Archive | April 2015

Choices

Tuesday 28th April 2015

Football banter and humour is unique. Clever and witty in many aspects, bordering on ‘wrong’ in others. Any actual ‘offense’ however, is usually a combination of a lack of understanding to this particular brand of amusement or just down to the receiver being slightly over sensitive. Our recent fixture at home to that club from the Russian quarter of Fulham has emphasized these facts completely.

Off the field, our friends and might I say thoroughly hardworking Gooners from ‘Redaction’ were planning to reveal their latest flag at the game, an amusing and hugely supportive example of football humour involving a player who is fast becoming our midfield ‘general’, Francis Coquelin. If you need to know more please go to Redaction’s Twitter feed but I feel it is a perfect example as to my opening gambit above.

From what I understand, AFC gave the go ahead before changing their minds at the eleventh hour. On this occasion however, I can see both sides to this argument. The football humour side makes it extremely amusing. The non-football fraternity however, in combination with the hugely sensitive world we live in right now, supports the club’s decision I feel. It would only have taken one ‘do-gooder’ for want of a better word and the club could have been dragged over the coals for allowing it to be displayed on the day. Personally, football humour would be my winner on this one….but I can understand why it wasn’t to be.

Our visitors came for a draw on Sunday. Fact. And I have absolutely no problem with that. Getting results is part of the game. No matter how much it proves detrimental to entertainment. No matter how much it costs us to watch the game. Their manager set his team out to gain a point (and more importantly prevent us from winning) and he got exactly what he wanted. No complaints from me, especially as a draw was no disaster for us either.

As a man however, its his total lack of class and respect for others than bugs me. Completely unnecessary, especially when his ability and tactical awareness would and could not ever be called into question.

‘Boring boring Chelsea’ echoed around the ground on Sunday afternoon. Fact or not, that’s football ‘banter’ for you Jose. Accept it with class, not by using it to attack and disrespect others.

Back when your club went up and down the league structure more often than the lifts at Covent Garden station, your stadium was one of the worst in the country and your club could only dream of the quite incredible success us Gooners were enjoying, we too had periods (well before Mr Wenger’s time) where winning things went hand in hand with a ‘boring’ tag. But you know what, we dealt with it by winning trophies with a smile. Not only that, we did it with the resources we made within the club. Not with a never ending pot of money that makes your life so so easy Jose.

Us Gooners are now looking forward. Over the last ten years we have planned, moved and now PAID FOR the best club stadium in London. During that time we have reached finals and semi-finals in all competitions, enjoyed Champions League football every single season, watched incredibly entertaining football week in week out and last year took that next step of picking up a bit of silverware. All this when not being able to compete with the spiralling wages overseas billionaires have created and needing to sell our best player each and every season when paying for our new home.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Russian money could have been given to run any club. But it was given to yours. That is the ONLY reason you are currently not the ‘Yo-Yo’ club you once were. I’m sure you are enjoying it but deep down I for one could not be happier that I am supporting a proper club run the correct way.

Surviving, competing and existing within the means you raise within. That’s what being a club is all about in my book. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

As for Sunday’s game there is not a huge amount to say about it. There were some big moment talking points of course but there always is. Overall however, our visitors came with a blanket defence and we couldn’t quite break it down, its as simple as that. Results elsewhere however, mean despite not getting the three points we craved, one will do.

TV dictates we get a free weekend next before we head up to the city of Kingston-Upon-Hull on Bank Holiday Monday. Our cup final opponents from last year are fighting for their Premier League lives right now so we have to fully expect an extremely tough encounter. A top four finish looks ours to lose but we are not over that line yet. Finishing in the top 3 is also a huge incentive so as to avoid that banana skin qualifier.

Fancy a Monday afternoon pint anyone?

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

That Popular Place at This Time of Year….

Wednesday 22nd April 2015

Only 2 clubs in England will still have on field business to complete come the morning of Saturday 30th May. To know we are one of them is hugely satisfying. Again.

Again.....oh.....and again!

Again…..oh…..and again!

