Wednesday 27th May 2015
Sunday was always going to be a fine day out. Last games of any season always are. Throw in ingredients such as warm weather, Champions League football already secured, a thumping victory and the fact we all have an FA Cup Final to look forward to and its extremely easy to see why we enjoyed a fine few hours.
There are many Gooners who live in the vicinity of our great club, or visit the area as part of their every day lives. Many many thousands of others however, only head in to London N5 on matchdays or other events associated with Arsenal FC. As a result, for the majority Sunday will be our last visit until late July and only then if you have chosen to attend the Emirates Cup. Yet, although it is a ‘break’, incredibly that is only 9 weeks away! June is well and truly the only month that is totally ‘Arsenal free’!
With the intensity of week to week, day to day football for the other ten months of the year, this short period is always welcome, even amongst the most fanatical of us followers.
The last game of the season however, especially when it is at home, really does feel like a bit of closure and for that reason alone we all make the very most of it.
Sundays generally mean ‘engineering works’ and the rail companies hosting my journey didn’t fail to disappoint. So it was a longer journey than normal but one undertaken in good spirits and full of anticipation for the day’s events. All my fellow Gooners joined me in our usual haunt and the pre-match activities were full of refreshment and fantastic banter, the kind that can only be associated with following your team.
With the amount of chances we created against Swansea and Sunderland there was always a chance West Brom could be on the end of a hammering I felt. And for one half there isn’t really any other way it can be described. Two of the goals were things of real beauty, Theo’s opening thunderbolt a result of good movement and passing whilst Jack’s strike has to be one of the hardest shots we have ever witnessed. Two players banging on Mr Wenger’s door for a place in this Saturday’s starting eleven if ever we saw them! A tough decision for the boss……but a lovely one to have nonetheless.
A good way to close our league campaign for another season and to avoid the qualifier on this occasion is another step in the right direction. Challenging for the very summit has to be the next stage of this progression.
That is for discussion on another day I feel, as for the second year in succession and the 12th time in my lifetime we are heading to the FA Cup Final. The greatest cup competition in the world, bar none. If that doesn’t send a shiver up your spine, nothing in football ever will.
Anything can happen in a cup final, we all know that. We need to be on top of our game, take our opportunities, defend well and have that little bit of luck on our side. And the yellow end of Wembley Stadium can play its part. Villa will make some noise. We need to make sure we do too, just like against Hull last year.
Get those hats, scarves, shirts, badges, rosettes……and of course ribbons at the ready boys and girls. Let’s do this.
Que sera sera………
Friday 22nd May 2015
One goal scored and two points gained from our last nine looks like a total disaster on paper. Admittedly its not ideal but if we avoid a mathematical catastrophe on Sunday a top three place has been secured. Without boring you with a phrase I’m sure you have all heard a thousand times over the last few days, if someone had offered that at Christmas we would have bitten their hand off.
For most of us, the season’s ticket applications, travel plans etc. are finally dying down…….or so you would have thought. Last minute scrambling and desperate searching for any remaining cup final tickets is more the reality of course, a situation that would be far less intense if the FA were to finally catch up with the modern world and the whole of football who agree that both the participating clubs should receive the majority of the tickets. I read this week Norwich have been given just under 40 thousand tickets for their play-off final this weekend. How is that fair when the 2 clubs in the FA Cup Final still, after all these years of everyone knowing it is so so wrong, receive only 24 odd thousand?!
The FA ‘need’ a showpiece game apparently. One where everyone in the FA ‘family’ get a chance to attend. There is an easy solution. Make it the Community Shield. Although still well supported, many teams’ fans are not ‘desperate’ to attend this fixture. You only need to look at how few Man City brought to the game in August last year to realise that! By making this change the cup final match tickets will end up in the hands of those that deserve to go. Not a referee’s mum from a Sunday League in Cumbria.
Along with this, recent announcements have meant a huge amount of time has been dedicated to applications and collation for the Asia Trophy in Singapore, the Emirates Cup, the Emirates FA Cup Final Screening, Season ticket renewals, Silver/Red/Family renewals in addition to various aspects of running our own Maidstone Arsenal Supporters Club. Quiet?! You’ve got to be kidding!
So a trip up to London N5 to watch our penultimate league game was almost a welcome break from the admin side to being a Gooner!
Against Swansea, as frustrating as it was, I felt we were extremely unlucky to get beaten. I think everyone would agree. On Wednesday night, although once again it is quite incredible that we didn’t score, our visitors had clear cut opportunities in the second half on the break and for that reason alone I genuinely believe a point was probably about right.
