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Friday
Nov042011

Going underground

BY JOE MARDON / @TheArsenal_

Without the required away credit I relied with gratitude on a rather unique way of securing a ticket for the league clincher at White Hart Lane in 2004. A players comp. A home players comp which would see me seated in the home end for a game where keeping my mouth shut was just too big a challenge.

Heading to the underground, Chelsea were one-nil up at St James's Park, a scoreline which meant we wouldn’t, despite our unbeaten status, be able to secure the title at the most desired of venues. By the time we arrived to collect our tickets outside the main entrance, that score had swung the way of Newcastle who were now leading 2-1 against the only club capable of denying us the title.

When the full time result from the North East was confiemd I literally rubbed my hands together at the thought of what lay ahead. Spurs faces bore resignation as I took my seat amongst the nervous home fans, in the front row of the upper tier. I was only five seats along from our excited travelling army.

The travelling Arsenal supporters were in full swing, the air of expectancy sprinkled with a confidence borne of a season without swallowing the bitterness of defeat. They knew. And Spurs knew. The party had already begun, the game seemed almost meaningless. This was fate.

With three minutes gone Arsenal broke from a Spurs corner at impossible speed. Catch us if you can. Henry. Bergkamp. Vieira. Goal. Trademark. I looked over at the Arsenal fans and smiled. Gooners laughed back at me and made the wanker sign. I spent the next hour trying to quietly convince those close enough to single me out for abuse that I was one of them, I was not to be labelled a Spud simply because my seat suggested so. I like to think I succeeded.

The superiority of that side over everyone else allowed a sense of relaxation that was enhanced as we took a two goal lead before the break. Bergkamp. Vieira. Pires. Goal. We were cruising at the break and I jealously watched buoyant celebrations desperate to join in, but all too aware that I’d be crucified if I did so from my unfortunate seat.

Upon the hour our lead was halved as we took our foot off the accelerator. 2-1. Redknapp. Yes him from the Sky Sports studio; he did actually once play the game rather than talk about it at every opportunity in sheen tight suit.

The rest of White Hart Lane woke up, despite their side chasing a draw that still wouldn't stop the Gunners repeating the away day achievement of 1971. I'm not sure the home crowd realised a draw wasn’t enough, but for the first time I found it hard to restrain my want. When Pires smashed one against the bar it was now nigh on impossible to conceal frustration. "F**k 'em" I thought, mainly because I'd worked out those around me were not the usual moronic types keen on confrontation.

I was out and couldn't hide my disappointment as Jens was punished for an off the ball push, a penalty awarded for something which almost always results in the ref warning both players prior to a corner kick being taken. Keane dragged himself up to equalise from the spot, did his f**kin cartwheel and White Hart Lane erupted as if they had just won the league. 1961. I looked down and saw the sight which drove Thierry Henry to celebrate so wildly after the final whistle.

Taricco was running around in huge elated circles, stunned and thanking God that Spurs had clawed back a draw which would not stop Arsenal winning the league. So much so that he injured himself and fell to the ground.

The reaction to the equaliser meant our celebration had to remind them we'd won the league, that the draw really meant very little in the grand 1971/2004, scheme of things. I rose to my feet as Thierry led the team, sprinting with as much effort as Taricco had put in, towards his adoring public. My arms aloft in salute confirming I was now apart of once more.

As Kolo back flipped and the boys danced, I looked further up to the Spurs tier I was seated in to see a man bounding down each row, leaping seats as if they were nothing. If he hit me at this point I would be flying over the tier, and he now had every reason to do so. He made it down to where I was standing, my celebrations subdued in the hope it wasn't too late to save myself a clump.

With that, the stranger I assumed to be Spurs unveiled a banner which read '71, 2004, Déjà-vu'. Thank f**k he was a Gooner. Celebrations resumed.

"What are you doing in the Spurs end?" asked the steward. Shoulders shrugged, I didn't want to miss out on the ultimate party. "I'm not having you in here, get over that side". I bounced over the barrier to be re-united with the Arsenal. Ecstatic. The songs continued as Arsene reappeared. The dancing continued, Ashley Cole planted an inflatable trophy on the centre circle. Good times.

When it was finally time to leave the ground we were treated to a police escort for the entire thirty minute walk to Tottenham Hale Tube station. 1.7miles and we sang all the way. Every side street on that route contained more police benevolently acting as human shields and keeping the angry and envious at bay. Bottles were thrown, but they were never going to reach the joyous march to the Victoria Line. Next stop Seven Sisters and the prospect of the baying mob waiting for us on the platform. 

The train slowed down as it approached the station. The platforms was five deep with Spuds...and then it became clear that the train would not be stopping. The singing got louder and louder, "61, never again...61 never again...71, 2004...71, 2004".

I can still picture their faces. It was the ultimate pedestal for gloating and brilliant fun. All they could do was kick the passing train as we laughed and sang, unable to stop us chugging along on our journey. The rest of the day was spent dancing on tables in bars up and down Upper Street as the celebrations continued with those who hadn’t been lucky enough to have been at White Hart Lane in person.

A glorious day.

This article first appeared in The Gooner. 

Reader Comments (2)

gret read,

November 4, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrebel gooner

An absolute brilliant read! Read that with a massive smile on my face. Such fantastic memories.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRichard P
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