Archive | August 2015

Possession and Understanding

Sunday 30th August 2015

The captain of my flight back south has advised we will have a cruising height of 23 thousand feet. I’ve never really understood why us passengers are always told that and exactly what relevance it has. I couldn’t give two hoots how high we are flying as long as he is happy and gets me home safely.

Then again there are many things in life I don’t get. Like why if you take everything that has been said about yesterday’s victory you’d think we’d lost.

We’ve gone to Newcastle, dominated the game without being particularly fantastic, kept our discipline when it was extremely obvious Mclaren had sent his team out to kick lumps out of us, kept a clean sheet and secured those all important 3 points.

Am I wrong to be happy with that?

Flying to both Newcastle and Sunderland away has become the norm for me in recent years but it was an early old departure yesterday morning that made it a very long (and entertaining) day.

Touchdown!

Touchdown!

But it was a warm and sunny north-east that met us when we stepped off the plane just after 8am, not something that is always the case! And a short cab ride had us in our host city in time for a bit of brekkie. That ‘lining’ for the entertaining events ahead.

Newcastle is a good city. Full of passion, welcome and considerable hospitality. And a football club and stadium smack bang in the middle. Of the grounds we regularly visit that feels kind of unique and consequently the atmosphere on match day has an altogether different buzz about it.

We chose to have our breakfast in a cafe. And then we went to Wetherspoons. 9.45 am is a bit early for a beer I guess but we had been up since 5 and were thirsty! And that brings me nicely to another ‘law’ I don’t really understand.

The bar staff couldn’t serve us a pint until 10am unless we ordered food. So if you munched on some muesli you could drink a bottle of vodka. But if you just wanted a pint it was a no go! Ridiculous.

Despite Rich asking for a pint and a slice of toast it wasn’t happening. So you were left with the ridiculous situation of the bar 2 deep with people all waiting for that 10 o’clock ‘bell’.

An hour later we heading to our usual pre match haunt in the city and very soon it was time to join the thousands making their way to the ground.

And that means the exhausting climb to the away end up in the clouds.

Clouds

Clouds

It was to prove a strange game. Our possession was good and lengthy as we’ve almost come to expect and until the sending off we looked at our sharpest. It’s slightly odd to summarise that we were definitely at our most dangerous before our hosts went down to 10 men.

Petr Cech had probably his quietest game ever, we should have been awarded a stonewall penalty and we created all the chances, Theo probably the most guilty of not taking them.

But with patience we got that all important goal and the massive 3 points. That’ll do. I’ll have that.

August bank holiday Saturday, just after pay day and the Geordies being at home, it was always going to be a lively old night out. And it was. And we thoroughly made the most of it. With those 3 points neatly stashed away in the back pocket.

Party

Party

Bringing nicely back to the present. I have a headache. Naturally. And the turbulence on my flight is not helping the nausea.

But it’s bank holiday tomorrow. So I’m going to be hardcore with the pain and take in Victorious Festival in Southsea for the day. It would be rude not to I feel.

Enjoy the first of this year’s international break guys n dolls and i’ll see you in London N5 when we entertain Stoke.

Victoria Concordia Crescit

Frank
@stubbsy70

Off or Not?

Monday 24th August 2015

If I don’t finish these notes before my train reaches its destination then it will be Tuesday. And that is not my home. Unless I want to get in at 4am it’s a hotel for me tonight. For a home game. On a Monday. I’m not complaining but that is the kind of stuff and more importantly costs we have to endure when TV move our game from its weekend slot. 

Not a game for the purists tonight I feel, especially in the first half.

It was quite exciting admittedly but the mistakes far outweighed the opportunities created by brilliant football. And how it finished nil-nil is beyond me.

The news both our regular centre halves were missing was a little worrying but it was also a fantastic opportunity to see how our other options would cope against a good side.

And the word I would use in the first period is ‘nervous’. 

We started pretty well I felt and I understand TV replays have offered evidence our goal was wrongly ruled out for off side. Although it is impossible to know how either game would have panned out if the officials made the correct decision, you could argue that is 4 points Liverpool have already picked up due to bad refereeing mistakes. Not particularly impressive that.

Saying that, our nervous defensive display in the first period saw us go in at half time grateful to our goalkeeper for at least 2 world class saves. 

They are within the rules though. And so was our ‘goal’.

We needed to control more of the play in the second half and in particular not give the ball and away so cheaply and we did this far better I think. 

Dominating possession, probing and pushing for a winner, striking the woodwork and missing the opportunities that can our way meant we come away with just a point for our efforts.

Disappointing of course but if after our opening day defeat we can take a positive it comes in that old football adage, if you can’t win the game then don’t lose it.

That game has gone now so we look forward to Newcastle away on Saturday lunchtime.

That means a hotel on Friday for me and a hotel on Saturday too. But that’s ok because everyone who doesn’t attend can watch it on the telly Saturday lunchtime. 

