Monday 18th October 2021
With time running out KT rattled the crossbar and I found myself thinking if that had gone in who knows what would have happened in the 8 or 9 mins including injury time. But, you know as well as I do, as much as that is accurate, it’s papering over how the rest of the evening panned out. But feck me, I’ll take a point.
Today was a good day. Not often we call that on a Monday. But once TV had mucked up our plans there are only two things you can do. Not bother going. Or take a few hours off work to attend. At least if you are not employed in London that is. And 9 to 5 of course. I could go on. But you get the picture.
Many of my lot did what needed to be done so it was a cracking build up as always. And whilst recognising it was a game you would be optimistic you would win, we’ve all been going long enough to recognise three points are never a gimme.
The game started as we wanted. Loads of possession, challenges won and most importantly, a goal. Happy days. But rather than go on to make that initial domination count, it couldn’t have been more opposite. Our opponents both controlled and offered more of a threat throughout the remainder of the half. But we went in at the break ahead. And that will do all day long.
Given we probably went in at half time slightly fortunate to be ahead we needed to come out sharp after the break. Did we? Palace equalising suggests not.
But, taking stock, level pegging with a good 40 to go, I was still confident we could and would go on to win the game. But, in that scenario, not only were we poor, we made a mistake that was not just impatient and unnecessary but costly enough to almost cost us the game.
I say almost, because all those who stayed til the bitter end saw Laca slam in an equaliser that at least gave us something from the night. And given all looked dead and buried on a disappointing night, we’ll take that and move on to Friday.
A ticket that I guess everybody wants 😉
Come on you reds.
Wednesday 13th October 2021
Now and again I like to think I’m not that ‘bothered’ about a result. And that should really apply to our under 21’s participation in the Papa Johns Trophy. But when you find yourself leaping around like a lunatic when your team has grabbed a last minute winner away at Newport, that theory goes straight out the window!
There are not too many games I can travel to on a direct train from the sunny Hampshire coast. But Newport is one of them. And as I write this sentence I am deep below the River Severn on my return journey back into England after what has been a marvellously entertaining 24 hours.
Unsurprisingly, just like Swindon last month and Plymouth next I would have attended last night’s fixture even if I had been to Rodney Parade before but the fact I hadn’t made the whole idea even more appealing. And a few of my Arsenal pals recognising the attraction meant there was a good few of us enjoying the pre-match fare in the city’s centre. Another pin in my map.
Crossing the River Usk on route, the stadium has a real sense of history about it, made up of a few different stands, one containing the executive boxes of which one would play host to our of group of 20. A decent view, a suite with a bar and a curry made it a civilised way to watch the game unfold. Not an adjective that can be used for the scenes in injury time might I add!
As the scoreline suggests, it was a thoroughly entertaining game with twists and turns throughout and needing a win, it really had an edge to it. So losing, with less than 5 minutes to go, despite matching our hosts performance wise, it was looking like this year’s Papa Johns Trophy adventure was going to end with 2 defeats in 2.
But with waves of attacks and admirable patience in and around Newport’s box, the confidence and desire was to prove ultimately fruitful when we grabbed a late equaliser and the chance to nick a second point in a penalty shoot-out.
And then came the carnage.
The number of Gooners present is difficult to say. But the noise when we grabbed the winner certainly suggested there were many. “Arrrrrsenal, Arrrrrsenal, Arrrrrsenal” echoed into the south Wales night sky. It was all very amusing.
With many choosing to stay overnight, the 7pm kick-off meant there was plenty of time to sample the city’s post match offerings so that is what we did. Squeezing 7 of us in a pub located photo booth is a good an indication as any to the mood I guess before hitting the sack in the early hours.
And that brings me up to date.
Crystal Palace at home on Monday night comes next and the return of a certain PV. I have no doubt he will receive a suitable welcome but more important than that is we come away with the three points.
And just like in each of our games so far we can play our part.
Up the Gunners.
Sunday 3rd October 2021
If your opponent doesn’t score you are guaranteed to come out of the day with more points than you started with. Obvious? Of course it is. But achieving that is another thing altogether. Especially if not at your best. And if after the euphoria of last week that is the positive to be taken from our trip to the Sussex coast, I’ll take that and look forward.
Despite there being four very distinctive seasons, the weather in this country is still inconsistent. Just a couple of weeks ago we were basking in the glorious sunshine, both down where I live on the south coast at the Isle of Wight Festival and up at Burnley where we grabbed an all important three points. And that warmth continued in North London last weekend.
