A Very Personal Fixture List

Wednesday 17th June 2015

Summer time is not normally a period where I add my latest blog. But, just like the season’s opening day or the FA Cup 3rd Round draw, the fixtures coming out is one of ‘those’ days where I feel like a little kid. And it is lunchtime. And I need a break from my day to day working routine….mainly because 4 days at the Isle of Wight Festival has seriously taken it out of me yet again!

Like many of us I treat the fixtures very personally. Especially as I am an Arsenal addict so not attending a fixture doesn’t ever come into any initial equation!

Saying that however, although my choices are relatively flexible, you’ve probably guessed by now I do have a life outside football. When it comes to my passion however, I’m very selfish too. I don’t like doing things I don’t want to. No pretending from me I’m afraid. If there is something I would prefer to be doing that’s pretty much the direction I head. And yep, as I sit here in my mid-forties I have lost relationships, jobs and worse as a result.

Norwich away for a league cup replay when on holiday north of Inverness was one such choice. Scarborough away in the fog when I was supposedly at a meeting in Crawley another. But do these (and many other) occasions make me a bad person? Inconsiderate? Maybe. Unable to compromise? Probably. Stubborn? On occasion. But fixtures like this were not on an initial ‘list’. So I had made other arrangements. Now, quite simply, other than the odd gig ticket I could sell if it clashes, I don’t. It’s easier you see.

On the other hand am I truthful and honest to myself? Definitely. Love and respect my family and friends? 100%.

And I don’t smash up telephone boxes, be abusive to others, get physically violent, push drugs, steal, be racist, stitch people up etc etc etc.

So as an overall package, I am extremely happy in my life choices, despite like each and every one of us, making many mistakes along the way.

All of the above mean however, that when I look at the fixture list announcement my brain works something like this;

Who we got first game? Could do with a London fixture as wedding reception Saturday evening. West Ham at home. That’s a good start. Even better if its moved to Saturday lunchtime or Sunday. Saturday evening would cause an issue. One I’d deal with of course. But one it would be handy to avoid.

Weekend of the 22nd is the next I need to look at. Got tickets for The Ashes cricket at The Oval for the Saturday. So could do with a game that can be moved to Sunday. Liverpool at home. Definitely TV possibilities there. Promising stuff. Again if it doesn’t get moved the Arsenal come first. I’ll sell the cricket tickets if that happens.

The following week I have music festival tickets for both days. So it was always highly likely I would miss one of the 2 days. Something Saturday in London would be good. Moved to Saturday lunchtime would be perfect. Newcastle away. Shit. Not very helpful that one. I can fly up and back to that one though. So I will still get to one day of the festival. And its bank holiday weekend. No Champions League Fixtures to follow. So I’ll cling on to the fact it could be moved to the Monday night! You never know.

Bestival is on the weekend of the 12th/13th September. And I have tickets of course. Why wouldn’t I. It’s awesome and just down the road. Knew I would be missing a little bit of it for football but a London game would be very handy. Stoke at home. That’ll do. Make it Saturday or Sunday lunchtime please TV companies. No hang on. Won’t be moved to Sunday. We have our first Champions League Group match that week! Go for Saturday lunchtime please TV people. That would be just perfect.

The following week and I do have a potential problem. One of my very best mates is getting married. The idiot! ;-). Not for getting married of course. But for doing it in the football season. He should know the rules. June is the month for weddings. Need a fixture that not only could be moved for TV but one that is the biggest fixture of the weekend. Surely then there is a massive chance it could be Sunday at 4pm. Chelsea away. Probably couldn’t have handpicked that any better. Especially as both clubs will be playing in the Champions League the previous midweek. Fingers crossed on that one.

Etc. etc. etc.

Mid July we normally find out TV’s full selections. Then and only then can I start to put together my totally selfish and personal diary. Only until the end of November though of course.

December 2015 and onwards will have to wait for the next TV announcement.

I should have one or two days free in June 2016 though.

ATWD

Frank
@stubbsy70

Heroes and Villains

Wednesday 3rd June 2015

Someone stated in the media this week that it has been an embarrassingly dreadful week for football. I beg to differ!

Arsenal Football Club
FA Cup Winners
Again

And as Cup Final performances go, there can have been few better down the years. Get in there you beauties!

I’ve decided to get away for a few days. Away from stress, emotion and ticketing madness. Although a short period enjoying some sunshine was always going to be something I was thoroughly looking forward to, I was also extremely aware that my mood would be totally decided by the outcome of Saturday evening’s events.

