BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Saturday, January 07, 2006

ARSENAL AWAY: FA Cup 3rd round... a distraction from the serious football.

City fans mingle with the forces of darkness in front of the building site that will next season be the new home to the gooners
It is a long time since City has played a club as big as Arsenal, and tickets were fiercely fought over. Fortunately I managed to get me hands on one and today was the big day.

There had been a lot of arguing about how to distribute tickets, some said that those that travel away most regularly should have first option, others came up with all sorts of methods, but in the end they went on sale to Season Ticket holders first and then… well no-body really, because despite the fact that only 10% of Season Ticket holders travel away every single one of them bought a ticket for this game. I managed to get a ticket of a season ticket holder that was not going (I am only a ‘member’) so I was OK, but there were an awful lot of tickets finding their way into the hands of people who never watch the City and I could not help feeling sorry for the boys who go away regularly that had to miss out because some season ticket holders nephew was getting a ticket for Christmas… or whatever…. rant over.

The night before the game I actually found myself getting excited, I cannot remember the last time I got excited about anything. I think I felt how Tara iguana must have felt on Christmas Eve. The excitement made sure I did not sleep late, but getting up in time to be on the platform for 6am meant that reality kicked in and my feet were firmly back on the ground.

I would normally have travelled with the Valley RAMs, but they have fallen foul of the law, meaning their busses were going to be alcohol free, so I opted for the train. Typical style, as soon as the train companies realised there would be loads travelling by train they banned alcohol on all trains between Cardiff and London for the day. I was on the platform in Cardiff before they started searching people going on to the platform so I had no problems smuggling enough cider onto the train to last the journey; but despite the fact that they started searching everyone, just about everyone seemed to have beer with them so the searches could not have been very thorough.

I met up with a gang of mates on the platform and Dangerous Dave joined us at Newport, we then set about consuming our ‘refreshments’ undeterred by the fact that we would normally still be in bed at this time on a Saturday.

Some how, our little gang got split up as soon as we arrived in Paddington, but Dave and I are quite capable of finding a pub ourselves.

Much had been made of City being allocated pubs to drink in to avoid us mingling with Gooners, but as Dangerous Dave and I got off the tube at Highbury there was a pub next to the station which appeared to be serving anyone who wanted a pint (and everyone who wanted a pint seemed to be getting on without resorting to fisticuffs), so we called in and drunk beer.

After a short walk to the ground we split up, Dave being told by some jobs worth Steward that his ticket meant he had to use a different entrance to me. Once in the ground I seemed to bump into someone I knew every 30 seconds, so soon had someone to ‘hang out’ with during the game.

Apart from the drink related matters, another issue that much had been made of was that everyone would have to sit in the correct seat on their ticket, and everyone would have to sit down. The Stewards were, to be frank, out of their depth. I have no idea why this is, surely they deal with big passionate crowds week in week out, if this is how things are every week I am surprised there has not been a major incident before now. I went up and stood with two mates I have known since school, and never really found out where I was supposed to be sitting. There may have been people who actually sat during the game, but they would have been either at the very front with no one in front of them, or would have not been able to see any of the game, ‘cos as far as I could see everyone stood for the entire 90 minutes.

Highbury is one of the few grounds in London I have not been to (younger readers might find it hard to believe, but there was a time when high flying Chealsea were in the old second division!), so it was nice to be able to visit it before the Gooners move to thier new ground next season. Before going up a mate of mine, an Arsenal fan as it happens, had told me they call it Highbury the Library, because of the total lack of atmosphere. He was right. Despite the fact that they have been one of the most successful teams in Europe over the last few years the home crowd made as much noise as drying paint. This was more than made up for by the 7,000 passionate City fans who were ‘singing’ their hearts out. Even when the Gooners were two up, all that could be heard through the ground were chants like ‘Two nil, and you still can’t sing’, ‘shall we sing a song for you?’ and the classic ‘we’re gonna win 3-2’.

Despite the fact that we could not put our best team out (we don’t ‘own’ Jason Koumas, he is on loan and WBA did not want him ‘cup tied’) we gave them a good run for their money and casual observers would not have known that they are a league above us. Eventually Cameron Jerome banged in a consolation goal, which sent the clock end wild and had everyone egging the boys on for an equaliser. It never came, but I think everyone came away satisfied that the boys done good, it could have been a lot worse. Even Reading put 5 on us on New Years day.

Outside the bumping in to old mates continued until eventually our gang was complete again and we headed off to the pub. As we sat with our pints we watched the impressive sight of 63 busses full of City fans heading for the M4 with a police escort. I was quite happy to not be on one of those busses though, cos we had some drinking to do. We eventually got on our train in Paddington long after the busses had arrived back in the Mother Land, well oiled and well happy; thinking thoughts of more serious football, the type that matters… concentrating on promotion.


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