North of The Border
Wednesday 14th July 2021
There was something that felt very special about tonight. Not normal. Having to rely on friends from the remarkable Gooner family to help get us in is testament to that. But special. Why? Yesterday I got on a train and headed up north to see my team at an away game. And it feels an awful long time ago that I was able to do that.
Just to keep things in order date wise, I’ll offer a few words to reflect my opinion regarding Euro 2020. Firstly, just as I felt about Liverpool’s recent league title win, although it goes down in the history books, the fact the covid pandemic meant there was never a level playing field makes the whole tournament difficult to accept as genuine for me. One team heading to Baku whilst another plays at ‘home’, others to near empty stadia when in another city the ground is full with fans and noise make that playing field a million miles away from ‘level’.
I’ve never hidden the fact I am 100% club before country. And my emotions back that up. My nerves before an Arsenal game can be so shredded it makes me feel sick whereas before and during Sunday night’s final I couldn’t possibly have been any calmer.
Don’t get me wrong, I am English so want England to win in any game in any sport. And there was a 12 year period where I didn’t miss a single England home game. And that includes the dreadful meaningless friendlies when only 20 odd thousand bothered to turn up. That run included Euro 96, so I have huge empathy towards everyone walking out of Wembley after a penalty shoot out defeat just like I did all those years ago. But was I genuinely ‘gutted’ Sunday night? I would rather be honest and say not really.
As for England, I don’t think we were outstanding throughout the tournament. But I do think we played well enough to deserve our place in the final. And after an excellent first half performance, I felt Italy were the better side for the rest of the match.
As for the penalties, I’m never going to knock anyone for taking, not taking, scoring or missing. But the one thing that can be influenced is the decision on who takes them. And with a long list of hugely experienced players available Bukayo being the boy to take the 5th was a combination very poor management and a lack of balls from his team mates in my book.
We are looking forward to you coming home to the Arsenal young man.
When detailing my feelings about the tournament as a whole I purposely refrained from using the word ‘irrelevant’. Why? Well, if nothing else, for a few short weeks, when England give people hope, the whole country gets a huge lift. And in frustratingly and shockingly difficult times, the importance of that cannot be emphasised enough.
England are good and young enough to be back. Along with all the constantly repeated songs and anthems that comes with it.
Monday morning and it was Arsenal all the way so after negotiating my usual transport options north to London it was hugely relaxing and enjoyable journey north to the beautiful Scottish capital. One of my favourite cities anywhere in the world, events began with a few beers with fellow Gooners and those based in that part of the world who had fought so hard to get me match tickets. I certainly meant matchday started with a big requirement to clear the head in the quite stunning sunshine.
The longer the day went on the clearer it got that my fellow traveller and I were not the only ones who had made the journey north. We’re a hardy and enthusiastic old bunch us Gooners and if there is any way we can attend a fixture, that is exactly what we’ll do. And it was with a tidy old number of that very bunch that we enjoyed more of Edinburgh’s considerable hospitality in the build up to the match.
I have never seen a match at Easter Road so as well as it being fantastic my first visit involved my team, the walk along the streets to the stadium also contained all things new. Something I particular enjoy.
With huge covid restrictions and guidelines in place we made our way into the stadium and everything felt wonderful.
With pre-season training only just underway it was a ‘bits & pieces’ kind of match but relatively enjoyable overall, despite the defeat. The game needs little summarising but we ran about a lot (arguably the main reason for being there), we missed big chances in the opening half hour, our goalie fresh after signing his contract handed our hosts a goal on a plate, Nico missed a pen, TP smashed the post, we let in another and ESR slotted in to make the final few minutes a little bit interesting. And that was pretty much it.
I toyed with heading up to Edinburgh, heading home and then back up to Glasgow on Saturday, but armed with my laptop so I could keep on top of work, I decided to stay up here for a few days. And today that means a little trip to Dundee followed by Arbroath to try the famous smokies. And of course to take in the big one from Gayfield Park as the latter host East Fife in the Scottish league cup.
You just have to don’t you.
The search for a Rangers ticket goes on. I would desperately like to attend but it is looking less and less likely by the day.
Over Land and Sea….and rivers.