Heat Thrash

Saturday 13th August 2022

We like a ‘demic’ in our country. May that be a ‘pan’ an ‘em’ or an ‘epi’. We like one. And I’ve heard the recent weather supposedly falling into that category. Crazy surely. Millions of us travel to the hot climates of southern Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, in search of that heat on our holidays. And lie there, in our factor 50, in search of that all important tan. Yet, when it gets a bit hot over here, the media tell us we are all going to die.

‘Stay in’ they told us. What? In my non air conditioned oven of a house?! When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t wait to go out. And the fact I was up early to go and watch my team, even more so.

I loved it today, the usual scenario for a home match routine but given the fact i was wearing Arsenal swimming shorts and flip flops, slightly different to the one I will be undertaking come November I’m sure. But the travel, the beers with my mates and the banter were there and rich in their content. Like every other season before.

It was proper hot in block 12. So much so in fact, by the time Jesus’ fine strike had given us the lead, I felt like a baked lasagne. But that’s not because I don’t like or I’m not used to the heat. I just don’t usually have to deal with it in London N5 at a Premier League game.

Our second win out of two is number one when it comes to importance. Bar none. Back in the day of some of our very greatest teams (certainly in my time), we were guilty on occasion however, of thinking we could win a game at a canter. That whole, ‘if they score it doesn’t matter as we’ll get another’. And it felt a little bit like that at times today.

The reality check should be, that even those brilliant teams came unstuck now and again. Today we didn’t. But despite being worthy winners there were times in the game where it could have gone the other way.

I’m not being negative. We won 4-2 in the sunshine. And I loved it. But its food for thought.

Bournemouth away next. A holiday town, in August, on a Saturday, in the school holidays, with a rail strike. Triffic. Leave early to get down there folks.

Come on you might Gunners.

Frank
@ stubbsy70

Off and Running

Saturday 6th August 2022

My train home from football is definitely the most regular location for writing my post match words. And although its early Saturday morning, technically, the fact I’ve just left my digs in leafy Surrey, I still am. With a used match ticket, a programme, my toothbrush and a bottle of water in my man bag. And three points of course. One down, thirty-seven to go.

This season’s pre-season has been thoroughly enjoyable having taken me from St Albans to Baltimore, from Orlando to Hereford. Etc etc. But although that has meant attending a full 10 games already, that buzz, those butterflies, that edge was on a whole different level yesterday morning.

Yes, I am a man in my fifties. Possibly one who should ‘know better’. But as my 47th season of actively supporting this wonderful football club commenced, I awoke like a child on Christmas morning. Crystal Palace away. On a Friday night. On a glorious August Summer’s evening. I think we’ll have some of that.

The Olympia exhibition venue in London’s Kensington is a quite fantastic building and if you haven’t been there I recommend a visit. I initially remember seeing it as a young child, my family holidays to Cornwall seeing my parents use the adjacent ‘motorail’ terminal creating some wonderfully innocent childhood memories. And yes kids, there was a time when you could take your car on the train!

I remember Olympia’s facade being fascinating and always wondered what was behind those walls. Only many years later did I get to go inside. And yesterday was one such occasion. The event and chosen location for 8 of us Gooners to enjoy the pre-match build up? The Great British Beer Festival. As you can imagine, it was rubbish 😘.

Travelling there to Thornton Heath and the day’s main event, we were in fine spirits on our train increasing the anticipation yet further, if that was possible. And that matchday buzz you can only experience at live sport lifted it to fever pitch. Now there’s a good name for a book.

Selhurst Park is either fantastically traditional or an absolute disaster waiting to happen, depending on your view. One thing is for sure though, although stadia like these are what people of a certain age like me remember as the norm, they do now feel like a hugely distant memory. Alright now as a ‘one off’, but although the ‘old skool’ me recalls them with fondness, do I genuinely miss them? Only partly I would say.

And that ‘part’ includes the fact they are definitely more atmospheric. And you only needed to be part of that away end last night to know what I meant by that. Awesome support as always.