Despite all our possession and half chances the first half was pretty uninspiring if we are honest but I’d be wrong if I wasn’t confident that at some stage we would eventually break Sunderland down in the second period. Our visitors certainly put their bodies on the line and for their dogged determination and defending I offer my admiration. The fact the result they craved does not directly affect our situation also makes it far easier to swallow. Frustrating yes, but I’ve left a game far far more disappointed than Wednesday, on more than one occasion!
So why have I chosen the title for this particular piece?
Well, when being asked if the game was on the TV by someone who couldn’t attend on Wednesday I received the reply, “I’ll miss Peter Kay’s Car Share!” Although personally I will concede it is definitely one of the funnier programmes to have been launched in recent times (in my opinion), it probably goes some way to revealing the kind of Gooner I am when, even with the benefit of hindsight, I would still have rather been at a nil-nil Wednesday night draw with Sunderland!
We’ve played West Brom last game of the season before, in a recent season in fact. I remember that being both one of the most entertaining and nerve wracking days of my Gooner supporting life. A real rollercoaster of emotion. I don’t really expect this Sunday’s affair to be along those lines…..but being our last chance to follow the usual home matchday routine for another season, I am thoroughly looking forward to it as ever.
Enjoy the day boys and girls.
Tuesday 19th May 2015
Three times we have been to Manchester this season and each time we have come away with something positive. I haven’t checked the facts but it must be a while where the three games have yielded two wins and a draw. We’ve played better than Sunday of course but a point was very satisfying nonetheless.
We had to be confident we could come away with something surely. Despite our defeat on Monday night we have been playing consistently well and had won in that part of Manchester already this season. Man Utd away however, is and always will be one of our toughest fixtures of the season. Couple that with the fact our hosts would have been confident they could nick that automatic champions league spot had they beaten us and it emphasizes even more that it is definitely a point gained rather than two dropped.
As seems to have been the case on a number of occasions this season my personal plans were a little bit different from the norm, a wedding in Kent on the Saturday meaning an early and rather fragile departure by train to join a mid morning departure from London Euston that was absolutely packed to the rafters. Fortunately I had a reserved seat but having to stand all the way to Manchester with the fares Virgin Trains charge is ridiculous in my book.
With a mix of southern based Man U fans and travelling Gooners making up the most of the passengers, it proved to be an entertaining journey, plenty of amusing light hearted banter and discussion about all things football making the time pass extremely quickly. I must also offer my thanks to the Gooners around me who kindly shared their ‘refreshment’ when getting to the onboard ‘shop’ was far from easy!
What has become our usual Manchester pre-match hostelry played host again as we look forward to the main event. A short and convenient taxi and it was game on.
Although by the letter of the law these days, enjoying a few pints before a football match can almost be ‘risky’, I am prepared to admit on Sunday I had taken part in such an activity. In fact I’m also prepared to admit, given the previous day’s entertainment, my friends’ hospitality on the journey up and enjoying pre-match at our last away game of the season, I may have enjoyed one or three too many. But I am very ‘happy’ in this condition, I offer no threat to anyone and I was a long long way from being able to look after myself or from knowing what I was doing. Those who have attended games with me all over the world during the last 35 years or so will confirm that.
But I do like a good sing…….and I do like it when we play in yellow. 🙂
We deserved to be a goal behind at half time, I don’t think anyone can deny that. Our hosts enjoyed the best of the half and all of the few chances so I feel it was a fair reflection.
Slowly in the second period however, we took the game by the scruff of the neck and looked the team far more likely to score. With the clock ticking however, our opportunity appeared to be fading. Then Theo dropped the shoulder and his cross deflected home. Fortunate? Yes. But we’ll take it and the jostle in the away end was as fierce as expected.
On more than one occasion in the latter stages we could have even nicked it but overall it is difficult to argue it wasn’t a fair result on the day. A point will definitely do, especially as we were behind with less than ten minutes to go.
Our job is not completely done yet of course. In fact we have so so much more to play for.
That starts as we entertain Sunderland, desperate to get something from their trip to the Home of Football on Wednesday evening. Last Monday showed anything can happen if you don’t take the opportunities your dominance creates.
Enough of a warning surely.
Come on you mighty reds!