Some games we have attended down the years in fact, the weather is one of the aspects we remember most. Without getting too deep into the history books, the -16 temperature in a snowbound Moscow when we got spanked 4-1 by Spartak springs to mind. Or the fog in Scarborough when Nutty Nige’s thumping strike saw us through perhaps. Or maybe the rain in the uncovered away end at Barnsley when Stevie Bould scored if my memory serves me right?
Yesterday probably falls into that category, especially as the game can hardly be described as memorable. At times it felt like the world was ending, the strong winds and driving rain were horrific. Or ‘biblical’ as one of our lot described it. Getting from the station to our chosen city centre pre-match hostelry was one thing. But to be fair, we managed to achieve that in relative comfort. And the return walk to catch the train up to Falmer after a few warming beers could also have been worse.
The Amex is located very near the stadium. And getting there is pretty simple all things considered. But the rain was that heavy, instead of making the 5 minute walk to the away end, we might as well have just stepped, fully clothed, into a power shower. I have been told by someone there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. If that is true, my choice wasn’t the greatest. Watching the game with wet denim around my legs and a waterproof coat that quite clearly isn’t made for a pretty uncomfortable couple of hours!
Last weekend’s performance and result off the back of a couple of narrow but pleasing 1 nil victories has given us a huge lift. And hope and optimism have increased considerably. Understandable yes, but anyone who thought it meant we just needed to turn up in Brighton to come away with all three points was way off the mark.
I was pleased with the way we defended. And although limited, we had one or two near things going forward too. But on a grotty old day where there is no doubt the weather played its part, I think that is what is described as grinding out a point. It could have been better of course. But it could have been a whole lot worse too.
Leaving the ground to trudge back through the monsoon was certainly not fun. But win, lose or draw, in rain, sunshine, wind, snow and anything else the natural world throws at us, that is what supporting your team is all about. And our magnificent support were there in great voice and numbers yet again.
My next dose of football comes a week on Tuesday as we head into south Wales to take on Newport in the Papa Johns Trophy. Our young Gunners are in a rich vein of form right now but losing out at Swindon in the first game makes this one almost a must win. That makes it an intriguing prospect.
Up the Gunners.
Sunday 26th September 2021
Do I leave a little bit of time to take today in? A chance to think about everything? A period to reflect? Or do I accept that over analysis is not always a good thing? Especially when you’ve taken your geographical and historical rivals to the cleaners.
Well, overall, I don’t know the answer to that. But am I glowing? Am I buzzing? Am I looking at people on the tube I’ve never met before knowing that, whatever is going on in their world, for a couple of hours their team has taken them somewhere so awesome, that only those that ‘know’ will ever understand the way they are feeling? Yep. 100%. Football gets you that way. And if anyone ever doubts that, just give them a look that makes it clear they simply do not understand.
I’ve enjoyed a magnificent weekend. One that could not have gone any better before today. One that I will always look back fondly on. But each and every one of those I spent it with knew, that if today went badly, it would ruin it. Even though, as mates and fellow Gooners, we would have picked each other up and looked forward to next weekend.
A bestie and fellow Gooner (of course) moved to a village near Saffron Walden few years back. And a few of us accepted his invitation to come up for the weekend, enjoy the local fare and attend the town’s club’s FA Vase tie at home to Southend Manor on Saturday afternoon.
A top decision, from the numerous local pubs to the late night curry, everything we did was spot on and we awoke misty eyed this morning with Tottenham at home our destination.
As we headed south by train none of us asked each other if we were nervous. Or apprehensive. Or even confident. But I genuinely think we were all feeling exactly the same. But a breakfast (of sorts) and numerous pre-match beers had us in fine spirits as we made our way to our usual position in Block 12. And the atmosphere was electric.
That ‘big start’ we all talk about is important of course. But if you don’t make it count, the period that any decent opposition will definitely have at some stage in the game will make any domination irrelevant. But today, that period when we were well on top, where we won every challenge, where we looked dangerous, we added the all important goals. And it was magnificent. Jostles, limbs, carnage, call it what you like, it happened three times. And it was mind-blowingly enjoyable.
We looked ‘big’ today. Strong. Something I don’t remember thinking for a while. And each of the substitutions we made, that didn’t change. And with that comes hope. Optimism. And dare I say it, confidence.
It’s very early days but maybe, and I mean maybe, something is happening at the moment. There is a sense of defiance in the squad. And equally so amongst us fans. One that feels very strong. And I like that. There will be downs. But hopefully there will be far more ups. Like today.
I don’t mind a decent white wine. Occasionally it hits the spot. But red wine is better. Consistently Always. And seems to provide more satisfaction, year after year after year. Coincidence. Maybe.
