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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

My Own Summer (Shove It)

The big kick off is but five days away, every Arsenal end of season DVD/ VHS from 1988 has been comprehensively viewed and semiologically deconstructed to the point that I find myself freeze framing a Paul Davis volley in a 0-0 draw with Coventry City to decide once and for all whether it did actually shave the post. My Saturday's have been spent lounging in a mate's flat, watching episode after episode of Ray Mears Bushcraft, desperately waiting for a socially acceptable hour to begin drinking again after a Friday night of debauchery. My Sundays are spent attemtping to shake off my hangover by seeing if I can memorise the sequence of results in our 49 match unbeaten run. I can recite them off hand, including dates, kick off times and goalscorers.

The summer is usually considered a time of trepidation for the football obsessive, but I have come to appreciate it in past years. Nick Hornby produced a very rich metaphor in Fever Pitch when he said Arsenal were like the TV programme, everything else in life simply served as the adverts in between. It is a most poignant description and one that has stayed with me since it entered my lexicon. I have looked upon the summer as a relief over the last few years. The obsessive lives the object of his/ her fascination twenty four hours a day. The football obsessive does not have to be inside a football stadium, or watching sky sports with a warm can of wife beater. I'm willing to wager that in a conversation with your partner, or in a high octane meeting with your boss, or when viewing the fine, ahem, ladies of the internet, that Robin van Persie's left foot is never far away from your mind.

In the words of Prince Hamlet, 'ay, there's the rub.' Serial penalty choker Chris Waddle once said of penalties, '99% of it is in your head.' I would say the same about this kind of hopeless devotion. Personally, I am an extreme case as I attend every fixture, home and away. Even so, that's only two days, neigh, three hours of my entire week (that's 1/56 of the week arithmatic fans) is actually consumed by attending live football. That's a pittance, I imagine I spend a similar amount of time in the khazi (whereupon, I often find myself thinking of Tottenham). Sure, there's travelling, the pre match boozer/ dodgy fast food, which are all intricately woven into the fabric of the matchday experience. But those are the means to an end. I have never been to the Arsenal Tavern, or visited the Colonel for a burger on a non matchday. That leaves a large chunk of the week to pursue other interests; music, books, films, the inescapable charms of the fairer sex. Yet Arsenal still manage to leave an indellible mark on my week.

This is why I have come to appreciate the summer. Because my tragic obsession is confined to the darker corridors of my mind, I don't have to manifest it by blowing off yet another social engagement because I have to get up at 3am for Newcastle away. Nor is it quite so necessary to plead for a half day away from work so that I can go and watch Arsenal's teenagers open a can of whoop ass on some soon to be eliminated Carling Cup opponents. My freakish memory recall can stay behind closed doors. In a chance converstaion with a Palace fan at the weekend, I realised I could remember around 80% of the Eagles' results when they were last in the Premiership. I find myself bonding with my friends in a more meaningful way, I see more of my family, hell I even begin to find time to lavish unhealthy amounts of attention towards women. In other words, I'm a slightly less tragic human being for a quarter of the year. The summer transfer freakshow leaves me uninspired and I relish the mask of anonimity the off season affords me.

A couple of seasons ago, whilst still a penniless student, I spent around £150 watching Arsenal play a pre season friendly in Glasgow. The pre season friendly trap was always one I used to fall into. Around late May I would itch for football again, and vent my frustration towards the first available friendly in an attempt to satisfy the itch, like a junky pouring copius amounts of methadone down his gullet. But friendlies always disappoint, they are the footballing equivalent of a lap dance. They seem like a cracking idea at the time, but once you've spent your money and had your fun, you find yourself itching for the real thing more than ever before. I ceased attending them a couple of years ago and now I have come to appreciate that first game even more. Awaking early, removing my season ticket from its usual hiding place (like I'd tell you where that is), strutting to the Tavern in glorious sunshine, relaxed by the foolish pre season optimism that permeates all football fans.

As I flick my calendar nonchalantly onto August, I feel that excitement coarsing through me again. The sight of Arsenal's opening fixtures inked carefully onto the assorted squares leaves me tense with boyish ardor. My mind begins to turn to the team selection for the opening game, what time to meet the charges for that pre match Guinness, whether that annoying toff behind me has extended his vocabulary beyond, 'shooooooooooooot.' I find myself in the familiar grip of excuse as I refuse another invitation in pursuit of my chosen family. I am a moron again. As I contemplate another year of tension, swearing far more than is becoming of a man of my education, tearing my hair out in delight at the last minute winner, burying my face like an ostrich as we concede a last minute equaliser, dodging between the bottles and paving stones on another narrow escape from White Hart Lane. I close this catharsis with a quote from Peter de Vries, who oppined that 'life is a zoo in a jungle.' Well after three months swinging from trees and chewing eucalyptus, I'm ready to get back in the cage and tame tigers with my bare hands. To my friends, to my family, I say sorry. I am ready to become a moron again. Bring it on.LD.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday August 7 2007

