Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday April 22 2007
There has been much public lobbying of late to make St. George's Day a recognised public holiday (I'm no patriot, but another day off work can't be bad), but tomorrow will see the day of England's patron saint overshadowed by the Gooners' holiday of choice. Despite Tottenham's undeserved last minute equaliser, a point was enough to ensure Tottenham's premature boasting must be shelved for a further year, while defeats for Bolton and Everton all but ensured Champions' League qualification. You have to feel for the Spuds. In 03/04 they watched us celebrate a record breaking league victory on their ground, in 04/05, exactly one year to the day that we won the league at White Hart Lane (TM), they had the chance to dethrone us as champions by preventing us from winning at Highbury- they didn't. Then last year, we laughed ourselves in to raptures as irritable bowels moved to the beat of failure, as Spurs were 'dumped' out of the Champions' League places at Upton Park, 'crowning' the Final Salute. 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles' was heard to 'ring' around Highbury in appreciative tribute. A lifetime supply of Andrex couldn't 'wipe' the smile off my face that day.
Toilet humour aside, this is the one fixture I honestly detest going to. I have gone into the amount of intimidation Arsenal fans experience at the Lane at length before, but needless to say, it is difficult for me to believe that Spurs fans entirely blameless for the trouble in Seville of late. Stepping off the train from Tottenham Hale to Northumberland Park, every step is painstakingly contrived so as to appear at ease with your surroundings. Which is difficult, because my knuckles don't even come close to the ground, and it was difficult for me to conceal my distaste for luminary drinking establishments such as 'The Park', which, from the outside, looks to be the biggest dump in London. Carefully entering the South Stand Upper Tier, in the manner I would imagine Boy George to enter a KKK rally, all the talk was on the boardroom strife of the week past. All I will say on the matter here is that a takeover is going to happen, it is inevitable, I just want it all over as quickly as possible so that the manager can go into the summer with his future plans clear in his head and so that we can get on with the business of finding/shifting players. If Wenger's future is still unclear in the summer, the board will be reluctant to furnish him with funds for a player when le boss may leave next summer. Though I will add that the press has been typically moronic in their treatment of the whole affair. Wenger is a man of honour and will certainly see out his contract, there was always going to be speculation about his future thereafter anyway. But the assumption he will up sticks and leave immediately are so infuriatingly stupid, it just troubles me that people actually earn a living churning out this shit. Honestly, if your mate at work left tomorrow, would you follow him/her out the door?
Anyways, we all knew what was coming. Spurs' tactics against us at WHL are always monotoniously repetitive. They always come charging at us with gusto in the first half, only to knacker themselves out. They did the same yesterday and shot their bolt far too quickly. A long ball in the first minute caught Gallas back peddling, he arked his neck to head it away but could only nudge it into the path of Berbatov, who lobbed Lehmann but shot wide. After a frantic first five minutes, Tottenham had again run out of steam and Gunners' fans thought they had taken the lead on 17 minutes, Ljungberg flicked into the path of Adebayor, who smashed past fat boy, only for the linesman's erect flag to dash hopes. I will confess that I did not see the flag for a second or two and leapt up, only to return swiftly to my seat feeling not a little bit of a dick. An unfit Ljungberg departed for Cesc Fabregas and the game changed for Arsenal at that point. Diaby pushed forward to brilliant effect, Rosicky's early industry had a creative soundboard as Cesc pulled the strings. But Tottenham took the lead on the half hour mark, Jenas (who was serenaded with 'Ashley's boyfriend' by the away crowd) swung in a corner, which was headed on by Dawson and, with Lehmann having shoved Clichy away from his man, Robbie Keane was left to nod in from close range. It was the sixth time in eight visits Tottenham had drawn first blood against us at the Lane.
Arsenal fans have seen all this before and continued with defiant chants of '61 Never Again.' On the stroke of half time Arsenal should have had an equaliser, a brilliantly patient buod up saw Fabregas play Eboue in down the right and his low shot struck the post, the rebound arrowed out to Adebayor, but Dawson hounded him sufficiently into shanking the ball over the bar. It was to foreshadow the pattern of the second half as the Gunners' assumed control. Arsenal unusually seemed to offer a threat from set pieces, Toure rising to meet a Fabregas corner only to see it cannon off the post. Lady luck was to further flash her knickers in the form of rattled woodwork when Adebayor climbed brilliantly to head Hleb's searching cross over 'slim' Robinson and onto the crossbar. Jol replaced the utterly anonymous Lennon, as the quiet tension of the Spurs support manifested itself onto the pitch. It has been a theme of Tottenham's season to assume the lad against big teams, only to retreat into their shell and become overwhelmed. Zokora tugged back the excellent Rosicky (though from my angle Tommy Gun did make a meal of it), and Toure met Fabregas' resultant free kick on the back post for a close range tap in. Smelling blood, Toure was not in contemplative mood, he sprinted straight back into our half ready for the kick off.
