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Tuesday 21 March 2006

Fe Fi Fo Fum, Ireland Smelt the Blood of the Englishmen

Hi folks

I guess I should point out that my title is merely a decidedly unsubtle attempt to pander to the Examiner's Irish readers. As most of those who aren't fortunate to live in the Emerald Isle will have little appreciation of quite how much a victory over the Brits (even if it is just the egg chasers) means over there

Peace & Love

Despite the turgid diet of tabloid drivel about Titi’s future, I tend to believe that the Arsenal’s main man is far too much of a ‘mensch’ to leave us (and his mentor!) in the lurch, at our hour of greatest need. Considering how incredibly privileged we’ve been, to be treated to the marvellous array of magical feats, of just about the most gifted footballer on this planet, on such a regular basis since the turn of the Century, neither I, nor any other sane Gooner could blame Henry if he should ultimately decide to cash in his Highbury chips, while he still continues to hold all the aces.

However, in spite of my cynicism about loyalty and the lack thereof in these mercenary climes, I’m inclined to believe that Thierry will still be a Gunner at least until the beginning of next season.

Sky broadcast pictures during the week of the ceremony to install the first seat in our spanking new stadium, which now dominates the Highbury landscape like a magnificent, monstrous spaceship. My instincts are that Thierry will stay at least until he’s attracted all the additional bums needed to fill the twenty odd thousand extra seats.

Yet one thing is for sure, all the talk of Henry’s imminent departure has been guaranteed to crystallize ones appreciation of his incredible talent. Even after all this time he still has the ability to leave us all dumbstruck in absolute awe of his brilliance on a regular basis.

We saw the beautiful game played at its simplistic best in the build up to our first goal on Saturday, as the ball travelled from player to player, between one end of the pitch and t’other, in the blink of an eye. But as Henry pushed it past a Charlton defender, towards the byeline, I assumed his touch was a little too heavy and it was heading out for a goalkick.

Like many of the greatest athletes, he has the ability to make the most astonishing feats appear almost effortless. Turning on the afterburners, Titi accelerated past his opponent and not only reached the ball before it went out, but had the presence of mind to produce a perfect cut back, to leave Pires with the relatively easy task of sidefooting home.

It wasn’t the only instance on Saturday afternoon when those of us privileged to be present turned to one another, wearing expressions of astonishment which spoke a thousand words. Obviously I’d be devastated to think that Henry might be dazzling the fans on some foreign field in the near future. Yet whether he stays or goes, while Thierry remains a Gunner, I don’t think there are words in the dictionary to describe how incredibly blessed we’ve been to be able to gorge ourselves on the veritable feast of footballing poetry he’s served up over the years.

Charlton are the sort of team who rely on their team spirit, to make up for what they might lack in natural ability. I imagine Curbishley could be struggling to motivate his troops, without sounding somewhat disingenuous, amidst all the gossip about this shortlist for Sven’s successor. Thus the Addick’s abysmal efforts resulted in their gaffer getting the bird by way of “England job, you’re having a larf”.

I am not sure whether they were so bad, or we were in such fine form. A little of both I suspect. But a brilliant display warmed the cockles of Gooner hearts, on an afternoon when the biting, Arctic wind had everyone pulling their hats down around their ears, warding off the cold by becoming overly intimate with ones neighbours

By the second half we were positively taking the piss, with a period of possession which had the flag waving bunch of Spaniards beside us bellowing out the “ol├ęs”. Their delighted reaction to my cries of “venga Fabregas” was very reassuring, as I’ve always been uncertain whether I’ve been encouraging our Spanish starlet to get stuck in, or inviting him to attain sexual climax!

Ray, who sits next to me, pointed out the fact that our goalie had left his towel tucked in the net at the Clock End of the pitch. We all had a good giggle about Lehmann reinforcing the Germanic stereotype, reserving his pitch for the next match.

With everyone frozen to the bone and the outcome a foregone conclusion, only the hardiest (foolhardy?) of Gooners held out for the final whistle. As a result Highbury was half-empty by the time Dermot Gallagher eventually ended the Addick’s humiliation. Such was the apparent gulf in class, that on the radio they were making reality TV show cracks as in “I’m a Premiership team get me outta here!”

It was great to witness the return of the imperious swagger of the Arsenal’s Invincibles. As the bearer of the terrace tranny, I’m bound to keep everyone updated with news of the scores elsewhere. It’s a somewhat bizarre reflection on how far the mighty have fallen, to hear those around me expressing more of an interest in the progress of the likes of Blackburn and Bolton, instead of traditional rivals such as Man U,

It’s a decidedly unfamiliar experience to be approaching the final few games of the season, fretting about Bolton’s games in hand. Having kept our noses in front of Lancashire’s less venerated teams and leapfrogged Spurs into that absolutely crucial fourth qualification place for next season’s Champions League, we were back home and beginning to thaw out, before settling down to cheer on Birmingham.

Most of my Spurs pals are pessimistic about their prospects, thinking they blew their chance of securing some breathing space in 4th, before we finally began to find some form. Despite an unconvincing performance, they managed to snaffle all 3 points on Saturday.

I’ve never been a fan of rugby, ever since I was forced to play this Philistine sport at school. Being of slim build and quite nippy I was always stuck out on the wing. This suited me, since the two centres incompetent passing ensured the ball rarely ever reached me and I was able to avoid being clobbered by a burly bunch of classmates.

Yet by the time Robbie Keane scored Spurs’ second even the egg chasers seemed preferable to the dross on offer at St. Andrews. I was glad I changed channels just in time to catch Ireland’s match winning try at Twickenham and the resulting Triple Crown celebrations. I’ve never noticed it before but surely one needs to be certifiably mad to want to participate in a sport involving “Blood substitutes”?

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