Enjoy tonight, that red glow over London remains. See you in Brighton.
Thursday 23rd September 2021
There’s only one winner in any cup tie. Fact. So if you win by a single goal, a penalty shootout or smashing someone for six, the prize is the same for all. The other benefit is players getting the opportunity for game time so taking that and a nice 3 nil victory into account, on the pitch last night was more than satisfactory.
Thursday Club is something I have talked about many times before. But with our lack of European competition could it have disappeared? Well, given the undeniable benefits to all my besties during lockdown and the friendships it has both created and strengthened, there was and is absolutely no chance of that.
So pre-match yesterday afternoon Thursday Club met in Central London. On a Wednesday. We made the rules. So we can do what we like. And a thoroughly enjoyable and banter filled few hours it proved to be.
League Cup nights are always popular. Reduced ticket prices and usually comfortably enough tickets to meet demand often mean a huge number of Gooners who wouldn’t necessarily be able to attend as regularly as they would like get the opportunity to enjoy a game under the lights.
That lack of ‘familiarity’ with pre match routines, directions and stadium entry, especially during these times with extra checks, means it can be a little bit ‘chaotic’ as kick-off approaches. And despite the fact people are warned they should get to the ground as early as possible, I believe the above should be taken into account.
How? Well, in my opinion, when there were quite clearly many thousands of fans still struggling to get in as the match approached, a delay to the kick-off time would have been the right thing to do. Reducing the urgency amongst the considerable (and slightly dangerous) throng outside, could have been achieved but wasn’t.
The game itself wasn’t the greatest. But it was extremely one sided and our victory and ultimate progression to the 4th round came with considerable comfort. And our 3rd goal was a thing of absolute beauty.
Into the hat we go then and another home tie it is against Leeds. Another Thursday Club day out? I very much expect so.
Heading back south on my train this morning thoughts now turn to Sunday as we host the trophy dodgers from the proper grotty end of the Seven Sisters Road.
Of course it is one of the ‘special’ days of the season. No matter each club’s fortune it always has been and always will be. And a win would not only provide the pleasure it always has it will continue the momentum the last couple of games have started.
Come on you mighty reds!
Tuesday 21st September 2021
Let me take you back to early March and the last time we played at Turf Moor. A bad mistake at the back meant we dropped two costly points but it wasn’t the only thing that contributed to that. A 100% clear nailed on penalty was denied, remarkably even after a VAR review and despite some serious late pressure we came away feeling hard done by, let down by the ‘system’ and seriously disappointed with the point.
Emotions could not have been more opposite on Saturday afternoon with numerous similarities proving either not costly or going in our favour. For me however, once again we thoroughly deserved to win. And our magnificent and vociferous travelling support thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Get in.
Back in June 2007 I went to the Isle of Wight Festival for the first time. A belter of a line up, the promise of good weather and the fact it took place in the one genuine month where there was no Arsenal made it almost a no brainer. And if I’m honest the whole experience blew me away. 14 years on and I’ve attended every one since.
Recent times dictated the one booked for 2020 was cancelled and this year’s version was ‘postponed’ until September in a bid to make sure it still went ahead. And to be fair to the organisers that proved to be a fine decision. Admittedly I was worried about the weather going against those attending and for me personally of course, unless Monday night TV came to the rescue, it meant I was highly likely to miss one of the 4 days. I needn’t have been concerned about the former with the weather being incredible all weekend and from the quick entry despite covid checks to the quite emotional sight of the fantastic Red Arrows on Thursday afternoon right through to the very last beat of the drum late on the Sunday night, the whole thing was as tremendous as every other year.
But, when the fixtures came out back in June it was one particular weekend I was looking out for. I have been lucky on previous occasions, either with TV, kick-off times or location but I certainly wasn’t on this occasion. Of the 38 possible fixtures, my 38th choice would have been Burnley away! Not happy.
So, moving forward approximately 3 months and picture the scene. Midway through the Friday I set a 6am alarm on my mobile phone knowing that if I didn’t do that then it is highly likely I would forget. Having enjoyed the somewhat hedonistic delights of the festival’s 2nd night, I crawled into my tent (not that I remember that bit) and it was almost with disbelief that I was woken up at that ridiculous hour adhering to the description that I believe is often referred to as ‘hanging’.
Having fumbled around in the dark to find some clothes, phone, wallet etc I then needed to catch the morning’s first fastcat from Ryde to Portsmouth but in addition to the daze, tiredness and general nausea, even that bit proved far more difficult than hoped. In what is generally an extremely well organised event it was very clear very few of the 50 thousand people who attend need transport help at that time of the morning!
