Best Away Trip Ever

Tuesday 19th April 2017

Middlesbrough away on a Monday night is about as attractive as eating uncooked chicken. But as I head south this morning I can’t describe events in any other way than it has been thoroughly enjoyable.

Unless I wanted to travel through the night and pretty much sit straight at my desk and try and do a day’s work, an overnight stay was my only option. And I didn’t fancy the drive either. So a 7am stroll along the seafront and an early ferry saw me start a train journey that couldn’t possibly have run any smoother.

Me and my fellow travellers discussed many things in the build up, some more important than others but all highly amusing of course. Does a pie need a bottom to be a pie? (don’t ask). Was our 3 nil cup replay defeat at Luton in 1985 an all time low? Was Olive from ‘On the Buses’ attractive? The usual important issues of the day.

But one thing we did all agree on is games like last night are the ones we most want to attend. When things aren’t going well, when the whole world is against you, when the game’s day and kick-off time couldn’t be more inconvenient. And we had an absolute scream, before, during and after.

A small pub crawl in the university part of the city started proceedings on a sunny and warm afternoon. But what happened to that Spring day is difficult to work out! Come kick off time it was not only lashing it down it was proper freezing! The decision to bring the coat was certainly a good one.

As a game it wasn’t exactly a thriller but it was all about getting the result. And despite some tricky moments and conceding yet again we got just that. A grotty horrible Monday night on Teesside with a satisfying 3 points.

Cold

Results to celebrate have been few and far between in recent times as we all know. So that was our excuse as we stumbled back to our digs in the early hours thoroughly contented with our day.

Wembley comes next and in recent times there is that ‘yet again’ feel about it. Very few of us Gooners will have that ‘buzz’ surrounding our previous visits. And that is as a result of our current form as much as anything else.

But us football fans are a funny and often fickle lot. The joy of getting to the semi in 2014 was immense and going one step further intensified that emotion enormously. And winning it was up there with the best days of our Arsenal supporting lives.

The situation was no different 12 months later and included a feeling of satisfaction that arguably outweighed the previous year’s relief.

A couple of Community Shield victories topped off an incredible period for us in our national stadium of course but I would be lying if I didn’t get the impression amongst many Gooners out there that they are not too bothered about it this time round. A mixture of ‘been there, done that’ and general apathy towards our current form seeing many using any excuse to not actually go to the game. Excuses that simply weren’t there in those previous years.

Incredible I know, but true nonetheless.

It does mean of course, that those who are attending seriously want to be there and our end will be sold out and packed to the rafters as usual. And I fully expect us to make plenty of noise too.

Admittedly we were considerably better than Wigan, Hull, Reading and Villa on paper and although every team still has to beaten on the day those Wembley visits saw us come out with victories from performances ranging from a little more than mediocre to approaching perfection. The point is any display could be enough to see us through.

To a large extent that also applies to this season’s games against Sutton and Lincoln.

But, continuing the ‘on paper’ theme we are not better than Man City, certainly based on recent months anyway. So unless we turn up and put in a performance we will get beat on Sunday, it’s as simple as that.

Stating that is not me being negative. I am thoroughly looking forward to it and will being singing my heart out to try and assist, in some small way, our bid to reach yet another FA Cup Final. Despite our troubles elsewhere that is an enormous incentive and still hugely important to me personally.

Looking out of my train window we have just gone through Retford at a fair old pace so London beckons.

And I still have a headache.

Worth every penny and all the effort.

Enjoy Sunday and sing up.

Frank
@stubbsy70

A Million Miles Away

Monday 10th April 2017

Wednesday gave me a little hope. April is a good time to hit a bit of form I thought. It’s easy to say it ‘was only West Ham’ of course but I felt we turned up against Man City too.

But it’s hard to argue that hope wasn’t false after tonight. Almost impossible in fact.

It’s all well and good saying we dominated possession and probed and pushed for much of the game. But we lost 3 nil to a very mediocre side. 3 nil.

I’m not one for singing songs that are detrimental towards my own side. But, whilst recognising totally it is down to the manager to motivate his team, I also believe the players get away with pretty much no criticism. Not tonight. And it’s about time in my view. Too many out there not pulling their weight.