Bitter? Not me 🙂

I have nothing against showing football live on the TV. But just on the odd occasion it would be nice if when looking at the location of the two clubs they considered the attending fans for once.

Come on you mighty reds.

Frank
@stubbsy70

A Golden Day at the Palace

Monday 17th August 2015

We could have shared ten or more goals with our hosts yesterday afternoon. But no matter how many were scored one team deserved to come away with the all important three points. And that team did.

Last week saw a sunny and highly anticipated day end in deflation and disappointment. The sunshine was there again but this week, with the added pressure of our opening day defeat, saw our journeys home accompanied with a whole bunch of different feelings and emotions. Three points on the board, we are up and running.

For those of us living in London and the south, Crystal Palace away is one of our more local trips. Looking at the fixtures these local games are pretty much the norm early doors with us only needing to leave London twice in the first 12 weeks of the season! I haven’t of course, taken our Champions League or League Cup exploits into consideration when looking at this, two competitions that will very much be more in the limelight in a couple of weeks time.

Live TV dictates any Premier League game could take place at one of approximately six different time slots over the course of Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Great for the couch based supporters out there but not easy when it comes to making plans as an attending fan. For all the negatives however (and there are many), differing days and kick-offs do also have some advantages. We all look back fondly to times when every weekend game kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday. And I believe the majority of us really enjoy them on the relatively rare occasion when they happen now. But I do ask myself if that is because such a day and kick off time has joined all the other potential slots as quite a novelty.

If like they used to a few years ago every game was at the same time and you chose to attend every fixture, it would pretty much wipe out every single Saturday for 9 months of the year! At least with the current set up we not only get some free Saturdays but can, as with our next league fixture at home to Liverpool, get whole weekends become unexpectedly available for activities away from the beautiful game. And having been the situation for a number of years now I have not only got used to it but have grown to kinda like it too.

Getting up ridiculously early on a Sunday morning is not something I relish or enjoy doing like most of us but a lunchtime kick-off like Sunday’s at Palace is not my least favourite. That ‘accolade’ goes to 4pm on a Sunday afternoon for me. Always a late late day as a result and hitting the sack knowing when you awake its back to the daily routine of work always makes that kick-off slot a little bit depressing!

And getting up early on a Sunday this time of the year is also far easier than in the depths of Winter starting warm on sunny as we headed off to Selhurst Park was another bonus.

Personally there was a good crowd of us Maidstone Gooners who gathered in what has become our usual Palace away haunt and all in all it made for a thoroughly entertaining build up. A pre-match routine that also sees what is quite a battle to reach your ‘seat’ in older and traditional stadia such as Selhurst Park. Believe me I like all of us have nothing but great memories of the various old stadia we used to visit week in week out but we naturally only ever remember the good bits. The crowded and chaotic turnstiles, severe lack of space once through, toilets lacking in number and accessibility and viewing that can be as poor as looking through a letter box are all aspects we tend not to describe when talking about the ‘good old days’!

There is no doubt however, those that still exist do feel far more atmospheric than some of the newer locations we visit these days and with a London derby and rivalry that seemed to intensify after we signed Wrighty back in the early nineties, it promised to be a noisy and passionate couple of hours.

If we lacked a sense of sharpness and urgency last week we certainly couldn’t be accused of that on Sunday afternoon. The first quarter of an hour in fact, could and arguably should have seen us take a 2 or 3 goal lead, always a promising situation on one hand but one we hope doesn’t come back to haunt us as the game approaches its conclusion.

It was crucial I feel that we made that early dominance count and when that opener did eventually arrive it was a thing of real beauty. An awesome strike from our big centre-forward and we had our first, and long overdue jostle of the season.

Bang! Get in!!

Bang! Get in!!

Palace’s equaliser was disappointing. That might be an obvious statement but feeling like you should be 2 or 3 up and finding yourselves level all of a sudden feels like a real kick in the stomach. As a result it was a relatively deflated away end during the half time break.

Despite always looking dangerous going forward our hosts enjoyed some good chances too in the second period but once again our goal came at a good time. And that lead, however fragile it looked on occasion, was just about enough to give us the three points our performance deserved.

From a very tricky away day, that will definitely do.

Next we come to one of the most attractive fixtures on the calendar in any season, Liverpool at home. Our results over the last two seasons alone show just how unpredictable this game can be. We’ve been well beaten……and we’ve inflicted the same on them, all within a couple of years.

Hopefully we have got last week well and truly out of our system and we can now build on yesterday’s big three points.

On Saturday…..if games were all at 3pm…..I would be in London N5. As a result of TV’s coverage I get to revel in England’s Ashes glory on a day at The Oval.

See you all Monday night.

Frank
@stubbsy70

A Non Start

Sunday 9th August 2015

There’s absolutely no way I would want to take anything away from West Ham when writing these notes. They thoroughly deserved their victory. It’s as simple as that. Our own lacklustre performance however, is a trifle worrying.

