"As for Maidenhead, the conga (which was amusing) aside, quite a strange bunch really – some the oddest chants I've ever heard at a football match" ~ localboy86, Amber Planet forum, 26th April 2015

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Away Day Diary: Arsenal 1-0 Leeds United (09/01/12)

+++ Disclaimer for anyone under 18 or with sensitive eyes +++
+++ Contains sweary words, including 'shit', 'wanker' and 'fucking' +++

FA Cup.

3rd Round Weekend.

One of the highlights of the football calendar and memories of yesteryear, conjuring up images of Ronnie Radford, parka's, mud heap pitches, Mickey Thomas before he started printing his own money, giant-killing by the likes of Sutton United, Yeovil Town and Woking (albeit not this season as they somehow lost to perennial cup under-achievers, Maidenhead United).

Well, sort of.

The Sky Generation (est. 1992) and some media types reckon the luster of the FA Cup has diminished in recent years, and peaked when Manchester United opted out of the competition in 1999/2000, in order to play in the World Club Championship. Apparently part of the thinking was that it would boost England's chances of being awarded the 2006 World Cup. More great blue sky thinking from the FA then. Well done.

Anyway, I digress. Apart from the wankfest tie between Yoonited and Citeh, Arsenal v Leeds was one of the few other games which allowed for maximum armchair usage. And so it came to pass. The great gods of Tellyboxland decreed that Monday night seemed a good slot to allocate this tie, just the one day after the 4th round draw had been made.

Although it was a right balls-ache for some Leeds fans, off the back of the same fixture in the same round last term, it was a chance for me and fellow fan James to actually get a ticket this time. A packed away end of more than 5,000 Leeds fans were greeted with the sight of a very decent stadium.

Having arrived early, and not bothering with a swift pint, I didn't even have time to consider whether the Emirates figures in my 'Top 5 Grounds What I Have Been To' (I think it just misses out to - in no particular order - the Bernabeu, Camp Nou, Olympic Stadium Berlin, Allianz Arena and new Wembley), before I could see two women and a bloke stood by a desk near the pitch. Oh, hang on, one 'woman' was actually Robbie Savage. Maybe I was right the first time.

For those of you who haven't seen ESPN's football coverage, they forego a proper indoor studio, to allow the armchairs the full-on, pitch-side match experience. It's raw, it's gritty, it's close-up, it's shit. And the dozy twats had decided that their desk would be set up right in front of the away end. I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that particular executives meeting. 

Tarquin to Sebastian: "Let's really go for the fans angle, big time. Put the desk in front of the away fans. Kerrrraaazzeee!

Sebastian, ponytail swinging wildly: "You are sooooo right, Tarqs. Love it! Edgy. Let's also spend most of the match doing close-up's of various celebs, some of whom the armchairs will even recognise. Right. Time for a moccachoppachappachino. With extra shots!"

"34 min: As loath as I am to hear a bad word said about Rebecca Lowe, who I've met and can confirm is very nice, I have to say I'm most unimpressed with ESPN's coverage of English football. I did notice their FA Cup coverage is sponsored by a company that is to all intents and purposes a glorified loan shark, which may explain their lack of a studio. Surely no producer in his or her right mind could possibly think presenting live coverage involving Robbie Savage, outdoors in January and in front of 5,000 Leeds supporters is A Good Idea"

Female blonde bit, male blond bit/plastic hardman and Martin Keown were stood around, looking awkward, waiting to give the armchairs their words of wisdom. As more fans filed in, the chants of "ESPN is fucking shit", "Robbie Savage is a wanker" and "You're just a shit Gabby Yorath" grew ever louder. Having seen Leeds tonked 4-1 at the mighty Barnsley just over a week before, my expectations for the match couldn't have been lower, so this side-show provided more entertainment than I could have hoped for. Some even chucked hot dogs at Savage. Funny, but at £4 a throw?

Sadly, I missed the highlight when Keown got hit by a stray ball:   

Three blokes dressed as Leeds legend Jimmy Savile then joined in the fun. Leeds legend as in the city, not United. Mind you, he'd probably get a game for United these days, were he still alive.

Apparently, for some reason, the noise the Leeds fans made in the second half was muffled. Nothing to do with ESPN having to apologise for the language then. They're also now reviewing their policy on coverage of future games. Tarquin and Sebastian are now rubbing shoulders with Eight Ace and Mad Cat Woman at the job-shop.

The game itself?

Leeds played like an average hard-working second division side with no creativity, which is what they are. Arsenal played like a side used to dictating the play and possession, but who fluffed their lines too often and are going to struggle with rubbish such as Chamakh and Arshavin featuring in the starting XI. Chamakh even missed an open goal from two yards, having just been given offside. Oh, and some bloke called Terry Henry came off the bench to score the only goal of a dour game. A scriptwriters dream.

The Leeds fans did their club proud and, to be fair, the side did well enough, given their total lack of investment by Evil Uncle Ken. Most fans are resigned to being stuck with him until he moves upstairs or downstairs, depending on your viewpoint. I personally believe him to be the real incarnation of C. Montgomery Burns and that he'll outlive all of us.

As nice as the Emirates was, though, I couldn't go there very often. It'd do my head in. It's nicely packaged, to be fair, and feels safe and corporate. Great if that's your thing. But telling people there's three minutes until the start of the second half? Give me strength. It's football, not the theatre. It also had about as much atmosphere as Highbury, except when Terry joined the party, and when he scored.

Steve Jinman's blog provides an Arsenal perspective. It is interesting to see him referencing Leeds fans permanent state of anger. Pah. That was nothing! You should've seen the stewards and police trying to protect the Ref at Gillingham after he'd sent off both Kandol and Beckord. The 4th official used the electronic 'Gumbsy' subs thingamajiggy to shield himself from the missiles as they rained down on him. Now that is ire...

Marching On Together.

To mid-table mediocrity and the sale of our best couple of players, I reckon.

Bates out!

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