The whole night had a bit of a deja-vu feeling about it given 12 months ago my lot attended the Craft Beer Festival at Tobacco Dock on the Friday afternoon before Brentford. And memories of that day definitely kept the confidence levels relatively grounded going into last night. Along with the fact Palace took us to the cleaners last season too of course. But saying that, this feels like a new Arsenal team. So were we optimistic? You bet we were.

Keeping everyone fit and not suspended will be crucial this season I feel. And I say that knowing that is blatantly stating the obvious. But if we do, we have as big a chance as anyone of having a successful season.

And roared on by the Gooner army, we picked up our first three points with a deserved 2 nil victory. Lovely. The perfect end to a fantastic day.

For our ‘free’ weekend I intend to try and enjoy the sunshine. A bit of respite in this crazy old world. And doing that relaxed in the knowledge we are off and running with an opening day victory makes it so much sweeter.

Leicester at home next. At 3pm. On a Saturday. Weird.

Up the mighty Gunners.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Squirrel

Monday 1st August 2022

Im sat on a train at Waterloo. Late on a Monday night. A long way from home. But Woking isnt that far. Somebody has jumped in front of a train apparently. Selfish? Im not having that. Desperately sad? Totally. My inconvenience is slightly less sleep. Someone is dead. How does that happen?

Football stadia were pretty easy to remember back in the day. They had a name and one that by and large remained the same. Famous, historical and associated with the club that played there. In the modern money controlled world of football however, stadium sponsorship has become the norm.

Some of them seem to just about work and I include ours in that. Although we all know that will probably change at some time in the future. I never wanted a name like ‘New Highbury’ as was one of the many muted at the time. There will only ever be one Highbury and that is the way it should stay in my opinion. But other team’s new stadia will always be mildly amusing.

York City’s association with Rowntree for example always had a chance of the likes of Kit Kat getting involved. And I seem to recall Scarborough having a link up with the oven chip and Grimsby with the crispy pancake!

Further afield youve got the Toni Maccaroni up in Livingston and who can forget our trip to FC Thun away a few years back. Eating a “Young Boys Bratwurst” in the Wankdorf Stadion still tickles my immature side to this day.

Well, tonight, in leafy Hertfordshire, we saw an Arsenal XI take on a St Albans City FC side at the Mozzarella Fellas Stadium. Quite an addition to the list. But despite that it looks exactly how I remember it. Apart from the tree. The one I leant against back then. Where has that gone? And no pizzas for sale. I was quite shocked.

Mozzerella

Clarence Park to go by its ‘non sponsored’ name is a ground I have been to a few times but not for best part of 20 odd years. And I love it as a stadium. Proper. And with 2 to 3 thousand in the place it looked even better. And a competitive fixture, with little restrictions as to where you stood/sat with your beer, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Can’t drink there mate

There was only 1 goal in it. But those who attended will never forget it. A lob by Joel Ideho from 50 yards out was something special. And those who went to the ‘Mozzarella’ will remember it.

Enough to win the game and I head home (or at least I think I will) looking forward to our trip to Selhurst Park on Friday.

Game 1. Come on you mighty Gunners!

Frank
@stubbsy70

“Jose Antonio….”

Saturday 30th July 2022

London Waterloo to be exact. Late afternoon. And I’m heading south. To attend a comedy night at the Ventnor Fringe Festival. Had tickets for last night too. But Borehamwood got in the way. Its par for the course if you like attending ‘events’. But the Arsenal come first. They always have. They always will. And this afternoon’s journey home is accompanied by a satisfying 6 nil win in the last of our first team squad’s pre-season friendlies. Nice.

Life is complicated. Very. Be that the way it just is. Or the way we make it. I’m not one who thinks we completely control our own destiny. But I recognise we are hugely influential. So choosing to attend pretty much every one of our games is a choice. And I get that adds to life’s complexity.

