It’s desperately infuriating on a daily basis, but about the only good thing about my increasingly decrepit memory is that I was thoroughly oblivious to the fact that, until Saturday, we had lost our last four finals playing in yellow. Otherwise this would’ve only added to the litany of other superstitious drivel (like us being lumbered with Wembley’s unlucky end) that was fuelling my anxiety in advance of the Gunner's grand finale.
|And to think I could've flogged my seat|
to pay for my season-ticket!
But it would’ve been an entirely different story if we had blown it on Saturday. The knives would’ve been out for Arsène and some of his star turns and the vitriol would’ve been blasting out from the radio phone-ins, before I’d even made it back to my motor in the Wembley car park. Such is the precariously fine line between exalted glory and grotesquely exaggerated vilification. Le Boss knows the high-pressure vagaries of management better than most, with him always being only one bad result away from being re-cast as the Arsenal’s eponymous pantomime villain.
During the post-match celebrations we had the rare sight of Wenger striding out onto centre stage, to take a well-deserved salute in front of 25,000 euphoric Gooners. Le Gaffer might’ve been basking in the reflected glory, by way of sticking two fingers up at the media pundits, the fickle Gooner faithful and all those detractors who dare to dismiss him as a past his ‘sell by’ date anachronism. Or perhaps le Prof was merely savouring the fact that he’s got a couple of months respite, until his reputation is back in the crosshairs, when hostilities recommence with an encounter with Mourinho in the Community Shield.
I usually refrain from buying replica Arsenal shirts, as no matter what high-tech nonsense the manufacturers attempt to dress the fabric up with, it will always be nasty nylon to me and positively the last material I want next to my skin. But with the moths having made several meals out of most of the yellow clobber in my collection, I ended up investing in a replica shirt from the famous “5 minute final” in 1979. I picked this one because, mercifully, it was long enough ago that the shirts were still being made in cotton. It was pure fluke that prior to Saturday’s final this happened to be the last time we won a trophy wearing yellow.
It was great seeing the rosette make a comeback at Wembley but as it turned out I’d no need for any such fetishes and all my fears about being haunted by the ghosts of defeats against Valencia, West Ham, Galatasary and Paris St. Germain proved unfounded, with them all being promptly exorcised when only one team actually turned up at Wembley!
With the Arsenal such outright favourites and everyone talking as if the result of the Cup Final was already written in stone, I was terrified prior to kick-off that fate was about ruin our day. But Bill Shankley’s claims that football’s “more important than that” were immediately put into proper perspective. With Alfie Boe bellowing out the remarkably poignant words of “Abide With Me”, I sat down at Wembley to hear my pal’s tragic revelation that his brother had dropped down dead of a massive heart attack the day before. I’ve been forced to come to terms with the fragility of life in recent times and as a result, death I can cope with, but as we nervously joked with one another, losing an FA Cup Final on top of this, now that really would’ve been too much for anyone to bear.
Thankfully the Gunners did us all proud and this really was one result that was never in doubt. I’m still trying to work out whether our total dominance was down to our far superior ability, or Villa’s apparent stagefright. Nevertheless Villa’s last ditch defending left us all questioning the logic of leaving out Giroud, at least that was until Theo finally broke Brummy hearts five mins before the break.
If there was any fight left in the opposition, this soon evaporated with Alexis’ gobsmackingly stunning goal five mins into the second half. It was fitting that the Chilean crowned his season on the Cup Final stage, but once again it was Coquelin who caught my eye, as he bossed the middle of the park with Beckenbauer-like authority.
As North London turned red on Sunday, It might’ve rained our parade, but this did little to dampen Gooner spirits. Such was the peerlessness of Saturday’s performance that we will all be praying for the couple of additions that will enable us to kick on next season and truly silence our nouveau riche South London nemesis.
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