Wednesday 21st September 2016
There was a time when many of us Gooners lost total interest in the League Cup. If my memory serves me right a 5 nil thumping at home by a Chelsea first choice eleven had many deciding the youthful team choices were not worth taking time and spending money to see.
Mr. Wenger has been enormously consistent with his policy in this competition and although he has never won it, we have reached both semis and finals on a few occasions. And as time has gone by the fact we have all grown to understand why he uses the competition to give fringe and young players a chance to experience first class action, the crowds have flocked back with sold out home games and huge away followings more the norm.
Personally I have always loved the competition. Our assaults on the Littlewoods and Coca Cola versions back in the late eighties and early nineties are packed full of fantastic memories and the fact we get to enjoy cracking old fashioned cup nights like this week’s trip to Nottingham Forest add to my reasoning.
4 of us made the trip in our mini party and once checked in to our hotel we enjoyed the pre-match hospitality of the city with many of the usual suspects.
It’s a long time since we’ve made that walk over the River Trent past the cricket ground and to the City Ground’s away end. But, with a full house expected it certainly was as atmospheric as any previous visit.
Even with every single player being different to those who started against Hull on Saturday, it looked an exciting combination of well known names, new signings and our most promising younger talent that took the field and it was to prove a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Lord Bendtner of Nottingham was given an excellent reception and although I am genuinely pleased he did I’m not sure if I was surprised or not. He certainly had his moments as a Gooner and although we are aware he was never quite good enough to be the ‘answer’, I don’t think he deserved to get any stick.
The start of the game was relatively even but once Granit spanked home his 2nd long range effort of the week the result never looked in doubt. Lucas’ penalty pretty much finished the game off as a contest and his 2nd and Ox’s strike were pleasing and put the icing on the cake for the thousands of noisy travelling Gooners behind the goal.
So into the 4th round hat we go and we celebrated into the early hours as always.
I’m writing these notes before tonight’s games so my preferred choice for the next round might not even be relevant! But Bristol City away would make me very happy!
Chelsea at home comes next, always one of our toughest fixtures. The game needs no build up but like every other fixture it is one we can win if we are on our game.
Come on you mighty reds!
Sunday 18th September.
Train travel is something I quite enjoy. Not only is it relaxing but when you throw football into the equation the journey includes the usual banter. If you choose to stay overnight however, any travel option is likely to be less ‘comfortable’!
And although that is the case this morning, it is gloriously sunny and we head back home with the three points we came here for.
This is the 3rd time I have stayed over in the city of Kingston-upon-Hull but both the previous occasions it has been midweek so experiencing the Saturday night fare has been a new experience.
Consequently our smooth train journey from Kings Cross and past our home had us all thoroughly looking forward to the hours ahead. Although we like to think that the post match entertainment will be equally as enjoyable whatever the result, the reality is if we get a poor result, the night out can end up being a bit of a damp squib.
One of our travelling party (Finbar) enjoys a real ale (or 5) and the rest of us don’t need too much persuading to join him. And no matter where we end up he will have an idea of which establishment(s) we should head for.
Having dropped our bags at the hotel, this time was no different so we headed through the roadworks and shoppers to a basement local for our pre-match refreshment, an interesting establishment if nothing else.
The main event of course produced the result we all wanted in an incident packed game where although I felt we played pretty well, it was a bit of a strange one.
We could and should have been 3 goals to the good before the penalty incident through no more than a thoroughly dominant display. But although the handball didn’t change the game due to the spot kick being awarded, the sending off did and it was pretty harsh and arguably incorrect having seen the TV replays.
Santi should have taken it and the debate over why he didn’t was considerable. For me however, Alexis should have buried it anyway and the fact he didn’t was more frustrating.
Come the break it was all about being professional and avoiding complacency.
And to be fair other than perhaps a few minutes after we conceded we did that pretty well. And Granit’s goal was worth the entrance money alone. 4-1 away from home. That will definitely do.
I mentioned the roadworks in Hull earlier and due to the city being ‘City of Culture’ in 2017 (but they don’t like to mention it!) the place is one massive building site at the moment. But believe me that’s not me being critical. I absolutely love Hull. The history and architecture is quite awesome in places, the old town is awash with superb pubs and everyone we have met once again could not have been more friendly.
