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Saturday 18 March 2006

Never Mind The Lucky Shamrock, Anyone Got A Spare Pacemaker?

Hi folks

It's another "two for the price of one week" for you lucky people, following a major disaster last week, when the hard drive failed on my laptop. Obviously I've been a computer user for long enough to know that if there is one guaranteed inevitability that you can depend on with new technology, it's that it will eventually fail you. So fortunately I had the good sense to make back up DVDs of the masses of important information stored on my machine.

Unfortunately for this particular schmock, that was in January 2005!!

It's only thanks to the fact that I started this blog that all this season's diary pieces haven't disappeared and as far as those who receive my weekly missives by e-mail, I am grateful to Gmail for the fact that I still have all my addresses (otherwise I'd be even further up the wazoo than I am right now :-)

So unless you fancy finding yourself participating in this same disastrous, displeasure ride up kack creek without the proverbial paddle at some point in the future, I seriously suggest you heed my tale of caution and take the trouble of making regular backups. As even if you are fortunate to be an Apple Mac user like myself, sadly your precious computer is still going to give up the ghost at some point.

I was able to get my piece written and sent out to the Examiner thanks to Róna's laptop, but I've remained relatively incommunicado as far as the online world is concerned for most of the week. I can confirm that it's only when something is taken away from you that you truly appreciate it's value and I've been amazed these past few days by how incredibly dependent I've become on my laptop and its connection to the outside world via the internet (some might say that this could be an analogy for the situation with Thierry Henry).

Divorce would've definitely been on the cards if I'd continued to requisition my missus' pristine laptop, as she was already "kicking off" about the potential damage from every biscuit crumb dropped and every puff of cigarette smoke blown at her precious baby. So I was eternally grateful when a good pal I work with agreed to stump up for a replacement and deduct the cost from my wages (although it might mean us being restricted to a bread & water diet for the next few months :-)

I might end up having to run around the shower to get wet but still at least I'll be able to continue communicating with you guys

Big Love

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Hands up! Forget all the logical footballing excuses like the departure of our former captain. The Arsenal’s woefully
inconsistent Premiership campaign has been all my fault. We had the out-laws over from Dublin last week, as Róna had kindly (crazily?) offered her ticket to last Wednesday’s momentous match to her nephew. So her sister, Cliona and her Ma had taken the opportunity to come over with Rory for a visit.

Along with my own ‘skin & blister’ and my Ma, we all went out for a family dinner on Friday night. On route home, we were parked in a petrol station filling up the car, when Ro commented on a passer-by’s quirky ‘titfer’. It suddenly dawned on me that although I’d long since lost the strip of material used to tie around the top of this sort of headware, I’d forgotten all about my favourite Arsenal hat.

It had spent the entire season so far buried in the hall cupboard, from whence I retrieved it the moment we reached home. I was relieved to discover it was still adorned with the FAI shamrock badge that had been bought for me many years back on a trip to Lansdowne Road.

Thus I was feeling relatively confident walking around to the West Upper for Sunday’s game. For the first time this term I was wearing the hat which had been on my head throughout the course of so many success filled seasons. Just as it seemed as if all three points were about to slip from our grasp against the Scousers, my lucky shamrock worked its magic, with Steven Gerrard’s bizarre backpass gifting Henry the winner. Now if only my miraculous ‘titfer’ had come to mind sooner, we might still be challenging for the title and if we should go on an unbeaten run between now and the end of the season, I suppose I’ll have to shoulder the blame for the Arsenal’s dismal season to date!

I don’t know about the players, but as I slumped onto the sofa that evening, settling down in front of the gogglebox for the satellite broadcast of Juve v AC Milan, in order to cast an eye over our next Champs League opponents, I was utterly ‘cream crackered’. Having shouted my self almost hoarse at Highbury that afternoon, I was left feeling emotionally spent but for once incredibly satisfied, after 90 nervous minutes of a match of such significance, as far as the overall mood in the Arsenal camp is concerned.

After the anomalous experience of cheering Chelsea on to victory against Spurs the day before, it was absolutely vital we pegged back 3 points on our neighbours and leapfrogged the likes of Bolton and Blackburn. What’s more after tonking Fulham last week, we desperately needed to consolidate our Premiership form, by building on the confidence derived from snuffing out the Spanish giants and proving that we’re not Premiership lightweights.

Earlier in the week Gooners were flying in from all over the globe, many without the slightest hope of a ticket for the home game against the Galacticos. An Arsenal fan who flew in from Chicago told me that the cheapest ticket he’d found was priced at a blood curdling 700 quid. While he couldn’t countenance (nor afford!) spending more than the cost of his flight, he couldn’t bear watching this match from afar. So he was going to have to content himself with watching the game in the Gunners pub. He and thousands of other ticketless Gooners turned up on the night, merely so that they might be there at Highbury in person to soak up the pre and post match atmosphere.

Under the circumstances, having offered young Rory her ticket, I thought it’d be impossible find a spare with which I could reward Ro’s act of kindness. Luckily my uncle came up trumps. Their seats opposite us in the East Upper are requisitioned for an extended Press Box for European games and he and my cousin are offered an alternative, right at the back of the North Bank.

Apart from the heart bypass surgery which makes an assault to the summit of the North Bank such hard graft, uncle Herman has a famously nervous disposition during every Arsenal match, let alone the most tense encounter in my living memory (he’s been a season ticket holder since long before I was born!). Even when he goes to games, he spends much of the match standing in the concourse out the back because he can’t bear to watch. So those around where he sits are in the habit of sending Herman out when we badly need a goal.

Every Arsenal fan’s nerves were strained to the very limit last Wednesday and so Ro was the beneficiary of the fact that it could’ve been a serious health hazard for him. Fortunately we all met up after 90 minutes of the most exciting scoreless draw ever seen at Highbury and my cousin was able to warn us off making an instinctive phone call to thank his dad.

Mark reminded us that Herman can’t endure the live transmission on TV. So, believe it or not, he’s in the stark raving bonkers habit of watching the Teletext transmission for the duration of the match, but with half the screen covered up. The only information he gets to glean about the Gunners progress is governed by the rise and fall of the bookies odds. In this way he can then watch a recording of the game after it is all over, without knowing the actual score but with none of the worry over the eventual outcome.

I guess the Arsenal’s inexperienced back line surprised everyone, as few had much faith in our ability to shut out Real’s array of attacking talent for an entire 90 minutes. For the Arsenal and for Rory’s sake I was hoping we’d go for the Galacticos’ jugular. But once again it would seem that ‘Arsène knows’, as all over the pitch the Arsenal players put their bodies on the line, demonstrating the sort of resolve which makes me wonder about the impostors we’ve been watching the rest of the season. While Rory didn’t get to celebrate any goals, I’ve no doubt he’ll always remember the pulsating atmosphere of his first and last pilgrimage to Highbury.

Hopefully the famous Marble Halls are destined to resound to the euphoric celebrations of at least a couple more similarly momentous occasions, before the doors finally close on our historic home and we turn to a new page of a glorious Gooner future. But whether or not we progress past Juve and beyond in this Champs League campaign, I’m sure most will agree that last Wednesday night was a fitting swansong for the Home of Football.