A Proper Away Day
Sunday 8th January 2017
The FA Cup will always hold a very special place in the minds of all us Gooners. My late grandfather was at Wembley for our triumphs in the thirties and 1950 and my dad still regularly describes the day Charlie belted in the winner to clinch the double in 1971. In my lifetime, who can forget Alan Sunderland’s dramatic injury time goal back in 1979 and all our numerous victories during the nineties, noughties and within the last three seasons.
But on top of that, it’s some of those quality days out in earlier rounds over the many years that make up that overall package of quite fantastic memories. And yesterday is right up there with some of the best.
In earlier years of our lives the birthdays, stag/hen dos and weddings far outweigh anything negative. Life’s natural process dictates that changes the older we get unfortunately but on the positive side we get to celebrate friends and family reaching milestones along the way.
Friday night was another one of those as many of us got together to congratulate fellow Gooner Grant (‘upgrade’) on reaching his 50th birthday. A very fine night it was but sitting in my lounge with a glass of red and a lump of Stilton on the go at about 2am with the long trip to Preston to embark on was probably not the best idea!
Admittedly I’ve said it before but it takes some commitment to get out of bed in that situation, especially on a cold and dreary January day when you are in self inflicted pain. But we all do it. And why? Well, not only because we want to, we love it, red and white runs through our veins and nothing beats that sense of loyalty and belonging. But what exactly would we do if our club wasn’t there? Probably the biggest aspect that many off should consider a little bit more often I feel.
There are too many Arsenal fans out there at the moment who go along ‘angry’ and not because they enjoy it. I’ve always felt if you find going to support your team a chore, don’t do it. Simple.
FA Cup 3rd Round is very special. And even more so if you get something a little bit different like yesterday. There was something about the whole of yesterday that felt a little bit ‘old school’.
London’s Euston station was full of Gooners. And it was a theme that continued throughout the day. I’m sure it sounds a bit weird to all the non believers out there but when nearly 6 thousand fans from ‘the big city’ arrive in good spirits and voice and kind of ‘take over’ a town/city in the distant and mysterious ‘industrial north’ for the day, it does give you an almost unexplainable buzz.
And when our train arrived into the cavernous Preston station a ridiculously quick 2 hours and 8 minutes after leaving London, the noise announcing our arrival was something else.
Our country has changed and developed in many ways over the years but that ‘North South divide’ is still talked about to this day. The fact travel and our desire to visit other areas to our home has increased so much means the mystery has probably gone and the friendliness of everywhere extends to all to a very large extent.
And although it is hugely important that all areas stick to their local traditions, customs, culinary offerings etc etc, the fact the differences are looked at with humour rather than distaste and offence is an enormous plus point that is often overlooked.
Our pre-match refreshment was enjoyed as always and the misty and murky early evening sky only added to the incredibly atmospheric approach to an expectant Deepdale.
FA Cup ties, especially away to any club in a lower division, are always described as potential ‘banana skins’. So for that reason only we all knew it could be a very tough afternoon. I’ve always felt in any such tie however, if you match your hosts in terms of effort, strength, sharpness and desire, your ability as the superior team will see you home. That victory however, becomes far less likely if you don’t bother with the former aspects.
And it doesn’t need me to tell you our first half performance pretty much lacked any of it. Disappointing and bordering on not acceptable to be honest I also feel we should give credit to PNE for the way they approached the game. The only plus as we reached half time was we were only a goal behind. Although I felt our host’s goal was a tad fortunate they could and probably should have at least doubled their lead.
We all like a cliché and the ‘game of two halves’ was exactly what we all longed for. And, to be fair that is exactly what we got.
Rambo smashed home our fine equaliser and the mood amongst the travelling masses changed from one of disillusionment to optimism.
Wave after wave of attacks followed but with time running out it looked like we might have to do it all again back in North London.
If we could choose how we would like to win a cup tie I’m sure we would all go for going behind, equalising and grabbing a late winner right in front of the away end. Only with the benefit of choice or hindsight might I add! And Olly continued his current knack of late goals to send the travelling masses doolally.
It meant that long journey home was happy and enjoyable. Preston station was amusing to say the least. Thousands of Gooners all getting on pretty much the same train. The victorious mood probably helped and what might as well have been an ‘Arsenal Special’ set off for the South with our name firmly in that 4th round hat.
The trip concluded with the sound of ‘Wemberleeeeee’ echoing around London Euston as we arrived home…….and me finally getting indoors at 4am! Tired but happy. And ecstatic my ‘commitment’ led to yet another day that will live long in the memory.
Monday’s draw will determine our next opponent and potential adventure scheduled for the end of the month. Before that we are on the road again, this time heading west and into Wales to take on Swansea.
Our 2nd half performance in both our previous 2 games has been pretty good.
A vastly improved 1st half showing is essential however, if our season is to produce any kind of success. Hopefully our recent experiences demonstrate that enough to make sure we put that right.
Still on the march………