I hope it hurt a bit. Because it hurts us. Those who take time off work on a Monday, those who spend their cash to come along, those who use our ridiculously unreliable railway network or fight their way through the rush hour traffic. Those, like me, making my way back south to get on a ferry, to go to bed in the early hours of the morning only to wake up to the reality that we got spanked 3 nil by a Palace side fighting to avoid relegation. It hurts quite a lot.

On Easter Monday we go to Middlesbrough. And I will be making that long trip of course. Matches like tonight make me wonder why. But only for a moment or two

Arsenal til I die.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Much Better

Thursday 6th April 2017

Apart from major signal problems somewhere near Putney giving me a decision to make as whether to get home after 4am or part with some cash for a basic hotel room grossly overpriced due to it being school half term week…….I thoroughly enjoyed last night. The feel good factor was back. And it seems a long old time since we have been able to say that!

Although the streets around London N5 were hardly what you would call ‘full of tension’ there was absolutely no doubt it felt like a must win game. Looking at the top 7, if you disregard the top 2 it looks pretty much like the other 5 are battling for the other 2 Champions League spots. There will be lots of twists and turns I’m sure but consistency will be the winner.

Those of us lucky enough to attend every home game are well aware there are often quite a lot of spare seats dotted around our stadium. And with all games selling out the vast majority can only be season ticket holders who have not attended. It shouldn’t but that situation bugs me a little. And probably not as much as those Gooners out there who have been unable to get a ticket for what is a ‘sold out’ fixture.

The club have introduced ‘Ticket Exchange’ where season ticket holders can sell their seat for a game they cannot attend by registering it online. But the fact remains many don’t do this. Some forget I guess and many others are ‘owned’ by businesses or affluent individuals where it genuinely doesn’t really matter to them if they are used or not. Others of course, simply can’t be bothered.

Only my opinion admittedly but I think the club should go one step further. I believe if a season ticket seat is not used for let’s say 80% of matches (or at least advertised through Ticket Exchange) the club should reserve the right to take that season ticket back for the following season. The technology to administer this is certainly in place. But, the cynic in me can’t help but suggest the club are not too bothered whether there is a bum on that seat or not as it has already been paid for. I certainly believe it could go some way to providing the solution to filling those empty seats more often.

Anyway, I digress…..and the atmosphere on Wednesday night was pretty good to be honest. Everyone (bar a very small minority) pulling in the same direction in support of the team. And it was a team that put in a good performance on the night. Sitting here thinking about it in fact, I am struggling to think of any individual who didn’t have a good night. Mesut was back to his purring best, Theo looked very dangerous throughout and our under fire defence pretty much snuffed out anything The Hammers could offer. Emi Martinez dealt with the few things he needed to with ease and I was particularly pleased both with and for Gabriel. I don’t think I am talking out of line by saying he hasn’t been a fan’s favourite since he arrived but I thought he was excellent in the second half on Sunday against Man City and was arguably the best player on the park last night.

We could and should have been leading at half time but more importantly for me, we hadn’t conceded.

The way we started the second period suggested it would only be a matter of time before we took the lead but once we did there was definitely an element of relief mixed in with those usual post goal emotions. And the superb flowing move leading to Theo doubling our lead felt like the brakes in our play were finally being released. Some of our attacking football in the latter stages in fact, was as good as any we have played for a long time.

Olly’s cracking 3rd gave a more realistic look to the scoreline given our overall domination, especially in the 2nd period and coupled with each of the 4 teams around us all dropping points this midweek it was a thoroughly satisfying package.

Something for me to think about in my depressing and expensive hotel room a few hours later!!

The first of two weekends off come next. Not because we haven’t got a game. But TV have decided to give us 2 of those Monday night affairs. I’m not too disappointed if I’m honest. Unless something goes totally wrong I am always going to attend our fixture whatever date or time it is. And Monday night games give me a whole weekend to enjoy something away from the beautiful game. And with a promising weather forecast that is exactly what I intend to do.

Crystal Palace are always well and truly up for it when we play them. As are any side managed by Mr Allardyce. So I expect an extremely tough encounter at Selhurst Park. We know we are capable of coming away with three points. But we need to be right on our game if we are to do just that.

