Monday 16th May 2016
As amusing football moments go, yesterday has to be right up there with ‘Lasagne gate’ 10 years ago. But at least the fans of our friends from Middlesex didn’t have a long journey home to think about it. In the most unlikely of circumstances, its happened again guys. 21 years and counting……
Looking back at previous home league encounters with Aston Villa, three in particular spring to mind. The day The Villains won the league back in 1981 is often talked about including in yesterday’s match day programme and I also recall the night we won 5 nil and David Platt went in goal for Villa in front of the North Bank. A game in the double season of 2001/2002 also sticks in the memory, TH scoring a last minute winner after we were 2 nil down.
But on this occasion I’m going to take you way back to the second full season after World War 2 and October 1947. In a year that was to prove ultimately a great success as the league title was won the programme that day makes fascinating reading as always, especially in a world that was a very different place back then. On the pitch Villa were beaten 1 nil through a goal by Ronnie Rooke but alongside the fact Joe Loss & his Band were playing the Finsbury Park Empire that same night it was interesting to see how our opponents performance on their previous visit was described.
“Most Highbury fans will remember the 22 minutes of dazzling, brilliant football served up by the Villa on this ground last season. They scored 2 goals without reply, enough to show us the classic style of old time Villa football still lives and is dangerous indeed”. Scary stuff!
For me however, the most incredible piece came on page 6 of the 8 page publication as part of a piece called ‘Here and There’. It is a little bit lengthy but well worth reproducing here if only for just how incredible it is.
“Tom Whitaker has asked me to say that owing to the very large crowds now assembling at the stadium for first team home fixtures, the danger to children has become a serious problem. The board of directors have decided, after consultation with the Metropolitan Police, to adopt a procedure which is already in operation at many other large grounds for the purpose of discouraging the attendance of boys at big matches. In future therefore the half price admission will be discontinued for Football League matches. The educational value to youngsters of watching the professional footballer in action is fully realized and it is felt that the boys will get this equally well at Football Combination games so the reduced admission (6d) at the Schoolboys turnstiles will continue in operation for Reserve matches in the future as has done in the past”!!
So kids…..you aint coming in! And when I say ‘kids’, I mean boys of course. Girls couldn’t possibly want to go to football!!
Finishing above our geographical neighbours is not an obsession for us Gooners. These ‘bragging rights’ often talked about are all well and good. But until they go 20 years of finishing above us or far more importantly win 13 league titles instead of just 2, that particular situation doesn’t even exist in my book.
Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely don’t like losing to them. But then again, I don’t like losing to anyone. But if you do finish higher in the league table the only relevance for me is what benefit you actually get from that league position. The current Champions League format means if you finish 2nd or 3rd you get exactly the same thing. So yesterday to me really didn’t matter.
To us Gooners that is. And I feel that is the point as to why yesterday was so intensely funny. Not necessarily satisfying. But very very funny.
Deep down I don’t think any of us felt that lot would not get a result up at St James’ Park. After all, a number of their players had expressed quite vehemently how important it was for them to finish above us. Their manager couldn’t do an interview all week without mentioning us. And their fans have been in our faces yet again. And along with the fact we knew the Geordies would be getting passionately behind Rafa, it is that whole combination that meant they might just blow it. Obsessed with us as always. Rather than worrying about themselves.
Some have said the cheers around Arsenal yesterday, the almost party atmosphere at times, showed we felt the same. But if you were there you would realise the whole situation was born out of sheer hilarity. Finishing above Tottenham is not considered an ‘achievement’ you see.
Of course, even if they managed to get beat, we still had a job to do. And although it was comfortable in the end, it wasn’t like that all game.
Villa must be absolutely sick of the sight of us. Our last 5 matches have seen us score 18 and concede none. But unlike in the Cup Final for example, overall yesterday’s scoreline probably flattered us a little.
I felt we played well for the first 30 minutes but only had one goal to show for it. But for the half an hour split by the break we were very poor. Saying that, we kept our defensive shape relatively well and Villa had few opportunities even when we were not playing well. And once news came through the men from Middlesex had gone 3-1 down and Olly smashed in our and his 2nd for the best goal of the game, a laughter filled mini party started in the sunshine. And I would be lying if I said we didn’t enjoy it.
I remember when we went to Newcastle a couple of seasons back and saw the Sky Sports TV coverage of their lot celebrating as if they had won the league because the Geordies had scored. Even more amusing as they hadn’t. And still haven’t. Yesterday they did though. 5 times. Five. Cinq. Funf. Cinco. It’s the same in any language. Against a team relegated, with 10 men from 2-1 onwards. Embarrassing really. Almost humiliating in fact. Especially as they had emphasized not just how important it was, but how there was no way they were not going to make it happen.
Funny. Did I mention that?
We are not stupid enough that we don’t realise if things hadn’t have worked out as they did, the ‘lap of appreciation’ may well have been a bit of a damp squib. But with Mikel Arteta, Matt Flamini & Tommy Rosicky all saying their good byes I am delighted it wasn’t. A good way to conclude I feel.
So, somewhat surprisingly, we have finished in 2nd. I’m a great believer that the league table never lies, certainly not when all matches have been completed. Leicester have been incredible and are deserved champions. But we are the best of the rest. And that is in a season where we have every right to be disappointed. But its not all bad. 2015/16 will be looked back as the one that got away I feel. And if you believe the media we genuinely haven’t been very good at all. So….in a poor season….we have finished 2nd. Above Man City. Above Chelsea. Above Man Utd. Above Liverpool. Above everyone bar The Foxes in fact.
