Yes you did read the title right, the Gunners versus the Swans in the Premier League. Who’d have thought eh!? It was 1983 when these two sides last met in the league – and that was in the old First Division – the top flight of that era.
For me personally, this was THE game that the Premier League penny finally dropped and I realised how far the Swans had actually come in such a short space of time.
The excitement had been building all week and 7am on Saturday morning couldn’t come quick enough. So when Conker Jack picked me up in his yellow Nissan Micra (aka the Noddymobile) our first ever trip to the Emirates Stadium was underway.
After a quick stop at Esporta – where we met our chauffer for the day – Teacher Jack and her male assistant Muffin Jack – we headed off to Cardiff in search of our last companion Producer Jack. We didn’t have a flag with us this time around, otherwise we’d have probably stopped outside Cardiff City stadium again 🙂
Before I start talking football, it’s worth giving you the lowdown on the aforementioned people for various reasons…
- Director Jack for example has inside information on Alex Jones and her Strictly Come Dancing appearance (based on the fact they did ballet together);
- La très belle Teacher Jack was Aaron Ramsey’s old French teacher. Perhap’s it is little wonder that he joined Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal then – “Bienvenue mon garçon”. Such irony on a day like this;
- Muffin Jack claims that he knew all about Lisa Roger’s having sex on THE Mastermind chair long before the story broke in the Daily Mirror a few years back. He also claims that the said chair was very “comfortable, yet quite slippery and squeaky”. We didn’t establish how he knew such facts!
After leaving Wales’ only championship football club city, we made great time and duly arrived in the north London suburb of Cockfosters – allegedly named after a lager drinking Australian – at around 11:30am.
Given the traffic chaos that is synonymous with London, we’d decided that taking the tube to Arsenal on the Piccadilly line was our easiest and quickest option. Ten minutes later and £8 lighter in the pocket and we were on our way to Arsenal – some 20 minutes or so away.
Upon leaving the Arsenal tube station we were immediately faced with a barrage of independent merchandise and food stalls – which felt a little bit like a throwback to the 70’s and 80’s football. Quite nostalgic to say the least.
I did however find the sale of dated Arsenal v Swansea ‘split’ scarfs (£10 each) rather patronising. We were after all two Premier League teams playing each other on merit and who’s to say that we both still won’t be PL teams come May 2012. Cup final, play-off final, European scarfs are one thing but this, well enough said.
Now with my Alan Sugar hat on, I did wonder/consider whether or not the majority of these street stalls – which were incidentally setup inside most of the front gardens of the terraced houses – were indeed the occupants running a doorstep business!! Given the potential footfall of even a fraction of the 60,000+ crowd every other weekend, that’s quite a bloody marvellous business opportunity. So does anyone in Landore want to rent their front garden out to me?
A brisk 5 minute walk from the tube station and you begin to see the enormity of the Emirates Stadium complex. From the large club shop, multiple box offices and museum to the long and wide footbridges leading right up to the stadium itself. It really makes you realise the gulf between the Premier League’s top teams and the rest – perhaps more off the field than on it. Rumour has it that on any Premier League match day, Arsenal make in the region of £1million. That just goes to illustrate the divide between the princes and paupers of this league.
Whilst wondering around the stadium taking pictures and admiring the historical murials of Arsenal legends past and present, we came across of a couple of officers from South Wales Police, whom comically were also taking photos of each other outside the stadium! When asked if they wanted one together, they declined and quickly made off… but not before mentioning that “we’re on tour as well you know”. Classic.
After getting all our photographic mementos for the day, we headed off to the Drayton Park pub – which is the designated pub for away fans – for some light liquid refreshment. It is conveniently located across the road from the away end at the Emirates. It wasn’t long before the queues started to form outside and ‘Hymns and Arias’ was being belted out inside.
It was also at this point that we became aware of some German Jacks! They were boisterous to say the least and one couldn’t escape the irony of them singing “always sheet on da ingerleash side of da bridge”. Still it raised a smile or two for both Swans and Gunners fans alike.
The Gerhard Tremmel fanclub had also taken a shine to Teacher Jack – something to do with ‘ze French aczent‘ no doubt – but alas they were thwarted in their amorous attempts by our resident night in shining armour Muffin Jack.
Vocal cords lubricated, we headed off to the famous (in Highbury times anyway) Clock End where the away fans are housed in the Emirates stadium. The famous clock itself now forms part of the new stadium.
Talking of clocks, anyone know who nicked/borrowed/stores the Vetch Field clock? It could have been moved to the Liberty FFS…
We were impressed by the sheer enormity of the place – let alone the padded seats. Yes that’s right, every single seat in the stadium is padded back and bottom. Just a shame I didn’t spend much time sat on it really! They even had 1 foot long hot dogs on sale for the princely sum of £5 and although I didn’t indulge, I swear the girth on my little finger was more than that of the hot dog.
