Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday July 18 2010
Just six days after the conclusion of the World Cup, itches needed to be scratched and the junkies needed their fix again. Some years ago I promised to abstain from pre season friendlies when, as a student, I spent around £200 on three days on Glasgow for friendlies with Rangers and Celtic. But the Barnet match appealed for some reason. If anything, World Cup summers make me crave the season even more. Unaccustomed to viewing so much action on the telly box without the chance to breathe in the air of a live game with my own nostrils, my appetite becomes insatiable. This is the first time I have done the Barnet friendly since 2002; I didn`t even ask any of my mates if they wanted to go when I bought the ticket. I purchased and turned up on spec, comfortably predicting I`d see someone I knew in the Old Red Lion pre kick off. That`s the thing when you keep the company of people as nerdy about the game as you are, you know full well that like minded individuals, as sad and tragic as you are will not be able to resist the lure either.
A few e mails confirmed my suspicions and it was onto the Northern Line for the 26 stop treck from my end of London to High Barnet. As journeys go it`s one of the easier ones for me to make but also one of the longest! By the time of my arrival at the Old Red Lion just after 1pm, the establishment was swelling with thirsty Gooners. Having purchased a nice pint of Country Bitter it was off to scout for familiar faces, Terry and Young Tim were in attendance and I had successfully located some fellow football parasites to latch onto. A less than complimentary banner besmirching Barcelona was unveiled to generous applause. After a fair few beers in the Barnet sunshine, we made our way to Underhill looking as though we might miss kick off. Fortunately, Barney were kind enough to delay the start by ten minutes so I could use the conveniences and find my seat in the South Stand. The first half line up was very mix and match, with some younger squad players getting the chance to mix it with the likes of Arshavin and Vermaelen. There was a starting place for new centre half Laurent Koscielny. We only had to wait 90 seconds for the first daffodil of spring, Arshavin arrowed in from the left hand side, found Rosicky, who nudged an intelligent ball back into the path of the diminutive Russian, who, about six feet away from me, gave keeper Jake Cole a bad case of twisted blood as he shimmied around the prone keeper to tap in. The Gunners looked well into the groove and Jay Emmanuel Thomas stung the palms of Cole with a rasping left foot shot from the edge of the area.
Arsenal put the contest to bed after just 16 minutes. Wilshere probed Barnet`s defence from the right, cut the ball back to Jay Simpson who swept the ball home. Simpson probably isn`t long for a career at Arsenal, but I`m sure he will operate at a respectable level; yesterday`s poached goals will have done him no harm earning an attractive move. At this point, Barnet had still not so much as mounted an attack. The interest level in the game dropped, as fathers with excited children patiently bore questions, "Which one`s Fabregas, Dad?" It was all a little too much for a Barnet fan behind me. Obviously, seeing your ground taken over by Premiership fans must irk a little, but the level of reverse snobbery grated in his wind up attempts, "Just loads of glory hunters here, must be difficult for the glory hunters not to have won anything for six years." I didn`t bother explaining to him that his two pronged attempt at caustic wit was centred on mutually exclusive concepts. The Gunners continued to probe, Wilshere inching himself into space from the right but miscuing his shot and screwing it wide on his left foot. Arshavin came even closer to doubling his tally for the afternoon when Rosicky moved the ball left to him and he hit a first time bending shot which kissed the crossbar and came out. But the away side did get a deserved third just before the interval. Byrne lost the ball to Arshavin on the edge of the area and quickly fed Wilshere on the right. Young Wilshere could have shot himself but elected to search out Simpson in the box for another penalty area poach.
As expected, eleven changes were made at the interval allowing the likes of Walcott, Nasri and new boy Chamakh (Chamakh! Chamakh! Chamakh, Chamakh, Chamakh!) to enter the fray. The game lost any rhythm and the second 45 minutes rather meandered by aimlessly. Mannone was swapped with Szczesny half way through the second half having barely even touched the ball. Chamakh linked up well with a careering Walcott on the right who saw his subsequent shot saved by Jake Cole. Another calamitous error gifted Arsenal their fourth in the only other noteworthy offering of the half, Leach miscontrolled a simple backwards pass, allowing Samir Nasri to steal in, steady himself and slot the ball past the bewildered Bees keeper. It`s not at all worth me relaying who played well and who didn`t., which youngster looks like "the future" of the club and which player needs to be shipped and sold on the strength of 45 minutes against Barnet. The game should be considered no more than a training exercise and I won`t insult your intelligence by trying to reach for sweeping conclusions in order to make myself feel knowledgeable and informed.
Thereafter it was back to the Old Red Lion for a few more beverages in the balmy Hertfordshire sunshine. After waiting an absolute eternity to be served, we found an overly fussy, overly officious police force had closed the pub. Apparently two Gooners had had a heated exchange, no violence was involved and the perpetrator was quickly dispersed. Police then charged into the beer garden, interrogating everyone and anyone, before a female police officer demanded I down my pint and leave. I don`t think I`ve ever been asked to chug by an officer of the law before! Once I`d figured she was hardly in the mood for a joke, I did as she instructed! We moved onto the nearby Queen`s Arms, where more familiar faces were met and greeted. Myself, Terry and young Tim stayed put until closing time. There have been times in my four years writing for the site that my opinions have been forcefully challenged and my integrity called into question. Most of the time, one accepts that football is an emotive subject and that you can`t please all of the people all of the time, nor should you try to. However, there are times when stories are spun and lies are told that you simply have to correct for the sake of your reputation. There are deplorable rumours abound the gooner webosphere that yours truly was seen imbibing effeminate beverages in the High Barnet area last evening. This is a downright lie; I was supping upon some IPA, which, at 4.8% was the strongest beer available on tap in this particular establishment. I also belched several times, at great volume, whilst drinking it and gave my nuts a good hearty scratch. I am as open minded and sensitive a man as you could ever wish to meet, but when my capacity to take the demon drink is publicly put to question, I will rebuke those rumours swiftly. When it comes to my beer, nancy boy am I none! Grrrrr.LD.
Date:Sunday July 18 2010
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