To Dare is to Don’t
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.