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Wednesday 13 December 2006

Who's The Onanist In The Black

Hi folks

You'll have to forgive me, but I've been busy working for the ballet the past couple of Mondays(who have their traditional Xmas season of the Nutcracker at the London Coliseum). As a result, since it's the Irish Examiner who contribute towards some of the cost of my footballing expenses, I have ended up sitting up writing most of Sunday night, in order to file my column before going to work on Monday. As a consequence, I've returned home so completely 'cream crackered' that I've not had the energy to open my computer.

I also blame the missus, as I made the big mistake of introducing Ró to the Second Life phenomenon a couple of months back and ever since then, because her laptop is a little older and somewhat slower than my own (in the techno lingo she's started to pick up, apparently the pictures don't "res" fast enough on her machine), she's almost permanently attached to my laptop. In fact she's become so addicted to her new online world, that I have to enter into negotiations to get my laptop back about an hour or so before whenever I want to use it!! I am beginning to regret ever telling her about Second Life and I guess I am going to have to sort her a new computer, either that or divorce will be on the cards with all the barneys :-)

Meanwhile in last Monday's column for the paper, I reused much of the stuff I'd written in the piece I'd mailed out during the weekend and so I didn't want to send it out to everyone without a warning that they might already have read much of it and perhaps a bit of a preamble to make it worthwhile sending. Unfortunately I never got around to doing this, but I am going to mail it out anyway, just in case it's of interest to any of you.

As for this week's piece, as you will see, I happened to go and see Spurs v Charlton on Saturday, as I had nothing better to do and I am always up for watching a game of football on a bright sunny afternoon. However considering we were involved in one of our biggest games of the season the following day, I was somewhat embarrassed that I'd written so much about my trip down the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road and I was concerned that there might be some Gooners out there who weren't the least bit interested in what I had to say about it.

I therefore planned on writing a preamble which would focus entirely on the events of Sunday to give it a bit more of a Gooner balance, but since I have yet to get around to doing this, I am going to post it out anyway and leave it to you to read, or ignore as you so choose, as otherwise it will be long past current by the time I get around to doing it

Big Love

           From where we were sitting in the corner of the Shed, directly in line with Essien and Lehmann's goal, I had that sinking feeling from the moment that Excocet missile of an equalizer left the Ghanaian's boot. It was the sort of wonder goal where, as a fan of the beautiful game, you just hold your hands up and say "fair doos". Still, considering the significant absence of the influential likes of Henry, Touré, Gallas and Rosicky and the amount of fun we'd had all afternoon, at Cashley Hole's expense, not to mention the woodwork working overtime in our favour during the last few frenetic minutes, as I braved the abysmal traffic to battle my way back from the Bridge, catching my breath after such a highly charged contest, I was certainly far more content with our afternoon's endeavours, than I'd been during the last tortuous traverse of the capital, from South West to North, a couple of weeks back, after our depressing defeat at Craven Cottage.

           I awoke the day before to discover the sort of crisp, bright, sunny weather that's designed for wrapping up and enjoying an afternoon away from the television. Sadly my own playing days are long past, but it occurred to me that I might 'enjoy' an hors d'oeuvres before Sunday's main course, down the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road, watching the somewhat less glamorous London derby between Spurs and Charlton. These days, daring to 'sleep with the enemy' is tantamount to Gooner high treason, but there was a time, back when football was still an affordable hobby, when it was a fairly commonplace. As a kid I was often fortunate to accompany my old man, to watch both the Arsenal and Spurs on alternate weekends.

           Aside from my Spurs mates' crackpot hopes of converting me, it seems that I'm a something of a lucky mascot for the Lilywhites (especially in light of Saturday's result – after which they're offering to club together to buy me a season ticket!). As a result, it wasn't long before I received a return phone call, to advise me that one of their season ticket's was going begging. In the absence of the ranks of riot coppers in full combat gear and the odd snarling canine, there was none of the intimidating atmosphere associated with our trips to White Hart Lane to watch the Arsenal.

           Obviously there's still a part of me that continues to mourn the loss of Highbury. Many fond memories of my dear departed dad have disappeared with the demolition of everything but the two (listed) stately Art Deco façades of our majestic old gaff. By contrast, many beloved ghosts of games past continue to linger at the Lane. It's truly embarrassing to have to admit it, but standing outside the entrance to a smoke free West Stand on Saturday, sucking the life out of a last cancer stick, contemplating Tottenham's traditional 'football as I've always known it' surroundings, I couldn't help but feel  somewhat nostalgic. Then again, my old man wouldn't have lasted a minute, let alone the entire 90, under the tyranny of the modern day anti-smoking Nazis.

