Wednesday 26th October 2016
For the second time in the last few days last night’s victory over Reading certainly wont live long in the memory bank. But in games that fall into that category, the number 1 priority is we get the result if nothing else. And as we look forward to tonight’s draw that will determine who we take on in the last 8, another couple of goals and a clean sheet make the whole situation very satisfying.
For most midweek home games I tend to drive (or get driven), the only reason being it can be the difference between getting in at 1am or 4am in the morning. Yesterday was no different and the lack of traffic school half term week can often mean made it a very comfortable and easy journey up from my part of the world.
It meant I could relax, enjoy some pre-match tucker and even have time to have a walk round The Armoury store before heading off to enjoy my more regular routine. The shop is pretty spectacular these days and a far cry from the almost ‘kiosk’ like version near the old Clock End turnstiles ran successfully for many years by ex Arsenal goalkeeper Jack Kelsey and his colleagues.
The late Jack is very much an Arsenal legend. A one club man he made over 300 appearances for us and represented Wales on 41 occasions. After making his debut in 1949 his playing career ended in 1963 but he would go on working on the commercial side for an amazing 26 further years.
Just 4 years after he retired from the playing side we took on Reading on 11th October 1968 and like last night it was a League Cup tie. Little did Gooners know Peter Simpson’s winning goal that night would ultimately contribute to a run that took us all the way to Wembley. Leeds beat us that day but it was definitely a sign of what was to come over the next few years.
Being only our 3rd attempt at success in the League Cup, the competition was only really beginning to drum up bigger interest amongst Arsenal fans, a fact demonstrated in the programme that night being only a 4 pager! This meant there was only room for the team line ups, kit descriptions, match officials, the Met Police Band’s ‘Programme of Music’ for the evening and a team picture and details of the Reading team we would face.
Arsenal connections with The Royals that night included ex Gunner Dave Bacuzzi ‘keen to recover from a broken leg to play against his former club tonight’ and Colin Meldrum ‘captain of the side and returning to Highbury nine years after beginning his career as an Arsenal ground-staff boy’!
Returning to my current day visit to the club shop, like all of us I find it very difficult to pop in and just peruse! Consequently, approximately 20 minutes later I left a fair few quid lighter and with more ‘luggage’ to haul around on a match night!
As I’ve mentioned many times down the years I tend to purchase a seat in an alternative part of the stadium for League Cup ties and last night was no different. For me it always emphasises one thing above all else and that is you witness a totally different game depending on your vantage point.
My location on this occasion was West Stand Lower Tier near the away team dugout and it certainly gave an excellent view of the Ox’s fine first goal. Massively deserved it came at the end of an opening period where we could and probably should have been 3 or 4 goals to the good and have already put the game to bed.
Being just 1 ahead our visitors had their moments but overall we looked pretty comfortable throughout. We needed that second, if nothing else so as to avoid potential extra time etc. and a 4am home arrival for me! The Ox duly provided and it was job done on the night.
His performance was certainly a plus point as was the fact both Jenko and Olly got vital pitch minutes as they get back to full fitness. Attack wise we have been pretty good so far this season but Olly provides something that nobody else in our squad is capable of. And Saturday’s game at home to Middlesbrough was arguably as good an example as any of how much we could have done with him as an option.
Many of those out there last night also gave us a great example of the depth of younger talent in our club. They all impressed as they look to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Alex Iwobi, a player who has not only enjoyed an incredible year but has the potential to go on and be something very special.
The next few days involves considerable travel in the UK and Europe. That story begins with the long trip to Sunderland. All being well I will be there of course and that, along with our first ever visit to Bulgaria, I plan to keep you up to date with events….warts ‘n’ all!
2 steps from Wembley…….
Monday 24th October 2016
Every season we play you get games like Saturday. Even those where we have gone on to win the league. Matches against teams that everyone expects you to not just beat but take apart. Yet although it was disappointing and frustrating I have certainly come away from other games feeling far more negative.
