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ARSENAL v VALENCIA: Europa League Semi Final (1st leg)

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EXORCISING THE GHOSTS OF MAY?
It’s 1980, a world as far away from today as the 1920s were to us then.
Yet all the same things existed just in different forms. 79/80 was my second full season, and every player was a hero, my best friend, and Mr Brady was the friend of friends. To me in those days, nearly everything in life was about Arsenal FC.
Arsenal that season played a phenomenal amount of games (70) and going into April and May the fixture list was so congested it seemed like we were always playing. And always one sub per game. We played four outstanding games (and torturous they were to listen to on the radio – especially game three) in our FA cup semi final v Liverpool, and we were burnt out and sterile in the final, against an equally boring and sterile West Ham side, on a dog-tired boiling day in May.
Watching Liam and the lads walking off dejected at the end said it all: everyone there was saying goodbye him (like Mr Ramsey, he was off to Juve) and despite the final league games to come against Wolves (we won 2-1), Boro (we lost 5-0) but we still had a game in mid-week, against Valencia and Mario Kempes, the king of the world cup in ’78. The Cup Winners Cup final.
Getting to the final had been special to me, seeing the 5-1 win against Gothenburg, discovering the strange names of places on the way to the final, Fenerbahce, Magdeburg (going past the city on the train sixteen years later brought back instant Arsenal CWC memories), the semi against Juve (I still have the ticket from the home leg), and recall the sinking feeling that 1-1 was not enough and asking how would Arsenal beat the incredible Juve line-up, in fortress Torino?
It was 0-0 for most of the game, and we were going out, and up stepped in minute 88 Mr Paul Vaessen and headed in a Rix cross and the stadium went silent (which was spooky on the radio).  Juve fans started lighting fires on the terraces.
And that was it, we won.
What a feeling to be in the final. Four finals in my opening years. Then I thought this is what it would always be like (“How wrong you are” said the Years that followed). And the moment of jubilation was captured in the Arsenal handbook for the next season, with a photo of Terry Neill hugging Paul Vaessen.
Trouble was I had to go on a school trip to the Gower in Wales; London overspill kids wandering around in what was then a then small paradise. We departed on the Monday following the final v West Ham.  Still smarting from the loss, but still hopeful with the Valencia game looming.
It came to the big night (14th of May) and this was even worse than listening to the radio, it was on the tv but we weren’t allowed to watch (why?), and they made no exception for me (cheers).  I was so nervous it was horrible.We had to go to our bunks in the creepy dorm and mine was on the top, at the end. I was lying there with my mind flying in all sorts of directions.  The teacher came in and came over and said it was still 0-0.  Unfortunately a few bunks along, was a Spud. And the rancid potato had a radio. He kept it too himself so that only he could hear and would relay one or two things every now and then. It was late on at this point and it had gone to penalties. And you know what happened next, Rix missed, we lost and the Spud gloated and couldn’t stop going on about it. Big laughs.
I was so gutted I had tears in my eyes, and turned over and pulled the covers over my head and wept silently.  What a lonely moment.  To lose two finals in a week was such a soul-destroying feeling. I wished I could have just got up and bogged off somewhere else. Later I met one guy who was at the game and he confessed he sat down and fully cried at the end, so I wasn’t the only one with the waterworks. I heard it kicked off pretty badly after the game. Football’s that kind of weird game though, in that it brings emotions up which are always intense, probably because most of the game is ‘play’ rather than goals (frustration rather than relief)?
My brother sent me a bit of a match report later on a postcard, how O’Leary had crossed it to Alan Sunderland who scored but it was offside; how Liam had missed a penalty, Kempes too and Rix failed with the last one and how their goalkeeper moved around when the rules said it wasn’t allowed.
I can still remember most of the wording of that postcard, trying to change the words as if he had made a mistake and that really we had won. I did that a lot in those days.  Denial doesn’t work though.  Later, about thirty years later I saw the highlights on YouTube.  Even then I watched it as if we would win.
Alas, we still lost.
That was the end of that opening Arsenal chapter for me. Arsenal seemed to fall apart for a few years, Brady was gone and the rest of the team soon broke up. But the Valencia game was always there, lingering like a ghost, for years I couldn’t even read the word ‘Valencia’ without feeling a kind of pain and frustration and the haunting of the Spud and his radio. A game I didn’t see live, but one that burnt into my mind as if I was there.
However, this week’s game isn’t the final, and neither team are the same;  different stadiums, different type of athlete and a different world. It’s been a long, tough run in the EL – and somehow the season as a whole – and to speculate on any outcome is a bit futile on my part. And we know it depends on team selection and from there how we go in, or that seems the case of how AFC are operating at the moment? Plus are all comparisons a kind of wrong perspective? Arsenal is one big stream (but not in isolation) but it’s always changing …?  What was, is, but is not?
I could ask myself what have I learnt by all this?
All is just an idea, when we pull it apart, it isn’t really there, so what is there to be uptight or angry about? Yet to hold onto that is nearly impossible; as always, theory and practise, two very different forms, connected but different, as any smart manager knows.
Desire is an odd thing. We are rarely satisfied, and it is an important driver, no matter the pain it seems to give us. Sometimes it seems that hope is linked to desire despite it often leading to suffering.
In truth I desire a victory for us, 4-0 in the first game, 0-2 in the second.
And a 4-0 win in the final – lets hope so.
Cheers and enjoy the game.
COYG!
Mills 