           If I was an Addicks fan I'd be seriously worried. That's the second time I've seen Charlton play this season and of all the teams involved in the relegation dogfight, they currently appear devoid of the belief necessary to stave off the dreaded drop. Until he was subbed in the second half, chubby little Andy Reid appeared to be their only hope of some salvation. I don't understand the logic of promoting Les Reed, as if their first team coach was capable of improving the Addicks performances, then what exactly was he doing under Ian Dowie?

           Considering 2 of the 5 goals went through the legs of Charlton's hapless loan keeper, Carson, the inflated scoreline flattered Spurs. Defoe doesn't look nearly hungry enough, for a striker with an opportunity to earn a run in the team, as a result of Robbie Keane's knackered knee and I imagine Jol will continue juggling to find his most effective front pair, for some time to come. Also for the life of me, I can't figure out why the Spurs manager left Huddlestone on the bench for last week's Derby day battering.

           I recall the young midfielder making an impression when I first saw him play for England U21s, but it wasn't until watching him in person this weekend when I fully appreciated that in addition to his prodigious ball skills, Huddlestone is built like the proverbial brick outhouse. Now if only Wenger could piss Spurs fans off completely by pinching him. As a young British player with such physical presence to go with his ability, he'd be the perfect addition to our lightweight midfield.

           It was a rare treat to be able to enjoy a match as a neutral. Well nearly a neutral and in truth my interest in the outcome of this game and those involving the gaggle of also-rans around us, is evidence of quite how far we've fallen off the Premiership pace of late. In fact it came as quite a shock at 5.45 to discover we'd dropped down to 7th place, perched above Spurs only on goal difference! Needless to say the mood in the car on the way back was very buoyant. My Spurs pals (or at least we'd started the day thus!) were convinced it was blind optimism on my part, when I opined that I fancied it'd be honours even at the Bridge the following day. So when Flamini (of all players) stuck the ball away in the 78th minute, I had this satisfyingly smug image of the three of them falling off their respective sofas, as our unlikely hero put the kibosh on their "perfick" weekends.

           From the pandemonium in the Arsenal end, you'd have thought we'd just won the Premiership itself. Amidst the euphoria, my mate Nick planted a smacker on my cheek. Flamini is hardly his favourite player and all game long, he'd been muttering under his breath, giving the French midfielder a hard time. My explanation for his inclusion by Wenger was that whatever he lacks in natural ability, Arsène can rely on him to compensate with his work rate and commitment. I suggested to Nick that if he continued slaughtering Flamini, fate was odds on to intervene and I was tempted to proffer my backside for the kiss he'd promised me if his personal hate figure scored.

           Sadly our prospects of a 'smash and grab' 3 points only lasted six minutes. But from the moment we took the lead, it was obvious it was going to be a long, nail-biting ten minutes to the final whistle. Nevertheless, no matter that Man Utd would be the only beneficiaries, I would've bitten off the hand that offered me a draw before the game and considering our good fortune at the death, we could hardly gripe about our hard fought point.

           Personally I felt we were good value for the draw and although our young defence looked more vulnerable for most of the match, it wasn't until the injection of some real pace with the introduction of Robben and Wright-Phillips down the flanks that Chelsea truly began to threaten.

           When it came to it, all the pre-match hoo-haa seemed pretty pointless. Our own club had made itself a laughing stock, with e-mails warning us we'd be ejected if we committed the heinous crime of bringing inflatable mobile phones and fake wonga to a football match and the home team had wasted half a dozen trees on printed warnings about racial and homophobic abuse.

           We were always going to give Cashley Hole the stick his disloyalty deserved and we duly obliged in typically raucous fashion. I'm not sure Ms Tweedy actually did anything to deserve our attention, but with each ribald ditty of the sort "Titus Bramble shagged your missus" and "your sh*t and your wife's a slag", it was amusing to see the line of old bill and dunderhead security constantly looking at one another for confirmation whether each chant was sufficiently politically incorrect to deserve their attentions.

           Don't get me wrong, having had to endure such tasteless terrace tunes as "one man went to gas, went to gas a yiddo", I'm no fan of the bigoted guttersnipes who continue to infest every football terrace. Yet I'd prefer common sense to prevail when it comes to the 'everyone's fair game' attitude that's always existed at a football match. Once the PC police begin ejecting fans, for trying to put opponents off by alluding to their sexual proclivities, just where will they draw the line? Will we have to worry about offending the onanists amongst us, by suggesting "the referee's a w*nker"?

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