Look out for the Lizards!
Thursday 7th August 2014
Ground hopping has always been a very popular pastime amongst not just us sport followers but fans of subjects such as architecture and history too. An interest I have definitely enjoyed in the past I often found myself at the likes of Halifax, Bury, Torquay and the like on weekends when we didn’t have a game. Going with a few mates and taking in the town’s night time activities gave us all another reason to make the journeys.
The number of trips have definitely waned as time has gone on but whenever an ‘Arsenal XI’ fixture arises at a stadium I have not visited before I do try and make an appearance, work etc. permitting.
Forest Green Rovers away on Tuesday night very much fell into that category and consequently it was an opportunity too good to miss. As a result, fellow Gooner Tom and I set off lunchtime for the drive across country and into deepest Gloucestershire, a county I’m not sure we have ever played in before (although I am happy to be corrected if anyone knows otherwise.)
Although I have been lucky enough to visit a huge number of places all over these wonderful British shores, the small village/town of Nailsworth on the outskirts of Stroud is definitely not one of them. The journey as we approached was picturesque and quite obviously steeped in history. Our requirements were simple, some light refreshment before watching the game……but it would be wrong if we didn’t admit this to be more difficult than hoped. Having walked through the simple town centre we stumbled across a pub, not only graced with a number of food adverts but all the tables had cutlery laid out. Perfect we thought.
Barmaid, “Good afternoon lads, what can I get you?”
Me, “2 pints of your finest please.”
Barmaid, “No problem, anything else?”
Me, “Yes, we’d like to order some food please.”
Barmaid, “Oh no sir, we don’t do food.”
I can only assume the signs and cutlery had been there a very long time and nobody had noticed!
Another highly amusing conversation occurred during our short stay,
FGR fan having literally bounded over to the bar, “Alright lads, you hear for the game?”
Tom trying hard not to suggest the clue was in the shirts we were wearing, “Yes mate…..confident for your new season?”
FGR fan, “Oh yes, very. I think we have a strong chance of getting promoted this year.”
FGR fan’s girlfriend who had just joined him, “Don’t be ridiculous, you always get your hopes up, we’ve got no chance!”
The local chippy having satisfied the hunger pangs our first choice failed to, we headed up to The New Lawn Stadium, the venue for the evening’s main event. And this was not your ‘regular’ stadium! Owned and bankrolled by the local ‘green’ company the first thing we noticed was electrical charge points in the car park. A closer look of the stadium info revealed many other facts, none of which we are likely to have seen at another stadium. Looking out for lizards in the grass was probably the most obscure. And no, we didn’t see any!
Only built a short time ago the stadium was new, comfortable and functional and having got over the shock of so many people queuing for falafel we took or seats in the main stand, after Tom got a picture with the mascot of course. Hearing a 7ft green thing (devil from what I’ve been told) described how Frazer Campbell had destroyed them for Crystal Palace in their previous pre-season outing was amusing and almost surreal, especially with his ‘colourful’ language and local accent!
Gedion Zalalem and Chuba Akpom were amongst the players warming up as we took our seats and it was obvious many ‘local’ (and some not so local) Gooners had made the trip as they gathered behind the goal.
All you can hope for in these games I feel is for anything but a nil nil bore draw. Just some entertaining football and a few goals would be nice having made the journey. Well, we certainly got that! The defensive side to the game wasn’t at its very best of course but to see 10 goals in a 6-4 victory was hugely welcome and entertaining. Some of the football was extremely pleasing on the eye and there was some fine goals too. Not only that but I’m pretty sure that is a scoreline I have never witnessed before!
A thoroughly enjoyable evening then and getting home in the early hours of Wednesday morning our thoughts turned to our 3rd day out at Wembley in recent months as we take on Man City in our last pre-season ‘friendly’ of the year. A trophy is there to be won of course and we all want to win it. Keeping our players fit is paramount before the real stuff starts next week.
Tomorrow we will know who stands in our way of yet another year of Champions League football. I have visited 4 or the 5 cities but have only seen us play in one of the stadia, that one being a couple of trips to Liege. I would love to go to Bilbao but that would arguably be the toughest draw and as much as I like Istanbul as a city Besiktas is probably the last I would choose on this occasion.
For now I will place my pin in the UK map I have on my wall showing all the grounds I have visited watching the mighty Gooners. Yellow for friendlies, red for first class fixtures of course! Tomorrow will determine if I get the opportunity to place a new pin on my European map on the other wall!
See you at Wembley.