It’s a long time since I got home from any Arsenal match, let alone the North London derby, before eight. Alright, it was a lunchtime kick-off and I wasn’t exactly on the wagon, but you catch my drift. What I did do was I made sure I enjoyed as much of the day as I could from the moment I was joined by a shivering Lady Arse outside the pub a quarter of an hour before opening. Martin let us in out of the rain. “No drinks until ten mind”. Drink was the last thing on my mind after my last couple of days.
Esso and Ian joined us as the first tinctures were poured. I had one to be polite. Trev wisely avoided the burgeoning round. Tony arrived and passed me a flask. “I think you might need that at half-time”. We were nervous, in truth. Ollie arrived on the boat from Belgium, or somewhere like that, and AJ sauntered in with Taytos for all. “Sod the nerves, I’ll have a bag of those sir”. Slowly but surely the Gooners arrived and took on board courage. Wind, making his North London derby debut looked wide-eyed, and so too did Silva, but for different reasons I’m guessing.
A panic call, the neighbour has had train trouble and had driven. I met him outside the pub to grab my ticket. At least one of us will make the kick-off. Mouse shared with us his new project at the BBC, a show called Strictly Come Noncing, or something like that. He is far too creative for me!
A short stroll later I met up with the neighbour’s neighbour by the Block 32 bar. Pete was in good form, but then again he always is. The neighbour himself arrived in time for the start, discussed the joys of parking in North London on matchdays, and we were away. It is probably fair to say we have had better starts to a game. Tottenham capitalised on their early dominance when Adebayor, who else, gave them the lead and avoided the card such a celebration normally warrants. Fair enough, it was THE derby after all, and the intellectually challenged former Arsenal striker made his most decisive contribution to any match at the Grove when he wrecklessly scythed down Santi Cazorla and got a card of an entirely different hue. Effectively he ensured his team’s humiliation at that point.
By the time Tony’s flask was pulled from my pocket at half-time we had all but nailed the match down with a wonderful Per Mertesacker header, a Lukas Podolski scuff via the heel of the hapless Gallas, and an Ollie Giroud effort as the visitors defence dozed. T joined us to discuss the finer nuances of the performance, and England’s recovery to 111 without loss in the second innings. “Too little, too late”, we agreed. He returned to the elevated perch of the Tuesday Club.
As the teams came out for the second half the lads across the walkway resumed their baiting of the opposition bench. They always find a target, and in the absence of Joe Jordan the Tottenham goalkeeping coach, Tony Parks, was biting like Mike Tyson under pressure. Let’s face it, no goalkeeping coach is going to earn a bonus when your man has been beaten five times with consumate ease by your fiercest rivals. To be fair to the little mob from up the road our second half strikes from Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott did sandwich a consolation effort from Bale, who nipped out of Bacary Sagna’s pocket un-noticed.
From all four sides of the stadium the home crowd roared their approval of what was unfolding before them. It was time to head back to the local to perform a joyous post mortem with And Lester, Snowy, Adam, and Steve et al.
Everybody knew it could have been so different. It would not have been a surprise if an air of negativity had crept in during the early exchanges, but the crowd knew how important their contribution was today. Which is why, for once, this review has concentrated not on the lads who did what they were paid to do, albeit magnificently.
This review is a thanks to you, and you, and yes, even you. Gooners of all persuasions united behind the badge against a common enemy today, and were utterly magnificent.
You have every reason to be proud of each other.
This was a good day. Let’s have some more.
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