But I work in logistics. In fact that kind of stuff I quite enjoy. So working my way around life, our fixtures and my general world, I’m genuinely quite good at it. And although I do think I get most of that right. I am totally not beyond mistakes. Fences I find it extremely difficult to jump.

A number of people asked me today how I managed to get to Borehamwood and then today’s game whilst living on the Isle of Wight. Well firstly, my front door is only 20 mins from Portsmouth. And with a little bit of planning my overnight accommodation was 10 mins walk from a station that is only 15 mins from Finsbury Park. Not exactly rocket science.

I appreciate there was a rail strike today. And that caused huge problems for many. Apparent with the few empty seats in this afternoon’s sold out fixture. But those who did overcome the travel issues were treated to the latest example of our exciting attacking look.

Emirates Cup action

The number of youngsters who got to attend today was simply fantastic. Genuine excitement. Genuine joy. Genuine smiles. And memories that will remain in the bank forever. The power and the look to our future in that cannot be under estimated. We were all young once remember.

After his untimely death it was fitting that Jose Antonio Reyes was remembered in a fixture between the two clubs who remember him most fondly. A wonderful touch even if the 9th minute applause were somewhat ‘disturbed’ by Bukayo stroking home the pen to put us in the lead.

Six nil then. And a tough opening day at Selhurst Park awaits.

Before that I’m going to St Albans on Monday. A ground I remember back in the late nineties when the likes of Emmanuel Petit and Gilles Grimandi turned out for what was a first team friendly.

That means you will be treated to yet another blog before the season starts in earnest. You must be ecstatic 😘.

Up the Gunners.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Defeat at Meadow Park

Friday 29th July 2022

It’s late, I’m in Whetstone Travelodge and I probably don’t need to write a blog. But that would go against my aim to try and write between every one of our matches. So I’m going to say just a few words.

I’ve been to Borehamwood before. Many times in fact. And tonight just might have been one of the rare occasions that I gave it a miss. But with tomorrow’s game against Seville being an early kick-off and my digs being just a 15 minute train ride from Finsbury Park, attending almost felt a bit ‘sensible’.

So I left home around lunchtime, made the usual journey north, enjoyed a couple of pre-match jars and watched a thoroughly entertaining encounter that saw our team lose by 1 goal in 5 against their much bigger and stronger opponents.

I say that because physically that is the way it is. And I do believe our young team benefit enormously from playing teams like that. The skill, movement and slick passing is clear to all looking on. But the strength and physical side to the game only comes as the players grow up.

Red and White

Today also saw our 3rd kit launched. Another for the fashion experts I guess, being pink and all that. I’m not going to knock it as I couldn’t care less what colour this relatively new invention they call a ‘3rd kit’ is. If only our 2nd kit was yellow.

Yesterday we lost an Arsenal legend in Terry Neill. He was our boss when my dad took me to my first game back in the mid seventies. And I remember the North Bank singing, “Terry Neill’s Red and White Army” as if it was yesterday. He moulded and developed a side that was to become incredible in cup competitions whilst regularly reaching the top 4. And he was the manager of my team when I proudly collected and swapped stickers in the playground at school. “I know I’ve already got Terry Neill, but you’re still not having my swap!”

Rest in peace Terry.

Back to tonight and overall its been a decent Friday, completed by enjoying a little of what this part of the North London suburbs offers on a Friday night and thoughts turn to tomorrow’s final first team friendly before the real stuff starts next week.

And it’s a sell out too.

Come on you reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Tired in Bromley

Tuesday 26th July 2022

There was a sizeable crowd at Hayes Lane, Bromley tonight. And with the England Women’s team involved in a big game, live on ‘free’ telly, I did wonder if that would be the case. Not sure what that proves or suggests but those who chose to leave their sofas for an evening out in West Kent/South East London were rewarded with an entertaining and competitive encounter.

I don’t mind admitting if the game had been yesterday I don’t think I would have made it. And before anyone questions my commitment, the journey from Hereford to Baltimore to Orlando and back to Blighty has been as exhausting as it has entertaining, a combination of my work commitments accompanying the 5 hour time difference, pushing the night time entertainment to its limit and the jetlag meaning I found myself falling asleep at my keyboard as Monday proceeded.