And for a few hours it very much played host to our celebratory mood.
Another successful away day then, finished this morning by eating a full English whilst the participants in the Hull Marathon ran past the cafe. Slightly guilt ridden watching them go by having enjoyed a skin full last night and a fry up this morning (only slightly mind) that pretty much brings us up to date.
Looking out my train window we are at Retford. One more stop and London beckons.
The City Ground, Nottingham comes next.
Come on you yellows!
Wednesday 14th September 2016
Three times I’ve been to Paris previously but unfortunately each of those trips is littered with bad memories. Over the years however, I’ve always wanted to return with time available to get a better indication of what is described by many as one of the world’s greatest cities.
That achieved accompanied by Alexis’ late equaliser, I’m heading back to Charles de Gaulle airport with an altogether satisfactory vibe.
Bestival came to a close late on Sunday night and I’d be lying if I said I was ‘full of beans’ departing for Gatwick early on Monday morning. If the weather is kind music festivals are awesome. But they are absolutely exhausting too.
Getting from the airport to our hotel on a packed commuter train in sweltering heat didn’t help to be honest but showered, changed and enjoying a pint in an establishment that was to become our ‘local’ went a long way to lifting the spirits!
One or two other hostelries were treated to our presence before we made our way to see the late showing of the Moulin Rouge. Tacky but certainly spectacular and well worth going to, it completed a long, hot but entertaining first day of the trip.
If the ‘Moo Red’ was done as a tourist, Tuesday morning provided the opportunity to see some of the more well known sights by day. And they don’t come any bigger than the Eiffel Tower. An awesome thing to see against the blue sky of a sundrenched city.
That done, our ‘local’ played host for the pre-match build up before we took the metro to the ground.
The Parc des Princes is quite iconic. Not only is it the home of PSG but before the Stade de France was built it also played host to internationals in both football and egg chasing. And as it is 21 years since we last visited on that dreadful night back in May 1995, it was good to see it full and rocking this time round.
Before a ball was kicked we would all have definitely taken a point. So to get just that is very pleasing.
PSG do not lose many home games. 1 in their last 40 European ties in fact. So it is an extremely tough place to get a result.
And although we rode our luck a little bit at times and David Ospina performed admirably, we kept going and played some good football, especially in the 2nd half and after such a disastrous start.
We all like a late goal, in particular when it means so much. And last night’s produced the typical away end jostle as you would expect.
So a point from our toughest fixture on paper then. Very pleasing from a tough night……and we drank to it in the traditional way back in our local.
Consequently today’s touristy walk was a little bit uncomfortable at times. The whole dehydration/hangover/intense heat combination is not a good one!
But with Notre Dame, Pont Neuf, banks of the river Seine and the Louvre ticked off the list the pain was worth it.
I’m going to finish by saying congratulations to Mick and his now fiance Sami. The soppy sod proposed at the Eiffel Tower!
See you in Hull.
Saturday 10th September 2016
Swearing is not big or clever. Although I do quite like it. In the right situation or context. It can provide enormous emphasis when required. But I don’t particularly like unnecessary bad language when its……..well……..unnecessary.
But today I have received a torrent of ‘abuse’. All justified. Why? Well……as I went to the game straight from Bestival, I was dressed like a bit of a tit.
It kinda started in the ferry terminal early this morning where despite the advertising videos chucking out pictures of the event for all to see the fact I walked in looking like death warmed up and dressed as previously described, the ‘shoppers’ of this world gawped as if I was a freak of nature.
That was nothing compared to the tube journey. Although most probably just put that down to being ‘London’.
Walking to my usual pre-match pub however, I got wolf whistled by burger vans! That is a whole new level.
Upon arrival I was told in no uncertain terms ‘now I know what it’s like to be a woman’. Of course I took that on board, offered the lady a babysham and asked her why she was at football and not at home darning some socks. Coz I’m a modern man you see.
All this took place before the main event of course. But it was a strange day. Firstly my football routine had been thrown out of the window. Secondly I was dressed like an ostrich. Thirdly it was a Saturday 3pm kick off. So we weren’t on the telly. Ridiculous.