Friday night was all a bit strange for me. Almost surreal in fact. Back in 1998 we sealed our 2nd League and FA Cup double. Marc Overmars and Nic Anelka banged in the goals as we overcame Newcastle at Wembley and Tony Adams’ ‘would you believe it’ moment depicted by his statue outside our new home put the icing on the cake of a league title success that looked miles away around Christmas that season.
On October 22nd that same year, just as we did everything we could to achieve the same again, I went to a gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire. When I went through the doors my baby sister was very much in the late stages of pregnancy. And by the time The Black Crowes had finished their set and I headed into the West London night not only was I an uncle for the first time but she had given birth to twin boys!!
18 years on and on Friday I went along to a party where they celebrated what used to be referred to as ‘coming of age’. Being quite fond of the occasional ‘jolly’ I got involved as always, doing my best to be that embarrassing uncle I hope they are proud of us much as I am them! But if I didn’t feel 28 years older than them on the night…….I certainly did the following morning as I got ready to head up to the streets of London N5!
Being away from my abode my journey didn’t follow the usual routine although once in the more familiar surroundings of our football club the match day build up certainly did. And with the nausea gone and feeling ‘back in the game’ I was as confident as anyone that we could come away from the day with another positive result.
If ever the point there is another team out on that pitch was relevant it was Saturday afternoon. Defending in great numbers and deeply throughout the game made it extremely difficult to break them down. And in the first half they not only created a couple of opportunities but they were arguably the most clear cut in the whole match. And for that our visitors deserve credit just as much as we might analyse our deficiencies.
We were better in the second half I felt and came close to scoring on a few occasions especially as the game wore on but overall we simply weren’t at our best.
Taking the positives however, thanks to good defending and a couple of great stops from Petr Cech in the first period we didn’t concede. And if you achieve that you will come out of the day with more points than you had before a ball was kicked.
And for me, when you don’t necessarily deserve to win the game it is far easier to swallow than if you completely batter your opponents without winning.
Nottingham provided a thoroughly entertaining midweek night out a month or so ago and the result that night earned us a home tie against Reading. Both clubs were of course involved in a fixture in the same competition in recent times that will go down as one of the most memorable in League Cup history.
To equal the fare produced that night is quite an ask but an entertaining evening and successful progression through to the last eight will be equally satisfying should we achieve it this time round.
Come on you mighty reds!
Thursday 20th October 2016
Yesterday was always going to be enjoyable off the pitch. A friend and fellow season ticket holder reached a half century in years so a lunchtime meet was arranged in central London. To remember reaching that milestone with a nice 6 nil Champions League thumping was the icing on his birthday cake. And for those not celebrating it was pretty fine too!
Looking back at a fixture from the past has proved impossible on this occasion of course. Not only have we never played Ludogorets Razgrad but from what I understand we have never taken on any team from the country of Bulgaria. I’ve never even been there on holiday so a tale of experience will not be coming from that avenue. Not that anyone would be interested in that anyway!
Covent Garden played host to yesterday’s build up, a fine hostelry looking after us on the food and liquid front accompanied by all the usual banter. Trying desperately to not sound totally condescending however, it lacked the PMT, anticipation and general excitement of a Champions League night when the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich come to town.
Our friends from Razgrad are the outsiders in our Champions League group and they came to North London to take on our team who are very much in form right now. So, on paper, it looked like there could be only one outcome. If we as fans go into a game thinking like that it doesn’t matter too much. The danger was if our players did the same. Complacency could lead to us coming unstuck as perhaps, we have in the past.
Alexis’ sublime chip gave us the start we needed but our visitors showed plenty of reasons to know we were in a game over the next 30 minutes or so. But without conceding, one more goal would pretty much see us home and dry. And Theo’s stunning strike from distance gave us just that.
