Saturday, 4 November 2017

A Big Week For My Other Club

1979 was a big year for me. I saw The Arsenal beat Man U 3-2 in the FA Cup final on TV and thought that’s my team right there. I heard Rapper’s Delight for the first time which ignited my love of hip hop and I was taken to Milton Road by my dad. 

I have a season ticket at The Arsenal, still listen to hip hop everyday and am proud to say I’m the N1 on the Cambridge City Exiles flag. ‘79 was a year that shaped me!

On November 1st Cambridge City fans heard the news we’ve been waiting for since 2012. Planning was granted for their new ground at Sawston. The final day of that 2012/13 season was a sad day. It was the day City were finally going to lose their Milton Road ground and become homeless but it was more than that to me and many others. It was a place oozing with memories of my childhood. It was extra special to me since my dad died in 1999. City were the team we shared and we'd spent so many happy times at Milton Road together.  In fact I found it hard to go to a game after he died as it was so intrinsically linked to him. He went with his same mates and stood in the same place every game. I’m not sure I went for 4 years after he left.

My first memories of Milton Road was the enormous wooden Wembley they played in. I’d push through the turnstiles and be allowed to wander around the terrace. I remember a dog track and The Arsenal coming for an evening friendly. I stood above the tunnel and was overwhelmed by the smell of Vaseline on a cold night. That’s it. That’s all I have of the old place and I don’t really remember it going to be replaced by the ‘new’ Milton Road. (I might even have my dates wrong and this could be before 1979.)

Anyway, it’s the new Milton Road I grew up in. We’d leave in good time so dad could get a space to park and meet his friends right opposite the turnstiles to the left of the Shed. Ged, Big Dick (an enormous, kind, gentle giant of a man, Grumpy (could peel an orange in his pocket!) and Wiz (always wearing headphones to keep up with the scores) were always there. We’d go around to Tony at the tea bar and order 6 teas ‘to the brim’ at half time before returning to our positions.

I remember driving home after a game one Saturday and asking dad what Wiz’s name was. ‘Wiz’ dad replied. ‘No, his real name?’ I persisted.  ‘No idea son. Worked with him for years but only know him as Wiz.’ I remember saying and trying to be clever, ‘So if Wiz died and you saw his name in the paper you wouldn’t know he’s dead.’
‘Of course I would. He wouldn’t be a work.’ A good point well made!

I remember Ged buying a slice of cake so stale he stuck it to the bottom of his shoe while congratulating the poor lady in the tea bar on her new cobblers job. I remember Big Dick getting stuck in the turnstile. I remember being taught to ‘encourage’ the officials on their wonderful work. I remember Butch Gawthrop asking me how the Arsenal were getting on when he should’ve been concentrating (& seeing him in the street at Highbury one night and coolly nodding an ‘alright’ at him like he knew me!) I remember winning the 50/50 draw, taking school friends, chatting to the ladies in the club shop, taking my girlfriend (now Mrs of many years) and eventually taking my own son (Mascot 3rd October 2009 vs Tiverton)

I returned a few years after dad died. Dick had passed away a few years before, grumpy had stopped going, Wiz and Ged were sometimes around. It was different without him but the love of the place and the club remained. Life goes on and my son was now taking his dad and winning the 50/50. This led to a magnificent night 5 years ago when they played MK Dons in the FA Cup 1st Round Proper.

The build up was so exciting and ramped up when it was announced it would be televised. Via Twitter, Phil, a stranger said he’d get me 2 tickets as I couldn’t get there from London and I now stand with Phil and his friends when I get there. We got a fantastic 0-0 before losing 6-1 in the replay. However, Dancing around the seats at Milton Keynes when the 1 went in is up there with Sol Campbell’s goal in Paris in 2006 (and i played Mark Strong's head like the bongos following that goal!)

Since 2012/13 season City have been lodging at Histon and now St Ives. There were moments when I thought they’d go under but they are alive and kicking and the news they can build a new home is magnificent. Following relegation they now have a great management team in place and are looking good. The news about the ground hopefully secures the future of this fantastic little non-League club. Congratulations to everyone who has worked so hard to make this happen. I can't wait (and it's so much closer to the M11!)

Good Luck @cambridgecityfc

Monday, 23 October 2017

Alien Feelings Away From Home

Sunday saw an early start to the day, hoping for a lot better then my recent trip to Liverpool. Having gone to Anfield early in the season, I was understandably apprehensive about a return to Merseyside. It started badly. Ed’s Dinner wasn’t open, the cash machine was broken and Jens Lehmann, looking splendid and tall in his club blazer, was running away from the trains north. You need a ticket Jens just like the rest of us! However, even though we have been terrible this season away from home, Everton have just been terrible. Walking around Goodison pre match you could sense the pessimism and speaking to some locals, they weren’t particularly upbeat ahead of this one. The match kicked off and you could see why. Early chances for Ramsey and then Lacazette, both saved by Pickford, made it feel like it could be one of those days.