Time: 10:10PM

Your Comments

I should probably explain that the title of the article is the title of a Deftones song. But give me a break older readers, I did use abba in my last article!
Little Dutch
Great read Mr Stillman!!! I'm so excited for the new season......I've even missed your match reports!!!
Best I`ve read in a long time,LD!!! Bring on Fulham!
I predict a resounding 4-0 victory on Sunday. Including an opening day hat-trick for Mr R van Persie. Up The Arse!!
Yeah bring it on! Ive watched every edition of the Premiershp years (spurs were crap in every one BTW and the 2003/4 season is on tonight) and I cant wait to go to the Arsenal vs Northern Ireland/Fulham match on Sunday!
Well said... cant wait to see our boys come out on Sunday either! And may St Totteringhams arrive earlier still!
I feel for you LD. And I love the song!
Gr8 to have you back! Hopefully this season will be a lot better than next season and with all the noises coming from within the squad, we must win some silverware. Sunday must be the beginning.
Bring it on indeed !! Looking forward to good start to the season.
The end of the summer break will also eventually end the fervid transfer speculation as to which stepover wizard or neanderthal midfielder to bring in. It also inevitably brings an end to the romantic dreams of the average spud who are at least one group of people who prefer the summer, when everything is possible, to the harsh reality of having to kick a ball rather than just talk about it.
pre season friendlies = lap on mate.
Well glad to read all your optimistic posts, and this is one deluded spurs fan that's going to bite his tongue. And await our game in September, then we'll see which one of us have the bragging rights.
topspur, do you seriously believe that 1 win in 8 years will give you bragging rights? think twice.
Yeah seriously mate, you'll have to wait for may even if you do beat us twice this year.
Ozi Gooner
I really feel the departure of Henry will help team spirit and allow our players not to feel so suffocated by his status. A lot has been said about our battling spirit in the lazio, inter and ajax games. van Persie commented on it, and there have been some very encouraging comments from Gallas about how he sees a difference in our ability to battle from last season (strangely, these comments don't appear to have been reported in the press). Liverpool will be the big flops this year, their signings will take time to bed in, this is a process they seem to be going through every summer, lots of departures and lots of arrivals. Torres is not as prolific as you would think and Morientes, Reyes and Baptista are all attackers who have found it tough to adapt to the Prem. In fact, I can't think of a single la liga atatcker who has made it in England. Another winger, and I think we're a decent outside bet for the title. We've been written off by everyone (especially people foolish enough to believe that Darren bloody Bent is going to plug the gap in quality between us and Spuds, that's like asking a 50p piece to heal the divides in the grand canyon) so there is no pressure on us.
Little Dutch
These are the comments from Gallas, "This season, the young players really, really want to win one trophy. They won’t be bullied this season. They don’t want people to keep saying Arsenal are just young kids. When I train with them, I don’t see them as young kids. I see only players who are ready to fight. It (youth) can’t be an excuse because now the players we have understand how they have to play sometimes. They will be ready this season. During pre-season, I realised that. What I saw during the tournaments - against Paris St-Germain, Inter Milan, Ajax and Lazio - the spirit was different. Everybody fought for his team-mate and you realise: something’s changed.” I thought I'd post them here because a) you ain't gonna read them in any tabloid and b) you can see why I wouldn't at all mind this dude being made captain.
Little Dutch
Just back from Napa with all sorts of effin throat infections (it was DEFINITELY the a/c) just hope the throat's alright for Sun. I for one am really looking forward to seeing Sunderland turn over the yids on Sat, that is most certainly on the cards. And the above was reported in The Times today. Really salivating at the thought of an unleashed RvP this season...
fulham will be an intresting one. if we manage to beat them by 3 or more goals (should be able to) then that will be very promising for our season. we know we can beat them but we need to prove to ourselves now that we can win games by big margines and take some pressure of ourselves.
Gallas U turn seems very intresting , cant wait for sunday where we will crash Fulham 5-1
Love it LD, that article has got me even more fired up !
Lehmann; Sagna Toure Gallas (C) Clichy; Eboue Cesc Diaby Hleb; Van Persie Eduardo!!!!!!!!
mmmm!!! Interesting LD, I think we must have you worried judging by your constant reference to us. You correct to be concern!
We're not hot and bothered Topspur... just getting ready for fun and fireworks... I guess you wouldn't know what they are - have you seen your bumbling midfield ;-)
Were bothered yet over the summer there has been a minimum of 100 artciles on Vital sp*rs about how your gonna break into the top 4, its like ur trying to convince urselves because deep down you dont believe.
LD, what do you mean "ready to become a moron again" once a moron, always a moron. lol. With regard to your comments re Bent. No, he may not be the big improvement on our team compared to last year, but the truth is, that if at some stage we lose Berbatov to injury, without Bent, we'd have been stuck with the Keane/Defoe combo that just wont work. We have also strenghtened in other ways. Now before everyone goes off on one, I am not saying we are gonna finish in the top 4, cos there are probably still 4 better sides than us. But, we have done all we can at the moment to make sure we give it a real good go.
Jacky B
But will Keane and Bent, or Bent and Defoe really work? P.S I got verve tickets in the end, paid £100, but I got them.
Little Dutch
Don't know yet, but in pre season those pairings worked ok from what i saw, and are certainly an improvement on Keane and Defoe together. Well done on the tickets. Thurs or Fri? I should get a season ticket for the roundhouse! there are 3 other gigs i am gonna go to there aswell.
Jacky B
I'm going on the Friday night. I absolutely can't wait, it caused me to dig out A Northern Soul the other day, such a class album. I honestly don't think a week has gone by since 97 where i haven't listened to at least one track off of urban hymns. I've seen Ashcroft live as a solo artist too and it pains me to admit his solo stuff is not really up to much, bar the odd song.
Little Dutch
Shame I am on the Thursday. I coulda worn my spurs shirt and held up a "Jacky B" board! lol. Urban Hymns is the weakest of the 3 albums in my opinion. I too dug out the albums recently and was reminded how good they were. I've seen Dickie live a couple of times too. I thought his solo stuff was good, though not on a par with the Verve, obviously. Still loadsa good tunes for me
Jacky B

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