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62 comments on “ARSENAL v VALENCIA: Europa League Semi Final (1st leg)

  1. What a marvellous post – awesome and yet quite touching at the same time.

    I admire your far-reaching memory Mills, I can barely remember the last game! Maybe that’s why it’s sometimes easier to retain a positive outlook, when all around are losing their heads, I’ve merely lost my memory, ha ha.

    Are you Rancid Potato on Twitter Mills?

    Thanks for a truly super article.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. This is wonderful. Those names, those memories. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven” and all that, but not so blissful when taunted by grubby spuds in the bunk house. We’ve all had those private moments of grief I guess. My first in October 1970 when that great wonder horse Nijinsky lost his unbeaten record in the Arc,and there have been too many since. But perhaps they make the sweet moments even sweeter, and why I somehow need my heroes vulnerble.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. cheers lads for the kind words. AA-not me, Im not on twitter. Im not sure I have the disposition for it, you guys are much cooler-headed and braver than me.
    Already someone on twitter has misunderstood what I wrote in the opening, it wasnt meant mathematically, but sociologically.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I knew what you meant Mills, but I wasn’t prepared to go into it with that prick

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My comment wasnt aimed at you George but the bloke who got it arsebackwards.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Mills

    I’ve only known the Arsenal during the Pat Rice led boot room era, and now.

    I’m guessing the bloke who likes to count but can’t read who made this comment on twitter hasn’t heard about the invention of this thing called the Internet, the end of the Industrial Age and the beginning of the Information Age.

    Self-Lobotomisation may help those who are obsessed by weight and superficial appearance, but it’s not a good look and I wouldn’t recommend it…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. George what I’ve been trying to say about what’s happened upstairs at the club is that I value the craft and traditions that are integral to football clubs and their style and identities. The Takeover of the boot rooms in football has long been a topic that people discuss, in novels, in the movies, and on the terraces and in the pubs.

    That I value the “boot room” in football. Craft.
    That I value the boot room that produced Rocastle, Wilshere and Maitland Niles, that has nurtured & bought the best out of Parlour, Rambo, Bergkamp and Alexis (heh!).
    Like at Ajax.
    As I hoped would happen at the Arsenal.

    You don’t replace Ajax in the minds of the footballing public all over the world for twenty years as the club who aren’t the richest but who can still play the best footy along with the best of them only to then decide to throw all that in the bin? For what!? And how will they make such a big change at a club on such a budget!!!!!!

    That’s all I’ve been pondering. Same as everyone else!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great read, just hope the team can get its act together and right past wrongs against Valencia.
    On another note some rumours suggesting Ramsey has played his last game for us, great. And that the denis suarez ” signing” was Svens final straw. Nice. That one worked well didnt it!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. well done Mills enjoyed reading that

    Just hope the team keep it together for d final few games…

    wins all through and there is trophy at the end of the tunnel.

    also ajax to beat Barca for the cl

    arsenal to beat ajax for super cup

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pornstein has announced Ramsey has played his final game for us. What a shame assuming the oracle is correct.
    Much can be debated about Emery Raul Sven Stan Ivan Wenger and Vic Ackers and the effects they have or have not had on our season,
    But one thing is certain, injuries to key players have royally fucked us this season. Perhaps learning points for training schedules, sports medics, types of players to buy, dealing with bent refs, or perhaps we just need whatever Liverpool are taking.
    Whatever, I can only be pessimistic about the rest of the season without. Rambo, hope I am wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is beautiful. Although I don’t go as far back as an Arsenal fan, the difficulties of following the results, let alone the game is familiar to me. In the early days there was very little TV coverage, though thankfully Arsenal, being a big club, did get much of it along with ManU.