This was then amplified when Idrissa Gana Gueye picked Granit Xhaka’s pocket and the inevitable happened; Wayne Rooney netting against us for the fifteenth time. My seat in the upper tier of the away section was right next to the home supports, and when this goal went in, I made eye contact with an older gentlemen and just started laughing.
Having already costs us goals in defeats at Stoke, Liverpool and Watford in similar fashion, there were question marks over the Swiss international but to be fair to him he did go on and produce an excellent performance.

Surprisingly, Rooney’s opener didn’t change the flow of the match and we continued to dominate before finally beating Pickford from a thunderbolt from Nacho Monreal. 1-1 at half time, a score that would’ve suited neither; you could feel the nervousness from both sets of supporters. At half time Everton switched from 3-4-2-1 to 4-2-3-1, which somehow made them even more open at the back. However, it did take a sublime goal to put the Gunners in front. A brilliant cross from Alexis Sanchez was flicked in by Mesut Özil and sent the traveling contingent wild. One thing I did spot in the aftermath of this goal was the passion from Grant Xhaka. Screaming, shouting and waving his arms around; maybe a sign of his passion or could simply be relief as he was culpable for the Everton opener. As soon as Idrissa Gana Gueye was dismissed for a stupid second yellow, even at only 1-2, you feared for the Toffees and hoped we would be able to see out the game which has been a problem in the past.

Goals number three for Lacazette and four for Ramsey swiftly followed and each was met by a mass Evertonian exit. Both these goals felt significant for the individuals involved. This was our record signing’s first goal away from the Emirates Stadium, which in previous games had felt as though it had been bothering him. As for the latter it wasn’t the scorer but the architect who this was a massive moment for. Throughout the game the previous week at Vicarage Road, despite not even coming on, ‘SUPER JACKY WILSHERE’ had been sung non stop and the same was heard again this week. In claiming this assist it’ll hopefully help Jack properly feel part of the first team again. I was worried when he went out on loan we’d never see him again.  Everton did pull a goal back and I have never seen any goal more half heartedly celebrated then this one. This was then swiftly cancelled out by a superb goal by Alexis Sanchez but again the defending from Everton was some of the worst I’ve ever witnessed. 

All 3 of Alexis, Özil and Lacazette grabbed a goal, with the two former also getting an assist each, and speaking to Arsenal fans in and around the ground, there was genuine excitement about watching this trio. It was worth the wait. The elderly Everton supporter across the barrier from me caught my eye and said, ‘the best team won by an absolute mile, and that’s not because you’re any good it’s just we are s**t.’ The game summed up very accurately? Maybe? We need to be shown this again against a better side and we know how that goes for us!  As we clapped our boys one very very drunk fan ran onto the pitch towards an applauding Jack Wilshere who charitably handed over his shirt. The lucky fan was swiftly removed to cheers as he waved his match worn shirt like a trophy!

The feeling was very different for the Evertonians I chatted to who were in a subdued mood as one would expect. When asked by me who they’d want to take over from the doomed Koeman the most common name was Sam Allardyce, maybe justified by their current predicament. One fan was even hoping for Liverpool legend Rafa Benitez, which would be controversial to say the least but a thing they all agreed on was they did not want to see the return of a certain David Moyes!

Overall, coming back on the train after an away day victory was an all to alien feeling and we didn’t really know what to do as we usually spend this time complaining about how terrible we were. Not to worry, there will be plenty of opportunity to do just that on the way home from my next away trip, when we visit unbeaten league leaders Manchester City. If that all goes wrong never fear …….. It’s Spurs at home! Ooh to, Ooh to be…..

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Knock, Knock, Knocking on Arsene's Door

What the world needs now is love, sweet love. Instead it gets another blog about The Arsenal. I'm going to keep this brief. The perfect bog read length.

We are not in a total mess. We are not getting relegated or going bust. We aren't ground sharing miles from home. We are doing OK. However, when you dress yourself up as a big club you have to back that up. The Arsenal look like one of the biggest clubs in the world. The ground, the training facilities, the squad, the ticket prices. Everything is there apart from what actually happens on the pitch.

The biggest problem we have is the people above AW don't care about that. We have an owner who couldn't find the ground if he was dropped right outside it. As long as the money rolls in he won't even glance in our direction. But our biggest problem is we have nobody knocking on AW's door after pathetic performances to tell him that wasn't good enough. As much as I hate that man at Chelsea he'd be kicking the door down. That's why it's left to the fans to look like prats on ArsenalTV or to make banners as we have no one asking those questions behind the scenes.

There are no consequences for failure at The Arsenal. The players never get dropped, the manager never gets questioned. Failure? It's all relative but I f you dress yourself up like Arsenal do then 13 years without having a good crack at the League should be called failure. The Champions League has given Arsenal a good excuse to label anywhere in the top 4 success. I genuinely think the club doesn't see the league as worth winning. First, fourth, Whatever, the prize is the same.

Anyway, last night was truly pathetic but no more than lots of the absolute crap we've seen all season. I've witnessed people arguing about what's been our worst performance this year!

There is no appetite for change within the club so we will have to just get on with it. We aren't important to the club. It's clear AW will go when he's ready. And when he does go we've got a clueless bunch of clowns picking his replacement.

Now take that big club dress off and get to work.

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Location:London Town

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.

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