as hyperactive : ‘Sometimes I have to tell him he’s done enough training and that rest is the best thing for him. ’

Another feature deals specifically with those clubs deemed to have either succeeded or disappointed last season. Slovan (obviously), Senica and Zlaté Moravce are in the former category and get reasonably detailed coverage, though it’s largely the clips accompanying the Zlaté Moravce slot which prompt my accusation of ‘lack of context’, since many are from possibly the side’s worst performance, a 0-4 home defeat to Žilina. The relative failings of Žilina, Košice and relegated Dubnica are also given some analysis but, as ever, nobody can steel themselves to actually criticise Dubnica.

We also see extracts from a panel discussion involving former Trnava coach Dušan Radolský, Slovan functionary Peter Kašpar, referee Marián Vlk and Senica forward Juraj Piroška. Piroška is invited to describe his ‘goal of  the season’, a brilliant, acrobatic effort against Banská Bystrica, but modestly shuns comparisons with Wayne Rooney’s not dissimilar strike against Manchester City, which is also shown.

But it is Radolský who offers the wisest thoughts, not just of this discussion but of the whole DVD. He doesn’t talk specifically about his sacking by Trnava, though followers of the game here know that’s still having repercussions four months later, but he is scathing about the treatment of Slovak coaches generally. Developing this theme, he suggests that Senica’s success last season was largely down to the acceptance by board and fans alike of coach Stanislav Griga’s often ‘pragmatic’ tactics. At Slovan and Žilina, by contrast, the expectation is always that the team will not only win but win in style. Overall, listening to Radolský here, you feel Slovak football would be missing out if he wasn’t invited to take on, if not another coaching job, some sort of position of influence within the game.

Fans of Trnava, however, along with those of Bystrica, Ružomberok, Nitra, Dunajská Streda and Prešov, will find that this DVD gives no specific analysis of their teams’ seasons. In general, I would say that, while its format and presentation have their merits and it deserves credit for not avoiding some of the negative aspects of Slovak football (poor crowds and the shortage of goals are highlighted), it ultimately doesn’t show quite enough consideration for its audience. Certainly, anyone wanting a chronological record of the season or all the crucial action from the crucial games is likely to be disappointed.

James Baxter

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Jul 13 2011

Slovan 2-0 Tobol

Published by under European

As a neutral fan, I’ve got all sorts of questions about Slovan Bratislava’s dream of playing in this season’s Champions League group stages. Would it be good for Slovan as a club? Would it be good for Slovak football? Do I want them to make it? The answers to all these are, at best, ambivalent.

As for the first question, I’d say Slovan ought to look warily at the experiences of Slovakia’s previous group stage representatives. Košice and the former Artmedia might well now view the competition rather as an average Joe might view a supermodel who agreed to get together with him before walking out a few weeks later with her suitcases full of his money and possessions. For both clubs, the experience was good – and glamorous – while it lasted but they haven’t fully recovered from the trauma it created even now. Žilina, who made last season’s group stages, will wait for time to judge whether that campaign is ultimately going to contribute to their long term happiness and prosperity.

For the Slovak game as a whole, group stage participation for Slovan would mean that its  profile, already raised by the national team’s achievements in the 2010 World Cup and Žilina’s efforts last season, would be further enhanced. The stadium issue, however, would be a cause of deep embarrassment. The idea of Europe’s best teams playing at Pasienky is beyond laughable (though the prospect of, say, Man Utd’s fans in the away end in the rain isn’t totally without appeal) but it would also be pretty demeaning to have to stage home fixtures in Vienna or even, heaven forbid, in Trnava or Žilina.

On a personal level, I’m torn between wanting Slovan to do well for those of their fans I know personally, including (and especially) the main author of this blog, and wanting them to fall flat on their faces. It’s largely the running of the club and the source of its current wealth which gives rise to the latter wish. As for the players, the club has plenty of  admirable performers who deserve the chance to show what they can do on Europe’s best stage. But then there are those seemingly throwaway quotes that emanate an air of self-satisfaction, such as Filip Šebo’s assertion ahead of last night’s first qualifying round first leg tie that facing FC Tobol was going to be ‘like any game where a stronger side is playing a weaker one. The weaker team will just defend. It will be a bit like Slovakia v Andorra’. When I read that, my first thought was ‘you arrogant git’. My second was that my sympathies were going to be with the Kazakh side.

But Slovan won’t care too much about winning neutrals like me over and why should they? For them, the most important question for now is whether they will manage this first stage of qualification and, on last night’s evidence, the answer looks like being yes. Tobol, in their yellow and green strip (another excellent reason to support them), weren’t quite as defensive as Šebo had predicted. They employed a 4-3-3 formation when attacking and attempted to mix a passing game with occasional long balls forward to Zebeljan, their tall number 18. But they rarely looked good enough to seriously question Šebo’s assertion about the relative strengths of the sides.

Slovan, though their squad is largely unchanged from last season, had a slightly unfamiliar look about them. One new signing they have made, Jiří Kladrubský, lined up in midfield, while Marián Had (in central defence) and Juraj Halenár (in a support striker role behind Šebo) were making their first appearances for several months. Kladrubský looks like an excellent addition. His defensive play was intelligent, his passing was simple and precise and he got forward to hit two wickedly swerving long-range shots in the first-half. The Tobol goalkeeper Petuchov tipped the first over the bar but could only knock the second one down to the feet of Šebo, who, as ever, was in exactly the right place and finished without fuss. Coming just three minutes before half-time, that goal eased the frustration that had begun to make itself heard in sections of the home crowd.

Pasienky on a good night

Tobol’s best spell of the game was at the start of the second-half when Džolčijev, their left-sided attacker, had two presentable opportunities. Zebeljan won a long high ball to set up the first and it needed a magnificent recovery tackle from Had to deny Džolčijev the chance of a one-on-one with home keper Putnocký. A few minutes later, the number 22 went clear again but was too slow to make up his mind whether to shoot or pass and ended up doing neither.

Midway through the half, Tobol defender Bogdan was left clutching his face after an aerial challenge with Halenár. The Slovan man was shown his second yellow card of the evening – perhaps partly as a result of the pre-match Zlatý Bažant, I couldn’t recall the first – and it seemed we were in for a tense final quarter. But, as often happens, the team with the numerical advantage didn’t seem to know what to do with it, while their opponents appeared to grow in determination and belief. It was no real surprise when, after 83 minutes, Karim Guédé, running onto a clever pass from Igor Žofčák, lifted the ball over the advancing Petuchov to make it 2-0 to Slovan and, you would imagine, render the second leg a fairly straightforward prospect.

Not a bad night for Slovan then. They weren’t brilliant but then they didn’t need to be. The occasional looseness in their play is forgiveable on the grounds that, in contrast to their opponents, this was their first competitive game of the season and one or two players are not yet fully familiar with each other. Especially positive signs include Had’s performance and the continuing goalscoring form of Šebo. Most encouraging of all, I would say, is that Kladrubský looks like he has much to offer. If he continues to play as he did last night, he and Guédé could give Slovan (should they progress further) the mixture of strength and assurance in midfield that Žilina were short of in last season’s Champions League.

Off the field, Slovan also had a decent night. Their fans still don’t like Pasienky of course but, apart from those few moans that were audible before the opening goal, they made what they could of their surroundings and provided colourful, noisy, completely trouble-free backing. The players, no doubt fed up with Pasienky themselves, clearly appreciated it. That’s a bond that needs maintaining, especially in the event that this shabby venue finds itself playing host to some of Europe’s biggest names later this autumn.

James Baxter

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