    ManU were painted as the biggest team in the world and I took it as fact, but at the time they hadn’t won the number of titles and it was obviously Sky pushing their club into global recognition. Thankfully, that only pushed me away (I disliked media hype even as a kid I guess) and it was all the more reason to like Arsenal. The subtle, quiet good guys not going around projecting they were the best, but playing some great football. The FA Cup was more difficult to keep track of. Often I’d get footage a couple of months after the fact. I still have some newspaper clippings from our 2002 triumph, though that match was live. As was the Wiltord goal that won us the league.

    Sorry, I digress. But your post evoked great memories of the challenge of following this club, all of which made it even more worth following.

    I’ve never seen us win a European trophy. I hope we can win it this season. Valencia are owed revenge for John Carew’s goal as well as 1980. Would be nice to see Gabriel and Coquelin though. hope they do us a favour heh.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. This is Brilliant although it brings back nightmares. I remember going to Highbury after we had lost the F.A. cup to see the players get on the coach to go to the airport on their way out and to be honest they all looked shagged then. To ARSENAL supporters credit there were hundreds possibly thousands just to see them get on a coach and wish them luck I’m not sure supporters of today would do the same just after a cup final loss.
    That season could off been the most successful in our history and the fact we got nothing proves there are fine lines in football.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. fins

    It should be noted, Ajax had their own soul searching event when LVG was the guy put in charge of running the show, leading to a more ‘pragmatic’ approach being adopted. It took Cruyff and fellow believers in their history and stylistic heritage to carry out a coup to bring them back on the right track.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Shard

    That was the era of Kluivert, Davids and Seedorf? When Ajax would’ve been swamped by their Super Agents like other more recent lowlanders?

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/48042234

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I take it from your comment then that like me your hoping the club don’t continue to outdo Utd after Ferguson and will be copying Ajax and soon look to appoint the correct or st the least a qualified person, you all know who I’d choose, as the DoF?

    Like

  16. There’s only one candidate!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Marky O?

    Liked by 2 people

  18. A fervent battle between the Ajax legend and the club’s board of directors came to a head in 2010, with Cruyff going as far to say “this isn’t Ajax anymore”.

    https://www.theguardian.com/football/copa90/2016/apr/06/ajax-club-johan-cruyff-de-boer-bergkamp-van-der-sar-overmars

    Liked by 2 people

  19. fins, I wouldn’t appoint Wenger as a DoF. He needs to be the figurehead like Cruyff rather than stuck in a role. But looking at Ajax and what Dennis has to say, I know what I’d do. It’s good we have Freddie as U23 manager and Per as academy manager, plus the likes of Ryan Garry and Steve Morrow involved.

    But for the technical director position, one Robert Pires has expressed his interest. He has never said a bad word about Arsenal, and still (used to?) train with the first team so he knows the players. He’s also quite actively involved in the veteran football circuit since he retired, and in his career moved around towards the end. He deserves consideration.

    Eventually I’d like to see Bergkamp brought back. Vieira, Arteta or even Lehmann could be managers or assistants, as could Sol Campbell. (Lehmann should never have been let go. Now who wants yes men?)

    Their value lies in their knowledge, experience, and above all, in maintaining a culture. Doesn’t mean you can’t hire people from outside. In fact you should. But people who fit into that culture, while still having their own voice. Like Sven Mislintat… Like Emery? I don’t know.

    It’s all kinds of worrisome, honestly, even if it usually stays in the background. I don’t believe we’ll really improve until we make the right decisions here. But of course we won’t right now. Kroenke put Raul in charge, and whoever takes over as DoF will now report to him rather than be his equal in a committee.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Shiv Whorra
    ‏ @shivwhorra

    Arsenal points last 10 seasons.
    75
    68
    70
    73
    79
    75
    71
    75
    63
    66 (2 games to go).

    Even if we win both games, this wouldn’t be a massive improvement on the last 10 years or so. Realistically, the only terrible season we had was last year.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for your clicks, kind comments, support and also for sharing your own memories.
    Im always really fascinated by the history of peoples experience with Arsenal, whether a regular at games or even if you can’t get to any, to me that doesnt matter, some who can’t even get to a game are very important and committed to the club often as much as some who are able to go all the time. And nobody can ever truly own Arsenal, somehow we are all caretakers of an experience and we are all part of it ( even if some we dont agree with or would rather sod off to the Spuds!), and no matter where you live, again, its a shared experience.
    Im also interested in how times change, how it affects us, and how Arsenal play a big part in these things, and for what we think is better or worse with the club. And you’ve all got endless stories up your sleeves…

    Thanks again everyone. Cheers!

    COYG!

