Friday, 16 May 2014

Ah! The Magic of the Cup

In the words of Rodney P I've "been a Gunner since '79!" My first real Arsenal memory was jumping around the living room as Alan Sunderland ran, arms waving, swearing his perm off in the Wembley sunshine. The excitement was too much for a young boy. I was aware of Arsenal. I knew the players from my Panini book but that moment the ball sailed over Bailey and was tapped home changed my life.

That was it. I was a Gunner. No turning back now. Cheap replica kit from the market was purchased for my birthday & I was Sunderland or Stapleton in the back garden every afternoon. The ball would be lofted towards the shed. Shed would play it back to a running 'Stapleton' who would bury it and bring the cup home. They were alway cup games against Liverpool or Spurs. Never a goal that secures 4th place against Stoke or Newcastle. Never. Always the cup.

There are so many memories of the FA Cup. The pain of West Ham, that stooping header, Willie Young's assault. Then nothing. The early & mid 80s were difficult for a young boy. Nothing. Then the 90s turned up. '91 we don't count as apparently it's lucky for spurs when the year ends in 1. Look out for them in 7 years then.

1993. 4 trips to Wembley. Beating them in the semi. Milk cup win and then 2 dull, but not for us, FA Cup finals against Wednesday on Saturday and Thursday. We were "'Shoutin' for the Gunners!" On the Friday I bumped into Andy Linigan in the Arsenal tube station and said something stupid like, "Your nose looks sore. I was there last night."

In 1998 we were 'Hot Stuff' before we moved to our (nearly) yearly pilgrimage to Wales. They were fantastic trips. The FA Cup mixtape for the car was essential. Liverpool was forgettable apart from our friend telling a mouthy scouse child sitting in the Arsenal end to "Remember where you are sonny!"

I remember being huddled under the canopy outside Cardiff Starbucks playing Arsenal Top Trumps with @eastlower, his brother and the mate from above. It was raining. We were cold and a bit moany. A drenched Southampton fan walked past. Stopped and said, "This is the best day ever!" After 9 years I now know how he feels.

One of our best days was the 'only Ray Parlour' victory over that lot. After the game we parted ways and I drove back to London with just @eastlower's brother. I got home and @lovelymrs started to quiz me about him. Does he have a girlfriend? Where is he working? Question after question was greeted with 'I dunno!'
"But you were in the car with him for hours. What did you talk about?"
"Nothing" I replied, "We pretended to be Tim Westwood for most of it!"


So it's 9 years since we thrashed Man U on penalties and I can't wait. I hope the club realise how much we love this. The area is buzzing. The locals are talking about it. Have you got a ticket? Where are you watching it? Friends of mine of other teams wishing me good/bad luck. There are yellow ribbons on cars. It's a shame there isn't a cup final song. It's brilliant.

So tomorrow morning guess what will be the first thing you think about? We will win and on Sunday morning a while new generation will be playing that ball off the shed to volley home as Ramsey or Özil or Jack. I know I will....

It's Feverpitch who can hit 'em....oooh what a great goal.....(lies on back in the North London sunshine!)





Monday, 16 December 2013

12 days of The Arsenal.

Recently @arsenal asked on Twitter for suggestions for their 12 days of Arsenal. They rejected all of mine. Very hurtful after my son and I spent literally minutes on it...

On the 12th day of Arsenal my true love gave to me...

12 Champions League points

11 Mesut Özils

10 is always Bergkamp

9 months off for Diaby

8 years since a trophy

7 is Rocky Brady

6 points off Tottenham

5 quid for chips*

4 subs we've heard of**

3% price rise

Too many Bendtners

And a yellow card for Flamini.

*not entirely true
**see the bench a couple of months ago

Now if I were Gunnerblog I'd rap this and have a video but I don't. Sorry!

At the risk of the blog going all Sonogo again may I wish all the Gooners near and far a very merry Christmas and a title winning new year.

Up The Gunners.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iTelephone.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

A Bucket of Stones

"Dad, Man U just made a tactical substitution. Imagine that! Imagine having enough players to do that Dad!"

In the seven seasons my son has had a season ticket he has gone from an innocent little boy who would jump on the spot with excitement at the thought of watching The Arsenal to a cynically sarcastic teenager fed up with the same old nonsense. One the one hand I admire his comment. It's the kind of thing I'd tweet. That's my boy! On the other hand it's a punch in the guts.

