ALL routes led to Sofia over the weekend as very few England fans managed to get a direct flight from Prague.

Journeys included via Athens, Munich, Rome and even back to and from Stansted.

Our own itinerary involved flying back to Amsterdam before being crammed like sardines onto a Bulgaria Air flight to Sofia.

But we got there in one piece and were rewarded with a cosy little hotel which was superbly located in the centre of Sofia, two minutes away from the National Palace of Culture, where the FA ticket collection was. It was also only about 15 minutes walk from the Vasil Levski Stadium.

Sofia is a small interesting city overlooked by the Vitosha mountains with multiple thermal springs under it.

A two-hour walking tour brought us up to speed with its rich and diverse history from the time of the Thriacians to the post-communist era.

From early Monday afternoon England fans congregated in fine voice on the sunny Boulevard Vitosha. There was a strong, watching police presence but there was no trouble.

Lunch was crispy chicken and chips Sofia style with guacamole, parmesan cheese and a fried egg. For our pre-match tipples, we discovered the Halbite, a real gem of a real ale pub, where the barmaid was very glad to see me again as I had unfortunately forgot to settle the previous night's bill.

This was soon sorted with hugs all round and a few more half litres of their own brew, Nash'to pivo.

The general reaction to the defeat in Prague was that the England team had been over- confident and that the Czech Republic had deserved to win. England had to knuckle down and earn a victory against Bulgaria.

There was about a third of the ground closed off because of previous Bulgarian racism but there was a good atmosphere among the England fans with the Bolton contingent rising to six goals.

Once Marcus Rashford had put us one up, the result was never in doubt and we were treated to a vintage display where it could have been double figures very easily.

However, the match turned sour just before half time when a large section of Bulgarian fans started racially-abusive monkey chants. We didn't know what was going on inside the ground as we couldn't hear any announcements but we were kept up to date from messages sent from home via our mobile phones.

It didn't look good that the match would even finish. About 300 Bulgarian fans were 'invited to leave' the ground and rumour persisted they were hanging about after the match to cause trouble. 

Evidently, there were further isolated incidents in the second half but the match was played to completion. We were kept behind for about 30 minutes after the match and the police had done a great job in clearing the Bulgarian fans to allow us a safe passage back to the hotel.

In the end, it had been a long weekend of mixed results but incredible experiences and now it's back to normality with the visit of Rochdale on Saturday.