Monday May 2015
Not a disaster but massively important and d’you know what? Disappointing. And those feelings are probably what lacked from our performance. We’re home and dry for that Champions League (qualifier) position apparently….and based on that result we are the first to give up on anything better.
One of my best mates said to me before a ball was kicked “it’s no good tearing Hull apart one week if you lose at home to Swansea the next!” So so true unfortunately.
Monday night football is not ideal. Certainly for nothing more than the TV viewer. But hey – ho that’s not exactly something new! If you are a home and away Gooner in fact it’s kinda of ok.
Not tonight though.
A cracking night off the pitch. A few beers and a bit of sunshine but the whole affair had a feel of complacency.
Late season games can be epic. Hot, sweaty, needy, the whole nine yards.
But tonight had none of that.
I don’t think we played that badly. Nor did Swansea. But….it was a rubbish game. And we lost.
See you at Old Trafford.
Wednesday 6th May 2015
Given the fact I tend to fly to our away games in Newcastle and Sunderland, Hull is definitely the furthest destination I travel to by car. Choosing to stay Monday night in the city and the extremely long journey home across a very windy England means only during my lunchtime today have I found time to pen my thoughts. The adjectives I will use for events both on and off the field are the same for both aspects. Impressive, satisfying and hugely entertaining.
Drinking is not big or clever……but I like an ale now and again like most of us. Not exactly a shocking revelation but both our last game and our next being moved to a Monday night, whilst a little inconvenient, it has given two ‘free’ weekends to enjoy some of life’s offerings away from the beautiful game. That began this weekend when a number of friends and fellow Gooners joined me for a variety of relaxing activities including taking in our local beer festival on Saturday. Sampling a few jars of ‘Smooth Hoperator’ along with the likes of ‘Pricky Back Otchan’ and ‘Dark Side of the Moose’ with some great company whilst others went through the emotions associated with many matches at this time of the season, proved marvellously relaxing and entertaining.
I mention this as upon arriving in Hull on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon we decided to take in a suggested ‘real ale tour’ in the city’s excellent old town area. I’ve been to Hull a few times now but have never really had the opportunity to enjoy the city’s hospitality. Choosing the stay overnight on this occasion gave us that chance. On speaking to one Yorkshire Gooner a few weeks back she did warn me (with tongue firmly in cheek) that the city was only ‘one letter from hell’ for a reason! Well……I can only disagree from my experience. Not only do I find the people representing Hull City football club amongst the friendliest and most helpful of any I have come across (something that is genuinely not the case elsewhere) but the hostelries, architecture and people all across the old town created a fantastic location and way to enjoy the pre-match build up. The whole ‘City of Culture’ thing, awarded to the city for 2017, is of course a ready made opportunity to enjoy some of the football banter I mentioned in my last piece but my latest visit has definitely confirmed they deserve this opportunity to play host for this particular set of events.
Suitably refreshed we made our way to the KC stadium for which genuinely felt like a tough looking fixture ahead. Two big wins on the bounce would certainly not leave our hosts lacking confidence and anything but a good performance would surely see us come unstuck. This along with the added ingredients of our continued chase for a top 4 place and the fact a win would see our geographical neighbours in a position where it would be mathematically impossible for them to catch us for the 20th season running all made for a fine atmosphere.
If any of us had any doubts that we might not ‘turn up’ the next 45 minutes or so completely obliterated that! It was a simply magnificent display of entertaining, exciting and powerful football and 3 nil didn’t flatter us in the slightest. Our first goal had a degree of good fortune about it but that certainly couldn’t be said for everything that happened on the night so there genuinely could be no complaints about the final score. Conceding is always disappointing, however the tackle on Kos leading up to our hosts’ goal was both late and a foul. No arguments. And if it wasn’t for the ‘save’ the Hull defender made with his hand from the impressive Jack Wilshere there would have been a 4th to represent the cherry on the top of a mighty fine cake.
So unless we lose all our last 4 games and Liverpool win all theirs with a massive 20+ goal difference turn around we are guaranteed a Champions League qualifier at the very least once again. It is now up to us to finish the season well and go one better. Not only that but it made the early May Bank holiday Monday St Totteringhams Day once again. Imagine being in your twenties and never seeing your team finish above the club you dislike the most. That must be very very difficult to take.
Swansea come to the home of football next after already enjoying their best league season ever. Enough warning on its own to make sure we go into the game with the same attitude as Monday night.
Before that however……I’m off to another beer festival…..this time in Dorset!
“It’s happened again, it’s happened again…….”