Heroes and Villains
Wednesday 3rd June 2015
Someone stated in the media this week that it has been an embarrassingly dreadful week for football. I beg to differ!
Arsenal Football Club
FA Cup Winners
And as Cup Final performances go, there can have been few better down the years. Get in there you beauties!
I’ve decided to get away for a few days. Away from stress, emotion and ticketing madness. Although a short period enjoying some sunshine was always going to be something I was thoroughly looking forward to, I was also extremely aware that my mood would be totally decided by the outcome of Saturday evening’s events.
Tried and tested plans over the last couple of years meant I was 99% confident pre-match activities would be smooth, enjoyable and successful. The important bit inside the stadium on the other hand, we could have no more influence than the colour and noise we created.
And I was nervous. Every Gooner I spoke to in fact, appeared to be experiencing that very same emotion. Rather than this be a bad thing however, I am extremely happy that my team, results and success mean so much to me.
With the benefit of hindsight we could wonder why this particular emotion was being felt so strongly I guess. Villa just about avoided relegation for a reason, demonstrated by the fact they got thoroughly spanked at Southampton in recent weeks and we had emphatically beaten our opponents in both this season’s league encounters.
Yet nobody could be anything other than impressed by the way they defeated Liverpool in their semi final.
Couple that with the fact, even though we have won all of them, at least three of our four Wembley occasions over the last 2 years have seen us just about get to the end of the roller coaster ride with a positive conclusion, all against sides where we were not only expected to go through but even hotter favourites than Saturday.
That concoction means butterflies. And as we all enjoyed our pre-match refreshment I had a swarm of them set up camp in my belly!
The build up is of course fantastic. TV, media and social forms of sporting news concentrate on little else but the final of the world’s greatest and most historic club cup competition. And for 2 years now we have been part of that focus. It leaves a wonderfully different form of feeling in that very same belly.
Leaving our pre-match location we took the tube to Wembley Park and that feeling as you embark on the walk up Wembley away is as strong and as emotional as the very first time I did it back in the seventies. A heady mix of pride, anticipation, excitement……and of course those butterflies.
Although very similar in many aspects two things really stand out to make it that little bit different to last year. Firstly replacing the mighty red and white was an absolute sea of yellow. A big meandering snake of it slowly heading towards the coliseum that is Wembley Stadium.
And for the first time in our recent love affair, at the top of the Wembley Way slope we all turned left. A bad omen? Possibly if you believe in that kinda thing. But the memories of a yellow clad Charlie George lying on the turf in 1971 and Alan Sunderland screaming expletives as he sprinted away back in 79 far outweigh any ‘bad’ stuff for me.
Those who know me well are very aware how much I love us playing in yelllloooowwwwwwww!
In through the turnstiles and through into your seat and the enormity of the whole day really hits home. I defy any passionate fan not to feel slightly emotional at that point.
The colour, the noise, the traditional cup final hymns and anthems and that moment when you realise the time has arrived are something to behold.
All the talking, all the opinions and all the speculation as to who will be picked are over. It’s time to turn up.
And boy did we do that.
Pretty much from minute one, not only did we dominate like we know we can but we looked sharp in defence quickly snuffing out any attempts from our opponents to venture towards our goal.
But that all important opener just wasn’t coming, despite creating numerous chances and looking extremely dangerous.
We all remember Theo’s smile and amusing gestures when he was being stretchered away 17 months ago. Almost aptly it was from an FA Cup tie, the first on what has become a history making unbeaten run. That seems a long long time ago. We haven’t lost since and after all the pain and rehabilitation his time on the very big stage had come.
A good move, an incredible leap from Alexis and bang. Pick that one out!
Theo roared with delight as the massed yellow army writhed and jostled as one. Thoroughly deserved, we were on our way.
At half time however, even after our impressive and dominant performance, those nerves very much remained. We were far from home and dry.
Sometimes, on the odd occasion, a cup final can be graced by a goal that is simply outrageous. Enter one Alexis Sanchez. If that wasn’t going to calm the nerves nothing would. A simply magnificent strike and in the yellow end we were nothing short of delirious. Awesome. Simply awesome.
It was fast becoming a massive party. Or if it wasn’t it did when the BFG nodded home another in what is fast becoming his favourite stadium.
Olly’s late 4th was almost that mint chocolate you have with your coffee at the very end of a meal you have thoroughly enjoyed. Magnificent. Perfect in fact.
And we partied as a result.
Last year was laced with relief as much as anything else. And that irritating media fuelled monkey was off our back too. This time for me felt even more satisfying.
We were dominant, we were majestic, we were awesome. We were Arsenal.
The celebrations went long into the night of course and even in my mid forties I still do childish things just to amuse myself like turning all the Sunday papers over in WHS Gatwick so the back page was prominent. Or seeing a bloke in a Tottenham shirt and just offering him a ridiculously over emphasised beaming smile whilst puffing out my cannon adorned chest. Etc etc etc.
And that brings me nicely to my little sunshine break.
It has a been another great week in the illustrious history of our great great football club.
Another Summer to enjoy before we take in the next chapter. One where our passion and ambition dictate we are all expectant and hopefully optimistic that this current crop can take the journey to the next level.
For now however, enjoy the break Gooners, wear that cannon on your chest with pride and refuel that passion for August.
May your Summer be yellow.