Enjoy the weekend folks, see you south of the river on Monday.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Liking the Sound of One’s Voice

Tuesday 4th April 2017

Football can be very frustrating. Now there’s an obvious statement! And with bias towards and support for one team, that emotion can only truly be influenced by all the things that surround them. That can be aspects our team can dictate and those they can’t. On Sunday I heard one of our own utter the words, “I don’t really want to attend games when we’ve got nothing to play for”. Surely that is more than just frustration. Bordering on ‘spoilt’ if you ask me.

I don’t mind admitting I find that kind of statement more than ridiculous. Laughable in fact. But I also can’t help but feel it is kind of indicative of the way modern day football fans are. Certainly in the upper reaches of the Premier League anyway.

Even in possibly our most inconsistent and frustrating season of recent times we have an FA Cup Semi Final to look forward to and we fight on to try and grab a Champions League spot that many Gooners simply take for granted these days due to our incredible run of qualifying year in year out.

That, is nothing to play for in some people’s eyes.

Many many times I have said this over the 15 years or so I have been writing a diary/blog, but football and supporting your team is not compulsory. Everyone has a choice. If you don’t enjoy yourself and see it as a grind, don’t go. It’s simple. And ‘supporting’ is not about only when your team is winning either. That is easy. ‘Sticking together’ is a phrase we are hearing a lot at the moment but for me that is right up there amongst the most important aspects of following a team/club. And when things are not going quite as you long for it is not only more important than ever but should make you grow even stronger, both personally and as a unit.

When you are in a pub, on a train or any public environment, does hearing another person criticise, slate or talk bullshit about your club hurt you, especially if you don’t know him/her? Does that situation make you think irrational thoughts?! If it does, you are like me. And on that basis we are together.

And that makes the confrontational element within our ranks all the more disappointing. We can all have differing opinions but deep down we all want the same thing. Each opinion and point can be valid…..but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is correct.

In a football ground, en masse if you like, any person can shout and scream their views and opinions. But when you do, no matter how much you’ve got the loudest voice, it doesn’t mean those around you have to agree or in fact have to put up with it without expressing their own opinion. And when they do, getting the ‘ump about it is massively hypocritical.

This brings me to Sunday afternoon and our home game against Man City. The minor ‘handbags’ inside the ground (and believe me that’s all they were as they happened in the section where I sit) have been widely reported like it is some kind of massive in house brawling that is regularly taking place. That is not surprising of course with the media seeking any possible way, however small, to try and both knock our great club and undermine our support for it. But it was no more than one or two acting in the way previously described and it boiling over due to others having the sheer cheek to have a different opinion!

It wasn’t particularly nice obviously and I have no problem with people standing up for their views but the general feeling was more disappointing that our current situation has brought on such an incident than anything else.

I could be dramatic and say it took the shine of what was an extremely entertaining encounter but it didn’t. Two very attack minded sides going head to head and matching each other punch for punch made hugely entertaining fare, for a neutral if nothing else.

We are not neutrals however, so despite it being a fair result overall, our current position means it feels like another 2 points dropped rather than 1 gained.

There were good points…we looked dangerous going forward….and there were bad ones too….defensive mistakes once again. But overall it was a big improvement on recent performances I would say.

Effort and desire are two aspects we certainly can’t criticise I feel as they were both there in abundance. And both sides had opportunities to win the game throughout.

We move on and that means taking on West Ham on Wednesday evening. London derbys have those extra ingredients. Local rivalry, a game under the lights and 3 points being crucial all make it look an enthralling evening.

Victoria Concordia Crescit…………some out there need to look that up.

Come on you reds!!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Fractious

Wednesday 23rd March 2017

When it comes to an entertaining away day, all the ingredients are still there as they have always been. Consequently, Saturday was filled with the usual banter and laughter. We got beat and that filled me with levels of disappointment and frustration to match any one out there. But there are an increasing number where a defeat or a bad spell like the one we are experiencing right now are dealing with it with sheer anger. Almost using the situation as an excuse to rebel. To join in with an ‘anti-establishment revolution’.