I enjoyed the game. But only because we got a late winner. If I was writing this having drawn (or lost) I’d have the right ump. But, that’s football in a nutshell.
I thought we started the game in control. But it wasn’t exactly dominance. We didn’t deserve to be losing. And we reacted well with Kos’s overhead kick an awesome highlight. And post equaliser and until half time I thought we played well.
But although we were the team looking for that winner our visitors had their share of the good chances in the 2nd period.
I genuinely haven’t seen a replay of the penalty incident. So I can’t comment. Sorry. But we’ll take that. Just as they would had it been the other way round.
3 points. Lovely.
It turned a good day into a great one.
I’m going back to Bestival. I fit in there.
Up the Arse!
Monday 5th September 2016
Like everyone I was a little bit disappointed that Thierry and Dennis were not on the pitch on Saturday. But having seen them for a combined total of nearly 600 times, I certainly wasn’t going to lose sleep over it. Arsenal Football Club is a family you see. A ‘club’ in every sense. And that means I don’t care who wears that shirt as long as they are proud to do so. I genuinely didn’t think I would enjoy the entertainment on show as much as I did. But as an event, as a hugely successful way of making money for worthy causes, as a thoroughly relaxing way to spend a few hours in the company of near on 60 thousand others, I was extremely pleased I went along.
It is only on days where the clubs in the upper reaches of this country’s football pyramid are not playing that you witness just how many people are on their way to games on ‘normal’ weekends. Of course there are many millions who support other clubs and they were still present on my small part of the railway network on Saturday morning, but the level of quietness emphasized the lack of travellers heading to games in the top 2 leagues.
There was still plenty of red and white about with a near on full house expected in London N5 all adding to what promised to be an interesting occasion.
The numbers were swelled by a huge number of youngsters too, all the more interesting when many would have only ever got the chance to see these players don the red and white on video, DVD or online. Trying to avoid the fact that also makes me feel very old I spent much of the day reminiscing about particular moments when at their brilliant best. Bobby Pires lobbing Schmeichal at Villa, Gilberto’s equaliser at Doncaster, Anders’ late destruction of Coventry at Highfield Road, Nutty’s late winner at Chelsea, Freddie’s goal in Cardiff, Luis Boa Morte’s crucial FA Cup goal at Preston, Gilles’ winner against Palace, Manu’s all important winner against Derby, Kanu’s hat-trick at the Bridge, Ray’s rocket against Valencia, Seaman’s Sampdoria heroics, Kolo emerging as an invincible centre half, Keown’s desire against Van N at Old Trafford, Jens’ penalty save in Villareal, Overmars run and goal at Highbury 98…….the list goes on and on.
And for possibly one final time, although a little older and little slower, we were to see all these players once again.
Although visibly and understandably not quite as mobile as in the past, the players’ style is still so recognisable. Trying hard not to offend here, Bobby still runs a little bit like a duck, Nutty Nige still plays as if his life depends upon it, Gilberto still moves from side to side like that all important moving ‘brick wall’, Freddie’s all action bustling runs were still present and as for Kanu, his massive feet still make the ball look like a marble and despite the technique looking even more languid these days, he is still an absolute magician with a football!
Goals and a win were far from essential of course but totally helped make it a thoroughly entertaining day as well as Nige’s fun and games with Paolo di Canio and Keown threatening to throttle Mr Wenger for not bringing him on.
Those of us that were lucky enough to witness Bobby and Freddie’s Arsenal careers have seen goals similar to the 4th time and time again. And just like when Thierry came back to score that goal against Leeds, Saturday’s run, cross and goal led to serious goosebumps. Seems silly thinking about it. But it happened.
A few post match beers with fellow Gooners from local, Yorkshire and Australia were thoroughly enjoyed after, emphasizing once again how far and wide this Arsenal family stretches.
And for just a couple of priceless hours on Saturday afternoon we got to relax and look back.
See you on Saturday as we take on the Saints.
Monday 29th August 2016
Three games in and it’s been around 20 – 30 minutes that have proved disastrous. As frustrating as that was we go into the first international break in a far more positive frame of mind. In fact it has been a pretty good few days to be a Gooner.