And imagine if in your best season for 20 plus years you still managed to finish below your neighbours in a season where they have been ‘rubbish’. I say imagine. As you need to look deep in your memory bank to remember when it happened. If you are old enough of course.
I will leave you with the following thought (kindly passed to me by one of our fellow Gooners)….
If you had bet a Tottenham fan £20 in 1995 that we would finish above them in the league, then doubled or quits with them ever since, they would now owe you £20,971,520.00.
Still can’t stop laughing.
Thanks for reading my thoughts over the months as always and enjoy the Summer boys and girls.
Monday 9th May 2016
I choose to pay for Sky Sports and BT Sport and have done ever since they or any of their predecessors were launched. But once you pay it is also your choice as the bill payer to choose what you watch. And I will never watch a Tottenham game for as long as I’ve got 2 eyes, 2 ears, a nose and a mouth. My choice. And for the amount it costs why would I want to make my lounge dirty.
Yesterday I was in our usual pre Manchester game abode and they showed the game from White Hart Lane. Their choice. I didn’t watch it but with the commentary blaring out the speakers I had no choice but to listen. Before a ball was kicked the host stated both Leicester and Spurs had enjoyed a ‘fantastic season’. What a load of absolute rubbish.
Apparently our season has been one of disappointment, turmoil and under achieving. Now whilst I agree with that to a certain extent this weekend’s results mean we could, although unlikely, finish above our geographical rivals yet again.
And even if we don’t we have every chance of coming away from our season with exactly the same as them.
But remember, they have had a fantastic season.
Only one club have enjoyed that. Leicester City. Simple.
And ours has been ‘rubbish’ of course.
Back in March 1980 we headed into the back to back terraced streets of Moss Side and to Maine Road for an important fixture in a season that was simply full of them. It is arguably up there as one of our greatest seasons even if it was to prove unsuccessful in the most heartbreaking of ways at the very death.
The programme that day was all about one player having joined City earlier that week. Kevin Reeves was his name, a promising talent that in the end is pretty much remembered for his price tag above all else. Costing a cool million quid he became the 3rd highest transfer fee paid in the history of English football. On the day his team mates that included the late Tommy Caton couldn’t prevent the Arsenal from winning 3 nil thanks to Frank Stapleton and a double from Chippy.
It was extremely hot in Manchester yesterday. Yep, you are reading that correctly. And after 2 days in Dorset at a beer festival our flight from Southampton would not fall into the ‘pleasant’ category. Nor did the walk up to tier 3 at the Etihad, a new experience given that tier has been added since our last visit. But It wasn’t pouring with rain and that’s a bonus in itself in this part of the world!
I thought we did ok yesterday. We showed a little bit of bottle when trailing twice. And a point is a decent result.
But we have definitely played better. Man City were good on the day but not fantastic. And we were not much better. But a draw definitely suits us better than it does our hosts.
We certainly didn’t come out of the blocks and City deservedly took the lead. But Olly’s header saw us back on level terms and it was game on.
Every goal we concede will disappoint. Every single one. But in a tight game where margins for error are particularly thin, conceding when your opponent are not appearing to be posing any threat is hugely frustrating. City’s 2nd felt like that. It was crucial at that stage we didn’t let the game run away from us.
But again we got ourselves out of a hole and that is equally as pleasing, Alexis’ superb finish from Olly’s excellent lay off had us adding to the sweat high up in the away end.
It was long old day I have to admit but it was a decent result to put the icing on the cake of a hugely entertaining weekend.
And then there was one……
Our very last game of another season. And we still have something to play for of course. And that is pretty cool I feel.
But remember…..Tottenham are excellent…..and we are rubbish. 😉
Forever in our shadow.
Monday 2nd May
Looking back at Saturday evening’s fixture in the future it is hugely unlikely it will be remembered for the action on the pitch. We got the hugely important three points and that above all else was and is hugely important. But it certainly wasn’t a great game.
When reminiscing this season my decision on a previous corresponding fixture has generally been whether to talk about a game in the last 40 odd years that I attended or pick one from even further back.
Quite a number of home games with Norwich spring to mind but I have chosen one back in 1989 that is memorable for a number of reasons. Firstly David O’Leary became our record appearance holder that day and not only that, in a feisty old encounter he managed to get himself on the scoresheet.
For me the game is more remembered however, for a bit of argy bargy in the goal net in front of the North Bank right at the death! Having already scored one penalty Lee Dixon had the chance to double his tally in the last minute with the scores at 3 all.
Bryan Gunn saved the kick but Dicko managed to scuff home the rebound and after the ball trickled over the line there was some serious handbags.
Funny, memorable and secured three important points against a Canaries side including Andy Townsend, Robert Fleck, David Phillips and Andy Linighan, the latter’s moment of glory coming 4 years later on a wet Thursday night in May at Wembley with the cannon on his chest.
If Saturday’s game will be remembered for little more than Welb’s important winner there was plenty of interest created off the pitch.
The 5.30 kick-off meant a number of our lot enjoyed the hospitality of some of central London’s hostelries and the football side to the day hardly even got a mention. Not of course because we didn’t care, just that the social side of a day at the football is equally as important to many of us.
There was a small protest as we all know. People expressing their views as every single person is entitled to do. But it was also interesting that the vast majority in the stadium chose the same moment to show their support for the club. I’m not sure what that means to be honest but it did give a sense of pride that ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit’ is still very strong.
As we head into May we have just 2 games to go. And with both Manchester teams dropping points this weekend it means we still have another European Tour within touching distance.
If we can get that under our belts it’s a positive. And I think we could all do with that Summer break.
See you Sunday in Manchester.