So half time and it was all smiles, comfort and confidence that we could go on and reach 7 points from our first three games in the group. As always at 2 nil, the next goal is hugely important and once the Ox slotted home to make sure it was us, the whole affair felt like a case of ‘how many’ rather than ‘win or lose’.
In the latter stages Mesut helped himself to a quick fire hat-trick, finishing some thoroughly decent passes with aplomb and turning a comfortable victory into a bit of a rout..
So, another thoroughly entertaining and successful Champions League night puts us in a strong position. We are only half way through however, so we still have plenty of work to do to reach the knockout stages.
Thoughts now return to the Premier League and another home game, this time as we welcome Middlesbrough to North London. Another one that looks good on paper…..but so did Swansea at home last weekend and that proved to be a tough old afternoon.
There are hundreds of football clichés out there and ‘there are no easy games’ is just one of them. If we show that the respect it deserves, we will be switched on and ready for this latest hurdle.
Come on you mighty reds!
Monday 17th October 2016
It is near on impossible to come any closer to grabbing a hat-trick as Theo did on Saturday afternoon. A ball hitting the inside of the post and going out for a goal kick on the other side of the goal seems almost a physical miracle! More important than all that however, it didn’t prove costly. You can only get three points and although I’m sure individually he is a little bit disappointed he didn’t go home with the match ball, we showed a little bit of grit in those final 20 minutes or so to make sure we didn’t lose a game that we should have won comfortably well before that last period.
Man City missed two penalties in their game for example. Neither would be remembered if the home side went on to take the three points. But they didn’t and those 2 missed spot kicks cost them two points.
Back on New Years Day 1983 The Swans came to Highbury for a league game watched by just over 25 thousand people. Alan Sunderland and Tony Woodcock helped clear the hangovers, their goals securing a 2-1 home victory in what was very much a stuttering league season overall. A run to the semi finals of both domestic cup competitions was the closest we came to any glory whilst the long drawn out signing of stylish Yugoslavian international Vladmir Petrovic gave an early insight into what overseas players could bring to the game.
Those of you who regularly read my thoughts know I enjoy looking back at old programmes as I really believe they give an incredible ‘snapshot in time’. The adverts are very much part of that whole package, JVC’s latest stacking system a perfect example of how life has changed over the last 30 years or so.
Fresh from our success in the November Daily Express 5 aside National Football Championship at Wembley Arena, the programme included a supplement advertising the ‘Atari Soccer 6’ tournament to take place at the NEC and yes, incredibly when we look at today’s game, it would include first team players in each squad. The sponsor didn’t pass up the opportunity to promote its latest games console giving all of us the chance to play the likes of Space Invaders, Defender and Pac Man in the comfort of our own homes. Hi tech stuff!
We all like Saturday 3pm games I think, more than anything because it gives us a chance to undertake our home game routines, many of which have remained pretty much the same throughout our Arsenal supporting lives. As a result our most recent example was thoroughly enjoyable on an unseasonably warm afternoon.
Every opposing team has their supposed strengths and weaknesses but when looking at any fixture pre-match I always feel it is more about us. If we concentrate 100%, we are sharp from minute 1 to minute 90+ and fight for each other throughout, our obvious footballing ability gives us a fantastic chance to win any match.
And Saturday I felt no different.
Until we conceded I thought we were dominating the game all over the pitch. Our 2 goal lead was deserved and looked like being extended at any moment rather than being pegged back.
People talk about ‘mistakes’ in football all the time. Every person analysing his team’s defending will say every single goal conceded was as a result of a mistake and likewise when looking at a goal scored for your team we talk about the good finish or the good run or the good offensive work.
Defensively, if someone lamps one in from 25 yards, not blocking the shot is called into question. Offensively however, it’s a fantastic strike. I think you get the picture!
One silly error on Saturday and we were punished in the harshest possible way. The Swansea striker still had plenty to do when he won the ball…….but credit where credit is due, he buried it from outside the box.
And from domination and comfort, that one tiny moment can change a game completely.