With a number of things to catch up on I’m going to start with cup draws on this occasion.
As much of the country enjoyed the sizzling August sunshine we initially found out who we face in the 3rd Round of the League Cup. As with all domestic draws I want something ‘interesting’. Preferably an away tie at a stadium I haven’t been to. With just 3 teams falling into that category for me personally that possibility always looked unlikely. But a trip to somewhere we haven’t been for a while would be nice.
The City Ground, Nottingham, 17 years since we last visited, that will do. A fixture full of great memories, it is one I am looking forward to and expect a stern test. Our trip to Hillsborough last season demonstrated what happens if you don’t turn up!
I found out our League Cup opponents at The Rose Bowl in Southampton, England’s one day cricket victory over Pakistan on a sticky hot (and very messy) day being my latest ‘away from football’ fix. 24 hours later and the ridiculously over the top draw ‘ceremony’ in Monaco determined the destinations for our next European tour.
In recent years we have seen repeat destinations happen time and time again, so much so in fact it seemed to suggest the draw process simply doesn’t work. And before Ian Rush’s hilarious inability to open the plastic balls this time round, I couldn’t see anything other than a similar set of fixtures.
But, I pretty much couldn’t have handpicked our draw any better. A stadium we haven’t visited for a European tie for over 20 years and 2 cities I have never been to before. Get in!
Travel and accommodation bookings come next as the dates are announced and down the years I have been pretty consistent with the way I do things. Time permitting, if we are playing on a Tuesday I try and go Sunday to Wednesday. Such a trip not only gives you time to enjoy the matchday build up but plenty to take a good look at what else our host destination has to offer.
Being at Bestival just prior to PSG away and flying back from Sunderland away the Sunday before the Ludogorets away match have made the plans a little trickier than normal but…….tours are booked and ready to rock for me and my fellow travelling Gooners. Bring them on!
Carrying on with last season’s theme of looking back at previous corresponding fixtures over the years, we travelled to Vicarage Road back in May 1997 for a low key fixture in honour of Watford’s then groundsman Les Simmons. After 50 years he was retiring and with the programme notes suggesting he was both well loved and quite a character, we brought our season to a close with a 4-1 victory.
12 months later and it was Martin Tyler’s cries of “Would you believe it” that us Gooners will never forget.
August Bank holiday weekend not only sees a massive annual Scooter Festival in my part of the world but Victorious Festival on Southsea Common too. So with a fellow Gooner kindly offering to drive I left home on Saturday morning armed with tickets for my live music fix as well as our Watford away game.
Steamy weather once again meant quenching the thirst pre match was more welcome than ever and it was accompanied by the news one of our lot has booked a trip to Razgrad for late October. I’m sure it will be very nice. Shame the match is being played 200 miles away in Sofia!!
Time for the real stuff and we headed into Vicarage Road confident but well aware our haul of just one point so far meant anything but a win would have been hugely disappointing. And with that comes a few nerves.
Not wearing our 1st or 2nd kit when we can shouldn’t annoy me. But it does. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why we couldnt wear red and white on Saturday. The fluorescent thing was more of a colour clash if anything.
Watford are one of those teams who always make chances so I expected us to struggle if we didn’t take those we too would no doubt create.
But Saturday, at least in the first half, we certainly did that.
The first was a clear cut penalty having seen TV replays and the other 2 were quite superb (if the finish for the 2nd was a little ‘scruffy’). 3 nil at half time. Perfect.
If we were guilty of anything in our afternoon’s work it was not taking one of the many chances we created in the 2nd period. Just one more, either at 3 nil or 3-1 would have made it a lot more comfortable.
As it was, our host’s goal gave them hope and as a result we had to defend stoutly and big Pete had to make one or two saves to see us home.
Overall though a good performance and three welcome points sees us move up to 7th. And a cracking journey home, Saturday night and all of Sunday enjoying the beer and bands on Southsea Common finished off a pretty perfect couple of days.
It looks like over the next couple of days we will see a couple of new additions to the Arsenal family. I hope that’s not tempting fate of course! Any experienced signings that improve the depth of our squad are welcome and if the 2 being discussed go through they are certainly in positions where I think we all agree most needed strengthening.
