Sunday 13th May 2018
That moment. That moment when Huddersfield Town Football Club gave our manager a guard of honour when they absolutely didn’t need to. That moment when shortly after, our manager diverted right, strolled purposely towards the away end, stopped just beyond the goal line and applauded and bowed to all those who were there to witness it. That moment when after 22 minutes every single person in the John Smiths Stadium rose and applauded in recognition of one of the English game’s greatest. Those moments were powerful. Emotional. Respectful. And It was a privilege to be there.
That moment when Marc Overmars latched on to Nic Anelka’s flick to make everyone believe in March 1998. That moment when Tony Adams smashed home Bouldy’s through ball to ‘sum it all up’ a few months later. That moment when we defeated the Geordies at a sundrenched Wembley to clinch the double. That moment when Dennis Bergkamp scored arguably the greatest goal the Premier League has ever seen. That moment ‘it was only Ray Parlour’. That moment Sylvain Wiltord slotted home to clinch the league title in the back yard of the biggest club in the country. That moment that we went to White Hart Lane and won the league. Again. That moment when Patrick Vieira slotted home our 5th penalty in Cardiff. That moment when Leicester went ahead in game 38 and we scored 2 goals to achieve something that has never been equalled. That moment in the Bernabeu when Thierry took them apart. Those moments in the San Siro. All 3 of them. Moments from Wales’ capital city to the London suburb of Sutton. Moments from Bucharest to Belgrade to Borisov. Moments from Vigo to Ostersund to Istanbul. Moments from Warsaw to Hamburg to Rome. That moment when Jens saved a penalty to avoid heartbreak in Villareal. That moment when moving to a new stadium just minutes from our spiritual and historic home rather than somewhere miles away became reality. That moment when Rambo steered home in extra time against Hull. That moment when we destroyed Aston Villa 12 months later. That moment when Olly Giroud chased a ball to the touchline and Rambo nodded home to clinch yet another FA Cup.
Last minute wins with 10 men at Bolton. Volleys from Kanu, Adebayor and Flamini at WHL. 2 cup wins in a week at Anfield. 5-2. Twice. 7 nil victories. More than once. 49 games unbeaten. I need to stop. The list is endless when you put your mind to it.
There have been frustrating, difficult, annoying and soul destroying moments too of course. We all know that.
Today sent shivers up my spine. And no matter how hard I tried for it not to happen, a tear to my eye too. As did all the memories I have mentioned above.
No matter when we got beat I loved it when our manager stuck up for us. In all those interviews when we were being criticised. It’s alright for us to analyse, debate and slate our own when we are together. That’s fine. But nobody else is allowed! And when that happened to Arsene’s face, often moments after a difficult defeat, he stood his ground for our club. And I loved that.
I’m no writer. No talented journalist. I’m a fan. And as a result others have written the kind of tributes that will be far better written than mine.
All I know is over 22 years he has been hugely responsible for some of the greatest moments in my life. And that is powerful beyond belief.
So whilst massively recognising it is time for a change of direction I will never forget the Wenger years at our great football club.
With Huddersfield securing another season in the top flight today was always going to have a celebratory feel about it. But with an icon such as Arsene Wenger about to see the curtain come down it could have been difficult for our hosts to get it right. After all we were at the home of The Terriers, not the Gunners.
I would like to finish by thanking and complimenting Huddersfield Town Football Club and their fans today. They were awesome. And showed class almost beyond belief.
And….we won away from home to boot!
So that’s it. A domestic final. A European Semi Final. A European tour secured for another season. And our manager, our boss, our leader has moved on to pastures new.
A new chapter in Arsenal Football Club beckons.
Exciting yes. Scary too I feel.
Thursday 10th May 2018
Looking back over the years I’ve always found the hardest games to analyse are those with an early sending off. And last night’s is no different. The one thing I can confirm however, is despite the fact I would want my team to win a game of conkers, walking away from a defeat in an irrelevant fixture is definitely easier than the opposite!
Overall I enjoyed the night if I’m honest. A minor pre-match pub crawl after an easy car journey and hotel check in had us in fine spirits and I was looking forward to the game in an altogether relaxed frame of mind.