Going through yesterday's game is pointless. He did this. He did that. The ref....the crowd.....All pointless. It was only one game. We can recover and probably will but this is all about the bigger story. In many ways it's about how a teenager has had his hope eroded since the Highbury move.

Writing any Arsenal blog is getting harder and harder as we can only say the same stuff over and over again. This is nothing new. It's something I've spoken about to other bloggers since I joined in about 3 years ago. There are only so many ways to moan about losing your best every year and the desperate need for signings. This summer made a nice change. We didn't lose a gem to a rival but excelled ourselves in kicking an enormous opportunity in the groin. We all know this. It's been said a billion times by a million Gooners. The only people who don't respond to it are the tiny few who can.

I'm a huge fan of Arsene. If you are an Arsenal supporter you can be nothing else after what he has done for us. However he is making it harder and harder to defend him. I really worry, especially after yesterday's press conference, that he might be going a bit Brian Clough.

Getting rid of so much deadwood was essential but without replacements is madness and you have to ask who brought a lot of these players in the first place. Somebody saw something in them to bring them to the club. What happened? We're they good enough and destroyed or are we shopping at a level where that's what you get? Take Gervinho for example. I was amazed how misty-eyed people became over him when he left. He was clearly not good enough for us. He added absolutely nothing to the team whatsoever and missed open goals against division 4 teams. He was a nice fella though so it's OK to wish him well but he, to me, summed up where we are. A second tier team shopping in Aldi to save money. But who needs to go? If Arsene goes do we trust the board to replace him with the ambitious and trophy hungry dynamic manager we crave? Don't hold any breath.

The club and my son's hope has been slowly eroded. They have brainwashed us into thinking 4th a bloody trophy & fooling us into thinking we are still challengers because we have a big ground and free sticker books. I'm not even demanding a cup. I just want the hope back. I want to share that feeling of elation with my son when we score and moved back to the top of the league. I want to hope Man U lose because it helps our chances rather than because I just hate them. I want to kick off a season thinking we could have a good go at this. Nobody had that feeling at 3pm yesterday and how we felt at 4.45pm wasn't as surprising as it should have been.

To cheer myself up yesterday I went 'Arsenal fishing.' I walked up the pier and laughed at all the other fishermen with all their equipment and knowledge of how to fish properly. I had a bucket of stones. Free stones from the beach. I threw a hand full in. I must hit something eventually. Nothing. So I had one last go. I saw a big fish. I threw my big stone. It made a splash, missed by miles and he swam away. The other fishermen with their buckets full of their days work turned and laughed at my empty bucket. I left with nothing and hungry. Next time I go I'm taking someone who knows what they are doing. They might be able to help me make a tactical change if it's not working out. Imagine that.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Back (Where we belong)

I hang on to see England go one up in the Ashes before rushing out the house with youngest daughter excited pulling on the car door. We are off to her best friends birthday party which is why Arsenal's first action of the season was followed by texts from the lovely Mrs while I sat outside a hair & beauty parlour by the A41.

Ashes & football shouldn't mix. It's all a bit too early but I guess it is purely a money generating jaunt. Despite this it's televised and followed by us all across the world. My son's lack of enthusiasm was due to that special disease that our club can't seem to shake off - Lackofsigningsitus. The one chap we did win at the fair was off winning something so it was left to the old faces to wallop the first opposition 7-0.

See this as a short run out in the sun, a bit of blog per-season. The blog petered out last season just as the team decided to wake up. I've made no new signings but I'm raring to go!

It's July. It's 32 degrees in this lay by & football is back. Cricket and tennis are all well and good but we all feel a little bit more normal today.

Up The Arsenal.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, 26 April 2013

Hope (then Glory)

"Dad, I think I'll go to the party on Sunday."
"OK, err, right, so you're not coming to The Arsenal? Err. OK. "
As I searched my phone for the email invite I joked that The Arsenal can't compete with bowling and Nandos while my son seemed to be plucking up the courage for what he wanted to say.
"What's the point? We never challenge for anything."
He turned and headed back to the Xbox. I shrugged slightly wounded.