Despite our impressive and successful pre-season I had a bad feeling about our opener. Not because I am negative. In fact my positivity is that strong that I am often accused of seeing things through rose tinted glasses‎. But I definitely felt that everywhere there was an air of inevitability about the result. That we needed to simply turn up and we would win comfortably.

Of course I was confident that on the pitch it would be very different and we would be ready. All the more reason why I find everything from today a little puzzling amongst all the disappointment.

Glorious sunshine and those match day journeys and routines that we all miss so much during the Summer months were back and the discussions and banter with fellow long time friends and Gooners was probably the best part of the day. I would rather be saying they were an enjoyable part of the whole experience though.

We did have our moments of course and if we had taken the lead things could have been different. But overall, on the day we were poor and our visitors seized the opportunity to make the very most of it.

It might seem very obvious but the most important thing when you are not playing well is to avoid conceding. But today we let in 2 extremely sloppy and avoidable goals. Again, there is no other way to describe them.

Whenever we go into the last 15 o‎r 20 minutes needing a goal, especially at home, I always feel confident we can get one. Our constant pressure and movement always suggests that door will eventually be knocked down. Not today though.

Today's performance doesn't suggest this little snippet from the matchday programme is likely to change.

Today’s performance doesn’t suggest this little snippet from the matchday programme is likely to change.

So, we were sloppy, lethargic, offensively lacking in ideas and penetration and on the day, easy to beat in our own back yard.

Not a summary I thought I would be writing.

Things can (and will I’m sure) get better.

That needs to start at Selhurst Park in a week’s time.

Keep the faith.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Pain for the Arsenal

Wednesday 5th August 2015

The phrase ‘trapped nerve’ sounds painful without even knowing the full extent of its power. Having experienced one in my back a few years ago I knew they were painfully uncomfortable. I also remember being able to ‘handle’ it. More of a constant nagging irritation than completely debilitating. That one eventually went but over the last few weeks I have developed a new version in the left side of my neck. Again this has been irritating but manageable but as of Friday morning I woke up with the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced in my life. I’m not going to claim my pain threshold is any better or worse than anyone else but I genuinely did not know what to do with myself.

A trip to the quacks saw me depart with a sack full of pills designed to ease pain, reduce inflammation, help sleep etc etc, with all the potential side effects thrown in.

Come early Sunday morning I was 2 sleepless nights in and if I’m honest, not looking forward to the day ahead, an altogether crazy situation when it comes to seeing the mighty Arsenal playing at Wembley.

All day was spent fidgeting and moving around just trying to get into a position that eased the pain. Not easy with train travel, the London Underground, walking to and from our National Stadium and enjoying the season’s traditional opener in glorious sunshine all on the agenda!

With this in mind (and probably because I was drugged up to my eyeballs), I don’t remember a huge amount about the build up off the pitch. On entering the stadium however, the massed ranks of Gooners showing their colours is enough to take your mind off any kind of pain however briefly that might be.

Red Army!

Red Army!

Its an old cliché admittedly but I don’t read too much into anything pre-season. And for me that includes the Community Shield. Before a ball was kicked that was my view so just because we have won I am not going to change that. But, as I’ve mentioned before, winning is a great habit, as is keeping our momentum going. And beating that lot from the Russian end of Fulham is always highly satisfactory, especially in recent times when they have become a rival in more than just geographical terms.

Teams line up in the sunshine pre kick-off

Teams line up in the sunshine pre kick-off

I would describe our performance as dangerous when we needed to be, professional and more importantly very disciplined, possibly something we haven’t achieved enough against the top teams in recent years. If Chelsea has gone 1 up, you have to think they would have won the game one-nil. Or is that just me? The fact we went one up and reduced our opponents to just a couple of chances in the whole match is pleasing. And it adds a 3rd piece of ‘minor’ silverware to sit along side the ‘major’ one we picked up back in May.

The Ox has a big big season ahead of him I feel despite still only being 21 years old, something we are all guilty of forgetting. When he is on song he is dangerous, strong and great to watch. His superb strike on Sunday demonstrates just what he is capable of.

A great day out and the famous old octagonal trophy can go back in the cabinet it left just for a few hours on Sunday. A good end to a fine day with Gooner friends despite the ever increasing pain as the day wore on!

Grinning through the pain!

Grinning through the pain!

Normally a long journey home feels even more lengthy after a defeat. Despite a good day out and another win Sunday’s seemed to take forever. Played 5, Won 5, Drawn 0, Lost 0, 15 goals scored, 1 conceded is almost perfection as far as pre-season goes but it didn’t prevent another sleepless night!

Today is Wednesday and without counting my chickens, dozens of tablets, physio, acupuncture, vibrating machines and careful movement mean it is feeling slightly more bearable today. An improvement I am desperately hoping continues so I am fit and well for our all important opener against West Ham.

The Hammers will arrive having already played 6 games in their season, the Europa League format dictating this kind of ridiculous situation. Being used to each other, a London derby and determined to start their league season positively is enough of a combination to make sure we are ready too.

So buckle up folks, its time be that 12th man once again.

Come on you mighty mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70