Surely however, especially as Arsenal supporters, any of us who thought getting through Saturday’s semi final would be a stroll in the park can only be described as foolish! When have we EVER made things easy for ourselves!? Those kind of emotions could also be described as cocky or arrogant perhaps. They certainly show a degree of disrespect to our opponents on the day. Which brings me to my next point…..

We are all guilty sometimes I feel of forgetting there are two teams in every game. We only consider our own assets (and issues) and never the fact there will be eleven or more other human beings out there who have reached this stage of the competition on merit and will be giving every last drop of effort to try and progress instead of us. On paper, of course we were big favourites to go through. But every single week, many of those ‘expected’ to be victorious are overcome on the day. Topically, just ask ‘favourites’ Liverpool and ‘favourites’ Celtic how their weekends went.

Being our 4th visit in the last year or so, tried and tested pre-match plans that first went fantastically well this time 12 months ago when we took on FA Cup holders Wigan were put in place once again and they proved no less successful on this occasion.

An early start on a gorgeous sunny morning saw us enjoying some brekkie in North West London before taking in all the build up in a fine hostelry, one that was also hosting our friends from Liverpool 24 hours later. I have no idea if their pre-match ‘party’ was as enjoyable as ours, one thing I do know however, the rest of their day was much much worse.

That walk up Wembley Way is special. For me, it always will be. No matter how many times I do it in support of our great club it will stir incredible emotions in me. That alone means I want to do it time and time again. Saturday was no different of course and despite our huge ‘favourites’ tag I was racked with PMT and nerves. Yes, we should win. But, even after all these years, I remember York away. And Wrexham away where we lost as League Champions to a team who only just avoided being relegated into non-league football just a few months earlier. I also remember how much we needed to battle to overcome Wigan just twelve months ago, a match of attrition that completely shredded the nerves.

The Wembley Way slope

The Wembley Way slope

Wembley Way has changed a little down the years of course and the ‘Holy Grail’ at the end of it has been completely rebuilt. That view from Wembley Park tube station however, is still nothing short of awesome and sends shivers down your spine as the reality of the day kicks in. The twin towers will always be embedded in the memories of all football supporters old enough to have seen them but in its own modern way the new ‘arch’ gives rise to similar emotions.

Approaching the stadium we still have the slope that splits with the majority of one teams’ fans heading up one and their opponents the other. Having walked together down the previous 800 yards or so, you can almost hear the phrase ‘let battle commence’.

On each of our three recent visits we have taken the right hand fork and given how successful each trip has been, heading this way again felt ‘right’ whether you believe in lucky omens or not.

One game from another FA Cup Final. Let’s get this done boys.

Come on you Gunners!

Come on you Gunners!

The game itself, was a little disappointing. Whilst dominating the vast majority, we weren’t at our best and Reading defended extremely well. To suggest we were lucky however, is ridiculous in my book. We created pretty much all the chances throughout, had far more corners and hit the woodwork twice. We all know Reading’s goalkeeper made a howler for our winner in extra time but Chezz made a similar mistake that prevented us from winning 1-0 in normal time. All irrelevant when people read the history books in years to come of course but if you were an alien and this was the first game you had ever seen you would say the team who came through victorious deserved to do so.

Neutral supporters I know and respect said we played ‘ok’ and always looked in control. And d’you know what? We are through to the FA Cup Final. So I don’t care anyway. Awesome. Job done.

Apart from the usual scramble for the paltry amount of tickets the FA always allocate for the game and that buzz and air of anticipation that inevitably and expectedly builds over the coming weeks, we can now put our admirable defence of the FA Cup on the backburner. Concentration must turn to our six remaining home games, starting of course with Chelsea’s visit on Sunday afternoon.

I don’t do blue.

I’m red to the core.

And I don’t mind a yellow ribbon in May either!

Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Jimmy Anderson’s Barmy Army!

Tuesday 14th April 2015

The unmistakable drone of foghorns outside my bedroom window this morning confirmed it was a little bit foggy out on The Solent. Being occasionally woken by a sound like that is one of the very few disadvantages of living by the sea (and is certainly not a complaint!). Another however, is destinations such as Burnley feel a seriously long way! I certainly needed my pit when I got back in the early hours of Sunday morning. Another three points of course made it all worthwhile.