Time will tell on those of course but for now we all hope and pray our internationals return injury free in a couple of weeks time.
I like many of us will be at our home on Saturday afternoon for the Legends game. It’s not the type of event I tend to like to be honest. But the chance to see players I followed all over the world in their prime, run out in the red and white for one more time will certainly prevent the trip from feeling a ‘grind’.
And after all……it’s that, gardening or shopping.
Saturday 20th August 2016
I’ve kinda said this before but there is a massive overriding reason why I go to football. Meeting my mates, having a few beers and talking utter bollocks. That’s what we do on match days. And that is what I enjoy most.
Political debate, the Olympics. What the sports presenters should be wearing. Or more importantly (surely), what they are saying. The environment. Etc etc.
They’re all not for me.
And the main reason.
We are there for the same things. We all want the same conclusion. And we are not judged. Apparently.
At the moment things feel a little bit different. Not the majority of it. But the chunk I don’t go to football for is increasing. Every week.
I’ve always had the attitude that if you genuinely don’t enjoy supporting the Arsenal…….your club…….don’t go to watch them. And I mean that. Totally. Your choice. I have mine. And you have yours.
But today, I felt like my choice was approaching a time where it is no longer mine. Arsenal fans, those people who supposedly support the same team as me, were fighting amongst themselves. On the way in, at half time, and at the end of the game.
And that is not why I go.
I make no apology for the way I am. And I guess those who choose to travel a long way just to air their negativity don’t need to apologise either.
And I get that too I think.
But my mate as just said if the kebab shop is not open when we get home, he’s kicking off.
Not relevent…..but it’s comments like that keep us going. Not because it’s literary genius….or even that funny. But it is why we go. It made us smile.
If 3 to 4 thousand of us went to away games every other week with an attitude where we are there for a laugh. For a good time. For a smile. For a release. For a moment. Etc etc etc
Yes, we get unhappy, frustrated, annoyed………when it don’t go well. And yes, when it does go well, we enjoy, get silly, get emotional too. Together.
But at the moment that togetherness, is not there.
And I don’t like that.
I mentioned earlier we have that choice. Whether to attend or not. Somebody (a Gooner I presume) shouted in my face, “If you don’t like it, don’t bother coming”.
It…..being you kicking off I guess. Not something that we can discuss. But when my mate questioned who.should replace our current boss. His reply was “anyone”……”my nan could do better”.
I don’t know your nan mate. But she couldn’t.
I’m a very calm bloke. Very.
But the original part of this ‘fellow Gooner’s’ comment has made me want to go all the more (having deleted my real thoughts 5 times now).
I am Arsenal through and through.
As are you (I think).
Victoria Concordia Crescit……..look it up.
Oh…..I forgot, there was a game. And the performance and the result was ok. Last week’s opener makes it less of a positive. If we had won last week, today was not so bad. But a point from Leicester away is not a terrible result.
And that is whether our current manager was in charge…..or a tracksuit wearing, peaked cap wearing, running down the touchline, never ending pot of money spending alternative was at the helm.
See you at Watford I guess.
Sunday 14th August 2016
Any idea as to whether Liverpool will go on to challenge at the very top of this year’s Premier League is impossible to predict. In one of their ‘tougher’ fixtures on paper however, they go home with the three points. On top of the disappointment of defeat is the frustration that our visitors really didn’t play that well.
Our pre-season went pretty well I feel but all of us experts are united in our opinion that a good squad could become a potentially great one with a couple of additions. And if ever that was emphasised that was today.
Don’t get me wrong, I thought we played quite well in the first half. A goal and a missed penalty backs up the fact we were the better side and equally as important we looked pretty sound in defence too, our visitors limited to no more than a couple of half chances.
And we were unlucky enough to go in level at the break to an absolute ‘worldy’ of a free kick.
But if we took the game by the scruff of the neck in a similar fashion after half time we were in with a massive chance of getting a positive result.
Whatever was said in the interval however, and I assume it was start with the same intensity as we did from kick-off, it certainly didn’t get carried out onto the pitch.