Lunchtime kick-offs are a potential problem for me and my fellow nearby Gooner mates given where I live these days. Staying the night before is often the only option although admittedly as long as that isn’t too inconvenient I’m never against a Friday overnighter somewhere! Alternatively I have to leave early, very early at times. Saturday was one such occasion and it didn’t help when our first ferry option was cancelled due to the crew not getting out of bed or something. It is absolutely fantastic living in a relaxed part of the world. We do however, have to accept the situation being a tiny bit over ‘laid back’ now and again!

A quick taxi divert to one of our alternative (but slower) cross Solent options and we were on our way, our smooth car journey along the M275, M27, M3, A34, M40, M42 and M5 seeing us parked up and having just over an hour to enjoy the pre-match fare provided by our usual hosts for this fixture.

Overall it had us in fine spirits and we looked forward to the game as we always do. That anticipation however, was definitely accompanied by a degree of wonder as to how our travelling army of fans would react on the day given the hype surrounding both our team’s current form and the future of our boss.

To be fair I heard nothing but full support for the team before the match and during the vast majority of the first half. I didn’t see the aircraft although even that was nothing short of farcical given the two messages. I’m sure there are people out there who know who arranged them but I couldn’t help but have the cynical view that it was the media or someone connected with another club who find the divide amongst our own fans comical. Seeing Arsenal ‘fail’ pleases the majority more than anything else remember. That has been the case ever since the thirties when we dominated and was quite clearly born out of jealousy. So anything that can be added to stir up the fire those responsible will only be too keen to get involved.

I’ve mentioned it before but during periods like this we have always stuck together. Unfortunately however, we seem to have a generation these days who get pleasure out of joining the ‘knockers’ from outside of our club rather than standing as one against them.

2nd Half Optimism?

Other than the defeat one thing is more disappointing than anything else from our trip to The Hawthorns and that is our inability to deal with our hosts’ set piece threat. Everyone knew they had one. But we coped abysmally. Our record cannot be argued unfortunately. Defensively, as a unit, we are weak and easily penetrable right now. And in a situation like that we will continue to drop points.

Murmurings from the ‘rebels’ began once we went 2-1 down and intensified when The Baggies nodded home the 3rd with another unmarked header. And we can talk all we like about majority ‘for and against’, the fact remains there is a severe lack of unity amongst Gooners right now.

That, along with everything else, is not just a negative but surely doesn’t help the situation we find ourselves in.

The fact only 4 teams can win the FA Cup and we are one of them will see many of this country’s football supporting fans looking at us as spoilt children right now and the fight for match tickets for our semi final against Man City feels no less intense than our previous recent visits. And if there are any Gooners out there that are so fed up with supporting their club they don’t want to go to Wembley please feel free to send your tickets my way. We have hundreds within our supporters club who would love to be there to support their team.

And it’s the super rich boys from the Etihad that we welcome to North London next as we look for a strong end to what has been a hugely inconsistent season.

Enjoy the international break and wear your cannon with pride. I certainly will be. That will never change.

Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Into The Last Four

Tuesday 14th March 2017

Despite the fact we are now only one of four teams that can win the FA Cup this year I have waited until now to pen my thoughts so we know who stands in our way of yet another final. And if I’m honest I would have chosen our opponent if I had that option. As condescending as this sounds that is not for any other reason than the fact us Arsenal fans will never consider Man City as what you would describe as a ‘rival’. They are not based in London for starters and historically it is only money that has seen them reach the upper reaches of the league on a regular basis.

I found out the result of last night’s quarter final on my mobile phone. I didn’t watch the game due to a total lack of interest on my part. After all, in addition to watching our under 23’s latest encounter live on arsenal.com, getting 1 question right on University Challenge or watching Mary Berry knock up a fine beef and ale cobbler were both far more appealing.

My attitude to watching football live on the TV has changed dramatically down the years. Once upon a time I would pretty much watch everything. When we weren’t playing, Sunday’s meant a day on the sofa nursing a hangover getting up just in time for the 12 noon kick-off, followed by the 2pm and 4pm games and finishing with a game from Spain in the evening. Movement was confined to the loo and to answer the door to the pizza delivery man!

