Richard Sutcliffe: Final thrills of stag weekend can be Real deal for supporters

THERE are several duties that a Best Man has to perform.

Remembering the rings is certainly one. As, is getting the groom-to-be to the church on time. Make a mess of either of these less than arduous tasks and you can expect the bride to be not so much blushing as out for your blood.

Ask most blokes, however, what the most important duty performed by a Best Man is and the answer will invariably include the words ‘stag’ and ‘do’. I mention this because, for the first time, the task of organising this rite-of-passage has fallen to me.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Well, I say first time. I did actually organise my own shindig to Moscow a few years ago, due to my own Best Man’s organisational powers being such that we’d have been lucky to get out of Keighley never mind reach the Russian capital.

Anyway, I digress. Next month will see 13 of us head to London to bid a fond farewell to my mate Neil’s days as a bachelor. The capital was chosen for a number of reasons, not least that a trip abroad would have cost the earth and the fact that Neil now lives in Australia – meaning he was understandably less than keen on hopping on a plane just a few days after flying 12,000 miles.

So, London it is over the Spring Bank holiday. Which just happens to be the weekend when European football’s biggest club game comes to Wembley.

Initially, the hope was we might be able to attend – a plan that was quickly abandoned once UEFA announced a minimum ticket price of £150 plus a truly scandalous £26 booking fee.

Even so, just being there on the day of the Champions League final will be something to savour – as I know from personal experience, having attended the 1992 final when Barcelona beat Sampdoria and both sets of fans created a party atmosphere in central London.

With that in mind, therefore, I can’t say this week’s events in the Bernabeu – when the possibility of an all-English final were ended by a 4-0 thrashing for Spurs – came as too much of a disappointment.

Peter Crouch’s red card and some truly abject defending from set-pieces means what has been a thrilling Champions League debut for Harry Redknapp’s men is all but over.

More importantly in terms of Saturday, May 28, Barcelona’s similarly ruthless demolition of Shakhtar Donetsk 24 hours after Real’s own four-goal triumph means the semi-finals will host El Clasico. The result is one set of fans from Spain will be heading to the final in London. And, as I tipped Madrid to lift the trophy in this very column way back in September, I am plumping for Jose Mourinho to edge a step closer to a hat-trick of Champions League successes.

As for who else will contest the Wembley final, this is much harder to call.

Following a disappointingly one-sided round of quarter-final first legs, the two sides most likely to meet in the last four are Schalke, 5-2 winners in Italy on Tuesday night, and Manchester United.

It is certainly difficult to see a repeat of the first knockout stage when Inter Milan overcame a first-leg defeat in the San Siro to knock out a German side – Bayern Munich being the unfortunate side to crash out on away goals after losing the return 3-2 at the Allianz Arena.

That leaves the all-England affair at Old Trafford, a stadium where United have let slip two points from a possible 45 in the league this season – making an away win seem highly unlikely.

A semi-final date with Schalke, who are 10th in the Bundesliga after finishing as runners-up last year, would then surely be to the liking of United – meaning central London should be a lively place to be come Spring Bank holiday.