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)