All You Need is Love

Monday 27th July 2015

Although we all share the same passion for our club and hope that everyone within from the staff to the players want exactly the same with equal desire, there is always going to be a certain degree of distance and separation between us fans and what goes on within the ‘four walls’. And I am fine with that. We have always been pretty good at keeping things on the ‘inside’ and by and large I am a great fan of not ‘airing your dirty washing’ publicly. Even though of course, we all would love to know every minor detail!

That ‘separation’ inevitably means the players and staff have no idea what we have to go through just to follow our team. (Being slightly tongue in cheek there believe me as below will demonstrate!)

Tickets bought and plans made for this weekend’s Emirates Cup, we never consider what might go wrong in the build up or during the whole event. We just look forward to enjoying ourselves and sub consciously at least, expect everything to run like clockwork.

For example, I like the Summer months in particular and during that period the shoes and socks come off, the shorts come out of the cupboard and any other Winter attire remains hidden away until at least when Autumn kicks in. Not everyone wants or indeed can do things like that but that is the way I roll.

Earlier this week I walked into my kitchen and went to the fridge. In bare feet. Something I and every single one of us has done on many many hundreds of occasions. I wasn’t prepared however, for a bottle of wine to fall out and land smack bang on my middle toe! Cue total agony, blood pissing everywhere and a digit that now resembled one of those little fat characters off the Ribena advert!

Once the pain subsided and after 24 hours or more the blood finally stopped flowing it dawned on me going to football for all us able bodied people involves considerable amounts of walking. The whole idea of getting a shoe on wasn’t even a possibility so flip flops and careful avoidance of all people, something so easy at a football match (!), was the only way to get through it. I wouldn’t have minded but I only went in the fridge to get some milk! Although I am pleased to say the wine bottle didn’t break. :-)

Saturday evening was another example.

Walking back to my hotel in Kings Cross, my mobile phone screen goes blank followed by a message along the lines of ‘fatal system error’. I’m no expert but that didn’t look promising! I tried the usual stuff of changing the battery etc but it was no good. Computer says’ no’. It’s times like that when you realise just how reliant we have become on these things. Could I remember anyone’s number? No….why would I? They are in my phone. Did I still have some arrangements to make regarding ticket distribution on Sunday? Of course I did!

Things continued on that vein too. I couldn’t find my hotel. No prob, I’ll use the map on my phone……doh! As frustration kicked in more and more I eventually found it…..and reception advised I couldn’t check in because I didn’t have my passport. I am a very calm person generally…..but it was at that moment that I nearly turned her table upside down!

All this of course makes up the only reason I was in London. To see the mighty Arsenal. The things we go through just for that!

The Emirates Cup is relaxing. I can’t really use another adjective. It also gives us an opportunity to witness home games from a different vantage point. And on this occasion it was arguably the best viewing point of any stadium in the world. Half Way line Club Level. Simply awesome.

The sunshine meant my flip flops and short sleeves very much fitted in and with plenty of pre-match refreshment and my toe so far unscathed I settled down to watch our first game unfold. And a thumping 6 nil victory can be nothing but entertaining on an attacking front although deep down we probably needed something a little bit more ‘competitive’.

Before the goal glut at a sundrenched Emirates Stadium

Before the goal glut at a sundrenched Emirates Stadium

Six good goals, some great football, some pleasing performances both from our more established players and in particular one or two of our young up and coming talent all made for entertaining fare on the pitch. Great company and refreshment both before and after made sure it was an equally enjoyable day off it.

The bar is that way sir.

The bar is that way sir.

Sunday morning’s slightly sore head was also met by the sight of my mobile phone in various pieces on my hotel bedroom floor and the realisation of just how much ‘hassle’ a mobile phone breakdown can cause. And it wasn’t helped when I stepped outside, in my flip flops and it was absolutely pelting it down! The pavement felt like an ice rink and I was hardly dressed for the occasion! Time for a good old English stiff upper lip and I limped and slid my way, toe still surviving, in the direction of Kings Cross station for a bit of a brekkie and another day at the footy.

Among the many, another aspect of this particular competition is the number of families that get to come along. The colours, the smiles and the quite obvious excitement amongst all of our younger followers is hugely apparent and fantastic to see. Many will be attending a game for the first time of course and this was the case with Gemma and Kirsty, twin daughters of good friends and fellow season ticket holders. Their excitement throughout their first day was extremely obvious and along with their older brother Danny, a sheer veteran at 7, they joined in with all the singing throughout. I’ve always said football brings people together, of all ages and there can be no finer example than this weekend.

"Come on Arsenal, come on Arsenal!!"

“Come on Arsenal, come on Arsenal!!”

The previous day’s result against Lyon was inevitably going to see many thinking yesterday could produce something similar. With our starting eleven virtually completely different to 24 hours earlier however, the Wolfsburg game was always going to be totally different. And so it proved. Much more of a test in all areas of the pitch we can still be pleased with a clean sheet, another win and of course the second piece of pre-season silverware on the shelf. Winning is a fine habit, whatever the competition.