I’ve been to Orlando before, a trip with my family including my young nephews and niece to do ‘the parks’ and the rides that go with them a few years back. But this time round has made it abundantly clear there are two very different Orlandos. The one with adrenalin filled rides and Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (being a bit too touchy feely for my liking) and the one ‘downtown’ with its crazy nightlife. And my far considerable tiredness is definitely as a result of those differences as much as anything else.

But, having taken on a morning’s work, I felt much better today and having booked my travel, match ticket and accommodation some time ago, I wasn’t going to waste it.

Pre-season

Even in the short period since our last visit to Bromley there has been a considerable change to the stadium in the shape of the Broomfields Bar, a modern and fantastic social club, great bar and kitchen facilities, service, seating areas and large screen TVs, less than a minutes walk from the seats and terracing. And it adds to what is a fine non-league set up. And differently to when we were well beat last time we went along, our young team very much held their own, only not winning due to a fine free-kick equaliser from our hosts with the very last kick of the game.

Come on you …errrr….blacks!

A win would have been a bit harsh on Bromley I felt but the Academy side can be pleased with their overall performance and as I write these notes on my post match train I’m glad I made the effort to attend the one all draw.

The coming days it will be ticketing matters that take up my time away from my working desk as the season fast approaches. But before that I have 3 more games I plan on attending, the first the annual trip to Meadow Park on Friday, the only disappointment being it clashes with an equally attractive trip to see a younger Academy side take on Slough.

I’m sure I’ll see some of you there.

Up the Gunners.

Frank
@stubbsy70

What Goes on Tour

Sunday 24th July 2022

Wow. Just wow. And I’m not saying that because we beat the Russians from Fulham 4 nil either. I try not to go too over the top about any friendly, win, lose or draw. So I refuse to do that now. But a thumping victory is certainly better than a defeat and was extremely enjoyable to boot.

The wow is for everything about this trip. Fantastic weather, 2 wonderfully entertaining cities, sensational hospitality from every single American we have met and the best possible company. Friends that ‘know’. And my throat is sore from laughing for 10 days straight.

On the subject of friends, in recent days we lost one of our great club’s longest and most loyal in Maria. I didn’t know her well personally but obviously saw (and more famously heard) her all over the globe. And her passion for every team within the club cannot ever be doubted. Rest in peace Maria. “Come on you Gunners!”

I fly home later today, back to the reality of life with yet another experience well and truly in the memory. One filled since our win over Orlando City with remaining in our hotel pool for hours on end, just to keep cool in the blistering heat, plenty of eating and drinking in various establishments both in and on the outskirts of Orlando’s quite crazy downtown area, considerable banter and of course last night’s match.

Citrus

The Camping World Stadium or Citrus Bowl as it is still referred to by many is a typical American style stadium built for American Football but like all stadia out it is quite striking both inside and out. And with a 63 plus thousand sell out, even more so.

Florida Cup

And the larger proportion of the crowd in red and white were to be served up a treat. Thoroughly enjoyable as I said.

A few celebratory and last minute beers late into the quite wild Saturday night finished a superb day at the end of an awesome trip.

Saturday night in Orlando

“What goes on tour……” is a very famous statement. And that will always be the case. So this bunch of words is for those who I travelled with. Thank you to every single American Gooner who has made it so special. And thank you to Stagger Inn, Caseys, the Dapper Duck, wronguns, the $12 menu, Trevor Ross, Brian Talbot, New Street and the mighty BBF.

America. I salute you. Thanks for making us so welcome.

Cheerio

There’s only one team in London.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Wet

Thursday 21st July 2022

Timing is everything they say. And the heavens opening shortly after we started our 15 minute walk from one of Orlando’s numerous Gooner packed pubs to the Exploria Stadium last night suggests little else. This not like rain on a November day in Manchester though. So despite being drenched through to the skin, another day in the searing Florida heat meant it was extremely refreshing. Bordering on pleasurable in fact.