Two big defensive injuries in the same position pre-season is unlucky. I get that. But even if they didn’t occur we all knew it was an area that needed strengthening. And we haven’t done that.
And up front the story is the same. Olly Giroud is a decent centre forward. As is Danny Welbeck. But they are not available. We knew that many weeks ago. Alexis is an awesome player. But he is no centre forward. Today his role looked almost irrelevant at times.
Going forward however, is not our biggest concern. We have players in our squad all over the pitch who can score goals. And if you get three at home, you should win any game.
Our visitors today some good goals but all (apart perhaps from the opener) were avoidable with better defensive play. And in that crucial 15 – 20 minutes after half time when we needed to start again and make that first half dominance repeat itself we were nowhere to be seen.
I’ve seen us score 4 at Anfield. In fact in one game I saw us score 6. But very very rarely have I seen us concede 4 at home. But today that happened and we got beat.
Taking the positives, we were good in the first half and we battled to make a game of it from an impossible situation.
But letting in 4 goals and losing to a side that really weren’t that good is extremely worrying.
It is easy to criticise team choices and tactical decisions after a game and with the benefit of hindsight. Especially when you get beat. That cannot be argued. But after 45 minutes today it looked like we had got it right. What went wrong from there is more difficult to comprehend.
The trip to Leicester comes next, not a fixture that needs any additional build up. The Foxes are the Champions of England they host our team smarting from today’s disappointment.
That game can’t come round quick enough in my book.
Chins up people.
Monday 8th August 2016
Pre-season has always been a thoroughly entertaining adventure. And from Lens to San Jose to Los Angeles to Stavanger to Gothenburg, this has been no different. But along with all the incredible sights, sounds and experiences comes a whole heap of tiredness. And as I sit here in yet another airport reflecting on the last few weeks, the word ‘exhaustion’ springs to mind!!
I have been to Sweden 4 times before. As a teenager I spent a day in Helsingborg staggering around in circles due to the sheer volume of beautiful blue eyed blonde ladies present in the city, something a naive English teen was always going to struggle to hide!
A good friend’s stag weekend in Stockholm saw another visit, the same city playing host back in November 1999 when we beat AIK Solna in the Champions League, my only trip to the country for football to date.
A 4th visit was for a game but was kinda by default, an air traffic control strike in Oslo meaning our journey involved an unplanned flight to Stockholm followed by a 7 hour drive up to Trondheim in Norway for Rosenborg away!
This trip has technically included a few hours in Denmark, a flight via Copenhagen being our group’s chosen route given the fact there are no return flights from Stavanger to Gothenburg.
Back in 1980 I was too young to be making my way to European away games so I didn’t get to Gothenburg for our cup winners cup fixture. So the last few days has been my first visit. And with the Champions League format dictating it is becoming increasingly unlikely we will get to visit new destinations this was a city I was thoroughly looking forward to checking out.
The journey from Stavanger went relatively smoothly or at least it did if you forget the 1 hour delay on the 2nd portion due to the SAS pilot “being delayed on an incoming flight”. So he didn’t get out of bed then.
Nowhere in Scandinavia is ‘cheap’ and that includes eating and drinking. I guess you either go with that……or stay indoors and eat Pot Noodle. I can’t stand that stuff…..so we went to the pub. Well, pubs to be totally accurate. It was Saturday night after all. And it proved an excellent way to get pre-season’s final leg off to a fine start.
Matchday came next of course and after collecting our match tickets from the ground we met up with the usual suspects, the number of Gooners present massively swelled by the thousands of Swedes proudly wearing the cannon on their chests.
The Ullevi Stadium is one of the world’s most iconic sporting arenas and as a result I was really looking forward to seeing it. The structure’s huge curves make it pretty unique and being located pretty much in the city centre you couldn’t miss it.
After enjoying the afternoon’s refreshment filled build up however, inside the stadium was disappointing. Both ends had been ‘replaced’ with temporary stands made with scaffolding, a small one housing the few City fans in the ground and a huge monstrosity for the many thousands of Gooners.