My first option was a taxi. So I called the festival’s taxi service. A service described as 24/7. I got through only to be told, “sorry, we’ve got no cars out at the moment.” So not 24/7 then. How very Trigger off ‘Only Fools & Horses’!
No panic though, the site also has a fully operational bus station throughout the weekend with Ryde being the most popular and regular destination due to its ferry services over to the mainland. “Any buses going to Ryde mate?” I enquired. “Not til 7.30am I’m afraid” I was told. So will get there just after the first ferry has departed. Triffic.
Option 3 was more tricky. Although the main road past the festival site has a regular standard bus service, even that early on a Saturday morning, the road is made ‘one way’ during the 4 day weekend. And of course, not ‘one way’ in the direction I needed! It left me with no choice but to undertake the 20 minute walk to the nearest bus stop that went the diverted route to Ryde. And when did that bus leave? In 21 minutes! Cue a 51 year old man, in a bit of a physical mess, stumbling along a half pedestrianised main road, sweating profusely in a bid to get my trip to Turf Moor underway. Did I make it? Of course. Never in doubt 🙂
I made my ferry and my fantastic mates were waiting the other side to scoop me into the rear seat and drive me north for the game. Tough and drowsy. But I was on my way.
Comfort wise, the day got easier. And even though I wouldn’t change a thing had we got beat 4 nil, the win made all the effort feel so much more satisfying.
Our performance was far from the finished article but there were many things that pleased me. Despite the usual and expected Burnley aerial and physical bombardment, time and time again we stayed strong and won countless headers. I was also very happy with how hard we worked all over the pitch, essential in all games of course, but always feels even more crucial when you go to Turf Moor. And lastly, the ‘togetherness’ in our squad has been questioned in recent times, by people who clearly don’t have a scooby as to whether that is actually true. If any of those ‘experts’ were there Saturday afternoon that would have seen the evidence as to why they are way of the mark.
Our ‘genuine’ support is tremendous. And I will not accommodate anyone who suggests otherwise. And up at Turf Moor that was hugely apparent once more. From the cricket club pavilion before the match to throughout the game, they were in great numbers, passionate, noisy and proud. And with the desire to win on the pitch and the result we wanted from the day, the overall package was very pleasing.
My thoughts then turned to taking on AFC Wimbledon during the long journey south. And come 10.30 Saturday night I was telling my mates all about my day and our win at Burnley in a bar called Hipshaker in a field just outside Newport on the Isle of Wight.
A long, crazy and rock & roll kinda day. But very much job done.
Next, we try and get a little bit further down than road to Wembley tomorrow night.
Come on you reds!
Saturday 11th September 2021
Don’t get me wrong, there was very little that I took from today’s game to suggest I should go forward with considerable confidence. But I also had people with me who were genuinely talking about how many rather that what if. And I’ve been going far too long to have even considered that as the right attitude.
Give me three points and my day is brilliant. And the result from Selhurst Park made it funnier. Nothing else.
For years and years I’ve been going to football and seeing us win 1 nil. Sometimes it’s been amazing. Sometimes it’s been utter shite. But more often than anything else, the result is more important than anything else. And today, that is so accurate.
I would have loved us to have put on a dazzling display and have won 4 nil. But before all that I wanted a win. Not a 3-3 draw. A win. And that is what we got.
Today with my pals was awesome. Despite a ridiculous train journey being slaughtered by (of all people) Pompey fans travelling to Milton Keynes and serious delays, we left early enough so it didn’t ruin my day off the pitch. And I’m back on my train with a win. And I’ll have that.
My day and weekend will not be spoilt by analysis.
Up the Gunners.
Wednesday 8th September 2021
It seems an age since I last penned my thoughts but given they were off the back of our disaster in the Etihad, I was glad for the ‘break’, even if the September one always seems to be upon us before the season has even started.
Talking of which, my train journey back from Manchester could not have gone smoother and as a result being back at Victorious Festival on Southsea Common by just after 8pm felt like job done on that front. And taking in the same event’s all day Sunday offerings 24 hours later meant bank holiday Monday was laced with exhaustion as much as anything else! Yep, you’re right, I’ll never learn.
And that is exaggerated further when international and local cricket along with a gig in Southampton, all with good friends, filled a weekend where it could be suggested those followers of the beautiful game at club level might take up the opportunity for a ‘week off’!
As we look forward to our next Premier League game on Saturday, yesterday morning I headed off in the quite glorious sunshine, my destination being Swindon. Why? Papa John told me to. And having not been there to see my team since super Kev’s hat-trick and Wrighty’s outrageous 40 yard lob back in the early nineties, there was no way I was going to miss it.