Ribbons and Silverware

Ribbons and Silverware

Looking forward to our latest trip to Wembley on Sunday, my journey home is pretty much where I will leave it for now. Oh….and with my toe. Avoiding all accidents my aim was very much nearly achieved. Until on the tube, half way back to Waterloo, a man with a child in a pushchair decided to run the front wheels straight over it. It was an awkward but genuine howl I let out….

As I said earlier…..if only the club knew what we go through :-))

See you at Wembley.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Come to See The Arsenal

Sunday 19th July 2015

We saw it to a certain level in the Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing a couple of years back when we played Man City but the volume of support for our great club in this part of the world is simply mindblowing at times.

Everton are a big, traditional and hugely historical English football club. Yet with the Singapore National Stadium’s record crowd packed in last night there was no more than a small sliver of blue shirts on show. A good 90% or more had definitely ‘come to see the Arsenal’.

Singapore is red & white

Singapore is red & white

And I think by and large, we pretty much delivered.

On any overseas trip I try to include taking in some of the local sights, sounds, activities and culture so the build up to matchday 2 was spent looking round the city including the sun drenched party beach scene that is Sentosa, the incredible night time views from the roof of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and sampling delights such as ‘Chilli Crab’ at a seafood centre along the city’s east coast.

Awesome night views

Awesome night views

When it comes to food, restaurant, bar and club options there can be very few locations with such a concentration all over the world and trying as many as time allows was also high on the agenda. 

As well as high end edible and visual delights created by extremely talented and passionate chefs there are many ‘hawker centres’ where fresh and delicious foodstuffs of all shapes and colours is knocked up in front of you for no more than the price of a pint of beer. Unusual believe me, in what is essentially an expensive city but we certainly tried both ends of the spectrum during our stay.

Top tucker presentation

Top tucker presentation

After a well earned Saturday morning lie in, matchday started doing just that and well fed we began the build up enjoying various alcoholic beverages in Robertsons Quay, one of the many many places in Singapore with an incredible amount of options for this kind of activity.

Suitably refreshed it was back to the highly impressive stadium as we looked to take the trophy against Everton.

And with an excited capacity crowd looking on we came out of the blocks fast with some quite superb passing and movement to look like the team firmly on the front foot from minute 1.

The discussions as to whether Theo could go on to prove himself through the middle have been going on for a long time now. Pretty much carrying on from where he left off at the end of last season, his run and finish to put us in front provides yet more evidence for all those who think he can.

The noise when the ball hit the net just added to the occasion. 

Santi and Mezut’s goals in quick succession early in the 2nd period pretty much finished the match as a contest and put the icing on the top of a thoroughly enjoyable cake.

Job done!

Job done!

Pre-season? Yes. Crucial? No. But I get the ‘ump when I lose at Kerplunk so I’ll take that thanks.

Nice to see us score 7 goals this week. Even better to see us looking sharp and fit already. And a little bit of silverware is pretty ok too.

Clarke Quay played host for our post match fun and frolics as our friends and their friends who live and work in this great city showed their considerable hospitality once again.

A perfect end to the football side of this trip.

Today has been spent whiling away the last few hours with a relaxing stroll round the highly impressive ‘Gardens by the Bay’, a location many of our squad enjoyed visiting earlier in the week.

So a perfect end to the events off the pitch too.

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay

The Emirates Cup is upon us next as we look to double this year’s  pre season trophy haul next weekend.

For now however, the announcer on my Emirates flight has advised all electronic devices should now be switched off so it’s over and out from Singapore and yet another quite awesome pre-season tour.

See you on Saturday in London N5 for a pre-match jar or two.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Singapore Rocks

Thursday 16th July 2015

This is not the first time I have a sore head the morning after watching our team and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But dealing with it in this humidity is not something I would like to do on a regular basis!

We do like to moan about our weather back home but actually being able to walk 200 yards and not be dripping in sweat is something I prefer to be honest.

Singapore City is a fine place. Plenty to see and do, a huge abundance of eateries and bars and friendly and welcoming people.

And over the next couple of days before we take on Everton on Saturday, we plan to take in as much as possible.

As well as the large number of locals there are Gooners here from literally all over the world, Australia, USA, India, Malaysia, China……to name but a few. Staying with ex-pat fans and friends  Biggles and Harriet helps to swell the numbers from home in addition to good mate and Gooner Tom who has traveled from Dubai.

Monday evening began with a relaxed bit of local food before Tuesday we headed to a pub that doubles up as the Singapore Gooners HQ, a good a place as any to meet and chat with the many familiar faces that make up the Gooner Family. Decked out in shirts and memorabilia, it looks fantastic and really feels like home from home.

Arsene looks down over Singapore Gooners HQ

Arsene looks down over Singapore Gooners HQ

I am well aware nothing beats actually attending the fixtures and am grateful to be able to do that week in week out but I would love to be a fly on the wall when the local Gooners gather at all hours to watch on the TV.

Tuesday night we headed to the highly impressive National Stadium to watch a good hour or so of training, a relaxing way for us and especially the locals to see the squad put through their paces. Hard work in this humidity believe me!

