I’ve had worse days up the Arsenal.
I suppose in the interests of fairness I should confess I wasn’t quite so laid back after half an hour, or more. Who was? Such a difference from the optimism I had built up on the journey to the new home of football.
I had started the day on the train reading how we would be left behind by Tottenham, according to the erudite football brain of Henry Winter. That cheered me up. He knows as much about football as I know about needlework. Unusually early, I joined the queue at the Tollington eagerly awaiting the opening of the doors and the pouring of the black stuff. From all corners of the planet Gooners arrived to ponder what may happen. It was a joy to meet the Aussies, even though they did not bring an aluminium bat with them!
Once inside the ground it was clear that no matter which side of whatever arguments are currently taking place, all present were determined to get behind the side. That was just as well, given the nature of the opening spell. Just four minutes on the clock when we were rather exposed by a simple ball into Saha in the centre of the park, and his effort deflected off Vermaelen beyond Szczesny. You could not have scripted a worse start.
In all honesty, although they didn’t have much of a cutting edge, the visitors looked sharper in the middle of the park for a spell, but the better chances were falling the way of Arsenal. The skipper narrowly missed, then Rosicky saw a clever header tipped over by Friedel. Just as we thought we were taking control Tottenham had a penalty when Bale was seemingly shot by someone behind me, a full fifty yards away. I will be surprised if MOTD2 shows me to be wrong, but I will hold my hand up if it does. The sight of him laughing as he strolled off with Szczesny at half-time did little to placate me.
What had placated me by that time was the turning of the tide in our favour. The comeback was sparked by an unlikely source. Bacary Sagna, header. I’ll say that again. Bacary Sagna, header. That is about as rare as a Harry Redknapp confession. It transformed the contest, but strangely not the mood. The home support had stayed fully behind their side despite slipping two behind. The fortune with which the visitors had gone two up was not lost on the crowd. The Sagna goal turned the volume up a notch, and we were level. What a strike by the skipper.
The ‘holic pound became the topic of conversation at half-time. “Of course if Theo puts us 3-2 up we should shut up shop” I selfishly suggested. “Have you seen us lately mate, you’re having a laugh”. The fella behind me thought I wouldn’t land my punt. He was presumably feeling vindicated when the tactical genius that is Harry Redknapp took off the scorer of their only legitimate goal, and his mate Kranjcar, in order to introduce the hapless Van der Vaart, and the even more comical Sandro. Cheers Harry. Can’t wait to see England in the summer with you in charge.
True enough, the substitutions ensured the destination of the points. Arsenal took complete control, and for a fleeting second from my vantage point I thought Theo may have put us 3-2 ahead. “Shut up shop now boys!” The big money was gone though. The jumbotrons confirmed Rosicky had finally broken his drought, and nobody in red deserved it more today, although Yossi deserved one as well. Well played Tomas. That wasn’t the end of it though.
Theo, who endured a mixed opening half, suddenly found himself with room to work in. He fired one narrowly wide before the skipper set him up for 4-2. The fun was extending to the stands. “Harry Redknapp, pays tax when he wants”. The Tottenham bench were presumably regretting mocking the support behind them in the opening half an hour. Joe Jordan foolishly suggested that some of the Gooners behind him were Huddlestone shaped. Very unprofessional.
Song, much improved on his last couple of outings, then set Theo free for a fifth. With over twenty minutes to go I pleaded for a sixth, having not seen us knock in that many against the swamp-dwellers in my spell on this mortal coil. How selfish of me was that? All but a senile handful of the visiting support have not even seen their team win the title, and there was I begging for something as trivial as a sixth goal against a totally vanquished opponent.
The post-match tea and scones tasted so sweet on this, of all days. The worst Arsenal side in fifteen years, and we are, had absolutely humiliated the best Tottenham side in fifty years, and they are.
North London is ours.
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