It was important to get through to half time I felt and we did that fairly comfortably and the second period pretty much started in the same way as the first. Again we looked dominant and Mesut’s stunning far post volley restored the 2 goal cushion.
A mixture of poor defending and good movement saw Swansea score again however, before arguably the biggest talking point of the game could have so easily seen us all go home disappointed.
For me it is a very difficult one to decide on an opinion. All we want as fans is consistency I feel. Or maybe an explanation as to exactly what rule changes there are. Because if that was a red card I’m not sure I know the rule.
We constantly hear the likes of Shearer, Lineker, Keown, Murphy, Neville, Kamara and the like talk about a tackle where the player ‘takes one for the team’. They even go as far as calling it a ‘good foul’. If that is the way a tackle like Saturday’s is looked at, almost lauded in fact, we cannot then be hypocritical and say he deserved to go.
Granit took the player down, knew he had done it and was ready to take the yellow card on the chin. Just like every other time we see a similar ‘tackle’ week in week out all over the country. But if that is now a sending off and warrants the ban that comes with it, I’ve missed the rule change. The coming weeks will determine whether others guilty of exactly the same receive similar punishment.
With over 25 minutes to go including the inevitable 4 minutes injury time, it looked a worrying situation. But, as a result of digging in and working for each other and of course our visitors missing a few good chances we got those three massive points. Hugely pleasing from a quite crazy game.
Theo could have put the game to bed during those latter stages of course but save your luck mate for another day when it could be more crucial.
Ludogorets Razgrad come to the Home of Football next as we look to build on our good start in this year’s European assault. I can’t claim to know anything about our friends from Bulgaria but I’m sure those most important within our club have done their homework.
See you on Wednesday under the lights.
Monday 3rd October 2016
When you get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and get back into bed nearly 19 hours later having spent a substantial amount of hard earned cash and taken 2 ferries and driven nearly 600 miles, it is very difficult to explain to someone that every little last bit was worth it due to approximately 30 seconds of utter bedlam. Except other football fans of course. They get it. 100%.
Walking up the pier to catch my ferry it was a quite beautiful morning. Although I’ve seen it time and time again, I stopped to take a picture. There is something even more beautiful when there is hardly anybody or anything about to witness it. And despite my slightly misty head brought about by an unplanned Saturday that was supposed to be quiet but didn’t quite work out that way due to a beer festival, a stop off in the ‘local’ and Al Murray at my local theatre, it was an early morning scene that comfortably lifted the spirits enough to look forward to the long long journey ahead.
If a gorgeous Autumn morning is something to behold, motorway service stations are completely the other end of the spectrum and the food we purchased on this occasion half way up the M6 could be described as ‘fuel’ and nothing else. Dreadful places. Yet we still find ourselves regularly parting with our money for their overpriced garbage that should really go straight in the bin rather than on a plate.
But, if that was the only thing we had to complain about it was time to put things into perspective. In a weekend when shockingly a fellow football fan lost his life when he was ‘guilty’ of nothing more than jumping on a supporters coach to go and see his team play, we saw as many as 4 road accidents during our return journey. Knowing that could be any one of us is a sobering thought.
Fortunately nobody was hurt but a number of travelling Gooners were also involved in an accident on Sunday lunchtime, this time on the country’s rail network. A text to one of our travelling party advised, “not sure if we are gonna get there mate, we have stopped south of Peterborough as a train in front has hit a cow!”
Reports suggest not only did a number of animals sadly die in the incident but many of our travelling army didn’t get to Turf Moor as a result. But….as far as I’m aware they are safe. And as disappointing and as frustrating as not getting to a game is for all those of us who travel the globe week in week out, that has to be the main thing.
Directly behind the away end at Burnley is the town’s cricket club. And on matchdays its facilities are open to those attending the impending football match. And for its simplicity and convenience alone it is where we headed as in previous visits. The quite glorious sunshine was the unexpected bit but extremely pleasant nonetheless. Ambre Solaire, Burnley and October don’t generally go hand in hand!