Flag in place as the goalies limber up

Flag in place as the goalies limber up

Like many cities, Singapore is made up of a number of districts or quarters. There is the central business district and all its skyscrapers, much evidence of colonial times, Chinatown etc etc. Post training we headed to ‘Little India’ for some fine tucker before bed called once more and matchday 1 was upon us.

Modern looks down on historic

Modern looks down on historic

Enjoying the build up was order of the day and this we did with gusto, initially in the ‘Boat Quay’ area before heading back to Molley Roffeys to join the increasing numbers of Gooners and a couple of surprise ‘guests’. Chippy Brady had come along for a Q & A session and had brought the magnificent FA Cup with him, something he had his hands on back in 1979 of course.

Magnificent!

Magnificent!

It all added to the great pre-match vibe before we headed to the ground for the main event.

Even with all the razzmatazz associated with pre-season tours, inevitably the games are not always the best. After all they are more about getting fit than anything else. But we played pretty well I thought, a win is a win and we got to see 4 goals to boot.

And Everton’s penalty shoot out win over Stoke sees us face The Toffees next.

Food and refreshment into the wee small hours followed…..hence the head.

But it was a fine day all round as we opened our latest Asian tour with a win.

Not sure on the new away kit……..but its already growing on me. And I’m ecstatic we haven’t gone down the ‘blue’ route again. Yellow, Gold, whatever.

We are Arsenal.

Frank

Going East

Friday 10th July 2015

Glancing through my previous piece some of the TV fixtures have been kinder than others. Chelsea away being moved to Saturday lunchtime instead of Sunday the biggest problem and disappointment, especially with both clubs playing in the Champions League a few days earlier. Just to make things a little tougher for all us fans as well, for the first time we have only been advised of the moved fixtures up until the end of September rather than November as in previous years. Thanks for that!

This piece however, is all about what happens before the real stuff begins in August.

Domestically I have been attending pre-season fixtures since back in the eighties and although the vast majority tend to be pretty low key affairs I have visited many towns and stadia right the way across the country, most of which we don’t get the chance to see on a regular basis. The likes of Peterborough, Gillingham, Southend, Luton, Lincoln and Northampton all spring to mind.

The ‘Makita International Tournament’ made its appearance too of course, initially with a few annual trips to Wembley followed by the tournament taking place at Highbury in its latter years. Totally wiping the floor with Middlesex Hotspurs and Bayern Munich immediately spring to mind and an absolute Friday night cracker by new signing Anders Limpar against Aston Villa sits prominently too. The prelude to today’s ‘Emirates Cup’ format I guess.

It wasn’t until the late nineties however, that the temptation to attend something overseas became too strong, the French city of St. Etienne playing host for a couple of days. My ‘Air France’ flight being cancelled on the way out, the later than hoped arrival as a consequence and a right dodgy hotel in the nearby city of Lyon suggest the whole trip was a bit of a nightmare but looking back I have far more fonder memories than this suggests. I think we were a couple of goals down in front of a noisy and fair sized home crowd before coming back to draw 2-2 on the day……although I might have got that wrong! All I do know, is as far as overseas pre-season trips were concerned, the relaxed atmosphere, the good weather and the relatively small amount of travelling Gooners had me totally hooked.

Fifteen years or so on from that trip and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a further 17 countries around the world, all before a seriously competitive ball is kicked. Tournaments in Amsterdam….shall we?! A weekend in Valencia…..I’m in! Lisbon in August anyone? errrrr, oh go on then! A Warsaw 4 dayer? Yes please!

Until 2011, the majority of those 17 countries were within Europe and as well as the above included our ten year love affair with the wonderful country that is Austria. My memories of the whole place and the fantastic people, many of which have become friends, are both numerous and awesome. So much so in fact, that I seriously miss it.

The only aspect all those who made the annual pilgrimage agreed on however, was the sense of inevitability that eventually our whole pre-season format would change. So to have enjoyed a full ten years was arguably quite a bonus.

Travel around Europe has got easier and easier down the years too but when a trip to Malaysia and China was announced it felt a little more daunting. Not that it should have done of course, just because looking at those kind of pre-season arrangements were not something we had even considered before let alone actually undertaken!

For me personally it opened up a whole new world of sights, sounds and cultures over the coming years and having the chance to visit the likes of Kuala Lumpur, Yiwu, Beijing, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Hanoi, Nagoya, Tokyo and New York just by following my team is quite incredible and have seriously added to my whole life experience.

Of course it’s not just these cities that it gives you the opportunity to visit on these kind of travels and that brings me nicely to this year’s pending trip to Singapore.

Location wise it is a country that is not far way from Kuala Lumpur. With good friends and Gooners living out there I took the opportunity to visit them and their new home on a previous trip before taking a relaxing and interesting 7 hour train journey up into the Malaysian capital. These friends still live there so they are kindly playing host again this time round as we head out for two matches in the ‘Barclays Asia Trophy’.

My previous visit definitely confirmed there is plenty to see and do and Singapore’s National Stadium is another to ‘tick off the list’ so once again it is a trip I’m thoroughly looking forward to.

Let the fun begin!

Frank
@stubbsy70

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

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