Like in every previous game we have played in this competition I decided to go VIP with a little bit of pre-match tucker and a seat on the half way line and thoroughly enjoyable it was too. As were the few beers before and after in a few of the local hostelries.
The stadium hasn’t changed much since that Christmas period 4 nil thumping 30 odd years ago, although the slightly scruffy looking away end looks a lot smaller than I remember it. And in an era full of modern indentikit stadia, I always enjoy going to one with a traditional feel to it.
As for the game, it was competitive and could have gone either way. The two goals conceded were ‘scruffy’ and avoidable and I guess that’s the most disappointing aspect of the defeat. But our very young team battled to the death and you could tell by our host fans’ reaction at the final whistle, they knew they’d been in a game.
My trip to sunny Wiltshire concluded this morning with a stroll around the houses, factories and works and the general stunning architecture associated with the town’s considerable railway history and I write these thoughts as I head back to the south coast.
Onto Newport we go.
Norwich at home on Saturday comes next. A must win? Quite possibly. And a 3 o’clock kick-off too. Remember them?
Time to step up.
Come on you mighty Gunners!
Saturday 28th August 2021
Sometimes it is very difficult to defend a performance or the situation we find ourselves in. And today is one such occasion. The referee might have been a joke and VAR was clearly switched off but that would suggest I’m making excuses or purely papering over the cracks.
Believe me I’m not. Our defending was appalling and littered with basic errors. And you cannot go to Man City with that scenario and expect to get a result. Throw in VAR failing to overturn a goal that was clearly a smack in the face (and yes I have seen the slow mo replays) and a tackle that was always going to give the referee the chance to dish out the red card he clearly couldn’t wait to and it’s game over.
I’ve said this before and I stand by my opinion. The game is corrupt to the core. If Man City and one or two others want to buy a player, they can just go out and get him. Whatever the fee and whatever the wages. And when those who run the game suggest court action will take place, they just buy their way out of that too. As a result, unless we can get a middle eastern (for example) multi billionaire at the helm where money is no object, we simply cannot compete, certainly not on a level playing field. Man City, again in my opinion, are no bigger club than the likes of Aston Villa, Sunderland or Leeds. But the laws, despite what we were told, do not prevent them from doing what they like.
Today was a bad day in another crazy weekend. Friday night watching the likes of Terrorvision, Feeder, The Kooks and Madness on the first night of Victorious Festival down in Southsea meant just 4 hours sleep and a 4.45am alarm to jump in a taxi to neighbouring Southampton for my train to Manchester.
And as exhausted as I am I will always do that.
For now, on my train home, I might try and get some shut eye before heading to the last knockings of the festival’s day 2.
I certainly don’t feel like celebrating.
Defiance is key, so on we go, the only way is up.
Arsenal til I die.
Thursday 26th August 2021
It’s never big or clever to wake up with a hangover. But it happens. And why wouldn’t I enjoy a 6 nil win away from home? Even in our best years, that’s not something that happens very often.
Talking of rarities, our annual European jollies have dictated we haven’t been in the League Cup 2nd round for more than a quarter of a century. Hartlepool if my memory serves me right. I can’t help but think back however, to Plymouth away back in 1989. Six goals and a hat-trick provide the similarities to last night. But the conga in the Home Park away end after the 6th went in was not to be repeated on this occasion.
My journey from Essex went smoothly enough and the few pre match jars and the quite incredible chicken tikka in ‘that’ pub complimented what seemed an upbeat and almost defiant atmosphere. A million miles away from the negative rubbish from some on social media who seem intent on trying to destroy our club or tear our support apart.
That ain’t gonna happen I’m afraid.
We needed a win. We needed some goals. And we needed some joy. And if that was to initially come in a League Cup tie away at West Bromwich Albion then so be it. And I make no apology for thoroughly enjoying it. Six goals scored, none conceded, bags of entertainment and great company off the pitch. And of course, plenty of opportunities to experience that feeling only scoring gives you. Into the 3rd round we go and the chance to take on AFC Wimbledon is the prize.
Impossible to get back home by public transport, the decision was made to stay in England’s 2nd city and having grabbed a taxi immediately after the game we enjoyed the hospitality of a few late night establishments. Hence the delicate head as I head back south on my train.
Thoughts now turn to Manchester City away on Saturday lunchtime, not just a very tough game on the pitch but equally off it. An early start direct from a music festival on the south coast already sounds painful.
But it is what it is.
Come on you mighty Gunners!