Tried and tested plans over the last couple of years meant I was 99% confident pre-match activities would be smooth, enjoyable and successful. The important bit inside the stadium on the other hand, we could have no more influence than the colour and noise we created.

And I was nervous. Every Gooner I spoke to in fact, appeared to be experiencing that very same emotion. Rather than this be a bad thing however, I am extremely happy that my team, results and success mean so much to me.

With the benefit of hindsight we could wonder why this particular emotion was being felt so strongly I guess. Villa just about avoided relegation for a reason, demonstrated by the fact they got thoroughly spanked at Southampton in recent weeks and we had emphatically beaten our opponents in both this season’s league encounters.

Yet nobody could be anything other than impressed by the way they defeated Liverpool in their semi final.

Couple that with the fact, even though we have won all of them, at least three of our four Wembley occasions over the last 2 years have seen us just about get to the end of the roller coaster ride with a positive conclusion, all against sides where we were not only expected to go through but even hotter favourites than Saturday.

That concoction means butterflies. And as we all enjoyed our pre-match refreshment I had a swarm of them set up camp in my belly!

The build up is of course fantastic. TV, media and social forms of sporting news concentrate on little else but the final of the world’s greatest and most historic club cup competition. And for 2 years now we have been part of that focus. It leaves a wonderfully different form of feeling in that very same belly.

Leaving our pre-match location we took the tube to Wembley Park and that feeling as you embark on the walk up Wembley away is as strong and as emotional as the very first time I did it back in the seventies. A heady mix of pride, anticipation, excitement……and of course those butterflies.

Although very similar in many aspects two things really stand out to make it that little bit different to last year. Firstly replacing the mighty red and white was an absolute sea of yellow. A big meandering snake of it slowly heading towards the coliseum that is Wembley Stadium.

And for the first time in our recent love affair, at the top of the Wembley Way slope we all turned left. A bad omen? Possibly if you believe in that kinda thing. But the memories of a yellow clad Charlie George lying on the turf in 1971 and Alan Sunderland screaming expletives as he sprinted away back in 79 far outweigh any ‘bad’ stuff for me.

Those who know me well are very aware how much I love us playing in yelllloooowwwwwwww!

In through the turnstiles and through into your seat and the enormity of the whole day really hits home. I defy any passionate fan not to feel slightly emotional at that point.

A scene to make the hairs stand on end

A scene to make the hairs stand on end

The colour, the noise, the traditional cup final hymns and anthems and that moment when you realise the time has arrived are something to behold.

All the talking, all the opinions and all the speculation as to who will be picked are over. It’s time to turn up.

And boy did we do that.

The view from my seat

The view from my seat

Pretty much from minute one, not only did we dominate like we know we can but we looked sharp in defence quickly snuffing out any attempts from our opponents to venture towards our goal.

But that all important opener just wasn’t coming, despite creating numerous chances and looking extremely dangerous.

We all remember Theo’s smile and amusing gestures when he was being stretchered away 17 months ago. Almost aptly it was from an FA Cup tie, the first on what has become a history making unbeaten run. That seems a long long time ago. We haven’t lost since and after all the pain and rehabilitation his time on the very big stage had come.

A good move, an incredible leap from Alexis and bang. Pick that one out!

Theo roared with delight as the massed yellow army writhed and jostled as one. Thoroughly deserved, we were on our way.

At half time however, even after our impressive and dominant performance, those nerves very much remained. We were far from home and dry.

Sometimes, on the odd occasion, a cup final can be graced by a goal that is simply outrageous. Enter one Alexis Sanchez. If that wasn’t going to calm the nerves nothing would. A simply magnificent strike and in the yellow end we were nothing short of delirious. Awesome. Simply awesome.

Get in!

Get in!

It was fast becoming a massive party. Or if it wasn’t it did when the BFG nodded home another in what is fast becoming his favourite stadium.

Olly’s late 4th was almost that mint chocolate you have with your coffee at the very end of a meal you have thoroughly enjoyed. Magnificent. Perfect in fact.

And we partied as a result.

A party of yelllloooowwwwwwww!

A party of yelllloooowwwwwwww!

Last year was laced with relief as much as anything else. And that irritating media fuelled monkey was off our back too. This time for me felt even more satisfying.

We were dominant, we were majestic, we were awesome. We were Arsenal.

Magnificent!

Magnificent!