I try and get my thoughts written relatively quickly after each game but the delay on this occasion is again something I am not going to moan about. We are going to Wembley again on Saturday. Why on earth would I complain!? But the last 2 days and much of Friday too have been spent desperately trying to obtain match tickets for all of the members in our supporters club who meet the criteria set out by Arsenal.

To be honest, by and large I think our club do things pretty fairly. An adjustment that means season ticket holders who don’t actually use their season tickets don’t receive the same benefits is certainly in order in my book but other than that I can’t see any better or fairer way to distribute when numbers are so limited.

The way the FA distribute them however, is another matter. No disrespect to Reading but to be given more tickets than not only their average home gate but the capacity of their stadium is an absolute joke. We have all heard and read the stories but by the time ticket sales ended in the Berkshire town, Reading members had tickets for their whole family, friends, cats, dogs, budgies etc etc etc. Grossly unfair and a story that has been the same for years. That doesn’t mean it can’t be adjusted and improved for the future of course. But hang on a minute…..I’m forgetting the fans come well and truly LAST when banishing that ‘fair’ stick!

The gloriously sunny weather this week hadn’t graced us with its presence early on Saturday morning as our particular party set off Lancashire bound, light drizzle on the south coast something usually associated more with our destination.

There was a time in recent years where Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton and Wigan accompanied the ‘big clubs’ from this part of the world in the top flight and as a result it felt like we were forever travelling up that delightful road they call the M6. This season however, only Burnley are flying that flag. Our journey on this occasion was comfortable and smooth but once you pass Manchester and Liverpool and you still have 40 odd miles to go you realise its a long old way!

Parked up it was a bright and sunny town that met us and we made our way to Burnley Cricket Club for a pre-match refreshment, located adjacent to the away end at Turf Moor and with cheap prices and the Grand National on the telly it proved a perfect location. Being the club of a current cricketing ‘star’ the ‘James Anderson Stand’ was a great host to many of the travelling Gooners present and I was also one of those who came up trumps with the winner of the big race at Aintree!

Pre-Match Hosts

Pre-Match Hosts

Gambling has never been something I have been hugely into but like most of us I’ll have the occasional flutter, including on the National. On this occasion however, I had forgotten to put a bet on. One of our party decided to seek out a bookies so returning from the bar and seeing his absence I decide to call him. “Is there one at 33/1 Rich?” I asked. “Yes mate” came the reply. “Ok do me an each way on that”.

Hardly ‘studying the form’ but probably an indication as to what a lottery the race is! Lovely 🙂

Lovely jubbly!

Lovely jubbly!

What we would call traditional stadia are fast disappearing in this country. Progress I guess but a real shame to see so many of them go. Turf Moor (or certainly 2 sides to it) definitely fall into that category, especially the away end. Lacking in comfort and facilities but hugely atmospheric. The thousands of travelling Gooners (interestingly twice as many as Middlesex FC brought the previous week if you believe the matchday programme), got behind the team as always and we started the game extremely well.

Come on you Yellows!

Come on you Yellows!

Let’s be honest, the game won’t be remembered as a ‘classic’. Once our good start was rewarded with Rambo’s goal we were never in any real danger of letting the lead slip I feel. That professionalism is admirable of course, but not trying to kill the game off is a trifle risky for me, especially with just a one goal lead. It is difficult to criticise when we have come away with the three points and might I add I am absolutely ecstatic with that and would have taken it before a ball was kicked….but…….well……just but!!

The long long journey home is always that much easier with a victory of course so overall a thoroughly satisfying day. It definitely keeps that momentum as we look forward to our 4th trip up Wembley way in less than a year.

My colours are ready, the weather looks set to be bright and despite having made this trip on many many occasions down the years, I am genuinely massively excited yet again.

For now I need to find a branch of Corals!

“Wemberlee, Wemberlee, we’re the famous Arsenal……..”