I’m not a fan of these types of stands, not just because they look terrible but for me they never look or feel ‘safe’. Consequently I had a bit of a hissy fit and a kind steward allowed me and a couple of the other lads to take a place along the side……..5 yards from the bar. Result!! I needed something to calm my stress you see😉
Pre-season so far has been pretty successful I would say. Victories, goals and decent performances against opposition of varying levels of ability have more than added to the overall enjoyment.
Man City was highly likely to be our toughest test yet.
Our 4th encounter in recent pre-seasons, 2 wins and 1 defeat in our previous 3 provide evidence that the games can go either way.
3 good goals and coming from one behind was very pleasing. Any defeat pre-season is not the end of the world but winning is a fantastic habit. And I hate losing in any game, no matter how important.
A brief firework display brought events to a close before chewing the cud back in the city centre for a few hours after.
A touristy stroll around the city’s picturesque streets today brought another pre-season extravaganza to a relaxing conclusion and pretty much brings us up to date.
The last few weeks have been energy sapping……but absolutely fantastic. The memories however, are purely personal. The football side will be quickly forgotten, certainly by the media etc.
It’s time to put my worn out passport away for a few weeks.
The important part begins now, starting with Sunday’s visit of Liverpool.
Come on you mighty reds!!
Saturday 6th August 2016
Last night was only the second time I have seen us play in Norway, an eventful trip to Trondhem a few years back being the first. And the way I feel writing these notes on my short flight from Stavanger to Copenhagen, our latest host city certainly delivered! Friday night I guess.
Following our team I have made many friends down the years, one of the dozens of positives in doing what we do. And our team’s globetrotting mean those acquaintances are from far and wide.
Norway is very much one such country and it has been good friends living just south of Stavanger who have looked after our travelling party on this occasion. Our first meet in the ‘Blue Room’ in Bad Waltersdorf, Austria seems a long time ago!
Arriving Thursday evening, great food, beer and company made sure this leg of the pre-season tour got off to a relaxing start before we headed into our host city yesterday morning.
I have been lucky enough to visit on a previous occasion and I recall it being a small, pretty and quiet place. The beauty certainly hasn’t disappeared but 2 huge cruise ships being moored up in the harbour took away any chance of it not being busy this time!
Having taken a stroll we took advantage of hospitality at its very best provided by a fanatical Norwegian Gooner living in the city’s suburbs.
Having converted his double garage into an ‘Arsenal room’ with full bar and huge amounts of memorabilia, his beloved Gooners being in town meant he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to hold a party all afternoon pre-match.
And with great food, beer, company and transport to the stadium, it could not possibly have been a better way to enjoy the build up.
I can’t pass up this opportunity to mention one amusing moment. Deciding to get the Maidstone Gooners flag out at the party, there was a little difficulty in finding where to hang it. Our host however, as hospitable as always, came up with an instant solution. Armed with a power drill he proceeded to wack two 6 inch screws into the side of his house!! Hilarious.
All in all it meant we arrived at the Viking Stadium ‘refreshed’ to say the least, a factor that always leads to us grown ups doing things like purchasing merchandise you would never buy in a million years on a day without a party in a crazy Norwegian Gooner’s garden!
So far this has been a trip of ‘firsts’ and winning 8 nil is another. It is always fantastic to see a few goals……but Viking probably didn’t quite provide the test we would be looking for in an ideal world. The first half was slightly tougher than the second of course but with a missed penalty and the goalkeeper making a string of great saves, the one nil half time scoreline didn’t reflect our dominance.
Not that I would want anyone to think the above means I am moaning! I’ll take 1 nil if it means a win. And fitness and good finishing made last night a thoroughly worthwhile exercise.
Post match events continued in the same way as those earlier in the day, Stavanger’s Friday night life proving thoroughly entertaining well into the wee small hours.
Hence the headache and nausea on this flight.
Talking of which, we have begun our descent on our first flight of 2 today so it’s time to sign off.
Sweden and Gothenburg on a Saturday night await as the party continues.
And if the Swedish Gooners prove as hospitable as their counterparts from Norway it will be another fine couple of days.
Our friends from Norway, thank you once again. You have been awesome.
Ole Gunnar Solsjaer, Henning Berg, Morten Harket, Erik Thorsvedt, Miss Norway(!)……your boys took one helluva beating!!😉