When Everton FC were drawn out of the hat with Lille and Wolfsburg in Group H of the UEFA Europa League most Blues were rubbing their hands with anticipation.
Fairly straightforward away trips to France and Germany against fairly well known opposition, great beer, good food, numerous routes to get there and not too bad on the wallet either.
But when the name FK Krasnodar came out of the hat, many Blues were left scratching their heads – and reaching for the atlas.
The Russian club were founded just six years ago, and hail from near the Black Sea, in deepest Russia. They play in the 40,000-seat Kuban Stadium.
The club were promoted to the first division of Russian football in 2010, after the clubs that finished above them in the second division rejected promotion because of financial difficulties.
After two mid-table finishes Krasnodar finished fifth last term and navigated the Europa League qualifiers, beating Real Sociedad in their final qualifying game to move into the group stages – and meet Everton.
For Blues fans it represented a challenge, not just in getting there, but for their bank balances too.
One fan, Patrick Marshall, 26, is paying over £700 and is taking six flights and a couple of coaches to get there and back with his dad, Keith.
He told the ECHO: “It’s costing me £120 for return flights to London from Manchester. We’ve then paid £599 for a package with Everton Supporters Club London, including our visa and two nights in a four star hotel.
“The flights go from Heathrow to Moscow and then from there to Krasnodar.”
Patrick, who lives in Manchester but is originally from Southport, is heading down to London today and is paying to stay in a hotel for the night before the mammoth trip to Russia begins tomorrow. A flight with no stops takes just under four hours to Russia and the following flight from Moscow to Krasnodar takes around two hours.
Patrick, a season ticket holder who travels to watch the Blues both home and away with his dad, says that the official trip was simply too expensive and that the whole trip to Krasnodar has been difficult to organise.
“It’s just hassle,” he explained. “The official trip was just too expensive. Most people aren’t going because it’s just so costly. I’m going to Wolfsburg and Lille – the Mrs isn’t happy!
“The visa was hard work. We all filled out forms and handed them to one of the lads at West Brom away to take to the Russian embassy in London. Loads of questions didn’t make sense and then we had to pay £10 for every mistake.”
Patrick has had to take much of the week off work from his job at Barclays, and lands back in the UK on Friday but has to wait until Saturday to fly back from London. Only to go and see the Blues face Man United the next day.
*Are you headed to Krasnodar? Send us your pics and videos @LivEchoEFC. Our EFC writer Greg O’Keeffe is heading to Russia with photographer Gareth Jones to cover the Blues, keep an eye on our Blues section of our website for all the latest from them.