    Liked by 5 people

  22. Such is the sorry state of affairs on the pitch, so far away from Wengerball have the team deviated, that I have cancelled my Sky and BT Sports subscription….I will be satisfied with highlights and full match on the Arsenal Player should I hear that the performance wS decent…I’m saving a lot of dosh too!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Mills,
    Valencia’s record this season in la liga is similar to the Arsenal’s in the premier league.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/spanish-la-liga/table

    Safe to say they’re not at the same level as Atletico but obviously a dangerous opponent.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Andrew Cesare
    ‏Verified account @AndrewCesare
    4h4 hours ago

    McManaman: “The fans here are so protective of Messi. You’re not allowed to foul him. To kick him”

    No, you’re are not, Steven. Those are literally the most basic rules of football

    Liked by 3 people

  25. Dan Critchlow
    ‏ @afcDW
    34m34 minutes ago

    16-year-old Catalin Cirjan has arrived in England as he completes his move to Arsenal, after signing with the club earlier this year.

    He posted on Instagram about his “new chapter” earlier today. #AFC

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Thanks for the link fins. Sure hope the lads can lift themselves of the the rut they are in. And hope the atmosphere is a good one tonight.
    COYG!

    Like

  27. Mills

    I’ll be disappointed if the new gaffer sends them or to start at home in a European semi final the gritting manager from the control fraud development up the road an outfit that has predictably lauded by the launderers:

    Like a coward!

    I exepect he’ll be hoping to send them out like he did in the home tie against Napoli. Missing the best CM in the league is a little bit of a blow for a non monied club (especially when for so long it was self induced hari-kari!) so I hope he can find the right balance as he looks to fill that huge hole in midfield.

    Conversely if one up with ten to go I don’t think there’d be a fan anywhere that would grumble if he switched to three at the back!
    If Arsene had thrown on Chambers for those last ten mins last season…let’s hope the luck is with the Gunners tonight (it wasn’t in Liverpool’s favour last night!).

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Typo!
    < hoping the coach doesn't send his team out to start the game in similar set up to the gritting idiots from up the road…

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Positives: Excellent work from Mills, a great friend. Who knew he was such an excellent storyteller. When I read the guest posts of many of us, who in the past, simply commented am increasingly convinced we left the field of Arsenal blogging too open to a set of bastards and opportunists who have done damage to our football club and its greatest manager.

    As some of you know, I was off the grid for a while. Initially on vacation when I traveled to London to be at the Crystal Palace game. After which, on my return home I encountered some serious technical problems with the UFV blog due to my web host trying to transfer to another server. Aaargh. Hours spent on the phone trying to get everything fixed.

    Finally and belatedly we have something from our friend Rich titled “PGMOL Refereeing As Part Of A Unique Selling Proposition” at https://uniteforvar.com/?p=1977

    Liked by 2 people

  30. whatever the weather whatever the system whatever the team COYG.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Rich, I couldnt log in to comment, but wanted to say thanks for a brilliant piece over at Unite for VAR. I hope it gets the wide readership it deserves.
    Shotts, many thanks.
    Sure missed Labos review tonight, anyway heres hoping. COYG!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Cech
    Sokratis Koscielny Mustafi
    Maitland-Niles, Guendouzi Xhaka Kolasinac
    Ozil Lacazette Aubameyang

    subs Leno, Monreal, Elneny, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Nketiah

    https://pbs.twimg.com/ad_img/1124007981316825089/ikHWZC9h?format=jpg&name=orig

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Got a late one at work tonight but liking to imagine a few Positivas wending their way to the game, maybe having had a couple somewhere. COYG!

    Like

  34. Grrr, poor marking again.

    Like

  35. 10 minutes in and Valencia take the lead, they had missed a sitter a couple of minutes earlier, big response needed

    Like

  36. kos limping

    xhaka has given away the ball a couple of times with poor passes

    Like

  37. AMN with a silly header gives them another chance, we are wobbling here

    Like

  38. Lacazetteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee 1-1, Aubameyang burst clear, a heavy touch put him wide, he turned inside and laid it off to lacca to slot into the empty net

    Liked by 1 person

  39. get fuckin in there!!!!!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Lacazetteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee 2-1, heads home six yards out

    Liked by 1 person

  41. HT: Arsenal 2-1 Valencia

    went behind early on, really could have been two down, then lacca with two quick goals to put us on top. PEA missed a decent chance, we have them in trouble everytime we attack, need to keep it going and get a couple more goals

    Liked by 1 person

  42. other semi final is 1-1 at half time

    Like

  43. that was shit defending by sokratis

    Like

  44. Torreira on for Guendouzi, little over half an hour left

    Like

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