Sunday, 31 May 2015

Relaxed At Wembley

Say what you like about the FA Cup but that was a day no Gooner will ever forget. Seeing the pictures of Arsenal fans worldwide brought home just how lucky I was to get a ticket to be at the game. The WhatsApp message a few weeks ago from Eastlower telling me I had the golden 'successful' next to my name will live long in the memory. Indeed my wife, son, Eastlower and his brother hit the jackpot too. A day of it was to be made with the best people to make a day out of. 

You'd think I'd seen too much to have a slightly sleepless night before a game of football but the FA Cup has that effect on old and young. If it's not the first thing you think of on the morning of the match then there is something wrong. But it was a long wait. As I sat having breakfast (see previous post) I just wanted to get there and get started. We were leaving at 2.30pm to park in a factory of a Tottenham supporting friend 5 minutes away from our seats. He kindly said we could park there and if we left a message of support for Tim Sherwood our wheels would still be there at the end!
Even a drive round London's least glamorous road, the North Circular, was exciting as glimpses of the arch kept teasing us. We parked. Deep breath. Check the tickets for the seventy third time and we were off down Wembley Way. 
The game was a joy. We were magnificent from beginning to end. How you pick a man of the match from that I don't know. We played how we know we can. Villa were awful but we made them look awful. No shots on target should tell you everything about them but also our defending. Our only concern was, at 0-0 we were missing chances and there's always a danger of a punt up field and we find ourselves a goal down. Why were we worried? Just in time Theo thumped a left foot past Villa's best player and we erupted. I have never been hugged quite so tightly from so many directions. That joy of a cup final goal is quite something. 
Thank goodness we got our breath back before our second. What a goal that was. Right up there with the best to grace the old/new place. It had the spirit of Ray. We've found our Chilean Parlour! You can imagine the explosion of joy in the stands. The game was won. The cup was ours. A dangerous thought but something was different with the team. They just never looked like it would slip. 

A third was added. We initially thought the ref had blown to stop the game as Villa stood still but no. The spirit of Linigan. Another hug all round and we were enjoying a cup final. Imagine that?! Enjoying a cup final. Eastlower and I even slouched back and reminisced about past finals as this one was going on in front of us. Relaxed at Wembley! The forth was met with cheers, laughter and handshakes. Splendid. 

The team danced as we bounced. The noise is impossible to describe. That joyous football crowd noise. We are lucky enough to know what that is like. The songs started one by one but nothing more moving than the 'Oh Rocky Rocky' one sung with such passion. The cup was lifted and the fireworks went off. We didn't want to leave. 
We headed home in the car with Arsenal songs seeping out the open windows towards hundreds of happy yellow shirted, flag waving Gooners. At 1am I have never felt so awake. The magic of the FA Cup. 

Sunday and the Eastlowers popped round for roast Lamb and a stroll down to the victory parade. 
What a weekend with The Arsenal. 

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Lucky Socks

As I sit outside a cafe in Moorgate a man walks past in and old Arsenal shirt proudly advertising JVC. We exchange a nod. 
"Going later" he asks. 
"Of course" 
"Me too. Can't wait" and he disappears towards the City. Impressive exchange considering the only thing that gave me away was yellow & blue stripy socks. 
On no other day of the year would he risk a two word question to a plain clothed stranger in unusual socks. If you're not a Gooner why would you be sporting such an item. 

It's Cup Final Day that's why. 

All morning Whattapp has been literally buzzing with what to wear. Only day of the year this bunch of blokes care? 

I love that we are in yellow today. My first Arsenal memory and the reason I'm an Arsenal fan is seeing Alan Sunderland wheel away. It's 3-2!! I remember standing on the seats at the back of the stand at the City Ground in Nottingham with Eastlower & his brother many many years ago srreaming 'YELLLLLLLLOOOOOOWWWWSSSS' for as long as our lungs would allow. Michael Thomas. Yellow ribbons. 

Right, once this bacon has gone I'm off to burn a mixtape for the car. See you on the other side.