Turf Moor has a very old fashioned and traditional feel about it, none more so than the away section. But, as much as the facilities are not necessarily fantastic (although much improved to be fair), these type of stands and stadia do tend to keep a good atmosphere. And the locals certainly get behind their team.
As always much has been said about the game and in particular the winning goal. Before Sunday, our hosts had conceded only 5 goals in their previous 17 home matches, including of course a clean sheet and a victory against a Liverpool outfit impressing many this season. That fact alone should have tempered the opinion we were going to completely wipe the floor with them.
Admittedly I’m sure I was one of many that felt if we could get an early goal the whole game could change and the way we play on the break more could follow. But, the longer the game went on at nil nil coupled with our hosts obvious ability with set pieces, the game could be an extremely tricky one to come away from with a positive result.
And….so it proved.
Although I do agree we looked a little bit ‘flat’ I also feel we could be guilty once again of forgetting there are two teams out there. Burnley play a particular system. And they play it extremely well. I’ve seen very few teams in fact, that are more well drilled in doing what they are good at. Along with defending from the front all game in a bid to prevent us playing the football we do straight from the goalkeeper, the Clarets’ 2 banks of 5 and 4 in front of their own box was as compact as any I’ve witnessed. And until the very last seconds of the game it looked like it was going to work once again.
Looking at our goal in two ways there is no doubt we were a tad fortunate. Without video evidence I think the potential offside was near on impossible to see. Only replays confirmed exactly how the ball reached the back of the net for starters. Personally I think it wasn’t handball. Even if I was watching a game as a neutral I would think the same. Laurent knew absolutely nothing about it. It could have hit him on his chin, his nose or his earhole, he still wouldn’t have known. And that is the point behind my view. Having seen the referee’s view in the TV replay however, I am very surprised it was given, hence why I believe we were fortunate.
But, do you know what? I couldn’t give a flying pheasant! We kept going to the very end and nicked two extra points from a very tough game on the day. And I challenge any Burnley fan to not have felt exactly the same had it been the other way round.
With a long journey ahead I tend to head towards the exit so as to make a swift getaway at most games. But fortunately, I never leave before the end. And, as you can imagine, it was total and utter carnage. Fully grown adults leaping and jostling and cuddling total strangers is all a bit odd. But it was those 30 seconds that made the whole journey worthwhile.
Walking out I bumped into a group who had been delayed by the cow incident. They had made it to kick-off by the skins of their teeth. And that desperately late scrambled winner meant they were right to keep going when getting to the ground looked unlikely. It turned what could have been a nightmare day for them into a thoroughly good one.
Enjoy the break boys and girls and be safe.
Thursday 29th September 2016
Although the spelling is not quite the same, arguably the 2 most famous Basils us Brits know are both from the art of comedy (although admittedly of very different and varying levels!) There was Basil Fawlty of course, the bungling proprietor of the Fawlty Towers Hotel what was and still is a legendary sitcom long since passed. And then there was the puppet that was Basil Brush. Similar eras but…..as I said…..very different in their field! I could also mention the well known herb too……well……I just have. And that will do.
The puppet however, had a quite famous line of two words, often quoted after an attempt at comedy. Having won 2 nil against our friends from FC Basel of Switzerland, those 2 words seem quite apt the day after another excellent performance.
But if it wasn’t for their goalkeeper on the night you could at least treble the number of times those 2 words would be used!
Champions League nights have always been very different to those in our normal week to week domestic season. Both on and off the pitch.
Firstly those club to club rivalries are rare and secondly the matches themselves can be extremely different tactically than an English League affair. But, as last night proved, if your attacking performance is as good as the way we played on Saturday for example, a positive result will still be the outcome.
Basel are no mugs. Far from it. They are in the Champions League yet again on merit, they have a huge amount of experience in the competition now and in 8 previous games in Europe against English sides, they have never lost. Not 1 or 2. Eight. Home and away against your Chelseas, your Liverpools, your Man Utds, your Tottenhams of this world, the latter being on a Thursday of course.
