Supporters’ stories of EURO 2016 adventures have been the talk of the town over the past few weeks of the summer football tournament.
Hundreds of fans left the region and headed over to France to cheer on Northern Ireland’s first appearance at the European Championships - but one Portadown man came close to a tale to remember from the heart of his hometown.
The power of social media enabled Glen Jameson to find, fill and fund a £70,000 chartered flight to France for last weekend’s knockout tie against Wales.
Logistics and events outside his control prevented the dream from taking flight but Glen’s bid to give the Green And White Army an extra-special boost in Paris captured the imagination of football fans far and wide.
Glen’s hopes of taking his place as part of the Paris support were left grounded by a combination of plane shortages, red tape and strike action.
However, the disappointment of hitting the crossbar with his spectacular travel plan cannot detract from the sense of achievement in securing 180 names inside a matter of minutes willing to part with almost £400 to secure a seat on the proposed Belfast flight.
“We came so close and it was frantic last Thursday as I attempted to bring everything together,” said Glen, the owner of Portadown-based Statement Menswear.
“The idea came about as I was returning home with friends from the group game against Germany and when we started to look into the cost it became clear trying to charter a flight could prove cheaper.
“I found a company and was basically told the last available plane sat on hold but I had 30 minutes to get back him with a final list of 180 names.
“It was crazy how everything came together but circumstances changed and the plane would not have arrived in time from the previous trip to allow us to make kick-off.
“The feedback was amazing and proves the desire of the Northern Ireland fans.
“I had one travel company offer to take 200 seats off my hands and a lady phoned me up to say her son had spare tickets in France and she was so touched by my attempt to get supporters across to the game that she told him to keep them for me.”
The 1-0 defeat to Wales last Saturday proved the final stage for a Northern Ireland fanbase that captured the hearts of the football public thanks to the pride and passion put into cheering on a squad that included Portadown-born Luke McCullough.
“I have hundreds of messages on my phone, voicemail and Facebook page still to look over and people from all over made contact in that short window to try and book a seat,” said Glen. “I phoned the company back and asked could they upgrade to the biggest plane available due to the demand but, in the end, the supply could not meet our needs.
“I have no regrets despite the drama of trying to pull it all together and would have done the same if everything had gone according to plan against Wales.”