And overall I think we were a tad unlucky on this occasion. The two biggest result influencing decisions are a sending off and a penalty. And both went against us. Was the incident that led to the former a foul? Yes, 100%. Was it a sending off? No. With Rob Holding clearly covering it was a yellow. But these referees love to be the headline makers, we all know that. And with the drama of a wannabe grade A celebrity the official could not wait to get the red card out. We spend thousands of pounds and travel all over the country week in week out to watch you mate.
The decision of course benefited the home team and if the boot was on the other foot I would have enjoyed the advantage as much as the Foxes’ fans. So I have no problem with that. But in what was growing into an entertaining affair it completely ruined the game as a contest.
We certainly had a go however, the frustration at the referee’s decision being obvious. And, especially in the second half, despite the numerical disadvantage, we looked dangerous going forward and Auba’s equaliser was deserved.
The penalty decision was soft. Minimal or no contact and a player who couldn’t wait to chuck himself on the floor. But that happens and arguably it was a silly and unnecessary ‘challenge’. But the pleasure the referee got from dramatically pointing at the spot was obvious once again.
So another away defeat in a season crammed full of them, it was a night with a degree of inevitability about it rather than frustration and disappointment. And I enjoyed the fact our players looked like they hated losing last night, even with the irrelevance of the fixture.
Leicester has dozens of Indian restaurants and it was a fine example that finished our evening with some late night tucker.
So, we reach league game 38 and head to a stadium where we have never played a league game. I was amongst those in the away end for a pre-season friendly a few years back so it is not entirely new territory and I recall standing behind the goal on the open terrace at their old Leeds Road ground for a 5 nil League Cup win back in the 90s too.
Sunday is a fixture that could have proved extremely tense for our hosts of course but their result last night securing another season in the top flight means it promises to be an afternoon of celebration. And one week after London N5 came out to salute our boss’s Arsenal career before he departs it will feel a very strange day for Mr. Wenger I’m sure. Especially when that final whistle goes.
A win for his final game? Would be nice.
Monday 7th May 2018
Back in May 1996 we took on Bolton at Highbury needing a win to secure European football the following season. With time running out and trailing 1 nil David Platt equalised and Dennis Bergkamp smashed in a beauty in front of a jubilant Clock End. And I mean jubilant too. It meant an enormous amount to us back then. Little did we know at that time but it was to be our last game with Bruce Rioch at the helm.
Our next permanent manager of course was to be a pretty much unknown Frenchman. Arsene who and all that.
Nearly 22 years on and it feels almost apt that in his final home game in charge we can look forward to our European adventure continuing for yet another year.
Sunday was a day full of great weather, good football, excellent goals, wonderful colour, positive vibes and a whole heap of emotion. And above all else class. Total and utter sheer class.
Emotionally it was a far more intense day than many of us expected. We all recognise for us to move forward the time is right for a change in direction. And those thoughts have created emotions from frustration to anger and from disappointment to apathy. The fighting, bickering and griping amongst those of us who supposedly support and love the club has been the most disappointing aspect at times.
But it was right for all that to be forgotten for one day only. And I felt not only did that happen but the vast majority of us felt like we were saying goodbye to our friend and leader.
There was still a slight edge to the match of course. A defeat would have meant we could still finish in 7th and needing to overcome European qualifying games in mid July as a result. And with our away form hardly giving us confidence that we are capable of picking up points in our 2 remaining games Sunday had importance along with it being the chance for us to thank and celebrate.
But from minute one it always looked like we would take maximum points from the game and so it proved with a handsome 5 nil victory.
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal career started at our beloved Highbury. And the stadium he proved so influential in creating for our future as a football club looked magnificent in the May sunshine.
A perfect sight, atmosphere, performance and result for his send off. And the day filled me with pride.
The whole process after the match finished was relatively short, brilliantly respectful and dignified on all fronts, unbelievably emotional and laced with sheer class. Arsenal Football Club at its typical best.
And on his big day, our manager represented those values in exactly the same way as he has throughout his Arsenal career.
Thanks Mr. Wenger.
See you in Leicester.
