Monday, 14 May 2012

Third Up.

So how was it for you? The season with more ups and downs than the mythical bride's nightie is over. We limped towards the line before collapsing over it just before the cock & ball. The paramedics rushed to our side with a good three months to patch up, repair and hopefully replace. I can't do that again!

It was a season that started with our Captain finally getting back together with his first love. Nasri did the same for money. The summer was a shambles with us picking up what was left. There were some nuggets but a bit of crap too as there would be with any supermarket sweep. We let a team put 8 past us for the first time in over a century. We called on our old leading goalscorer to help out as the new strikers didn't strike. We lost Jack for the whole season. Others fell to the injury curse as time went on. We ran out of full backs for a month. We lost the ability to close a game down. We've forgotten how to defend.

Despite all this it wasn't all doom. We had John Terry falling over as we stuck 5 past them at their little ground. We tucked in another 5 against s*urs as they were 2-0 up and 10 points clear. We turned over Liverpool away (not as impressive as it once was!) We beat AC Milan 3-0 (ignore the first game!) That winning run was fun too.
However let's be honest, it didn't feel great as we were living through it. We lost over a quarter of our league games while not troubling any cups. Yet we finished 3rd. We've had all the Wenger out nonsense and the spuds crying mind the gap and we still finished 3rd best (or is that 18th least shit?) Considering the shambolic start 3rd is an absolute miracle and the team and manager should be congratulated. It was far from perfect but now the dust has settled we are 3rd, in the ££££ league and can get some more business done.

Sunday was one of those days where you wake up and The Arsenal are your first thought. 3pm seemed a long way a way. A trip to Build-a-bear, for my daughter's late birthday treat, in Covent garden killed a bit of time. As the day wore on the nerves grew. We all knew it but were uncomfortable saying it. Arsenal could blow this easily.

A variety of devices were set up by ten to three. Soccer Saturday on the telly. The commentary on the Arsenal app. Twitter on the phone. This is a nightmare! 3.02pm bloody AdeBuyWhore scores. Nothing for it now lads. We need a win. Yossssssssiiiiiii!!! 3.04pm and we are ahead thanks to a very odd but welcome bit of keeping by Fulop.
Come on Arsenal. Keep it steady. No sodding about today. 3.15pm and we are sodding about and 2-1 down. Unbloodyfuckingbelieable!
Two stunningly poor bits of defending for a change. The defending this season makes me weep but that's not news. We now need 2 goals without conceding again or 16 year olds will see something that hasn't happened in their lifetime. Just before half time the larger left back thumped in a shot that Fulop could only let sting his fingers before it rested in the net. 2-2! This has a Norwich feeling to it.

Half time arrived an nobody moved. The game was so finely balanced that it felt like if we got up things would topple over. We all knew we needed a goal. We could get a goal but could we keep a second half clean sheet? West Brom had already waltzed through us twice. They could probably do it again.

There was a time when an audio commentary was the norm. We knew how to deal with it and recognised the inclinations of the voice. I remember a moment when the radio exclaimed "Niallllllll Quinnnnnnnnnnn has....." We were off our seats punching the air. "..........hit the bar!" These moments were normal but few and far between. Yesterday we held our breath for an unhealthy amount as we attacked then they attacked. The whole season, summer and next season could change in a second. Such living room drama can't be good for you.

Finally that moment came. The corner was swung in with all expecting it to be cleared by the first defender. It beat that man but headed for the keepers hands. "Fulop jumps... OH HE'S DROPPED IT.....KOSCHELNY!!!!!  It's 3-2! Would you believe it? 3-2! I like 3-2. It's a satisfying score. It's the score of my first game, the 1979 cup final. I consider that day the day I became addicted. As we went 3-2 up at west brom I'd been a Gooner for 33 years and a day and wouldn't have it any other way.

Gooners worldwide screamed DEFEND as images of the Norwich mess flash through us. We were ahead and third. That's top in our own private league and more importantly above 'them.' That 16 year old who's on the till in the supermarket at weekends? Never seen 'them' finish above us. That's how it is and how it must stay. The last 20 minutes was a blur drenched in commentators raising their voices while we swore more and more. The longest few minutes of our season saw Arsene hide in Pat's jacket before it was over. The 9 month roller coaster trundled to a stop. We'd survived. We feel sick. We need a drink and a lie down but you know we'll do it all again.

So it's done. We are a couple of points, a couple of goals but crucially 1 league position better off than last season. After the summer and the start that is a miracle and despite the disappointment of never troubling any silverware we should be delighted. I, indeed, am delighted and 3rd does feel a bit like a trophy (sorry) as long as we build on this. Poldolski is a huge start but he cannot be alone. RVP's decision will be massive too but we must not forget that we are 19 points behind the team above us. Not so much mind the gap as mind the canyon. That's the next challenge.

It's the end of term so we will have some leavers. The most important of these is Pat Rice. A true legend who is Arsenal all the way through and back again. He was the captain of my first Arsenal team. He was the first person I saw in an Arsenal shirt lift a trophy. I remember going to Cambridge City to see them play Arsenal in a pre-season friendly in the early 80s. Pat was there. Sammy Nelson too. They wore the yellow from the cup final and all smelt of the Vaseline rubbed liberally into their legs. I shook Pat Rice by the hand that night and I'll never forget it.