But these days, there is a massive live football overkill with games from all over the world on TV every single day and night. As a result I only watch one if I am genuinely interested. And that is more likely to be a top of the table clash in the National League where I can watch the game as a complete neutral than anything on offer from the Premier League. I watch football to relax when it’s not my team, anything involving a rival or a club I am not fond of tends stress me out. Personal choice I guess.

I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend just gone. Spent in the company of great friends and massive Gooners it involved many of the things I enjoy most about life including of course our match on Saturday evening. And summarising briefly, in a situation where there was absolutely no way we would be seen as ‘winners’ on the day, I think we pretty much did the job well. Wembley beckons. Yet again.

On more than one occasion pre-match I heard people parading as genuine Gooners come out with lines such as ‘a bit of me wants us to lose today’. You know the type, those that when it suits them claim to be the biggest Arsenal fan on the earth yet can’t attend the game that afternoon as they need to go shopping or something.

I find that attitude astounding. An FA Cup Quarter final and you’d be happy if we lost. That’s no Arsenal fan in my book. Although I would be more than happy if the 9000 Lincoln fans had the best football day out of their lives I wanted just one thing from the day. Progression to the semi final and another chance to walk down Wembley Way.

And that brings me on to something else I don’t agree with! Although I have no problem with the rule that sees the away teams in FA Cup ties getting a bigger share of the match tickets, I passionately feel this should be based on the visitors’ average home attendance. From what I understand it can be up to 15% available for the away team under the current FA rules. If that is above the normal allocation for a league game I believe it should only be relevant if that total matches 15% of their average home attendance. So Man Utd for example get 70 odd thousand through the door and I would expect them to take their allocation of 9 thousand. But with Lincoln getting 5 odd thousand every week, the fact they got 9 thousand tickets on Saturday is ridiculous. Three thousand would have been more than sufficient for their genuine week in week out fans. That meant 6 thousand Gooners, including loads of regulars in our own supporters club, could not attend the game. And no matter who you support, that is not right in my book.

As we see year in year out with cup finals however, there is no shock in the FA mucking up when getting genuine fans of the clubs taking part through the turnstiles.

In one aspect I felt Saturday evening would be similar to the Munich home game. I felt our visitors could make it tough for us in the first hour but was confident they would run out of steam. So as long as we didn’t give ourselves a mountain to climb I never felt at any stage we would do anything other than win comfortably. And overall, that is exactly how it panned out. I’m not really sure how else it can be analysed.

As (hopefully) we come out of what has been an extremely disappointing, frustrating and difficult period, that result will certainly do and we can look forward to a day out at Wembley in a few weeks time.

Before that we very much need to get our league form back on track and that starts with a tough looking trip to The Hawthorns this coming Saturday lunchtime. I say ‘tough’ because it doesn’t matter who you play when your form is below par, every game looks daunting. And our results away at West Brom have been pretty mixed down the years.

But if we get behind the team like we know we can we are capable of coming away with a positive result.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Firsts and Rarities

Tuesday 7th March 2017 Part 2

A couple of things tonight I haven’t done or experienced before. Firstly I don’t remember ever writing two blogs in one day. Secondly and more importantly of course I have never seen us lose a cup tie by 8 goals.

But, from the moment Laurent was sent from the field there was always a chance that could happen.

That doesn’t mean I am going home without a sense of pride.

Being proud to be a Gooner and support my club is part of what I love for. And that hasn’t changed one bit as a result of tonight.

Me leaving a game early is rare. And very early I can only remember 2 other occasions in 40 odd years. The first was the Charity Shield back in August 1979. I was a young boy so didn’t get a choice but when my dad and his mate decided to leave early I do remember we were getting well and truly spanked.

The second happened on my birthday and it was the day we got beaten 6-1 at Old Trafford. After 5 I’d had enough and so headed home to watch us fight another day.

Tonight was the 3rd occasion. For all our effort and good play on the night it was painful once Bayern equalised and we were reduced to 10 men. So once the 4th went in I headed for the tube station and the start of my journey south.

I don’t feel gutted or numb or hard done by or shocked etc. My hope for progression from tonight was only just above non existent. So to feel any of those emotions would be hypocritical.

For the best part of an hour the game was very very similar to when we so nearly turned round an almost impossible situation against AC Milan a few years back. But although the first half of that game gave me hope, the way our initial play was followed by grit and determination despite being absolutely cream crackered told me if we were to have any chance tonight I was convinced we would need to be 4 up inside an hour.

