Archive | January 2015

Good ol’ Sussex By The Sea

Monday 26th January 2015

Two years ago we enjoyed a cracking day out on the Sussex coast. My thumping head today is certainly evidence enough that it was no less enjoyable this time round. Our current love affair with the World’s greatest cup competition continues.

A very good friend of mine and fellow Gooner is currently working overseas. Last time we were due to play Brighton he came to visit and a relatively quiet Friday night turned into absolute carnage! I remember the journey to Sussex being extremely painful but the day itself was equally as messy and we got the result we all wanted too.

A few weeks back my mate decided to book flights and come back for this weekend. To be playing Brighton again is a huge coincidence. 

On this occasion we decided to pop out for a few ‎jars on Saturday afternoon with every intention to not go mad given the big day we were expecting on Sunday. That was all going to plan……and then we witnessed the last 20 minutes or so of Sky Sports Saturday!!! There is no doubt that was one of the most incredible and dare I say amusing FA Cup days in living memory. And we celebrated a little bit longer and harder than we should have!

Sunday morning was a little bit tougher than hoped but once the banter started on our Gooner filled train journey along the south coast all the signs were there that it could be a fine day.

Brighton is very much a blue and white location but from the moment we arrived it was a total sea of red. The travelling army of Gooners were certainly up for making it one hell of a party. That of course would be completely spoilt if we didn’t get the result.

No matter how they go in all goals count the same but we definitely scored three crackers on the day. Theo’s fine control and finish calmed any nerves early on and despite our hosts giving us a tough afternoon I never felt like we wouldn’t come away ‎with the victory.

An absolutely fantastic day out and into the last 16 we go. This evening’s draw will determine where we go for our next cup adventure. 

Aston Villa join us in that hat and it’s them we face in our next outing on Sunday lunchtime. 

We seem to be gaining a bit of momentum right now, with some good results, good performances, injured players returning and activity in the transfer window. 

That needs to continue on Sunday.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

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Yellow Moon

Monday 19th January 2015

Just before Christmas we were deep into stoppage time at Anfield and if we had defended a corner properly we would have come away with three points, whether we deserved them or not. One small lapse in concentration and/or application prevented a positive result from being an excellent one. We all hope in these disappointing moments we learn something and if yesterday’s performance was anything to go by we certainly look as though we have. Three extremely pleasing and thoroughly deserved points taken from the League Champions’ own back yard. Get in!

Waking this morning I had a bit of a ‘head’. A heavy, yet thoroughly enjoyable weekend meant getting out of bed this morning felt a little bit more difficult than usual! Although my blog is very much dictated by my life as a Gooner, following my team week in week out over land and sea I try and add a few other bits and pieces just to prove there are other aspects to my life than all things red, white, yellow and blue!

On Saturday I was taking my dad to see Queen and Adam Lambert at the o2 Arena, tickets secured once TV had decided what date and time they would select for our trip to the Etihad. Living where I do quite a lot of planning needed to be done in order to not only get to the gig, but be in a position to get to Manchester on Sunday morning and back to the South Coast after the game! Again with my abode being the reason I rarely go by train to any games north of London these days, travel by car (or the odd flight) being the most convenient way. I openly admit to being a little bit of a control freak too, so relying on this country’s rail network to get me to my destination on time and hassle free is not something I’m a fan of doing. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy rail travel, so if it was more convenient and much much cheaper I would consider this option more frequently.

This weekend’s events might give you an indication as to why…..

My dad still lives in Kent so plans took the following course. I decided to book a very reasonably priced and comfortable hotel in Northfleet, my reasoning being my dad could park his car there, we could both enjoy some suitable liquid refreshment over the course of the evening and being located a few minutes from Ebbsfleet International station, I could get a fast train to St Pancras on Sunday morning, take a short stroll along the Euston Road comfortably in time for my train to Manchester. Engineering work in the Wimbledon area means trains from the south coast to London’s Waterloo are ridiculously long at the moment so with my dad kindly offering to pick me up from Godstone station, a few minutes off the M25 plans were in place for what could and should have been very very simple.

My journey involves a short walk to catch a ferry (or ‘cat’ to be totally accurate) and when the heavens opened and I got thoroughly drenched undertaking this I really should have seen it as a ‘sign’. We’ve all been there, blue sky all around…..and one small cloud…..directly above my head it seems.

