Sunday, 31 May 2015

Relaxed At Wembley

Say what you like about the FA Cup but that was a day no Gooner will ever forget. Seeing the pictures of Arsenal fans worldwide brought home just how lucky I was to get a ticket to be at the game. The WhatsApp message a few weeks ago from Eastlower telling me I had the golden 'successful' next to my name will live long in the memory. Indeed my wife, son, Eastlower and his brother hit the jackpot too. A day of it was to be made with the best people to make a day out of. 

You'd think I'd seen too much to have a slightly sleepless night before a game of football but the FA Cup has that effect on old and young. If it's not the first thing you think of on the morning of the match then there is something wrong. But it was a long wait. As I sat having breakfast (see previous post) I just wanted to get there and get started. We were leaving at 2.30pm to park in a factory of a Tottenham supporting friend 5 minutes away from our seats. He kindly said we could park there and if we left a message of support for Tim Sherwood our wheels would still be there at the end!
Even a drive round London's least glamorous road, the North Circular, was exciting as glimpses of the arch kept teasing us. We parked. Deep breath. Check the tickets for the seventy third time and we were off down Wembley Way. 
The game was a joy. We were magnificent from beginning to end. How you pick a man of the match from that I don't know. We played how we know we can. Villa were awful but we made them look awful. No shots on target should tell you everything about them but also our defending. Our only concern was, at 0-0 we were missing chances and there's always a danger of a punt up field and we find ourselves a goal down. Why were we worried? Just in time Theo thumped a left foot past Villa's best player and we erupted. I have never been hugged quite so tightly from so many directions. That joy of a cup final goal is quite something. 
Thank goodness we got our breath back before our second. What a goal that was. Right up there with the best to grace the old/new place. It had the spirit of Ray. We've found our Chilean Parlour! You can imagine the explosion of joy in the stands. The game was won. The cup was ours. A dangerous thought but something was different with the team. They just never looked like it would slip. 

A third was added. We initially thought the ref had blown to stop the game as Villa stood still but no. The spirit of Linigan. Another hug all round and we were enjoying a cup final. Imagine that?! Enjoying a cup final. Eastlower and I even slouched back and reminisced about past finals as this one was going on in front of us. Relaxed at Wembley! The forth was met with cheers, laughter and handshakes. Splendid. 

The team danced as we bounced. The noise is impossible to describe. That joyous football crowd noise. We are lucky enough to know what that is like. The songs started one by one but nothing more moving than the 'Oh Rocky Rocky' one sung with such passion. The cup was lifted and the fireworks went off. We didn't want to leave. 
We headed home in the car with Arsenal songs seeping out the open windows towards hundreds of happy yellow shirted, flag waving Gooners. At 1am I have never felt so awake. The magic of the FA Cup. 

Sunday and the Eastlowers popped round for roast Lamb and a stroll down to the victory parade. 
What a weekend with The Arsenal. 

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Lucky Socks

As I sit outside a cafe in Moorgate a man walks past in and old Arsenal shirt proudly advertising JVC. We exchange a nod. 
"Going later" he asks. 
"Of course" 
"Me too. Can't wait" and he disappears towards the City. Impressive exchange considering the only thing that gave me away was yellow & blue stripy socks. 
On no other day of the year would he risk a two word question to a plain clothed stranger in unusual socks. If you're not a Gooner why would you be sporting such an item. 

It's Cup Final Day that's why. 

All morning Whattapp has been literally buzzing with what to wear. Only day of the year this bunch of blokes care? 

I love that we are in yellow today. My first Arsenal memory and the reason I'm an Arsenal fan is seeing Alan Sunderland wheel away. It's 3-2!! I remember standing on the seats at the back of the stand at the City Ground in Nottingham with Eastlower & his brother many many years ago srreaming 'YELLLLLLLLOOOOOOWWWWSSSS' for as long as our lungs would allow. Michael Thomas. Yellow ribbons. 

Right, once this bacon has gone I'm off to burn a mixtape for the car. See you on the other side. 


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