And do you know what? We had a go. In fact I’m not sure we could have done an awful lot more than we did on the night.

We could have scored 5 or 6 in that first hour. Genuinely. Our intensity was spot on and we created many chances. But on a night like that you need them all to go in and the refereeing decisions to go your way to give you hope.

What happened after the penalty is a bit irrelevant for me. It extinguished that little tiny candle of hope once and for all. And the referee might as well have called a halt to proceedings at that moment. The tie was lost in Munich, it’s as simple as that.

So I am happy to leave it there.

We need to pick ourselves up and move on. If we win on Saturday we are going to Wembley. Not a bad incentive that.

Proud to be a Gooner until the day I die.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Defensive Glue

Tuesday 7th March 2017

Rarely do I pen my thoughts on the day of a match and once again there is no actual reason why it has taken me this long since our disappointing trip to Liverpool. Like everyone else however, I also can’t deny feeling particularly downbeat about our whole situation right now. But I’m old enough to have seen it worse. And an awful lot worse at that. And when I feel my back is against the wall it makes me want to go to games even more than ever. Some strange in built extra determination to stick my two fingers up at everybody else. And when I get home from tonight’s match in the early hours of tomorrow morning, whatever the score, that feeling will not change.

There is a well used saying that goes something like, “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it’. But at the moment it is very difficult to support that argument. The alarming way our form has dipped since just before Christmas is both disappointing and puzzling (despite every single one of us of course being world class managers!) One thing is for sure, something just isn’t right.

Once again, off the field, our particular travelling party had a great time. A journey that started walking up the pier near my home and watching the sun rise where the sea meets the sky in the east is always something to behold and makes what can be quite a difficult 20 minute stroll all the more uplifting. And despite our whole train journey being potentially packed with a huge amount of problems, our careful planning proved fruitful and the whole package could not have gone more smoothly.

Our train from London’s Euston station was graced with a large travelling Gooner presence too, pleasing given the ‘uprising’ or ‘revolution’ that seems to be going on within our following if social media and the press are anything to go by. On the other hand however, we did have a few texts from people who could no longer make it. Due to ‘the dog needing a bath’ or ‘forgetting a nasal hair trimming appointment’ etc.

That situation always makes me smile. I can absolutely guarantee all those who pulled out would have been there had we been top of the league. I have absolutely no problem if people choose not to travel (other than the fact it means other Gooners have potentially missed out when they would have travelled) but I would rather they would give me the ‘I can’t be bothered’ excuse rather than some of the other rubbish!! 😉

Having checked into our hotel in Liverpool’s historical docks area we made our way to our chosen pre-match hostelry/wine bar/cocktail lounge and it would be safe to say the company and banter had us all in extremely high spirits. And that breeds confidence. Usually. But the general consensus of opinion was it depends on what Arsenal turn up for us to even have a chance.

For me it’s more that I have absolutely no confidence that we can keep a clean sheet at the moment. Certainly against sides in the top half of the table. And in that situation it means we need to score 2 at the very least to have a chance of winning. And that’s not something new this season either. I don’t think we necessarily have bad defenders. But we appear ‘soft’ right now. We are conceding goals that look ‘easy’. Not a piece of incredible attacking football where we are forced to offer a certain amount of admiration for the opponents.

And that means there is something wrong.

Before nil turned to one

Saturday evening was a perfect example. There was absolutely nothing from our hosts that impressed in the opening exchanges. If anything in fact we looked to have started the game slightly quicker and sharper. Yet in a flash, with what appeared little effort, we found ourselves one down.

Not only does that give us a mountain to climb away from home at one of the more difficult grounds to get a result, but a team that itself is arguably lacking a bit of confidence gets a huge lift, as does the home crowd. And a tricky fixture becomes a hugely difficult one in a split second.

For the rest of the half we were poor. Our hosts were comfortably on top but didn’t offer much of a goal threat so it looked like we would get through to half time just a goal behind and with the opportunity to get a breather and start again. Another softly conceded goal just before the break and we were virtually dead and buried. Very very deflating and disappointing.

