Life as a Gooner exiled in the cold, wild and windy lands oop north has its advantages and disadvantages. The possibility of making occasional memorable trips down south to watch the good guys play is just a fantastic previlege that life in Sconny Botland offers. Well, that was the plan the moment the Arsenal defeated Wigan in dramatic fashion and got to the finals of the FA Cup 2014. Such a fantastic opportunity to support the good guys get their first silverware in 9 years may be a long time coming.
Alas, the ticket allocation for the finals at Wembley were paltry, and there was not one in a million chance to lay your hands on a ticket. Well, except if you were a regular, likes the Vines family, or by clandestine means, as Micky and 26May would testify to. 😛 But the AA faithful were not to be daunted. In a fantastic gesture towards fans, the club offered to make the event family friendly and erected large screens in the Emirates to telecast the game live. Peaches and Gooner in Exile suggested a trip to the Emirates on the day. Fantastic. Such an opportunity for a substantial AA presence at the Emirates could just not go to waste.
Mrs and myself planned to join in. But to make this an even grander experience, we planned to make the 1000 mile trip (well not quite a thousand, but fifty short) by car. So far so good. Food, clothing, sleeping bags and drinks loaded on to the car the day before in eager anticipation.
However, there was a small problem. I had been to Glasgow for work, and instead of making my way back to our lovely city Dundee in the evening, had to make a late trip to Edinburgh to help a colleague whose wife was taken ill. Mrs was in Edinburgh as well and stopped in her tracks wile making her way back to Dundee. We decided to cut some journey time next morning and spend the night in Edinburgh. All nice and fine, except that it got so late that we could not book a hotel. Hence it had to be an emergency arrangement: use the sleeping bags and catch some sleep on the floor of my office in Edinburgh.
In the event, there was nervous anticipation and little sleep, but also a somewhat delayed start. But off we went. Cross country to the west coast and then down south.
First fuel stop in the Lake District. A quick look into the AA space, still nice and quiet, Raddy blissfully asleep but the motning crew up and about. Micky planning his moves for cosying up to the enemy, Chas on a surf hunt for “Kauli Vaast, 12 years old, Teahupoo”.
Second stop just north of Birmingham, already pretty congested on the roads. Raddy’s prematch up nice and early, eager anticipation all round, but WordPress would not allow me to make comments. Anyway, a quick change into my red and white tartan shirt, and hit the road again.
The moment we hit the M1 south of Birmingham, the smell of gunpowder hit the air. Alarm bells started ringing. It started with brief flashes of yellow on the mirrors.
But quickly the environment turned oppressive. It appeared as if the whole city of Hull had descended on the road to Wembley. Literally every three in four cars were painted in the tiger stripes. And the din of their horrible heart-sinking honks continued all the way up to London. Occasionally we would come across a Gooner car and try to grab their attention. To no avail, they were fixated on the road.
And proceeding thus, at some point in the early afternoon, we reached Peaches’ house. If we were nervous, Peaches seemed to be even more so. She offered us some nice lunch and hot drinks, showed us the damage on her shoulder, and the damage from her shoulder to the very foundations of her house. 🙂 And finally, we left the car at her nearby station and off we went to the Emirates. The Gooner fandom had already gathered next to Finsbury Park and the show was on. All in good humour and nervous anticipation. Peaches, Mrs and myself enjoyed the show for a bit and then tried to hit The Tavern. Bad idea, there was no chance in a million of entry. So we got ourselves a can/bottle of beer each and chatted on.
Suddenly the sky grew dark and the towering frame of the Gooner Goalkeeper in Exile swept in. This was the first time I was meeting Exile, but I had seen his photo on AA earlier, so I knew who he was. And he knew as well. Such a great pleasure. So, we decided to hit the side streets to try and dodge the police. We had open bottles of alcohol on us, but on the day, it did not seem to matter too much to them.
We had time on our hands, so we decided to pass by Highbury redevelopment. With childlike exuberance, we sneaked into the housing complex, and took photographs inside and at the gate.
And then, we walked past Arsenal tube station and on towards the Emirates. I do not remember what we spoke of but we chatted away such a lot. Perhaps to hide our excitement, or was it tension? In between, Micky gave a call from Wembley kindly asking whether I would like a copy of the matchday programme, an offer that I immediately accepted. 🙂
Happy happy, nervous? COYG
On to Emirates then. The march was on, and so were the songs. Exile’s voice was getting hoarse by the minute. Eddie joined us in a bit.
And then, on to the stands. There was free seating. It was a bit of a challenge to find 5 seats together where we had a good view of the screens. We found good seats and settled down. The game was about to start and the tension was mounting. Liquid refreshments were required to ease us on our way.
The game is now a bit of a dream-like daze. We played well and completely shattered Hull out of the pitch. Most importantly, Rambo scored and we won!
At the final whistle, there was madness. Such overwhelming sense of elation was truly exceptional.
FA Cup Final Whistle As Seen At The Emirates
And then we happy AA Gooners emerged into the outside world, happy and merrily singing. On the way to the tube station, we grabbed a quick photo op outside the Marble Halls
Post match outside Marble Halls
On the train, Exile had some fun with Hull city supporters and so did we (Peaches, Mrs and myself). Finally, we met up with Rasp as well, had a meal and chatted into the night. Happy happy happy!
Oh what would we do in life if we were not Gooners? How can one have a life without The Arsenal?
Next day, I had a work meeting at the house of a friend. In Kew. The moment we reached, the air felt heavy. The house was draped on the outside in tiger stripes. And inside, the yellow and black baloons had not yet been set down. Oh dear! I had completely forgotten that my friend’s wife was from Hull.
She avoided any eye contact and hardly spoke a word. I could hardly suppress my grin. Ah, what sadistic pleasure!
Back to Botland, and a week later, the postman rang the bell. It was the matchday programme kindly sent by Micky. Micky, a couple of drinks are still due! Soon. 🙂
All in all, a perfectly satisfactory thousand mile trip. Perhaps this is stuff that dreams are made of!
“Ooh to! Ooh to be! Ooh to be a Gooner!”
“Ooh to! Ooh to be! Ooh to be a Gooner!”
What a pity we have to meet Hull again in the FA Cup so soon.
Photo and video credits: Gooner in Exile and Mrs Arnie.