The celebrations went long into the night of course and even in my mid forties I still do childish things just to amuse myself like turning all the Sunday papers over in WHS Gatwick so the back page was prominent. Or seeing a bloke in a Tottenham shirt and just offering him a ridiculously over emphasised beaming smile whilst puffing out my cannon adorned chest. Etc etc etc.

And that brings me nicely to my little sunshine break.

It has a been another great week in the illustrious history of our great great football club.

Another Summer to enjoy before we take in the next chapter. One where our passion and ambition dictate we are all expectant and hopefully optimistic that this current crop can take the journey to the next level.

For now however, enjoy the break Gooners, wear that cannon on your chest with pride and refuel that passion for August.

May your Summer be yellow.

image

Frank
@stubbsy70

Ribbons of Yellow

Wednesday 27th May 2015

Sunday was always going to be a fine day out. Last games of any season always are. Throw in ingredients such as warm weather, Champions League football already secured, a thumping victory and the fact we all have an FA Cup Final to look forward to and its extremely easy to see why we enjoyed a fine few hours.

There are many Gooners who live in the vicinity of our great club, or visit the area as part of their every day lives. Many many thousands of others however, only head in to London N5 on matchdays or other events associated with Arsenal FC. As a result, for the majority Sunday will be our last visit until late July and only then if you have chosen to attend the Emirates Cup. Yet, although it is a ‘break’, incredibly that is only 9 weeks away! June is well and truly the only month that is totally ‘Arsenal free’!

With the intensity of week to week, day to day football for the other ten months of the year, this short period is always welcome, even amongst the most fanatical of us followers.

The last game of the season however, especially when it is at home, really does feel like a bit of closure and for that reason alone we all make the very most of it.

Sundays generally mean ‘engineering works’ and the rail companies hosting my journey didn’t fail to disappoint. So it was a longer journey than normal but one undertaken in good spirits and full of anticipation for the day’s events. All my fellow Gooners joined me in our usual haunt and the pre-match activities were full of refreshment and fantastic banter, the kind that can only be associated with following your team.

With the amount of chances we created against Swansea and Sunderland there was always a chance West Brom could be on the end of a hammering I felt. And for one half there isn’t really any other way it can be described. Two of the goals were things of real beauty, Theo’s opening thunderbolt a result of good movement and passing whilst Jack’s strike has to be one of the hardest shots we have ever witnessed. Two players banging on Mr Wenger’s door for a place in this Saturday’s starting eleven if ever we saw them! A tough decision for the boss……but a lovely one to have nonetheless.

A good way to close our league campaign for another season and to avoid the qualifier on this occasion is another step in the right direction. Challenging for the very summit has to be the next stage of this progression.

That is for discussion on another day I feel, as for the second year in succession and the 12th time in my lifetime we are heading to the FA Cup Final. The greatest cup competition in the world, bar none. If that doesn’t send a shiver up your spine, nothing in football ever will.

Anything can happen in a cup final, we all know that. We need to be on top of our game, take our opportunities, defend well and have that little bit of luck on our side. And the yellow end of Wembley Stadium can play its part. Villa will make some noise. We need to make sure we do too, just like against Hull last year.

Get those hats, scarves, shirts, badges, rosettes……and of course ribbons at the ready boys and girls. Let’s do this.

Que sera sera………

Frank
@stubbsy70

Peter Kay’s Car Share

Friday 22nd May 2015

One goal scored and two points gained from our last nine looks like a total disaster on paper. Admittedly its not ideal but if we avoid a mathematical catastrophe on Sunday a top three place has been secured. Without boring you with a phrase I’m sure you have all heard a thousand times over the last few days, if someone had offered that at Christmas we would have bitten their hand off.

For most of us, the season’s ticket applications, travel plans etc. are finally dying down…….or so you would have thought. Last minute scrambling and desperate searching for any remaining cup final tickets is more the reality of course, a situation that would be far less intense if the FA were to finally catch up with the modern world and the whole of football who agree that both the participating clubs should receive the majority of the tickets. I read this week Norwich have been given just under 40 thousand tickets for their play-off final this weekend. How is that fair when the 2 clubs in the FA Cup Final still, after all these years of everyone knowing it is so so wrong, receive only 24 odd thousand?!

The FA ‘need’ a showpiece game apparently. One where everyone in the FA ‘family’ get a chance to attend. There is an easy solution. Make it the Community Shield. Although still well supported, many teams’ fans are not ‘desperate’ to attend this fixture. You only need to look at how few Man City brought to the game in August last year to realise that! By making this change the cup final match tickets will end up in the hands of those that deserve to go. Not a referee’s mum from a Sunday League in Cumbria.