Our first half performance was almost mindboggling I felt. The attacking football was out of this world. We created clear cut opening after clear cut opening with some quite dazzling football. The 2 goals were of course thoroughly deserved but it is no exaggeration that it could quite easily have been 6 or 7 by the break.
The scorer has had a great start to the season. Often a frustrating player and one many Gooners were genuinely starting to lose their patience with, the one thing where we are all 100% agreed is we all would rather he went on to be a total success in the red and white of Arsenal. That will depend on him, his confidence and probably above all given his history, if he manages to remain injury free.
The programme last night confirmed Theo is reaching a milestone. After his double he is only a couple of goals from being in the top 20 of our all time goalscorers. And if he keeps this form up he will be heading for that top 10 sooner rather than later.
Our professional second half performance, similarly to Saturday made sure it was another fine night and puts us in a great position to go on and progress from the group over the next couple of months.
Turf Moor Burnley awaits and a long old Sunday it promises to be. That time however, will feel much shorter if we continue our good run and come home with a positive result.
Come on you…..er…..yellows! (I assume!)
Monday 26th September 2016
There was something very beautiful about Saturday. Something rather special. And it certainly wasn’t just that people got to see me attend a home game wearing something a little bit more normal than a flashing fluffy ‘gilet’!
Beating that lot from the Russian end of Fulham has proved rather difficult in recent times you see. In fact it has proved frustratingly impossible at times, even on days where we’ve arguably been the better side.
But for a couple of quite awesome hours at the weekend, we not only beat them, we took them apart. And it was extremely enjoyable.
We went into the game in good form of course, every result and performance being thoroughly decent since our opening day disappointment. And with our visitors losing a couple of games in recent weeks it was an overall package that had many Gooners pretty confident it could be our day on this occasion. But, we’ve been there before. On many occasions in recent times. And we came out the other side with nothing.
So, although I am extremely positive and was confident we were very capable of winning, I also approached the game with understandable trepidation.
From minute one we certainly looked up for it but the mistake that led to Alexis’ superb finish was crucial. That lift a goal gives to everyone was never more evident but if the noise levels were high they were nothing compared to the ecstasy that followed when Theo finished off a simply stunning passing move to double our lead. Get in.
Three nil at half time did not flatter us one bit after Mesut and Alexis bamboozled the Chelsea defence once again to complete a near on perfect first half display.
An early goal for our visitors in the second period would have meant game on of course so it was all about being switched on from minute one and being thoroughly professional. And we added both those attributes to our sharpness and desire to see the game out. A fantastic performance, there’s no other way to describe it.
5.30pm kick-offs are quite enjoyable to be honest. But that extra couple of hours does tend to mean things can get a little bit messy. Personally I had one of those tricky situations to overcome on Saturday where I fully intended to thoroughly enjoy the build up in the traditional fashion but needed to remain aware that I was supposed to be attending a birthday meal afterwards!
Not something that is too difficult to achieve I’m sure you are thinking but it was good day. One of those. One where we spanked Chelsea 3 nought. One where the train journey home was that cosily satisfying that actually remaining awake was undeniably difficult.
But I did. Just. A sudden jolt woke me up, the train doors were open and it was my stop. Job done.
Fortunately those attending the meal were expecting me to have ‘enjoyed my day’ so it was no shock when a forty something idiot grinning like a Cheshire cat strolled into the restaurant looking for the table with a spare seat! Never in doubt. Happy days.
FC Basel come to London N5 on Wednesday night and will be very much aware they will need to be totally on their game. Given our recent run of form, this alone means we have to do everything to concentrate on not being complacent.
Having fought hard for an excellent point in Paris last time out we need to back that up with a win this week. And if we perform to the level we are proving we can there is every chance that will happen.
Come on you mighty reds!
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.