Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday December 17 2008
With mixed results, a captain publicly admonished and stripped of his colours and the fall out of the Ebooooooooue scandal still ringing in our ears over the last month, there has been a fair bit of introspective naval gazing in the Republic of Arsenal. But last night a light hit the gloom amidst the dense Hertfordshire fog. Ordinarily, there is no good reason for a man in his twenties to sit freezing on his own on a December Tuesday evening at Barnet`s Underhill Stadium, but this was no ordinary reserve fixture. As evidenced by the fact that, in the hospitality box to my left, Dennis Bergkamp and Tony Adams stood side by side to take in the game. Two pillars of Arsenal history stood side by side, you can imagine the reception they were met with. But even they were mere sideshows for the main attraction.
I don`t often attend reserve fixtures, in fact I think this is only the third one I have ever attended, but I suspect the crowd is not usually as raucous and the numbers as swollen as last night. I sat in the Barnet Kop behind the goal and come kick off time there wasn`t a seat to be had (a shame for those of us hoping to stretch our legs out). The Kop literally rocked to the sound of 'Eduardo da Silva Arsenal`s number 9` for about 90% of the first half. Having been at that fateful game at St. Andrews in February, watching his comeback was as much about suspending my disbelief as supporting the guy, but I suspect the 45 minute run out was a good deal more cathartic for him than I. Save for kicking the game off, it took a few minutes for Eddie to get his first touch but when it arrived from a cleared corner, the rickety old ground was rocked to its foundations with the punters acclaim. It was like an inverse Eboue.
He understandably took a while to adjust to the pace of the game, though when played upfront, he was always the type of player that would look detached until the ball came into the area. The sort of player that would touch the ball three times on a game and end up with four goals! Though it`s fair to say nobody applied a crunching challenge on him, he did not look at all hesitant or perturbed. Right at the end of the half, he nearly conjured a fairy tale goal. Merida pulled the ball back from the left; Eduardo showed the instincts have not been dulled by finding some space, setting himself before curling the ball goalwards. But Bergovic in the Pompey goal proved to be the ultimate party pooper with an excellent fingertip stop. It kind of reminded me of when Robert Green saved Martin Keown`s penalty in the Arsenal stalwart`s testimonial. He was replaced at half time as a precaution, but the run out will have done him the world of good, mentally as much as physically. It`s been a remarkable comeback and one I doubted he would make as he lay prone on the St. Andrews turf, but it`s important we don`t apply too much pressure. His rehabilitation is not yet complete and I have taken issue with several blogs in the last few weeks provocatively trying to proclaim "Eduardo to play next game" etc. This was very much one small step, but it signified a giant leap. The young Gunners went onto win 2-0 with goals from Randall and Gibbs, lamentably for my part, I saw neither. Given that I reside some miles South of Barnet, I withdrew twenty minutes before the end (well, it was free to get in). In truth, I`d already got what I came for.LD.
Date:Wednesday December 17 2008
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