Our second half performance was much better admittedly but although we enjoyed much more attacking situations we simply gave ourselves too much to do. As often is the case a potential 2-2 became a 3-1 scoreline in the dying seconds and once again we came away with nothing from an away fixture against one of the top 8.

As much as it frustrates and can put a real downer on the day we were determined not to let it spoil our Saturday night out and consequently our host city’s hospitality was enjoyed until well into the early hours of Sunday to conclude a thoroughly entertaining away day off the pitch if not on it.

Messy

And that brings us to tonight.

The fact that if we go through it will arguably be up there amongst the greatest victories in our club’s long and successful history is probably the best way to describe the situation we are faced with. We are all but out, it is as simple as that. But….we are not quite yet.

And that little tiny bit of hope is what we have to cling on to.

Come on you mighty reds.

Frank
@stubbsy70

With Ribbons Intact

Tuesday 21st February 2017

What is it with Arsenal bashing? Why us? Always. 

We should have won the league last year. Liverpool shouldn’t have. Nor Chelsea. Nor Man Utd. And definitely not Tottenham. Maybe if any of them had put in a performance against the deserved Champions we might have won it. But that doesn’t matter. That’s our fault. We should have won it.

We should have won the league for a number of years now. And the fact we haven’t we are being absolutely slaughtered for it. No mention of Liverpool going 25 years without doing that despite spending horrific amounts of money. Tottenham doing the same and still waiting after near on 60 years is not worth a discussion. And Chelsea going 50 years until they pretty much bought it is all very hush hush.

Knocking the Arsenal is nothing new. We have always had to deal with that. But things have changed a little for me.

So, after a disappointing period, the vultures were well and truly circling above Gander Green Lane last night. Nothing (and I mean nothing) would have pleased the football world more than seeing us get beat last night. But I (and fortunately all of the people I attend fixtures with) were thoroughly looking forward to the whole event and were not going to allow the knockers of our great club to ruin it. It was a special occasion in many many ways. Almost unique in fact. And we came through it with a win to send everyone but us Gooners home disappointed.

But it wasn’t all good and I will detail just why……

An ageing souvenir cap from a memorable day out

An ageing souvenir cap from a memorable day out

Back in January 1993 we played Yeovil away in the FA Cup 3rd Round. I remember the hype surrounding the fixture due to a combination of our hosts being a non league side, the link to our previous fixture back in 1971 and the fact the whole football world wanted us to lose. We had a fantastic day out, Wrighty banged in a hat-trick and that was that. A few months later we put the grand old pot in our trophy cabinet once again. 

But the difference back then was all the criticism, all that dislike of the Arsenal, all that desire to see us fail made us Gooners stick together. The attitude if everyone else is against us we’ll make doubly sure we are in it as one. That ‘siege mentality’ we’ve all heard about. And that is in a season where we had already lost against the likes of Norwich, Blackburn (twice), Wimbledon, Leeds, Southampton, Villa and others. A season where leading up to the Yeovil game we had scored 1 goal in our previous 7 league games! In a 1-1 home draw with Middlesbrough for the record…

But, that sticking together, that ‘us against the world’ doesn’t seem to be the case any more.

Once again, every single person outside of Arsenal FC wanted us to lose last night. And that I completely understand. But the fact, even in the away end of Gander Green Lane with only 750 of us present it felt like there were many who would have been quite happy to see us get beat I genuinely do not get. Why bother going if you don’t go to enjoy it? What is the point of constant negativity? Back in the day, even if we weren’t exactly overjoyed about the way things were going, we certainly didn’t show that to anyone outside of the club. We are Arsenal. Bollocks to everyone else. I wish I could say that is still the way. But I genuinely don’t think amongst the ‘new generation’ it is.

Or maybe I’m just getting old.

‘Minnows beat the Arsenal’. The headlines were already written. And we would have endured that until the day we died. But on the night, due to a thoroughly professional if not stunning performance we made sure it didn’t happen.

And no matter how much it was expected we should take that with pride, satisfaction and class and look forward to a quarter final where we’ll need to go through it all again.