The ‘cat’ was on time so no issues there but on arriving at Portsmouth Harbour I strolled into the station, checked the departure board to see my train alongside the word ‘cancelled’. Triffic. Whilst desperately trying hard not to bore you here my train was due to ‘join’ a train from Bognor Regis at a place called Barnham, I was to be alighting at Redhill to meet another train to undertake the couple of stops to Godstone. With absolutely no announcements or people to help on the station I thought on my feet and boarded a slightly late running Brighton train that was also due to stop at Barnham and in time to meet my connection, the train from Bognor. In Barnham in good time, all seemed rosy again, especially as the board was saying my next train was also running on time.

Sure enough, it arrived no problem but once I got on an announcement was made that we would be leaving a few minutes late as we were waiting for the ‘Portsmouth train’ to attach on the rear…….hang on a minute……the Pompey train…….so the one that was cancelled? Not only confusing but very annoying given my connection at Redhill was ‘tight’. Sure enough we got to Redhill late…..too late for my connection…..on a service where there was one per hour. Great.

I texted my dad asking if he would come to Redhill. Not too difficult you would think. But my dad has a new phone. Working a Nokia phone is not rocket science but my dad is of a generation where his knowledge of gadgets just about reaches the TV remote! Eventually our planned ‘meet’ took place and it was onward and upwards.

Having checked into our hotel I felt we had plenty of time, we could stroll to Northfleet station in less than 10 minutes for a train to Woolwich Arsenal (firmly located where the roots of our great club are of course) and utilise the DLR and the Jubilee Line to reach North Greenwich and our destination for the evening’s entertainment. Simple. Don’t be ridiculous!

With only 5 minutes or so until our train you can guess what came next…..”We are sorry to announce the 15.06 train from platform 1 has been cancelled”. Great, don’t you just love the railways in this country! It was freezing cold, this was one of the worse stations I had ever had the pleasure of being on…..and there was only 2 trains per hour, the next being 15.36. With little sensible option than to just wait, this is what we did before getting into the welcome warmth of the next train’s carriage.

The fun and games didn’t stop there of course, this one didn’t go via Woolwich Arsenal! Something I didn’t know. An error on my part admittedly but if the 3.06 hadn’t been cancelled in the first place it wouldn’t have been an issue!!! So…Waterloo East was our next location……somewhere I could have reached a few hours ago if I’d have taken the lengthy ‘Wimbledon engineering work’ option earlier in the day!

Not the greatest of days but a Jubilee Line train, some great food and pre-gig refreshment and an absolutely fantastic and spectacular few hours in the company of Brian May, Roger Taylor, Adam Lambert and of course the late great Freddie Mercury had us forgetting the ridiculously ‘difficult’ journey earlier. Stratford International to Ebbsfleet was the chosen route on the way back. There was no way we were risking a repeat of our outbound route!

Queen do their stuff

Queen do their stuff

Sunday morning’s alarm felt painfully early but our hotel had kindly offered to knock up a tremendous ‘Full English’ to match my intended departure time and with dad dropping back at Ebbsfleet International station thoughts turned to our tough tough trip to Manchester (and the best way to ease my throbbing head!) Inside the station building and guess what…….my train was delayed. You couldn’t make it up. Due to a ‘rostering error in Ashford’ apparently…..train speak for ‘cock up’.

Not using the rail system that often to travel to games as mentioned earlier, I decided to take up Virgin Trains’ offer to upgrade to First Class for just a little extra. Travelling on my own, I though why not. Its not as if I do this every week. I say ‘on my own’ but having taken my seat my carriage was full of Gooners. We certainly know how to travel in style us lot!

Before my carriage turned red & white

Before my carriage turned red & white

The journey proved comfortable, relaxing and full of banter and more importantly my first ‘on time’ and ultimately ‘as advertised’ train of the weekend! With the bottle of water and complimentary ‘snack pack’ I consumed not working on the ‘lets get rid of the headache’ aim I made my way to the bar about an hour into the journey. The ‘shop manager’ was a Palace fan and boy did he like a chat! The shelves were stacked full of goodies including a range of alcoholic beverages….but strangely no lager. I enquired as to why this was, not the greatest decision I have ever made……..”Well” he said. “I got on the train this morning and noticed we had no lager. I am only working today as I had the day off to go to Burnley yesterday and I get put on a train full of Arsenal fans going to Manchester with no lager onboard. Can you believe it?! So, I called my manager and said I need lager. Please can you make sure there are some waiting at our first stop Milton Keynes but he said this is not possible. I asked him when is the earliest we can have lager onboard and he said Manchester! So I’ve now got to tell all the Arsenal fans we have no lager!”

