Date:Thursday April 16 2009
In a season when the Emirates crowd has taken a bit of flak for the stick it has dished out to some players that have, at times, fallen short it is great to witness that they also know how to reward those that have earned it.
Presented before the game with a commemorative book by RedAction supporters, duly signed on behalf of VitalArsenal members by Tim Stillman, Robert Pires must have had some indication of his status amongst Arsenal supporters. As he received a prolonged, standing ovation at the end of the CL game against Villareal the disappointment he felt at being substituted in the CL final 3 years ago may have seemed a little less significant. He didn`t have to win the CL with us to have written his page as a legend in the annals of Arsenal Football Club - and gooners let him know that last night.
He is quoted on a French website as saying after the game "What the supporters at the Emirates Stadium did, I did not expect. I had a little anticipation early on but I honestly didn`t think it would be so strong. I had goosebumps. Usually the fans leave by the end of the match. Then, when I saw them stay, stand up, applaud me and shout my name, it was truly emotional. But this does not surprise me from the English who do not forget what we could do, what we won."
An interview he apparently gave to Canal+ after the game is widely quoted elsewhere, "On a personal level, it was very nice and very inspiring. Honestly, I did not expect it. Although I know that Arsenal supporters never forget their old players, despite the defeat and elimination, it warmed my heart. And I have discovered a very great stadium that I didn`t know before. For me it was a beautiful evening with strong emotions"
Urged by Wenger to get behind the team Bobby also credited the supporters for their contribution to the victory "The Gunners have some experience and then, in addition, they had with them the contribution of the crowd. It was huge. They sang the entire game."
He also found time for a chat with Arsene at the end of the game. "We discussed a bit at the end of the match. I felt relieved. I think it was a little tense before the meeting. He was aware that the match would be difficult and could raise doubts about his players."
Much like the team itself the supporters have had their critics this season but, in the same way that the team have raised their game the supporters showed they have it in them to raise theirs to. They did right by Bobby - and then some. If the modern footballer has any heart then last night showed that it isn`t only a one way street with supporters - you`ll get back what you give.
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Date:Thursday April 16 2009
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