London N5 Calling...The Kids, Dutchies and Real-Life Interruptions...

In group therapy sharing style, hello name is Gareth Baldwin, I live in the fine N5 post code of Islington, North London and I am a Gooner. Those who know me would say that’s an understatement. I’m a massive Gooner, the picture above from my building roof where I live should prove my credentials...stadium in the background should be familiar..

So, this is my second ever experience of blogging after one bit of writing for The Online Gooner Fanzine but I’m hoping to give a little insight into the ups and downs of an arsenal gameday in this blog from London. I’m incredibly lucky to have been a season ticket holder at Highbury, there for the last game ever and now a silver member at Ashburton Grove (I don’t use the E*****es term) meaning I get to go to any game I can. With this blog hopefully I can give a little insight into a game day from a foggy London town perspective. You can read match reports, I don’t want to give another recital of the game..just what it was like to be there (or not be there as this first blog hits on)

So, let’s start at the beginning..

Home v Liverpool – Carling Cup (28th Oct ’09)

Carling cup games are a must see now, period. The fact it’s £10 to get into the lower tier is a great reason to go but the best reason is the buzz and excitement that’s palpable when the kids are playing. The buzz, the optimism, the sheer enjoyment that hangs round the stadium really does refresh you. The fact that we’re lucky to have so many young gifted players means this is a must see. The fact that many season ticket holders decide not too go means blocks normally full when tickets go on sale are available. This always means I go for block 5 or 6 lower tier where REDaction sit. If you’re not familiar with these guys and the good work they do for fans, see for yourselves.

This means 90 mins of standing and chanting, continuously. In short it’s great fun, about as close to get as you will probably get to a terrace feel in a modern stadium like ours. Even after Insua scored his own screamer after Fran’s left foot rocket we sang, we shouted and saw Nik B score in front of us for the win. Arsene gave us a wave after the obligatory round of ‘Arsene, give us a wave, Arsene Arsene give us a wave’..but Pat Rice never waves.

We won, we played well but even if we lost you always come out of these games with a smile on your face as it puts the fun back into football. I think we left with ‘the kids are alright’ playing over the tannoy system…

Home v Sp**s – Premier league (31st Oct ’09)

OK, let’s get this confession out in the open from the start…


I know, it hurt and this is why even being so close to the stadium on a daily basis doesn’t mean you’ll be at the game. Something called real life got in the way. Rather than find myself in the pub (hello to everyone at ‘The Tollington’) at 11am preparing accordingly for the 12.45 kick off I found myself on a motorway heading north away from London for a wedding. Want t know the most ironic thing, it was a Sp**s fan getting married!

So picture this, leaving home at 9am to meet friends for the drive out of London then 12.30 arriving at the venue and finding there was not a strong enough mobile reception to get live updates from my iPhone…damn you countryside!

1pm - Ceremony starts, friends on text alert had not sent me were we doing I wondered.

1.25pm – Ceremony ends, check phone, no texts, what’s going on…

1.30pm ish – Outside drinking free champagne, phone then goes crazy..1 nil! Shout over to groom and raise glass of champagne bfore downing it.

1.31pm ish still – Phone goes crazy again, txts describe Cesc wonder connection just about get’s me ESPN’s description of Cesc dic*ing al over Sp**s. Shout update to groom, groom family disappointed to see I’m telling the truth. More champagne is drunk, fists are pumped in the air. This is going to be a good day.

Lot’s more free champagne later…

2pm ish – More texts, RVP’s goal…game over and I’m pretty as a result I drank a bottle of champagne on my own.

This is one of those times and one of those games where if someone offered me the 3 nil result to shut up Sp**s but the catch was I couldn’t be there then you have to take one for the team. My not being there meant 11 hours of free food and alcohol, which made it all the easier though (thanks to Seb and Lisa for that).

Sometimes you miss the great results but feel like even though you were elsewhere you did your bit. Sometimes you’re there at the big games and do your bit (v Man U champs league semi final 2nd leg for example..I stayed for the duration) but the result goes against you. That’s the life of a football fan…

Home v AZAlkmaar –Champs League (4th Nov ’09)

This was the first champs league game proper I had made. I was there for Celtic at home right by where the Eddy/Boruc penalty box incident occurred but we all know Boruc dived in on Eddy with the look of a madman in his eyes…but that wasn’t a REAL champs league tie. I missed Olympiacos as I was away on holiday at the time in Spain but watching with a cold beer in Spanish October heat had it’s perks!

Match day ‘preparation’ is key as any football fan knows. We all have our little superstitions, places we go, people we go to games with, places to sit etc. I’m no different and happy to admit I’m a creature of habit on game days. Weekend or weekday match will at some point mean pre or post match pub at least..but usually it’s both. Drinking establishment of choice is ‘The Tollington’ and if you’re in town for a game me and others thoroughly recommend the pub.

After enough beer, the game was tight at first but the man, el capitan, senor Fabregas squeezed in a near post shot. Followed shortly later by Sami shimmying to drop his marker and score his first champs league goal and our second on the night then Cesc again and Abou to wrap it up. Shame we couldn’t keep them from scoring but 4-1 will do!

Back to the pub to celebrate being one point away from champs league knock out round qualification...

Away v Wolves – Premier League (7th Nov ’09)

It may surprise some to hear getting away tickets to see the Arsenal can be as hard as getting home tickets...I kid you not. I’ve made a few away games over the years, Wigan away last season in April with 5,000 Gooners for a 4-1 win being the last occasion. I fancied this one, 2 hour train ride north or a drive about the same length on a Saturday on.

There is a but though, for all the stick we get about not being loud fans at home we have a very good travelling support, shown by the fact you need to be a season ticket holder and have been to 25 away games in the last 3 years to get away ticket for Sp**s and Man U for example. Wolves almost made it to where I could buy tickets at silver membership...then it sold out.

So this is the choice, my sofa for the game or to The Tollington? Beer in the fridge or beer from the bar? Me cooking pizza or having dinner cooked for me potentially? No brainer really...had to be the pub. This is one of the great things about living around the club daily. When you’re away from home and on the TV then home fan friendly pubs will always be packed with Gooners. Wolves away was no exception, the atmosphere was good but certainly not at the Nevada Smiths level.

Catching the game with my old flatmate Alex we saw a cagey opening period but then happily watch us sucker punch Wolves twice in the opening half then the sublime one touch layoff from RVP to Cesc to kill the game at 3 nil. Andrey rounded things off nicely for the fourth.

Then I remembered why I wanted to be at the game...all I could hear was the away Gooners. They were drowning out the home fans. We’re great away from home right now, we’re even better at home but we still seem to switch off conceded again which was the one blot on the game at the pub. Perfection is still being chased...but we’re 2nd for now.

No more games till after another tedious international break...but Standard Liege and Chelsea at home to look forward to at the end of Nov.

Keep the Faith Gooners, Arsene Always Knows - GB

[Gareth is our newest contributor, and will be posting for us on a semi-regular basis going forward. Welcome aboard, GB!]