You had to admire his style, persistence and thought process!!

Armed with a bottle of wine and a gin & tonic I ambled back to my seat thoroughly happy and it proved the perfect ‘medicine’ for my ailment.

First Class refreshment!

First Class refreshment!

Arriving into Manchester Piccadilly it was certainly a bit Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby and by the time we reached our chosen location for pre-match refreshment the snowflakes were getting bigger and heavier. Fortunately by the time we reached our seats for the main event the weather had improved although it was still bitterly cold.

As a performance goes I don’t think any of us saw that one coming! Not that we didn’t believe we were capable of winning on the day, just the style and total tactical masterclass the elements none of us expected. City lose very few at home so to reduce them to just one or two half chances was an incredible performance. Going totally against the grain we allowed our hosts the lion’s share of possession and conceded a number of corners with some excellent defending. But not at any stage did City look like scoring from one of them. I cannot remember an occasion away from home where we held our shape and discipline any better. And if the other team gets nil I always fancy us to score, in any game.

The penalty decision has been described as a bit ‘soft’ in some quarters but would it have been given a foul if it had happened anywhere else on the pitch? The answer to that is undeniably ‘yes’ and for me that makes it a totally correct decision. And Mike Dean gave it too! The mind boggles! Santi coolly slotted home and the red and white army enjoyed the day’s first jostle.

The perfect half then but a long long way to go.

Our performance in the second period was arguably even better. Defensively we were very very strong and we looked extremely dangerous on the break and it was one such occasion that led to the all important free-kick that saw us double the lead. It wasn’t great defending admittedly but we showed great movement, it was a well delivered ball and like in every aspect all afternoon we wanted it that little bit more. Olly nodded home and it was carnage in the away end. We couldn’t…….could we?

The final whistle went and three enormous points were in the bag. Awesome.

Yeeellllllllloooooowwwwww!! Get in there you beauties!

Yeeellllllllloooooowwwwww!! Get in there you beauties!

An extremely satisfying result for so many reasons. Not only does it keep us in the hunt but there’s no way of knowing just what that will do for our confidence.

Heading back with my fellow south coast Gooners (by car!) I couldn’t help but feel very proud. Happy for Mr Wenger for getting it tactically spot on, delighted with how the players put those plans into place, full of pride with the support the thousands of travelling Gooners gave on the day and absolutely ecstatic with the result.

A return to Brighton comes next, a trip that two years ago proved successful, highly entertaining and dare I say, a little bit messy!

More of the same would be fantastic. Unfortunately however, I will be going by train!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Stoke at Home…..via Warwick!

Sunday 11th January 2015

Travel to and from home games can be very easy. Especially if you are following tried and tested weekly plans. Some of life’s other events can change your routine but even then, some decent planning can make it easy.

The ‘other event’ on this occasion was a wedding on the outskirts of Coventry on Saturday afternoon.

I’m not a big fan of weddings. In fact if I was told I would never have to attend one again I would be delighted. But, you have to do these things now and again I guess and our home game with Stoke being moved to Sunday meant I no longer had an excuse not to attend.

Departing just after 7am the day before a home game is not ideal but this I did for what looked a long long day ahead. In fact an hour or so into the journey and somewhere on the M40 everything was going swimmingly. Then however, my car started to lose power, intermittently at first and more regularly as we approached our destination.

I achieved my remit of getting to the wedding in good time but I would be lying if I said my thoughts were not concentrating on how much difficulty we would endure getting to London N5 less than 24 hours later.

The wedding came and went in the usual fashion and I enjoyed the food and drink that came with it. For that I am grateful for the invite and hospitality.

The following morning’s painful early start however, was where the problems really started. Heading south my spluttering motor was experiencing further degrees of power loss before reaching Warwick.

In my role as secretary of a supporters club, match ticket allocation and distribution is very much part. So me getting to the match is pretty important!

With this in mind a decision was taken to get a day return with Chiltern Railways from Warwick Parkway to London’s Marylebone, get to the game, hopefully pick up three points and deal with the ‘situation’ upon our return.

Travel wise it was certainly a good decision and we arrived in North London with plenty of time to spare. In fact it was further vindicated when we heard our original planned route would have been badly affected by the M25 being shut!  Pre-match activities over, the game was equally as successful, Mat Debuchy’s worrying exit aside of course.

We don’t need reminding about the difficulties we experience every time we head to the Potteries. Our record at home however, couldn’t be more opposite and as soon as Laurent’s thumping header set us on our way we never looked like getting anything less than three points for our efforts. 

