Wednesday, August 10
Back in 1991 we headed to Lisbon for a European Cup tie but, unfortunately, work and finances prevented me from travelling on that occasion. Somewhat incredibly, considering how many matches we have played all over the continent since that day, we have never been back.
Consequently our last pre-season encounter before the real stuff begins was my first ever visit to what I found to be a quite fantastic city.
To be fair, a Friday and Saturday night in August is likely to be entertaining in any location across the globe so I would be wrong to suggest I was surprised. But there was a huge amount on offer in Portugal's capital and it will be no shock to hear our particular travelling party made sure we enjoyed it to the full.
From my experience, the Biarro Alto was almost unique with all the locals and visitors alike cramming into the tiny streets and enjoying the outside atmosphere, varied restaurants and bar culture. Both evenings we took it in and enjoyed every minute.
Daytime we visited the port area and also took in one of the quite incredible tram rides through the narrow, hilly and twisty streets. Altogether an experience that makes me hope we get the chance to go back.
Sandwiched in the middle of course was our game in the very 'Emirates' like Stadio de Luz. A forty thousand-plus crowd made sure of a relatively noisy and colourful atmosphere for a match that very much mirrored many on this year's pre-season adventures. A good first-half performance, many many personnel changes and a not so encouraging second-half.
Once again however, I reiterate how pre-season is all about making sure your whole squad is fit and ready. It is only the incredible media coverage these days that makes it feel more important than that.
Welcome to our latest signing, Alex OC. Let's hope he has a long and successful career at our great club. With the media rumour mill continuing and changing by the hour, time will tell if there will be any further comings and goings.
There is no doubt we need to be up and running from minute one with a hugely testing opening month, added to of course by Friday's draw pairing us with Udinese.
See you at St James' Park.
Flag in place at the Stadio de Luz
Players get ready for the off
One of the city's famous trams
Possibly the best street in Lisbon?!