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!
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!
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.
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.
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!