Now this is a difficult blog to write. My first since Christmas as I just ran out of things to say. The Arsenal have been part of me for what seems forever. Every room of our house has something Arsenal related in it. My wife is a season ticket holder. Fixtures are the first things to go on the calendar. There is no escaping it. It's a huge part of who we are.

My son had little choice. That is The Arsenal son and they are your team. His first game was at the tail end of Highbury. There are pictures of his huge grin as he looks on that immaculate pitch in awe. In those 7 years we have huffed and puffed to get top 4 and messed up a couple of cup finals. On top of this he's had to watch his favourite players, the names on the back of his shirts, leave. Why didn't I buy him a Gervinho shirt?

I'm worried that my apathy has rubbed off on him. Over the years since the move to our sponsored arena The Arsenal have started to lose me. The football has become boring to watch. There are less crucial games as we aren't challenging. The players have dropped in quality. Every year our club has been chipped away at. Our season now consists of trying to qualify for a competition we can't win & finishing above Spurs. It's a far cry from the days of kicking off in August with hope in your heart.

And to me it's the loss of hope that's changed everything. I don't think we have a right to success. I don't even crave a trophy as such but I do think we deserve the hope of one. We have no hope of a title or Champions League win. We have no hope of domestic cup success. This season's FA & League cup exits were shameful yet were just accepted by the club as is the gulf between us and the champions. Where is the hope we will sign players to correct this? We won't and next season will be the same as this.

It's a simple equation. The best players leave just when we are building something so we replace. They take time to settle in so every season we sod about for the first half. As the team finds its feet we finish strongly or at least scratch out the right results. I'm hoping this season the mould will be smashed as I can't see many in our squad who, if they left, would rip the heart out of the side. This summer we might actually build rather than replace.

You are probably expecting me to want us to fail to force change. I understand the perversity of that but don't agree. Why fall so low that recovery is impossible? Look at Liverpool. If we can keep the better players & add better ones the hope returns.

So on Sunday I really want us to win. Not for another pointless (yet moneymaking) go in the Champion£ £eague but because I hate those bastards who've sailed to the title above all other teams. We were once their rivals. Now they can pop over to our house and help themselves. Whoever had the final say on that transfer should never sleep again. However, he was right to leave. Until the hope returns it will keep happening. I'm bored watching a team whose only ambition is 4th. It must be equally dull playing in one.

This leaves us open to accusations of moaning gits from supporters of nearly every other team in the land. We might end up 3rd. Not bad eh? The problem is we are incapable of better. Maybe the real problem is we are doing well and we have a constant feeling of narrowly missing out. If we were 10th we couldn't claim to be a couple of players short.

I don't know what the answer is and I hate feeling like this but football has changed into a mass money making effort where the old fashioned idea of real success on the pitch is old hat. So if we get 4th and you stand to applaud remember what you're clapping. You're celebrating another round of revenue generating and probably tedious group games. If that's your thing then enjoy it but I've seen what The Arsenal can do and the lovely feelings they can give you and I miss that. I miss that a lot.


- Posted using BlogPress in a car park.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas!



It's been a while since I've troubled the blog. It's been resting. Maybe it couldn't face up to some of the horrors of some of the shows we've seen. Maybe it fell asleep at some of the others. Has it been a good year? Not good so much as ..... meh...

Yet somehow we lie 4th in the table. 3 wins on the spin thanks to the bottom team and a flurry of penalties sees us rise to our natural spot. Does it feel like a trophy yet?

Does this sound too downbeat? Possibly but the performances leave us all feeling unbubbly. We are rarely convincing and seldom exciting. Since my last blog we've lost to a Division 4 side, had one shot against Villa, were out passed by Swansea, squeaked past Wigan ...... You get the picture. Downbeat maybe. The problem is it's hard to enjoy watching this team at the moment.

But all is not lost. We are top 4 again and I hope that doesn't cloud the management's judgement in the January sales. We need more quality about the place. We need another striker as two would be great (don't count Walcott - not good enough up top in the middle.)

So one more game of 2012 to go and I hope we can go out giving us some hope of a pleasant new year. Here's to an actual trophy you can hold and have a picture taken with like the good old days. Tell the kids we used to do that and they just won't believe you.

Happy Christmas and Up the Gunners.