Along with this, recent announcements have meant a huge amount of time has been dedicated to applications and collation for the Asia Trophy in Singapore, the Emirates Cup, the Emirates FA Cup Final Screening, Season ticket renewals, Silver/Red/Family renewals in addition to various aspects of running our own Maidstone Arsenal Supporters Club. Quiet?! You’ve got to be kidding!

So a trip up to London N5 to watch our penultimate league game was almost a welcome break from the admin side to being a Gooner!

Against Swansea, as frustrating as it was, I felt we were extremely unlucky to get beaten. I think everyone would agree. On Wednesday night, although once again it is quite incredible that we didn’t score, our visitors had clear cut opportunities in the second half on the break and for that reason alone I genuinely believe a point was probably about right.

Despite all our possession and half chances the first half was pretty uninspiring if we are honest but I’d be wrong if I wasn’t confident that at some stage we would eventually break Sunderland down in the second period. Our visitors certainly put their bodies on the line and for their dogged determination and defending I offer my admiration. The fact the result they craved does not directly affect our situation also makes it far easier to swallow. Frustrating yes, but I’ve left a game far far more disappointed than Wednesday, on more than one occasion!

So why have I chosen the title for this particular piece?

Well, when being asked if the game was on the TV by someone who couldn’t attend on Wednesday I received the reply, “I’ll miss Peter Kay’s Car Share!” Although personally I will concede it is definitely one of the funnier programmes to have been launched in recent times (in my opinion), it probably goes some way to revealing the kind of Gooner I am when, even with the benefit of hindsight, I would still have rather been at a nil-nil Wednesday night draw with Sunderland!

We’ve played West Brom last game of the season before, in a recent season in fact. I remember that being both one of the most entertaining and nerve wracking days of my Gooner supporting life. A real rollercoaster of emotion. I don’t really expect this Sunday’s affair to be along those lines…..but being our last chance to follow the usual home matchday routine for another season, I am thoroughly looking forward to it as ever.

Enjoy the day boys and girls.

VCC

Frank
@stubbsy70

One Point Closer

Tuesday 19th May 2015

Three times we have been to Manchester this season and each time we have come away with something positive. I haven’t checked the facts but it must be a while where the three games have yielded two wins and a draw. We’ve played better than Sunday of course but a point was very satisfying nonetheless.

We had to be confident we could come away with something surely. Despite our defeat on Monday night we have been playing consistently well and had won in that part of Manchester already this season. Man Utd away however, is and always will be one of our toughest fixtures of the season. Couple that with the fact our hosts would have been confident they could nick that automatic champions league spot had they beaten us and it emphasizes even more that it is definitely a point gained rather than two dropped.

As seems to have been the case on a number of occasions this season my personal plans were a little bit different from the norm, a wedding in Kent on the Saturday meaning an early and rather fragile departure by train to join a mid morning departure from London Euston that was absolutely packed to the rafters. Fortunately I had a reserved seat but having to stand all the way to Manchester with the fares Virgin Trains charge is ridiculous in my book.

With a mix of southern based Man U fans and travelling Gooners making up the most of the passengers, it proved to be an entertaining journey, plenty of amusing light hearted banter and discussion about all things football making the time pass extremely quickly. I must also offer my thanks to the Gooners around me who kindly shared their ‘refreshment’ when getting to the onboard ‘shop’ was far from easy!

What has become our usual Manchester pre-match hostelry played host again as we look forward to the main event. A short and convenient taxi and it was game on.

Although by the letter of the law these days, enjoying a few pints before a football match can almost be ‘risky’, I am prepared to admit on Sunday I had taken part in such an activity. In fact I’m also prepared to admit, given the previous day’s entertainment, my friends’ hospitality on the journey up and enjoying pre-match at our last away game of the season, I may have enjoyed one or three too many. But I am very ‘happy’ in this condition, I offer no threat to anyone and I was a long long way from being able to look after myself or from knowing what I was doing. Those who have attended games with me all over the world during the last 35 years or so will confirm that.

But I do like a good sing…….and I do like it when we play in yellow. :-)

We deserved to be a goal behind at half time, I don’t think anyone can deny that. Our hosts enjoyed the best of the half and all of the few chances so I feel it was a fair reflection.