It's been a pleasure sharing this seasons joy and pain with you but now the exhausted need a rest. Here's to a summer off with only the fixtures to look forward to, the new kit to moan about and transfer fetting to keep us going. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Up The Rip Roaring Goal Scoring Glorious Gunners.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Triple Trouble

I've had, what is commonly know as, a shit of a week. Not your usual everyday shit of a week but your very ill parent, no beds in the marvellous NHS shit of a week. Bet you wished you hadn't asked now....
You didn't?

Things eventually start to get sorted but the worry doesn't. It puts things into perspective. People's sympathy helps and you know you need to get back to some kind of normality and that's where football comes in. Exhausted I staggered back to London to hugs and tea on Wednesday. All were concerned especially my son but his were different. "You're coming on Saturday aren't you dad?" I told him I thought so. "Totton won so it's Oxford away tomorrow night" he added before I could get out the car. This is of course an Arsenal blog but at the end of the season my other love, Cambridge City of the EvoStick Southern Premier league, push in briefly. They've limped into the play offs and SonOfFeverPitch wants, as he put it, 'a good night out with my old man!' It meant a lot. City were the team I shared with my 'old man' and my son was right. Football is the perfect escape. The ideal unimportant important thing I needed to immerse myself into.

We drove to Oxford. Had a bit of a sing. Abused a poor linesman. "Come on Lino, liven up, you're having a bad night!" That's my boy! Sang a bit more as Oxford kicked and rushed a bit better than Cambridge and won 1-0. Another year, another Play off semi final defeat. No matter, it was fun. It was the perfect escape. Roll on Saturday and something else that, in the grand scheme, doesn't matter to avert my attention.

The day started well with a stroll down to Piebury Corner for a steak and ale pie, roast potatoes and gravy for late breakfast. We met Eastlower outside the east lower for a worry or two. "This should be OK, Norwich have gone on their holidays!" "Trouble is so have The Arsenal!" It was that kind of conversation. There was a distinct lack of confidence but then it has been knocked quite a bit recently.

Still full of pie we took our seats for the last time this season. The small talk amongst familiar faces mirrored that of outside. Come on! We can do this. With hundreds still making rows stand as they arrived Yossi rudely fired us ahead. We looked on it today. We'd found our feet early.

If Norwich had an eye on the beach for the last few weeks they had tans and returned freshened up against us as by half time we had a right game on our hands. Our great start had dissolved. Hello crap defending, not good to see you again ............. Oh and again. The first was a shocking shambling mix of defending and goalkeeping as Norwich cut us open with such ease. The second was a deflection but the space! Oh my the space. I was our second nearest defender and I'm in the upper tier. At the back! At the other end! We lost Sagna to his second broken leg in one season. Poor poor Sagna and our thoughts are with him as he starts that battle all over again.

Boos helped the players exit for what we all hoped was a well earned bollocking. They returned with more life but it looked impossible. Ruddy made stop after stop. Defenders flung themselves in the way. Norwich even broke a few times to provide the stands with quite a litter of kittens. The swearing became top shelf. Heads were in hands.

I admit I didn't want Yossi off for Gok. Yossi was running himself into the ground and looked like the only one who would unleash a bit of magic. Chamakh wouldn't find the goal unless we hung a mirror on it. To be fair he did OK. He put himself about a bit and made problems for the yokels. RVP. Goal. Need another. We pressed and pressed and it came. Song and Rob did their little choreographed thing and we were ahead. Third was ours. Shut up shop. A few minutes left. 3-2 up. At home. Nothing can go wrong now?

I was on my feet. Arms appealing to an unknown power before slumping into my expensive seat. Morison was given so much space he must've thought he was standing in a 100 acre field in East Anglia checking his crops. Szczesny was Almuniaesque as came but changed his mind. Our keeper didn't have a good day but he wasn't alone. The ball cut across him into the far net. 3-3 and third was no longer in our hands. We'd blown it. The crowd left and the lap of appreciation was flat and quite pointless. I clapped Pat Rice, said a private word to our captain (just in case I don't get the chance again) and went to talk to the steward.

For so long we've been the bridesmaids. Occasionally we catch the bouquet and we think it will be our turn next. Now? Frankly, we are struggling to find a parking space in the church car park. We have done everything in our power to not play Champions League football next season. I hope the players and, more importantly, management are proud of that. To tease us with 3rd and drop it quite so hard on our toes is cruel. But oddly not that unexpected. Not enough fight for their right to party with the big boys. We will finish where we deserve to finish.

"crap draw, pathetic performance, broken leg, next season's shirt, wankers will win the FA Cup" #BadDay

So my escapes from proper grown up stuff let me down badly. It frustrated, exhausted and exasperated but it certainly took my mind off things and for that I'm briefly relieved I'm involved in all this nonsense.

Up The Gunners!
(and the Villa) (and Man City (I feel dirty)) (and Everton) (and Fulham)