Welcome

This hasn’t been the luckiest trip flightwise and Monday’s near on 2 hour delay to our southbound flight continued that trend but having checked into our hotel in Orlando’s lively downtown, we settled into a nearby establishment for some well needed refreshment. The 2nd leg of the US tour was underway.

A week of setting my alarm for 5am was always going to be painful if I was to enjoy the city’s night time hospitality and Tuesday morning was definitely an example. But an American brekkie and a few afternoon hours in and out of the hotel pool once my working day was over certainly helped get me back in the game.

Pool

And a very typical American Country & Western style bar run by equally typically friendly and customer service driven staff played host for a very entertaining 2nd night in this part of the world. It did make Wednesday morning a particularly painful one though. I’ll sleep when I’m dead and all that!

It also meant it was match day of course so there was no rest for the wicked. And that meant another dip in the pool, a bit of lunch and then the pre-match build up with the many thousands of Gooners who either live or have travelled to this part of the world. A very red, white, yellow, blue and of course black and gold experience. The colours for our away kit will always divide opinion and I am no different but this season’s offering has already proved to be incredibly popular if sales figures are anything to go by.

Pub

Leaving the pub the skies had changed from blue to rather dark and threatening. There was definitely a storm a brewing. And with a distant flash and clap of thunder, then the rains came. And didn’t they come down?! Blimey.

With the dangers that lightning can bring it was clear the kick-off would be delayed but with a combination of Orlando FC’s stadium being relatively new and these storms always appearing to pass through pretty quickly there was never any major threat that the game would be called off due to a waterlogged pitch.

Snacks and refuge

We were encouraged to ‘seek refuge’ so this we did, initially by picking up some merchandise before gathering in a hospitaly area where we weren’t supposed to be. A combination of looking confident, the chaotic scenes as a result of the weather and not acting like complete idiots meant we weren’t bothered or asked to leave either. Although I say that but when one of our total wronguns asked a pregnant lady if she could grab us a couple of the free beers on offer, it was difficult to make that claim!

But those snacks and beer were very welcome especially in a country where the prices are eye watering.

Exploria

If anything the 75 minute delay to kick-off increased the anticipation amongst those attending and once again in a game that was competitive and relatively entertaining we were treated to 3 goals and a victory. I’m not going to analyse the overall performance from the squad or any individuals because you can read things like that in thousands of other places. And this is a friendly remember. Training. Preparation. Fitness. Nothing else.

Eddie, Eddie, Eddie

Post match we did exactly what we do in England. Had a pint. And talked utter rubbish about a whole host of subjects. Perfect in my book.

It’s still quite early on Thursday morning over here but with no game or training to attend, hopefully we can enjoy some more afternoon sunshine and relaxation before later from what we understand there is another Orlando Downtown Gooner takeover. Shall we?

Oh go on then.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Charmed

Sunday 17th July 2022

Sitting here with Fratton Sean in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area enjoying a ‘Maryland Style Crab Soup’ as a bit of chilled Sunday lunch, the Stilton and red wine we enjoyed at Heathrow on Thursday afternoon seems a long long time ago. But the amazing party and hospitality the Charm City Gooners have shown us since we arrived is definitely still fresh in the memory. This is some place for a weekender believe me.

It hasn’t been all plain sailing as is often the case with travel, an unexpected 3 hour delay due the well documented UK airport staff shortages and a ‘problem with the plane’s computer system’ was not enjoyable but in the broader scheme of things just a minor blip. Especially given with an hour of touching down we were already in our hotel, totally throwing the supposed delays getting through US security in the bin.

Friday was far more entertaining than we we were expecting. Sean is in the Navy and incredibly he knows someone based at the US Navy Academy in Annapolis, approximately 30 miles from the centre of Baltimore and more importantly the base for our training camp on this leg of the tour so by mid morning plans were made to meet for a late and boozy lunch before being taken into the Academy to watch training. An unbelievable stroke of luck and an experience to cherish as the players were put through their paces in the stifling heat.