Slowly in the second period however, we took the game by the scruff of the neck and looked the team far more likely to score. With the clock ticking however, our opportunity appeared to be fading. Then Theo dropped the shoulder and his cross deflected home. Fortunate? Yes. But we’ll take it and the jostle in the away end was as fierce as expected.

On more than one occasion in the latter stages we could have even nicked it but overall it is difficult to argue it wasn’t a fair result on the day. A point will definitely do, especially as we were behind with less than ten minutes to go.

Another journey over land & sea comes to an end.

Another journey over land & sea comes to an end.

Our job is not completely done yet of course. In fact we have so so much more to play for.

That starts as we entertain Sunderland, desperate to get something from their trip to the Home of Football on Wednesday evening. Last Monday showed anything can happen if you don’t take the opportunities your dominance creates.

Enough of a warning surely.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Oops

Monday May 2015

Not a d‎isaster but massively important and d’you know what? Disappointing. And those feelings are probably what lacked from our performance. We’re home and dry for that Champions League (qualifier) position apparently….and based on that result we are the first to give up on anything better.

One of my best mates said to me before a ball was kicked “it’s no good tearing Hull apart one week if you lose at home to Swansea the next!” So so true unfortunately.

Monday night football is not ideal. Certainly for nothing more than the TV viewer‎. But hey – ho that’s not exactly something new! If you are a home and away Gooner in fact it’s kinda of ok.

Not tonight though.

‎A cracking night off the pitch. A few beers and a bit of sunshine but the whole affair had a feel of complacency.

Late season games can be epic. Hot, sweaty, needy, the whole nine yards.‎

But tonight had none of that.

I don’t think we played that badly. Nor did Swansea. But….it was a rubbish game. And we lost.

End of.

See you at Old Trafford.

Frank
@stubbsy 70‎

One Letter from Hell

Wednesday 6th May 2015

Given the fact I tend to fly to our away games in Newcastle and Sunderland, Hull is definitely the furthest destination I travel to by car. Choosing to stay Monday night in the city and the extremely long journey home across a very windy England means only during my lunchtime today have I found time to pen my thoughts. The adjectives I will use for events both on and off the field are the same for both aspects. Impressive, satisfying and hugely entertaining.

Drinking is not big or clever……but I like an ale now and again like most of us. Not exactly a shocking revelation but both our last game and our next being moved to a Monday night, whilst a little inconvenient, it has given two ‘free’ weekends to enjoy some of life’s offerings away from the beautiful game. That began this weekend when a number of friends and fellow Gooners joined me for a variety of relaxing activities including taking in our local beer festival on Saturday. Sampling a few jars of ‘Smooth Hoperator’ along with the likes of ‘Pricky Back Otchan’ and ‘Dark Side of the Moose’ with some great company whilst others went through the emotions associated with many matches at this time of the season, proved marvellously relaxing and entertaining.

I mention this as upon arriving in Hull on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon we decided to take in a suggested ‘real ale tour’ in the city’s excellent old town area. I’ve been to Hull a few times now but have never really had the opportunity to enjoy the city’s hospitality. Choosing the stay overnight on this occasion gave us that chance. On speaking to one Yorkshire Gooner a few weeks back she did warn me (with tongue firmly in cheek) that the city was only ‘one letter from hell’ for a reason! Well……I can only disagree from my experience. Not only do I find the people representing Hull City football club amongst the friendliest and most helpful of any I have come across (something that is genuinely not the case elsewhere) but the hostelries, architecture and people all across the old town created a fantastic location and way to enjoy the pre-match build up. The whole ‘City of Culture’ thing, awarded to the city for 2017, is of course a ready made opportunity to enjoy some of the football banter I mentioned in my last piece but my latest visit has definitely confirmed they deserve this opportunity to play host for this particular set of events.

A fine selection of Ales

A fine selection of Ales

Suitably refreshed we made our way to the KC stadium for which genuinely felt like a tough looking fixture ahead. Two big wins on the bounce would certainly not leave our hosts lacking confidence and anything but a good performance would surely see us come unstuck. This along with the added ingredients of our continued chase for a top 4 place and the fact a win would see our geographical neighbours in a position where it would be mathematically impossible for them to catch us for the 20th season running all made for a fine atmosphere.