'Shit ground no history' rang around the away section as the travelling Gooners sensed victory. A rapturous rendition of 'we laughed ourselves to bits....' followed by a delightfully mocking, 'it's so quiet at the Lane' was met with no response from the hushed home ranks. Arsenal got their deserved lead with twelve minutes remanining, Eboue was felled by Rocha and another Fabregas set piece was met by an African predator, this time Adebayor showing huge desire to head the ball over Robinson, as the ball seemed to take an eternity to drop in. Gooner limbs went flying in every which direction as Adebayor reciprocated our joy with a maniacal thumping of the chest. Tottenham looked to have well and truly given the game up. Adebayor leapt to head the ball past Rocha, jinked to the byline and chipped into the box only for Baptista tostreetch every sinew in his neck to head wide. With White Hart Lane rapidly emptying, Spurs grabbed an undeserved and unexpected equaliser. Berbatov and Keabe had faded into obscurity in the second hlaf, with Arsenal's full backs taking control of them in wide positions, Zokora had no answer to the delightful Fabregas and Lennon/Tainio could only look in in awe at the imperial Rosicky, let's hope his injury is not serious. It has been a staple of Rosicky's season that as soon as he builds up some astonishing form, he is felled by injury. But just as 'You'll never beat the Arsenal' rang around the South Stand, Jenas played a one two with Malbranque and with Fabregas not tracking, Jenas fired a low shot past the reach of Jens Lehmann. '2-1 and you ****** it up' came the taunts from the few stragglers. If drawing away from home, ensuring that your nearest neighbours cannot finish above you, and concurrently qualifying for the Champions' Lague is qualified as ******* it up, then that shows that the Souds really are small potatoes. The alst time they scored a last minute equaliser against us at the Lane it was of absolutely no consequence either. Oh well.
The gauntlet, as I colourfully refer to it, came shortly after. All the idiots who had left early to throw bottles at the travelling contingent had missed their side's equaliser, never mind eh? Once again, the local police inflamed an already delicate situation. I am beginning to wonder if the police do this on purpose at this fixture, because the policing arrangements could have been manufactured by the Yid Army. Every year, the police do something different in their attempts to quell the hundreds of mindless pondlife that line the streets of Park Lane, so those of us sensible enough to make contingency plans are continuously stumped. In their infinite wisdom the police decided to hold us in- outside the stadium on Park Lane- penned into the cauldron of hate, just so the brainless morons had adequate time to identify incognito Gooners. Once said yobs had sufficient time to absorb our features, the police funnelled us all into a narrow pathway they had created- shoulder to shoulder with the ranks of Spurs fans, with only a line of coppers seaprating us from their assorted debris and spittle. So those of us who like to stick close to the wall and slip around the corner up the High Road towards Paxton Road were put in danger by the very people appointed with our protection. Our slip around the corner became a long drawn out stroll. The Spurs fans waiting on the corner between the High Road and Park Lane had ample time and distance to identify the Gooners' breaking away from the away turnstiles and our cover was completely blown. Fortunately, nobody from my party was hurt, but with the police wantonly identifying our allegiance for the baying hoards, it was a minor miracle. Beery breath met my face as cries of 'f*****g Gooner scum' were exacted at us inches from our faces. In fact one erudite gentleman, concern clearly etched onto his features, politely enquired, 'where's your red top then you f*****g Gooner scum?' before attempting to share the contents of his mouth with my jacket. Delightfully, he missed. Walking up towards Northumberland Park station, another pissed up idiot (are there any Tottenham fans out there who can express themselves without spitting?) broke away from his party to share his views on the game with us. 'We're shit, we got lucky, we always do this' blah, blah, blah etc. It was always my suspicion that he was feeling us out, seeing four males walking away from the ground in plain clothing appeared to arouse his suspicions and I think he wanted to see if we would give the game away. He muttered his slurred goodbye as he walked into a pub adjacent to the Bellington Estate. Thankfully, he didn't re emerge with any of his special friends. The closure of the Victoria Line at Tottneham Hale kept us in the cauldron slightly longer before being able to bretahe comfortably, I dread to think what troubles that closure created at Seven Sister's tube station, frankly, I'm not sure I want to know. Happy St. Totteringham's Day. LD.
Match Ratings; Lehmann-5, Eboue-7, Toure-7, Gallas-7, Clichy-8, Hleb-6, Gilberto-7, Diaby-8, Rosicky-8, Ljungberg-5, Adebayor-7.
Subs; Fabregas-8, Baptista-6, Senderos-10
Date:Sunday April 22 2007
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