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Wednesday
Nov022011

It Is Quite Clearly Not Just A Game

 

BY WILL GARWOOD

Picture a loving father presenting a brand new bicycle for his ten year-old son's birthday, then picture him smashing it up in front of his eyes. It was the same feeling we all went through the night of the 17th of May 2006 when the Champions League slipped through our hands.

Imagine your faithful wife taking off with your best friend and that might just come close to the feeling of humiliation as Newcastle came back from four goals to snatch a late draw. Finally, visualize yourself being beaten to the ground and kicked and stomped on no less than 8 times, and you will fully understand the trauma we all suffered at Old Trafford this year.

Why do we bother? I've been asking myself that question ever since the day my dad told me I was to be an Arsenal fan. Because we do. Because we are Arsenal. There are days when I wish my dad had told me I was to be an Orient fan, life would have been so much easier, but I am Arsenal, and Arsenal am I.

To be fair, in my 21 years on this Earth Arsenal have been pretty damn good to me, I've seen a lot of successes; a couple of doubles, an unbeaten year and league wins at both Old Trafford and White Hart Lane to name a few. But there are two special personalities that have made me love the day my dad told me I was a gooner.

One of them - and most likely a regular on this topic - is Dennis Bergkamp. For me, and I know I am biased, Cantona, Zola, Ginola, Ronaldo, they don't come close. He had such an elegance and footballing brain that his compatriots could only dream of having. When he messed around with the Juventus defence to slip in Freddie Ljungberg - fantastic! I must have seen the Bergkamp 100 goals DVD a thousand times.As much as I love Robin Van Persie, he is not the Dutchman I think of when you mention the bright orange jersey. He is, and will always be, my favourite player to have ever graced a football field. Is it too cliché for Dennis to one day return as manager for Arsenal? I certainly hope not.

Orange curly locks, a workhorse of the midfield, a screamer against Valencia and my favourite FA Cup goal. I am of course talking about the Romford Pele, Ray Parlour. Hailing from Romford myself, I must say I have a fond affection for Ray. I remember seeing him jogging through Tesco's car park one summer in awe of his "perfect jogging motion" and then drunkenly seeing him outside of a nightclub in Brentwood last year.

Although there was a gap of around ten years between these two incidences, unashamedly my first response was to shout "Waaaay Romford Ray!" both times. A fantastic embodiment of the Arsenal, it was a shame we only saw him pull on an England shirt ten times...

These are of course not my only fond memories of the red and white, but they stick out above the rest. I like to picture myself as Colin Firth in the film adaptation of Fever Pitch, when I explain to my girlfriend that "it is quite clearly not just a game!" I think she is starting to get the picture although she may get worried when I tell her the first born will be named Arsene!

Arsenal have brought me to my knees, kicking and screaming, but I somehow always forgive them. Sure enough, I'm there next week cheering them on like always. But let's face it, my dad could have picked a worse to team to support. Ask me this in 60 years time and you might have quite a different response, but I have not grown weary of them yet. Oooooh to be a Gooner.

Reader Comments (1)

Will,
Great article .It sums up what being a Gooner is My experience is the same all be it 40 years earlier.Myself and my brother wanted to go to White Hart Lane (why) when we were young kids .Dad said no and took us to Highbury thank god !! Dennis is the best I have seen, a close second being Chippy Brady.

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMadGooner51
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