Kick-off approaches

Kick-off approaches

If any of us had any doubts that we might not ‘turn up’ the next 45 minutes or so completely obliterated that! It was a simply magnificent display of entertaining, exciting and powerful football and 3 nil didn’t flatter us in the slightest. Our first goal had a degree of good fortune about it but that certainly couldn’t be said for everything that happened on the night so there genuinely could be no complaints about the final score. Conceding is always disappointing, however the tackle on Kos leading up to our hosts’ goal was both late and a foul. No arguments. And if it wasn’t for the ‘save’ the Hull defender made with his hand from the impressive Jack Wilshere there would have been a 4th to represent the cherry on the top of a mighty fine cake.

So unless we lose all our last 4 games and Liverpool win all theirs with a massive 20+ goal difference turn around we are guaranteed a Champions League qualifier at the very least once again. It is now up to us to finish the season well and go one better. Not only that but it made the early May Bank holiday Monday St Totteringhams Day once again. Imagine being in your twenties and never seeing your team finish above the club you dislike the most. That must be very very difficult to take.

Job Done

Job Done

Swansea come to the home of football next after already enjoying their best league season ever. Enough warning on its own to make sure we go into the game with the same attitude as Monday night.

Before that however……I’m off to another beer festival…..this time in Dorset!

“It’s happened again, it’s happened again…….”

Frank
@stubbsy70

Choices

Tuesday 28th April 2015

Football banter and humour is unique. Clever and witty in many aspects, bordering on ‘wrong’ in others. Any actual ‘offense’ however, is usually a combination of a lack of understanding to this particular brand of amusement or just down to the receiver being slightly over sensitive. Our recent fixture at home to that club from the Russian quarter of Fulham has emphasized these facts completely.

Off the field, our friends and might I say thoroughly hardworking Gooners from ‘Redaction’ were planning to reveal their latest flag at the game, an amusing and hugely supportive example of football humour involving a player who is fast becoming our midfield ‘general’, Francis Coquelin. If you need to know more please go to Redaction’s Twitter feed but I feel it is a perfect example as to my opening gambit above.

From what I understand, AFC gave the go ahead before changing their minds at the eleventh hour. On this occasion however, I can see both sides to this argument. The football humour side makes it extremely amusing. The non-football fraternity however, in combination with the hugely sensitive world we live in right now, supports the club’s decision I feel. It would only have taken one ‘do-gooder’ for want of a better word and the club could have been dragged over the coals for allowing it to be displayed on the day. Personally, football humour would be my winner on this one….but I can understand why it wasn’t to be.

Our visitors came for a draw on Sunday. Fact. And I have absolutely no problem with that. Getting results is part of the game. No matter how much it proves detrimental to entertainment. No matter how much it costs us to watch the game. Their manager set his team out to gain a point (and more importantly prevent us from winning) and he got exactly what he wanted. No complaints from me, especially as a draw was no disaster for us either.

As a man however, its his total lack of class and respect for others than bugs me. Completely unnecessary, especially when his ability and tactical awareness would and could not ever be called into question.

‘Boring boring Chelsea’ echoed around the ground on Sunday afternoon. Fact or not, that’s football ‘banter’ for you Jose. Accept it with class, not by using it to attack and disrespect others.

Back when your club went up and down the league structure more often than the lifts at Covent Garden station, your stadium was one of the worst in the country and your club could only dream of the quite incredible success us Gooners were enjoying, we too had periods (well before Mr Wenger’s time) where winning things went hand in hand with a ‘boring’ tag. But you know what, we dealt with it by winning trophies with a smile. Not only that, we did it with the resources we made within the club. Not with a never ending pot of money that makes your life so so easy Jose.

Us Gooners are now looking forward. Over the last ten years we have planned, moved and now PAID FOR the best club stadium in London. During that time we have reached finals and semi-finals in all competitions, enjoyed Champions League football every single season, watched incredibly entertaining football week in week out and last year took that next step of picking up a bit of silverware. All this when not being able to compete with the spiralling wages overseas billionaires have created and needing to sell our best player each and every season when paying for our new home.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Russian money could have been given to run any club. But it was given to yours. That is the ONLY reason you are currently not the ‘Yo-Yo’ club you once were. I’m sure you are enjoying it but deep down I for one could not be happier that I am supporting a proper club run the correct way.

Surviving, competing and existing within the means you raise within. That’s what being a club is all about in my book. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

As for Sunday’s game there is not a huge amount to say about it. There were some big moment talking points of course but there always is. Overall however, our visitors came with a blanket defence and we couldn’t quite break it down, its as simple as that. Results elsewhere however, mean despite not getting the three points we craved, one will do.

