Roughly 11 o’clock On a Wednesday night is not usually the kind of time I write my thoughts but having just got back to my less than salubrious digs in Goldhawk Road and feeling pretty awake I’ve decided to wack pen to paper (or certainly the modern day equivalent). And after a nice 5-1 victory that should, you would think, be easy.
So why this part of West London. Well, 10 of us went to see The Struts at Shepherds Bush Empire last night. So with our game tonight a relatively cheap 2 night stay seemed a no brainer.
It meant I spent this morning working out of my hotel room of course and accompanied by one helluva thumping head to boot but a shower and a bit of brekkie meant that work was followed by a few beers with fellow Gooners on the banks of a sundrenched River Thames before heading north for the main event.
Like Sunday we looked bright and sharp going forward I felt and our 2 goals reflected that only spoilt in the first period by handing our visitors a way back into the match on a plate.
Unlike Sunday however, we got that all important 3rd early in the second half and very quickly it became a case of how many rather than if. And it feels a long time since we said that.
Three more pleasing points and concludes a perfect week results wise in London N5.
Wembley comes next. That stadium where trophies are won and lost. And in recent years we have experienced both. But Saturday it’s just for a league game. It may be our host’s ‘cup final’ but we could do with a result.
Be safe. Come on you mighty reds.
Sunday 24th February 2019
If, like me, you sat in the part of our stadium that remained basked in glorious sunshine throughout this afternoon’s game, chances are your face will look rosy and your skin feel a little tight this evening. Taking suntan lotion to a football match isn’t totally unusual and can be a regular occurrence in early or late season in the area where my season ticket is located. But in February!?!
My sister, her husband and one of my nephews are running the London marathon this year in aid of the charity Asthma UK and as part of the fundraising effort our supporters club offered their support to co-host a quiz night on Saturday. An outstanding success it proved to be, much refreshment was consumed well into the early hours meaning my journey into North London was a tad uncomfortable this morning.
But on a glorious day more representative of early or late Summer rather than the very heart of a British Winter, we made our way through the turnstiles full of optimism and anticipation.
It was an interesting game I felt, with plenty to be positive about, in particular of course the clean sheet and the three points made from our afternoon’s work.
In the first 15 minutes or so it could have been 3 all, the difference being we were clinical with 2 of the chances we created whereas our visitors were not. For the remainder of the half however, we were extremely dominant and arguably witnessed some of the best attacking football we have seen since well before Christmas. The 2 nil half time lead certainly didn’t flatter us.
The second period however, saw us needing to be strong defensively as the Saints tried to get back in the game and I felt we did this pretty well whilst still looking dangerous in patches going forward.
A win In the sunshine will do just fine and means part 2 of our 3 home game run has reached a satisfactory conclusion. For it to be a perfect week we need to pick up another 3 points on Wednesday as Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth come to town.
Personally I believe Southampton fought for every ball today and put their bodies on the line time and time again for their manager and fans. And I can’t help but think we will be faced with no easier task on Wednesday night. And under the lights I expect the temperature will be far nearer the kind we expect to experience this time of year too!
Anyone fancy a Wednesday Club!?
Friday 23rd February 2018
As I sit here waiting for the Europa League draw I’d be delighted with 1 of 4 destinations I haven’t been to. Things generally don’t tend to work out too well on that front however, so I expect it will throw up somewhere I have been many times. Us being in that hat is as a result of the professional performance we put in last night to progress. It wasn’t fantastic. But 3 nil was both enough and, under a little bit of pressure, satisfactory overall.
Thursday Club still took place yesterday afternoon. The early kick-off wasn’t ideal for people trying to get to the game of course. But there was no way it was getting in the way of what has become a regular and very entertaining pre-match build up over the last couple of seasons. So we just arranged to meet a little bit earlier. Simples.
And as a result we headed into London N5 for what felt quite a surreal experience, in a fine mood and full of anticipation for the game ahead.
To ease that pressure valve we needed 2 things last night I felt. To not concede and to grab an early goal. Not only did we manage to do that all night, let’s be honest a rarity this season, but we achieved the latter too.
The second eased it a little further but we all were extremely aware we were still only one conceded goal from going out of the competition.
So, on a night where the performance wasn’t inspiring, the result we all wanted came to fruition. And in any cup competition that is more important than anything else. Over 2 legs, job done.
Southampton come to North London next on Sunday afternoon and no disrespect to the Saints it is a must win for us. Our visitors know they can beat us. They’ve already done it this season. And that is a dangerous ingredient in the cocktail. We can play our part by getting behind the team of course.
For now however, that draw is about to start.
Friday 15th February 2019
I’m sat in reception of my hotel in a snowy forest on the edge of Borisov waiting for our minibus to arrive to take us back to Minsk and a cat has just jumped up onto my lap and curled up without a care in the world. I wish I could say the same about us but our hangovers are accompanied by disappointment after our 1st leg defeat and worrying form. There is genuinely only one positive we can take out of last night. It’s half time. Against a very average side we were poor. And it makes it a tougher task next week than it needed to be.
Minsk is a good city. Plenty to do, good food and drink and nice people. Unlike our previous visit however, the blue sky and sunshine was replaced with a blizzard as our plane touched down on Wednesday afternoon. But it’s always warm and dry in a pub. And a brewery pub with fine ales, good food and a live band, all laid on by the wonderful Belarussian Gooners, was a quite superb way to start proceedings.
