For those who travel to Arsenal games by canal there is great news, the Department of the Environment have banned water fern, parrot’s feather, floating pennywort, water primrose and Australian swamp stonecrop from these shores. Don’t put your machetes away yet though, these plants are pretty prolific. Only last Sunday Camden looked like a scene from ‘The War of the Worlds’. And several dogs, children and small adults have gone missing whilst walking beside the Serpentine and the lake in St James Park….though the latter might be down to pelicans.
Liverpool next, which is always special and full of memories, like the time I almost got divorced over that bottle opener that came as a ‘gift’ in the season ticket pack a few years back. I am told that a woman can only take so much of, ‘…Thomas its up for grabs nowwww..Thomas..’, every time her worst half opens a bottle of beer, which happens quite often. Either way even now, after my bottle opener was found broken into four pieces in a fish pond four houses away, she goes into an uncontrollable rage at the mere mention of the name Michael Thomas and it has wrecked our relationship with close friends John and Tina Thomas and their son Patrick……..oh and their youngest son, Michael..
Anyway that was an away game and the last time we played Liverpool, at Anfield (on September 2nd 2012) I remember wishing that I could watch the game in Saint-Denis in Paris, or Aubervilliers to be precise. Not far from the Stade De France. The game would have been screened in any number of bars in the area. There they love their football, particularly games featuring Parisian players and this game starred one of their own, for Aubervilliers is where Vassiriki Abou Diaby was taught to play football.
What a player. The last of the old French guard, Abou has restored my faith in football players. Although I have to say there were many new heroes on display that Sunday and I thought they were all superb. Abou though, has a special place in my heart. I was as enthralled by his display that day as I was in the games preceding the May Day match against Sunderland in 2006. I think it was David Pleat, but I might be wrong, who was waxing lyrical about Arsene’s ability to find ‘another Patrick Vieira’ just minutes before that horrendous Dan Smith tackle. ‘Dan went for the ball, unfortunately Diaby was quicker than him’, was the pathetic response of Kevin Ball. Unfortunately several other Arsenal players proved to be ‘quicker than’ their opponents in the seasons following including Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey, the career of both of whom was adversely affected by horrific leg breaks. The effect on Abou’s career has been palpable and is well documented and painfully followed by me and thousands of other Arsenal supporters.
Abou was imperious at Anfield. The whole team were superb and every one of them deserved a mention, including Olivier Giroud, whose movement was very impressive even then, of course we now know that he is a superb finisher and maker of goals and his ability to head the ball on is second to none. Vito Mannone, Carl Jenkinson, Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta, Santo Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Andre Santos all stepped up that day. But for me, that Sunday, Abou was back, though not for long as it turned out. The imbalance caused by the leg break leaves him susceptible to muscle injuries, a condition which, I am advised, need not be permanent but requires a huge amount of hard work and patience.
In the event I watched that game in Pimlico, without my passport. Sorry about the passport bit but Pimlico always conjures up images of that film. Never fails. On TV in an apartment near to Tate Britain, that is where I watched the game. After and much later I came upon a fellow from Liverpool sitting on the kerb outside of a Peabody Trust building. He was singing ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’. I could tell he was lost and looking for Victoria Coach Station, they always are around those parts. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have asked me the way to Victoria Coach Station. They come from all corners of the world, even Liverpool.
‘Where are you heading’ I asked, with a wry smile on my face and feeling generous, as I always do when we win.
‘Home’ he said
‘Where’s that’ I asked, knowingly, fiddling with my long johns which I always wear to watch games even on TV and noting that I had put them on back to front again.
‘Camden…..now fuck off, Gooner’ he replied
I could just hear the strains of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ fading into the distance as he wandered off into the night weaving his way down the middle of the street to the tube……alone.
I seem to have told this story without mentioning a single Liverpool player, not even S….or G….and I am not going to because this game is about my team. I hope Abou will be playing he is improving by the game and is part of a fabulous group of players who to me look set to achieve greatness. Don’t care where Liverpool are in the table or where we are in the table partly because it is still January but also because playing Liverpool is always one of those special occasions particularly as they have performed very well in recent fixtures only conceding three goals to Oldham Athletic who are in…errrr…League 1. I think that Liverpool will know they are in a game.
I love going to the football to watch Arsenal.