TV dictates we get a free weekend next before we head up to the city of Kingston-Upon-Hull on Bank Holiday Monday. Our cup final opponents from last year are fighting for their Premier League lives right now so we have to fully expect an extremely tough encounter. A top four finish looks ours to lose but we are not over that line yet. Finishing in the top 3 is also a huge incentive so as to avoid that banana skin qualifier.

Fancy a Monday afternoon pint anyone?

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

That Popular Place at This Time of Year….

Wednesday 22nd April 2015

Only 2 clubs in England will still have on field business to complete come the morning of Saturday 30th May. To know we are one of them is hugely satisfying. Again.

Again.....oh.....and again!

Again…..oh…..and again!

Surely however, especially as Arsenal supporters, any of us who thought getting through Saturday’s semi final would be a stroll in the park can only be described as foolish! When have we EVER made things easy for ourselves!? Those kind of emotions could also be described as cocky or arrogant perhaps. They certainly show a degree of disrespect to our opponents on the day. Which brings me to my next point…..

We are all guilty sometimes I feel of forgetting there are two teams in every game. We only consider our own assets (and issues) and never the fact there will be eleven or more other human beings out there who have reached this stage of the competition on merit and will be giving every last drop of effort to try and progress instead of us. On paper, of course we were big favourites to go through. But every single week, many of those ‘expected’ to be victorious are overcome on the day. Topically, just ask ‘favourites’ Liverpool and ‘favourites’ Celtic how their weekends went.

Being our 4th visit in the last year or so, tried and tested pre-match plans that first went fantastically well this time 12 months ago when we took on FA Cup holders Wigan were put in place once again and they proved no less successful on this occasion.

An early start on a gorgeous sunny morning saw us enjoying some brekkie in North West London before taking in all the build up in a fine hostelry, one that was also hosting our friends from Liverpool 24 hours later. I have no idea if their pre-match ‘party’ was as enjoyable as ours, one thing I do know however, the rest of their day was much much worse.

That walk up Wembley Way is special. For me, it always will be. No matter how many times I do it in support of our great club it will stir incredible emotions in me. That alone means I want to do it time and time again. Saturday was no different of course and despite our huge ‘favourites’ tag I was racked with PMT and nerves. Yes, we should win. But, even after all these years, I remember York away. And Wrexham away where we lost as League Champions to a team who only just avoided being relegated into non-league football just a few months earlier. I also remember how much we needed to battle to overcome Wigan just twelve months ago, a match of attrition that completely shredded the nerves.

The Wembley Way slope

The Wembley Way slope

Wembley Way has changed a little down the years of course and the ‘Holy Grail’ at the end of it has been completely rebuilt. That view from Wembley Park tube station however, is still nothing short of awesome and sends shivers down your spine as the reality of the day kicks in. The twin towers will always be embedded in the memories of all football supporters old enough to have seen them but in its own modern way the new ‘arch’ gives rise to similar emotions.

Approaching the stadium we still have the slope that splits with the majority of one teams’ fans heading up one and their opponents the other. Having walked together down the previous 800 yards or so, you can almost hear the phrase ‘let battle commence’.

On each of our three recent visits we have taken the right hand fork and given how successful each trip has been, heading this way again felt ‘right’ whether you believe in lucky omens or not.

One game from another FA Cup Final. Let’s get this done boys.

Come on you Gunners!

Come on you Gunners!

The game itself, was a little disappointing. Whilst dominating the vast majority, we weren’t at our best and Reading defended extremely well. To suggest we were lucky however, is ridiculous in my book. We created pretty much all the chances throughout, had far more corners and hit the woodwork twice. We all know Reading’s goalkeeper made a howler for our winner in extra time but Chezz made a similar mistake that prevented us from winning 1-0 in normal time. All irrelevant when people read the history books in years to come of course but if you were an alien and this was the first game you had ever seen you would say the team who came through victorious deserved to do so.

Neutral supporters I know and respect said we played ‘ok’ and always looked in control. And d’you know what? We are through to the FA Cup Final. So I don’t care anyway. Awesome. Job done.

Apart from the usual scramble for the paltry amount of tickets the FA always allocate for the game and that buzz and air of anticipation that inevitably and expectedly builds over the coming weeks, we can now put our admirable defence of the FA Cup on the backburner. Concentration must turn to our six remaining home games, starting of course with Chelsea’s visit on Sunday afternoon.

I don’t do blue.

