By Tony Attwood
The obvious headline which popped into my head as the final seconds of the game ticked away was “I was there, I was there, I was there”.
By the time we got back to the car the radio was full of people saying, “those who were there could say ‘I was there’.” This morning when I read Walter’s late night review of the game on this site, I saw that he commented that those of us who made it to the ground, can say, forever more, “I was there.”
How come everyone wants to steal my line?
But I know, I’m lucky. I have a season ticket, and I have been to quite a few games through my life. I was there in the north bank, when Tony Adams scored his goal at the end of the season and stood there and held his arms aloft. It is what his statue is based on. I was there for the final game of the Unbeaten Season against Leicester – 1-0 down at half time and Henry scored from the spot to save an entire season. (Vieira got one too so we won, but that day not being beaten was all that mattered.)
I could develop a bit of a list, but I would include some matches that mean a lot to me in part because of my circumstances, as much as because of the game. Even though many fans will have forgotten such matches I recall them in detail – like the first game of the 49 against Southampton, with the Pires hat trick. We’d just unexpectedly lost to Leeds 2-3 and our hope of the title had gone and my private life was in turmoil. The Southampton match lifted me considerably, and that was 42 matches before I realised I was watching the longest unbeaten run in football history in England.
But somehow as it registered that being there last night was another one of those moments I wanted more. I want the film. Not the film on TV, although that will have to do, but the film from my seat, which provides a superb view of the subs warming up, and is perfectly placed to view the goal Thierry scored in and has Ian, Stefan and I just looking at each other in sheer disbelief.
I doubt that much will be written of Leeds. The 11 men behind the ball, the 3 defenders on the half way line even when they had a corner; it was negativity of the highest order.
As for the tackling – to call it industrial or agricultural is an insult to those who work in factories or on the land. I believe their euphemism is “Yorkshire grit”. Grit – course sand grains and small stones, used to give traction on roads that have become icy. I think the Leeds style of play gives grit a bad name. But maybe it is an apt name for their club – coarse sand grains and small stones.
I wonder if many will remember what happened before Henry came on. He was on the line with Theo waiting his moment, but the ball would not go out of play. It seemed that minutes went by before Theo could run on with the number 14 on his back, and then our number 12 trotted out. Within seconds he had his hands in the air looking that look at his midfield to ask why he had not had the ball slipped through to him given that he was in the perfect position to score. It was ever thus.
227 goals for Arsenal now – not bad.
On the negative side though, perhaps the most frightening thing about what we saw is that Leeds might actually make it back to the top league one day. Another Bolton, another Blackburn. Defend, kick, defend, kick. My newspaper today says they played 4-1-4-1 – it certainly didn’t look like that to me. 10-0-0-0 is more like, with four scampering forwards if they pushed it upfield.
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