Matchday and our minibus took us the 40 or so miles into Borisov, our cracking little hotel and the same pub we visited last time providing our pre match hospitality.
On an icy chilly night we started the game very much like we did last time we came out. The big difference however, we didn’t take our chances. And as the pitch deteriorated so did our performance. Personally I don’t believe we deserved to lose the game but overall we were poor. There’s no other way to describe it.
Today we intend to experience Minsk as much as time allows before an early flight tomorrow takes us back for a football free weekend.
We have a chance to put last night to bed and turn it around on Thursday evening. But that will only happen if we turn up and put in a performance.
Keep the faith.
If you want me to tell you that was an awesome away performance where we completely took the game by the scruff of the neck and absolutely smashed our opponent, then you ain’t getting it from me. But if you were tuning in to BBC World Service in search of our result, above all else, a victory would make you very happy. And that’s what we got. We weren’t great. The game was worse. But we won 2-1 and after a long day I’ll have that.
Talking about money in football is not something I tend to do too much. Of course, the amounts involved are gratuitous, be it the cost to attend games or the wages involved. The clubs will argue that the former is the going rate for the level of football we are witnessing, however they completely fail to understand that the vast vast majority of us would be happy to pay far less as long as our team is putting the effort in and we get to witness a fair and competitive league. As for the latter, I don’t blame the players. How can we when the wage level is dictated by both the industry and what the clubs are prepared to pay.
I mention all this because it crossed my mind this morning. Every player has ambitions. To play at the highest level possible. To walk out at Wembley for a cup final. To score in front of an adoring crowd. But, when they woke up this morning, either in their multi million pound home or their 5 star hotel room having been transported in their luxury and stress free transport, all whilst the latest weekly six figure sum drops into their bank account, do they ever spare a thought for what exactly us fans are going through to make sure we are there to support them?
Why did this cross my mind? Well, after a sleepless night due to numerous reasons from an attention seeking cat to that fear of an alarm failure, I got up just before 5 am before taking my 20 minute stroll to my first form of transport. A walk that involved almost being blown off the UK’s 4th longest pier in the middle of ‘Storm Erik’. And believe me when it comes to sea legs I’m no Ben fecking Ainslie!
An hour and 45 minute train into London follows, enough time for my ferry induced nausea to ease a little, before the tube gets me to Kings Cross and my venture north continues, to Huddersfield, via Leeds.
All this costs a small fortune of course and always comes laced with a fear that any slight delays on route and all that money might have been spent without actually seeing the game.
I’m not moaning believe me. I choose to live where I do for many many reasons. And I wouldn’t change it for anything. And without getting too deep and dramatic it’s a good analogy of life. We all make decisions, not always good ones, but once we do, you have to take responsibility for those and either enjoy or accept the consequences. Even if that means a right old bashing from Storm Erik along the way!
But, football fans’ loyalty holds no bounds. Lost jobs, lost relationships, lost friendships, big debts, you name it, they have all been consequences of that loyalty for many thousands of us up and down the country. And in today’s massively inflated football bubble, I don’t believe it is recognised.
But, we won today. So all the effort, all the pain and all the money was worth it. On we go.
I’m going to see The Vaccines tonight at the Camden Roundhouse. Or I will be if my train from Leeds is on time. I genuinely don’t look forward to nights out after a defeat. Mainly because im a miserable loser. But we won today. So I’m sure I will enjoy it. Hopefully as much as someone earning a six figure sum every week.
Sorry for my cynicism. Enjoy the break.
Up the mighty Gunners.
Monday 4th February 2018
Writing these thoughts on a train heading south on Monday morning was never in my plans. But minutes after going 2-1 behind yesterday afternoon I glanced at my phone to see a message advising my return flight to Southampton had been cancelled. The icing on a rubbish Sunday cake.
As is often the case it has been a relatively entertaining weekend off the pitch, our Saturday evening northbound flight took off and landed early meaning a curry and the late night entertainment provided by our host city were thoroughly enjoyed.
Matchday went pretty much down the same route with breakfast and local fare seeing us jump in a taxi up to City’s stadium built for athletics and bankrolled by far eastern billionaires in fine spirits.
Optimism is always there prior to any game but you would struggle to find any of the magnificent travelling support that would suggest they were confident of a positive result. And when we simply handed our hosts a 1st minute lead, that minor amount of hope dwindled further. Frustrating, disappointing and ridiculously avoidable.
To be fair, between City’s first 2 goals I thought we were excellent. Our shape was good, we kept them at arms length and looked dangerous on the break. And we were well worth the 1 all scoreline as a result. There is a reason why they are challenging for the title and we are not however, and in a flash we were undone and went in at half time, arguably a tad unfortunate to be behind.
The second period however, it was nothing more than us hanging on and all the time we were just one behind we had a chance. The 3rd going in off their striker’s hand summed up our day.
Every defeat is disappointing but in our current position our ‘success’ will not be judged by results away at the likes of Liverpool and Man City. Defeats at your Southamptons and West Hams will do though.
And Huddersfield next week has to be seen as the first step on a run to the end of the season where we have little or no room for error.
For now my ‘wasted’ Monday continues, the fact Flybe’s 4 flights today from Manchester to Southampton were all fully booked gave us little option.
Another long, drawn out and laborious compensation claim to deal with as we look forward to Saturday’s trip to Yorkshire.
Come on you mighty reds!