Training

Another beer, this time in a nearby waterside establishment followed before heading back to the city and joining the many thousands of Gooners at a party that went on until well into wee small hours. A quite awesome day all round.

Matchday arrived and with a combination of jet lag and Friday night’s antics it was definitely laced with an amount of lethargy but the air of anticipation around the city was hugely apparent. Despite it being very hot we also knew there were a few thunderstorms about and with the M & T Bank Stadium (the home of the Baltimore Ravens NFL team) not having a roof, we needed the weather Gods to be kind to us. Midway through our pre-match refreshment the heavens opened and it proper came down. But fortunately by the time we left for the match the sunshine returned and apart from the odd spot here and there it remained dry for the rest of the day.

COYG!

For me these pre-season tours always provide quite remarkable evidence as to the size of our great football club. Our support week week out in the UK cannot be questioned but 30 odd thousand plus Gooners in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, comfortably outnumbering the Evertonians present by at least 30 to 1 is yet another example to our popularity.

The game was competitive and pretty entertaining, in particular the first half and was even feisty in parts, more down to our opponents frustration that they hardly ever had the ball as much as anything else. And two goals, a win and a clean sheet was pleasing.

The Arsenal party continued nearby and again it was well into the early hours that it came to an end.

And that brings you up to date. Tonight we are going to a gig. Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless are set to provide the entertainment in a fantastic venue overlooking the harbour. And it will bring our wonderful few days in Baltimore to a close.

Tomorrow we head south to Orlando. And if that city proves just half as entertaining as this one I’ll be delighted.

Thanks Maryland, you’ve been wonderful.

Up the Gunners!

Frank
@stubbsy70

A Victory in Hereford

Thursday 14th July 2022

My alarm in the less than salubrious surroundings of my Hereford digs went off at 6am this morning. Although the noise of the seagulls outside my window probably had me half awake anyway. Yes. Seagulls. I’ve never understood that. I know they’ve got wings and all that but why are they outside my window miles from the coast?

Given the fact I’m now on my way to Heathrow to board my flight to Baltimore, I wouldn’t call a trip to Edgar Street the night before convenient. But as far as the main reasons why I attend these games are concerned, it was right up there. A different and picturesque journey to a part of the country we rarely go to, a gorgeous sunny day and a stadium that has changed little since the days of Ronnie Radford or indeed our last visit back in the mid eighties, there was much to encourage making the effort to attend. And that was some strike that day by Tony Woodcock!

So having gone under the River Severn and into South Wales, we changed at Newport and headed north through the likes of Cwmbran and Abergavenny and into Hereford before setting up camp in a suitable sundrenched pub garden for the build up.

Sunny refreshment

I would describe the city as compact with an enormous amount to enjoy in a very small area so the stroll from my hotel, to our chosen hostelry and on to the stadium was very short and although a pre-season match against an Arsenal Academy side with less than 3 thousand attending can’t be described as massive there was definitely a little bit of a matchday ‘buzz’.

Edgar Street

Edgar Street is proper old skool and the clank of the turnstile as we made our way in brought back the memories to all of us who remember and with the old away end now closed, our section along the side gave us the choice of sitting upstairs or standing below. So we chose a bit of each across the 2 halves.

A pre-season scene

In a similar vein to 2 of the 3 we conceded at Woking, we handed our hosts a goal on a plate, this time so early in the game that some were still to take their place in the stadium but 2 fine headed goals quickly turned that around to see us take a lead into the break. And a relatively entertaining encounter saw a third in the 2nd period to complete a 3-1 victory. Definitely not crucial on these trips but always nice.

A few post match ales in a somewhat surprisingly entertaining Wednesday night followed and our time in this part of the world came to a close.

That is of course, apart from my short sleep, my seagull alarm and my early train back to London. And there is where you find me right now. In Honeybourne. Wherever that is.

Heathrow next and my flight to Baltimore. Bring it on.

Frank
@stubbsy70