Friday 4th May 2018
My flight home not being until Saturday afternoon means I’ve done the tourist bit today. A walk around the parks, palaces and plazas of Spain’s capital city in the sunshine. But a walk accompanied by a massive bout of disappointment and deflation.
There wasn’t a huge amount between the 2 sides in either leg. But ultimately we have been defeated. And that will remain the same no matter how much analysis we throw at it. And whether you are a Gooner who gets angry when we get beat or one who just prefers to hide away in a corner in a dark room, the one emotion we all experience is disappointment.
Our trip has been entertaining of course. They always are. But there are aspects that need to be addressed. They are simply not right.
People who haven’t been on a European away trip tend to have 2 ideas of what they all about. Some think we are all thugs who maraud around their host city causing havoc. And others have this rose tinted view of exotic far off locations full of culture where we are treated with respect.
The staff in our hotel, in bars, restaurants could not have been nicer. Respect and friendliness we hope we extended in the opposite direction. But apparently, when you are a travelling fan, the local authorities have the right to treat you like animals.
Some of the things that happened last night were appalling and as a human being I find it beyond disgusting and against my human rights.
Arriving at the away end we are searched. Again, then again, then again. Not unexpected or a shock as we get that everywhere we travel. But that doesn’t make it right.
My ticket was in row 1. Row 1 was shut. When requesting help from the stewards, they simply shrugged their shoulders. So my and many of my fellow travellers’ seat didn’t exist.
I’m assuming it is due to that reputation we have in the UK of throwing things from the away end but the netting in front of us was outrageous. Unnecessary and seriously view impeding. This for an attending club from a country where such measures do not exist anywhere throughout the land.
And to think if it wasn’t for Arsenal helping with payment these were seats that would have cost us 80 odd quid!
With the game over many needed to use the toilet. It’s what our human bodies do you see. But the police would not let anyone go.
Then on leaving the stadium the local police decided it was their right to start smashing people randomly with their truncheons! This is not some third world country we are in. This is Spain’s capital city. I’m sorry but they are scumbags of the highest order.
Our fantastic reputation is and was irrelevant. They paid no notice. And we were treated like animals.
With plenty of video evidence something should be done about it. But it won’t. We all know that.
I like Madrid as a city. And I will be returning. Very soon in fact. But Athletico Madrid Football Club with the measures they put in place and the authorities they employ, seriously need to be taken to task.
Performance wise we were close. But not close enough. We lacked efficiency in the final 3rd against one of the best defensive outfits anywhere in Europe. But i think we all know we lost the tie in the first leg when we didn’t make the most of our countless opportunities.
Burnley come to town on Sunday for not only our final home game of the season but Mr Wenger’s last at the helm.
Our season needs to end. And quickly. It’s just a massive shame that Sunday won’t be on the back of a visit to yet another final.
Arsenal til I die……preferably not at the hands of some jumped up scumbag of a Spanish copper!
Maybe a bit generalistic. But I was there.
Tuesday 1st May 2018
The dividing lines between being deservedly beaten, only having yourselves to blame and perhaps a tad unlucky are often very thin. But looking at the current league table, with Huddersfield to play we have not beaten any of the bottom 10 teams away from home. And across the season that set of results cannot be described as anything other than abysmal.
We played pretty well on Sunday afternoon I felt. And to lose a point in injury time was a little bit harsh. When you look at the consistency in our away form however, it doesn’t matter how well we played the current crop of players are doing something wrong. One offs happen and form can be temporary. But across the course of the whole season the facts do not lie.
Thursday is a massive game so I am going to leave the domestic form there. It’s not a time to be negative. We enter the tie’s second half as big underdogs of course but for me we showed enough in the first game to give us a chance.
The rules with European football’s knockout stages make it like nothing else. And it’s the unpredictability that gives us hope.
My flight early tomorrow morning to a city I have visited just once before, accompanied by a promising weather forecast and of course the 2nd leg of a European Semi Final in a stadium we have never been to before make up an attractive package.
And along with the fun we will inevitably enjoy, emotions will be crammed full of nerves as much as anything else.
Buzzing for it.
Come on you mighty Gunners!