I’m red to the core.

And I don’t mind a yellow ribbon in May either!

Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Jimmy Anderson’s Barmy Army!

Tuesday 14th April 2015

The unmistakable drone of foghorns outside my bedroom window this morning confirmed it was a little bit foggy out on The Solent. Being occasionally woken by a sound like that is one of the very few disadvantages of living by the sea (and is certainly not a complaint!). Another however, is destinations such as Burnley feel a seriously long way! I certainly needed my pit when I got back in the early hours of Sunday morning. Another three points of course made it all worthwhile.

I try and get my thoughts written relatively quickly after each game but the delay on this occasion is again something I am not going to moan about. We are going to Wembley again on Saturday. Why on earth would I complain!? But the last 2 days and much of Friday too have been spent desperately trying to obtain match tickets for all of the members in our supporters club who meet the criteria set out by Arsenal.

To be honest, by and large I think our club do things pretty fairly. An adjustment that means season ticket holders who don’t actually use their season tickets don’t receive the same benefits is certainly in order in my book but other than that I can’t see any better or fairer way to distribute when numbers are so limited.

The way the FA distribute them however, is another matter. No disrespect to Reading but to be given more tickets than not only their average home gate but the capacity of their stadium is an absolute joke. We have all heard and read the stories but by the time ticket sales ended in the Berkshire town, Reading members had tickets for their whole family, friends, cats, dogs, budgies etc etc etc. Grossly unfair and a story that has been the same for years. That doesn’t mean it can’t be adjusted and improved for the future of course. But hang on a minute…..I’m forgetting the fans come well and truly LAST when banishing that ‘fair’ stick!

The gloriously sunny weather this week hadn’t graced us with its presence early on Saturday morning as our particular party set off Lancashire bound, light drizzle on the south coast something usually associated more with our destination.

There was a time in recent years where Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton and Wigan accompanied the ‘big clubs’ from this part of the world in the top flight and as a result it felt like we were forever travelling up that delightful road they call the M6. This season however, only Burnley are flying that flag. Our journey on this occasion was comfortable and smooth but once you pass Manchester and Liverpool and you still have 40 odd miles to go you realise its a long old way!

Parked up it was a bright and sunny town that met us and we made our way to Burnley Cricket Club for a pre-match refreshment, located adjacent to the away end at Turf Moor and with cheap prices and the Grand National on the telly it proved a perfect location. Being the club of a current cricketing ‘star’ the ‘James Anderson Stand’ was a great host to many of the travelling Gooners present and I was also one of those who came up trumps with the winner of the big race at Aintree!

Pre-Match Hosts

Pre-Match Hosts

Gambling has never been something I have been hugely into but like most of us I’ll have the occasional flutter, including on the National. On this occasion however, I had forgotten to put a bet on. One of our party decided to seek out a bookies so returning from the bar and seeing his absence I decide to call him. “Is there one at 33/1 Rich?” I asked. “Yes mate” came the reply. “Ok do me an each way on that”.

Hardly ‘studying the form’ but probably an indication as to what a lottery the race is! Lovely :-)

Lovely jubbly!

Lovely jubbly!

What we would call traditional stadia are fast disappearing in this country. Progress I guess but a real shame to see so many of them go. Turf Moor (or certainly 2 sides to it) definitely fall into that category, especially the away end. Lacking in comfort and facilities but hugely atmospheric. The thousands of travelling Gooners (interestingly twice as many as Middlesex FC brought the previous week if you believe the matchday programme), got behind the team as always and we started the game extremely well.

Come on you Yellows!

Come on you Yellows!

Let’s be honest, the game won’t be remembered as a ‘classic’. Once our good start was rewarded with Rambo’s goal we were never in any real danger of letting the lead slip I feel. That professionalism is admirable of course, but not trying to kill the game off is a trifle risky for me, especially with just a one goal lead. It is difficult to criticise when we have come away with the three points and might I add I am absolutely ecstatic with that and would have taken it before a ball was kicked….but…….well……just but!!

The long long journey home is always that much easier with a victory of course so overall a thoroughly satisfying day. It definitely keeps that momentum as we look forward to our 4th trip up Wembley way in less than a year.

My colours are ready, the weather looks set to be bright and despite having made this trip on many many occasions down the years, I am genuinely massively excited yet again.

For now I need to find a branch of Corals!

“Wemberlee, Wemberlee, we’re the famous Arsenal……..”

Frank
@stubbsy70

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