Alexis was superb yet again and our little Chilean magician added yet another fantastic goal to his collection to put us in a strong position come half time and his cheeky ‘under the wall’ free kick sneaking in off a goalkeeper who had prevented a first half rout saw us pretty much home and dry early in the second period.

A pleasing afternoon then and a quick and on time train journey out of Marylebone  (if a tad packed solid due to all trains being cancelled out of Euston!) meant we reached our unexpected Sunday evening destination of Warwick efficiently and problem free. The fun and games however, could well have been about to begin.

So….how did we get on?

Well……she coughed and spluttered a bit at times but she done me proud and got me home. Tomorrow she will be going to the ‘doctors’. Fortunately she is still under warranty!

Some days we all make decisions that don’t prove to be correct. Today however, I feel we did everything right. And that, most importantly of all, includes our team. Three massive points.

The sky blue multi billion pound side of Manchester plays host next for what is certainly one of our toughest games of the season.

A ‘simpler’ day would be nice!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Into Wembley…..and back out the other side

Sunday 4th January 2015

Twelve months ago I was travelling home with that warm glow of victory. Not just a ‘normal’ one. We had just beaten a very very confident Tottenham side to be fair. Today I don’t feel quite as euphoric but any cup competition dictates you can only have the same prize. As a result progression to the last 32 and another chance to defend our trophy sees me heading home extremely satisfied with my day out.

And it has certainly been a day out! As soon as inevitability kicked in and last season’s finalists dictated our 3rd round pairing would be chosen for live TV coverage, I saw it as the ‘final Xmas shindig’ before reality kicks back in tomorrow!

So we left quite early. Enough to make sure even this country’s disrupted Sunday rail service wouldn’t spoil our day. And a fine establishment in Charing Cross played host accordingly, making sure we at least were well and truly ‘up for the cup’.

It was a chilly old afternoon as we made our way to the stadium for a game we probably all expected to win despite our defeat at Southampton, many of our squad still being absent and our opponents being from the Premier League.

The TV cameras being present suggested they were expecting something along the lines of Wembley in May. Let’s be honest that was never going to be the case.

The BFG opened the scoring, Alexis doubled our lead in the second period and there is little further to report.

Job done. I should say so.

The draw comes on Monday. Cambridge or Rochdale away would be nice.

Then our friends from Stoke come to town.

On the march…..

Frank
@stubbsy70

Pony New Year

Thursday 1st January 2015

Happy new year to all.

Thirteen points from a possible fifteen and progression from our Champions League group made it an excellent end to 2014. That doesn’t take away any of the disappointment having been comfortably beaten by a mediocre Southampton side in our first outing of the new year.

Football on January 1st is very much a tradition in our country so consequently year in year out the way we all feel totally depends on how full on the previous night’s celebrations have proved to be.

On this occasion they were entertaining and enjoyable but waking feeling pretty confortable was still a pleasant surprise! Living on the south coast Southampton away was gratefully received too so all in all we looked forward to the days events.

Our journey was smooth and pre match fare in our usual haunt was nothing less than lengthy and thoroughly enjoyable. Everything then was perfect and looked set for a fine day.

Then the football happened.

Away End St Marys

Away End St Marys

In many ways I thought the game matched West Ham away in the early stages but a defensive error saw us go behind and it set the scene for the rest of the afternoon.

We had 2 great chances in the game. Santi could and should have put us one up and the Saints keeper made a great save from Alexis when we were one down. Both situations of course could have made it a different story.

Don’t get me wrong however, in amongst those incidents our hosts enjoyed many chances and overall thoroughly deserved their victory. The fact there were 35 minutes left when Southampton doubled their lead and we never threatened once probably sums up just how much we were second best today.

So, what do we do? Well, the fact I would definitely have taken a point before a ball was kicked means we are one short. In all the accurate and correct negativity surrounding our poor performance, that makes it sound a little bit better.

We need to move on and win our next game and hopefully some of our many missing players will be available to help us do that. In addition of course, the transfer window will be open and hopefully our squad will be strengthened to assist our progression.

Twelve months ago our next game was an FA Cup 3rd round tie at home to an over confident Tottenham. It was to prove a thoroughly enjoyable day and the springboard to not only our season but our fantastic run to Wembley success.

Sunday sees Hull City come to London N5 and our first obstacle as we bid to defend our trophy.

Disappointments like today make me want to win our next game even more.

And today is no different.

Victoria Concordia Crescit

Frank
@stubbsy70