All jokes food and otherwise aside, whilst Manchester City’s Etihad stadium was impressive, this was something on a totally different level.
As for the game well, there is little point in me renacting every ooowww and aaahhh (or even arghh!) as that has been done elsewhere, but I will do my customary bullet point summary.
- I did think ‘OMG we could get spanked here’ on several occasions during the first 15 minutes or so, thus was the ease that Arsenal prized us open/took advantage of our wayward passes;
- Once we settled, we began to take control of the game with Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer in particular tormenting the Arsenal defence;
- Whilst Angel played ok, IMO he still gives his opponent too much space and is often caught out of position;
- The Arsenal goal was simply one of those 1-in-a-million type howlers – no more, no less but I think what made it hurt all the more was the fact that, at that point we were dominating the game;
- I still think we haven’t got the right balance in midfield, but it was a clever ploy to pick Joe Allen for the Aaron Ramsey tussle, given that fact that he was overlooked in midfield for Wales in midweek;
- Danny Graham, grafted hard (as always) and really needs just a wee bit of luck in front of goal to open his account. Oh so close with his 3 chances today. Keep the faith;
- Ashley Williams and in particular Steven Caulker were solid and abrasive at the back – with the latter making a cracking goal-line clearance;
- Neil Taylor was my man of the match as apart from two occasions he had Theo Walcott in his back pocket all game (as he had Stewart Downing 4 days earlier at Wembley);
- Ashley William’s positive, reassuring reaction to both Michel Vorm and Danny Graham after their ‘howlers’ was testament to the team spirit at the Swans and it was great to see;
- Even discounting the Stuart Attwell factor, I can see why Arsenal pick up so many red cards – niggly, late, off-the-ball challenges. Not quite at a Leeds standard, but getting there;
- Arsene Wenger doing the half-time programme draw (obviously pre-recorded) on the giant video screen was comical – purely because you never ever see him wearing such a cheesy grin. It was so out of character!
- The 3,000+ Swans fans were in fine voice (as usual), but I still don’t get it why some people feel the need to go in full fancy dress or sing “same old English always cheating” for that matter.
- There’s nowt to say about the Gooners support really. It was however extremely interesting to note the number of multi-national fans that attend their games. Perhaps this is why they’re so quiet?;
Here are a couple of video’s I took at the game – Scotty Sinclair’s woodwork rattling free-kick and Danny Graham’s Earnshaw-esque miss in the dying minutes…
Gutted, proud, disappointed, frustrated, surprised were all words I muttered to myself after the final whistle. I still can’t quite believe that we (a) more than matched our so called more illustrious opponents and (b) we didn’t get at least a point. The reaction of fans and players (of both sides) at the end of the game seemed to further enhance this view.
The time spent leaving the stadium and queueing for the tube back to Cockfosters did little to quench our sense of disbelief that we hadn’t got at least a point from the game. I always find it amusing that the majority of other teams fans seem content to say that their team “played shit” rather than “you stopped us playing/you played well” – but I forget we’re only little old Swansea from the wild west of Wales.
By 18:30 we were on our way home and tucking into our burgeoning lunchboxes – having eaten Muffin Jack’s supply of sausage/bacon baps, grapes and muffins on the way up. Needing fuel and a caffeine fix, we duly stopped at Reading services and we greeted by lots of noisy, excitable Jacks – which is normal I hasten to add – but this commotion was purely because the Swans team bus had also stopped there.
Seeing Neil Taylor wandering into the services, I simply had to ask him the one question that was on everyone’s lips – “Have you decided to let Theo out of your pocket yet?”… his response, was a chuckled reply of “Yes, I think so”. *Alan Curtis declined to comment when I put it to him that “You really should be on twitter now Alan, it’s the way forward”.
Soon we were on our travel’s once again and after dropping off Producer Jack in Cardiff, we were back at the Esporta just gone 22:15 and in time to see the Swans bus arrive and drop the players off.
Conker Jack won’t thank me for telling you all this, but whilst departing the car park, he almost took out Kemy Augustien, Neil Taylor and the little physio in his Noddymobile. In fairness to him though, perhaps the next training ground exercise for the Swans should be based on ‘How not to cross the road from in-front of a parked bus’!
Home safe and sound, it was time for another coffee and watch the highlights of the game on Match of the Day, whilst still contemplating how we hadn’t got the positive result our performance deserved.
So all in all – result aside – it was a memorable day and one which will live long in my memory for lots of reasons. But I suppose the one comment that’ll stick in my mind was this one from the Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson – “If it wasn’t for the Swansea fans it’d be quieter than Islington library in here”.
I’m proud to be a Swan.
*I made that bit up sorry!