A surface covered in banana skins

A surface covered in banana skins

Those of us who were lucky enough (and in the majority of cases deservedly) to have a ticket for tonight’s match were thoroughly looking forward to it. Supporting a top side we have been able to travel the globe and visit some of the world’s greatest stadia. And some of our most awesome moments have been in the world’s greatest club Cup competition.

And to win it 12 times you need to overcome many teams.

But to visit such a stadium for a massive fixture with interest being present globally is kind of unique. Winning would make sure it wasn’t an experience ruined.

This season we have beaten Burnley twice, both with last minute winners. At the weekend that team lost, at home, to a team from the conference.

So, apparently, that means last night was easy for Arsenal. Should be a stroll in the park.

We all knew that wasn’t the case. Everyone was waiting for us to fail. But we didn’t. Sorry about that. 

I had a bit of PMT in the build up. To be fair I always do for cup games. But that fear of embarrassment intensifies that emotion. But once the game had started there wasn’t a single moment where I felt we would lose. And as a result, into the last 8 we go……yet again.

We now have a short break due to Southampton’s success in the League Cup. A rare weekend off. And it’s my birthday. So I will enjoy it. And if you want to knock me for that you go ahead.

We’re used to it.

Frank
@stubbsy70

A New Emotion

Thursday 16th February 2017

Wembley 1978 and again in 1980 along with Brussels just a few days later I remember being disappointed. But I was a little too young to feel any other emotion. Losing to Luton in 1988 always springs to mind when trying to remember the first time I felt genuinely gutted. And of course there have been other times too, Liverpool robbing us down in Cardiff, Bergkamp’s penalty miss at Villa Park and a couple of trips to Paris to name but a few.

But, in 40 years of support, I don’t ever remember experiencing the feeling of total and utter deflation after last night.

Trip wise it has been fantastically entertaining as always, no shock when visiting a city that never fails on that front.

Arriving around about rush hour on Tuesday evening there was always only going to be one thing on the agenda and an establishment that we have been in so many times now that it almost feels like a ‘local’ played host until the wee small hours. A fine start.

Oh go on then.....

Oh go on then…..

Matchday arrived graced with beautiful sunshine and consequently the city was full of people enjoying the local wares al fresco. That of course included the usual travelling army of Gooners spread far and wide inside and outside one of the many bierkellers. A good atmosphere full of anticipation if not exuberant confidence.

Actually getting into some stadia amazes me. The Allianz is one of the world’s greatest modern sporting arenas. An incredible sight as you approach and equally impressive inside. But getting through the turnstiles, for both home and away fans was unnecessarily slow, difficult and chaotic.

We had been warned that we would all have our photo ID checked and this could take some time. But that bit took no more than seconds and caused no delays or problems. But actually getting through the turnstiles, in a modern stadium, in a country known for its clockwork efficiency was ridiculously difficult and meant many, even having arrived in what should be ample time, missed the kick-off.

False optimism again

False optimism again

Normally when we get beat you can pinpoint particular incidents or moments that could have been different. Mistakes, bad luck, that kind of thing. But our second half performance last night was like something you see in a school playground.

None of us were shocked that our hosts completely dominated the first half possession. Defending well and trying to make the most of opportunities on the break were not unexpected tactics. And short of an absolute worldy we did that pretty well I felt. In fact after we equalised we enjoyed our best spell and could and arguably should have taken the lead.

So, at half time we found ourselves in a better position than before a ball was kicked.

Then, Laurent limped off and basically we collapsed.

Of course we can all scratch our heads as to just how we fell apart but more alarming was the fact we appeared to just give up. At 3-1 down we were still in the tie. Yet we looked like a team already defeated.

Since mid December we have lost 5 times. That period includes a last minute penalty win at home to Burnley and having to come from 3 nil down to scrape a point at Bournemouth. That form speaks for itself. And consequently losing last night was more likely than not. But the manner of the defeat was very very worrying.

Drowning your sorrows until nearly 4am is not big or clever. But I almost felt I had no choice.

It almost has an ‘end of an era’ feel today. And I genuinely have never felt like that since Georgie Graham departed.

So what happens next? Well, first things first we need to show Sutton United some respect and put in a performance that sees us into the FA Cup quarter final.

We are Arsenal.

We’ll come again.

Frank
@stubbsy70