Frank
@stubbsy70

A Happy Happy Easter

Sunday 5th April 2015

Gardening isn’t an activity I would necessarily say I love or I’m any good at but I don’t mind having a go. Likewise, diy or painting and decorating are not favourites but strangely I find it quite therapeutic when I get involved with such activities. Undertaking them with a stinking hangover however, is downright nauseating and painful!

I make no apology for feeling this way today. After a performance and result like that an unplanned celebration felt totally the right think to do.

You can keep your chocolate eggs and bunnies this time of year. I’ll take a thumping 4-1 win over Liverpool any day.

Other than Saturday’s game I had planned to use this extended weekend to undertake a number of those essential chores in and around my house. Life has been pretty full on in recent weeks (mainly following our great club of course) and the coming weeks and months look no different. Totally my choice but it is a situation that dictates finding the time to do the former is proving very difficult. As a result Good Friday was spent painting and putting together furniture. I’m ‘Rock & Roll’ me.

We all go through these International ‘breaks’ with a large degree of fear. Most of our squad are always involved and with so much still to play for we all hope more than anything else that they all return injury free.

On this occasion and extremely rare it seems, we looked forward to Saturday not only with all of our squad coming through unscathed but a number of our injured players back in full training and taking part in a ‘behind closed doors’ friendly.

The lunchtime kick-off meant an early start but travel and pre-match activities going smoothly and successfully, the atmosphere heading to the ground certainly had a real air of anticipation and optimism.

Result wise I really felt that a draw would not have been a complete disaster. Liverpool desperately needed a win to stay in the race for Champions League football and a point would have kept our visitors 6 points behind as we look to achieve the same target.

That however, was not me being negative. I was extremely confident if we performed well we could come away with all 3 points.

In the first 15 or 20 minutes we were magnificent. We totally battered Liverpool, the only thing missing from a great start the all important goal. Very nearly and arguably the most crucial moment in the first half, if not the whole game, not taking the lead came back to bite us. A terrible miss from what looked like a certain goal it might have been, but going behind would have been completely undeserved. There is no doubt however, had our visitors taken the lead, the whole game could have been different.

And how we made them pay!

Last season’s heavy defeat at Anfield was very painful. I don’t remember attending another game where I’ve felt so shell shocked at half time.

Well, our friends from the red side of Liverpool, I genuinely hope Saturday you felt exactly the same at the break. Have some of that!

All 3 goals were things of absolute beauty yet again, Hector’s fine run and finish, Mesut’s magnificent free kick and Alexis’ crashing thumping finish, all in less than 10 minutes seeing us positively dancing in our seats. Get in! Magnificent.

Being in a winning position, the second period was all about being solid and professional and that is exactly what we did. And on the break we looked extremely dangerous too. Liverpool’s pen had us twitching a little but Olly’s superb late strike settled those nerves and put the icing on a very huge and tasty cake. Arsenal 4 Liverpool 1. A beautiful scoreline.

We all celebrate our victories in different ways. Drink options have always been similar for train journeys home. Food on the other hand has changed down the years. In the past a greasy burger, something with chips or at best a sarnie were all you could hope for.

On this occasion, the drink remained the same (although I’m not convinced the ‘perfect accompaniment to chicken, fish or mussels’ was an accurate statement on the side of my ‘Belgian Lager’!) but a packet of beetroot crisps, a salad with some ingredients I’ve never heard of and fellow Gooner Ian munching on a tray of sushi are all examples of just how things have changed!

Post Match Meal!

Post Match Meal!

Sushi......a bit posh

Sushi……a bit posh

And that pretty much brings me up to date. A fine fine day ended in my local pub. I remember smiling a lot and feeling chilled and full of satisfaction. As well as beer of course!

The long trip to Turf Moor comes next to play a team fighting for their Premier League lives. Positive results against teams around us are enough to prevent any complacency on our part you would hope but it promises to be a tough game.

For now however, I’m going to continue the household stuff with a smile on my face.

Happy Easter Gooners! A very happy one.

Frank
@stubbsy70