20 Dec 2013
In - Football

To celebrate our second season as the Official Charity Partnership of The Football League, we're once again asking fans to join ex-England, AC Milan, Watford and AFC Bournemouth legend Luther Blissett, talkSPORT and club representatives to take on our London to Amsterdam Challenge, which kicks off in June.

You can find out more about the unique trip - and register your interest - by clicking the banner below. In the meantime, and in the spirit of memorable journeys abroad, we asked football writer Jonathan Wilson to run down five occasions when Brits have made unlikely excursions on to the continental mainland...

Jimmy Hogan – Austria, 1914
In some ways, Hogan was lucky. He was about to accept an offer to become national coach of Germany when Hugo Meisl, the head of the Austrian football federation, stepped in and asked if he would prepare the Austria national side for the 1916 Olympics. The former Bolton forward agreed and was in Vienna when war broke out in 1914. He was interned, and was passing the time teaching tennis to the children of the owner of a department store when Baron Dirstay, a Cambridge-educated Hungarian, persuaded the authorities to let Hogan go to his homeland's capital and coach MTK Budapest. It was there that he founded the school of Hungarian football that would dominate the world in the early 1950s thanks to its spread across the globe by the flight of a number of Jewish coaches in the face of anti-Semitism two decades earlier.

Fred Pentland – Germany, 1914
When Hogan turned down the Germany job, it went to Pentland, a former Blackburn, QPR and Middlesbrough forward. During the First World War, he was interned in the camp at Ruhleben, where he and five other former internationals ensured football formed part of a thriving cultural scene: it seems that it was there that the first-ever coaching manual was written. Pentland later became a successful coach, most notably at Athletic Bilbao, where he became famous for the bowler hat his team would destroy at moments of victory - there must have been plenty of them as his side won two league titles and five cups.

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Laurie Cunningham (pictured) – Real Madrid, 1979
Cunningham was a pioneer in almost every respect. A hugely talented left-winger who started out at Leyton Orient, he was the first black player to represent England at under-21 level and, in 1979, after two spectacular years at West Brom, became the first Englishman to sign for Real Madrid, joining for £950,000 aged only 20. Injury would plague his five years in the Spanish capital, but he showed enough ability in his 44 appearances to gain a cult following. He won a league title and two Spanish Cups there and in 1988 was part of the Wimbledon side that won the FA Cup. The following year, aged just 33, he was killed in a car crash.

Newport County – Cup Winners’ Cup, 1980-81
In the 1979-80 seaon, Newport, with a team featuring the forward pairing of John Aldridge and Tommy Tynan, were promoted to the Third Division and won the Welsh Cup. That was probably their greatest season, but it was for what happened in the Cup-Winners’ Cup the following year that Newport will always be remembered. They beat Crusaders of Northern Ireland 4-0 on aggregate, then Haugar of Norway 6-0 to set up a quarter-final against the East German side Carl Zeiss Jena. Aldridge was injured, but when Tynan scored in the last minute to level the away leg at 2-2, hopes were high. Back in Wales, though, Newport lost 1-0, and Jena went on to beat Benfica in the semi before losing to the great Soviet side Dinamo Tbilisi in the final.

Dundee United – Uefa Cup, 1986-87
You look at the players – Eamonn Bannon, Maurice Malpas, Paul Sturrock, David Narey – and perhaps it doesn’t seem quite so surprising, but still, this was Dundee United. It wasn’t just one European campaign, either: in 1983-84, they reached the semi-final of the European Cup and led Roma 2-0 after the first leg only to be beaten 3-0 in a tumultuous Stadio Olimpico. But their run in 1986-87 still seemed gloriously preposterous, particularly when they beat Barcelona 2-1 in the Nou Camp in the quarter-final. Having seen off Borussia Monchengladbach in the semi, though, they were beaten 2-1 on aggregate by IFK Gothenburg in the final.

Does Jonathan Wilson's article inspire you to make your own unlikely trip to the continental mainland? Sign up to our June 2014 London-Amsterdam cycling challenge and raise money to help fight prostate cancer. Click here to find out more.

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