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Arsenal / Villa: the Untold Game

By Walter Broeckx

You could say that the game against Villa started on December 24 at 4pm. It was the moment the president of our fan club phoned me to say that our member that makes the bookings on the Eurostar trains received the message that our booking had been cancelled.

It was a bit Murphy’s law. The moving of the game from Saturday to Sunday, the troubles one week earlier with the trains… It left us on the waiting list for the Sunday trains but because all the people still waiting for their earlier connections Eurostar decided to cancel all overbookings.

So we had to split up ourselves in different cars and drive to Calais to take a ferry to Dover and from then we would go to London with the new high speed service of the  railway.

We managed to get everybody in a car somewhere and we got together in Calais well in time for the boat and we received our game tickets in hand. The see was a bit rough, although I don’t mind that too much as I seem to have sea legs, but other members are not that keen on travelling on boats and we just hoped their stomachs would be ok until Dover.

Fortunately we all got there in one peace and in good health. A little bit later than scheduled because of the strong wind, I think.

Then off the boat and to Dover Priory Station with our cars. We hadn’t much time as the train was departing some 10 minutes later. When leaving the port you had to chose a lane and off course I managed to choose the wrong lane with someone following me. I couldn’t get on the roundabout and had to drive on to the Jubilee road which leads you out of Dover on to the Highway.

After a few miles and breaking a few speed limits, (sorry about that), we were able to turn back to Dover and I managed to stay on the left side of the road and find the way to the station this time. Another apology to the taxi driver at the station … I know I just was one of those Johnny Foreigners driving on the wrong side of the road for some 50 meters.

Free parking – which was helpful – and when we came into the station we could just see our direct train to St. Pancrass leaving the station. What is this all about trains not running on schedule I hear sometimes ? This one was running on time.

So we had an hour to buy our tickets which were also valid on the underground we found out later. Nice arrangement I must say. We even got the group discount for our party of some 28 travelling fans. A nice clean train arrived to bring us to London and it also made it perfect in time. Okay we missed the first train but this all went smooth so far.

In London one of our newcomers had some trouble with getting some cash out. The machine swallowed his card and he even didn’t get his money. Well I used my own card, in another machine, and luckily my card came back out with the money.  I hope the guy gets his card back. But this is one small detail in a journey.

We took the underground to the Emirates and the first view on the Emirates… well it is very impressive. The legends forming a circle round the stadium is a great thing. A big round of applause for the person who thought of this because it looks really great.

Because of the delay the Little Wonder cafe had a queue until the penalty spot inside the Emirates so we decided to have a quick look in the Armoury which was over crowded and then went in the stadium.  I forgot that subjects that could be used as a weapon are not allowed so I had to give up my deodorant but I still have others and it was almost empty anyway.

The first real  highlight of the day came a few minutes later. I had been in touch with Tony with text messages and so we agreed that he would come over to our block 123 to meet. So I got a little bit nervous to meet the biggest and best blogger from Arsenal in person.

Well let me correct this, Tony is not the biggest blogger. He isn’t that big in fact. He’s Arshavin size, like me in fact. So Tony phoned me when he was standing some 3 meters from me standing with our backs to each other.

If I would write scenario’s in films I would arrange it like that. Well Tony is a very nice and friendly person. If you can read between the lines you can know this I think.

Onto the game and we won 3-0. Not a great victory. No it was a great, great, great GREAT victory.

I saw the birth of Tony’s article before my own eyes after the game. We stayed at the Emirates to have another drink and to continue our chat and Tony  mentioned that he had the score wrong this time and at that moment I knew that he would make it in to an article and when I came home.. it was there.

In fact I blame myself for our third goal. When Diaby collected the ball I had a vision of him scoring a third and I shouted to my mate sitting next to me: Diaby will score a third (okay I said it in Dutch)  and when he actually did seconds later it really felt that I had scored myself.  The steward must have had a strange look on his face when I went totally mad after the goal. After all it doesn’t happen every day that you get the feeling you scored yourself at the Emirates.

All good things come to an end and we left each other at the Arsenal underground station where we had to go different ways. Back on the train to Dover and once again it was right on time. We had some 10 minutes to get off the train, and drive to the ferry terminal so we had to run and maybe we broke a few speeding limits, so once again my apologies for this, but we got there in time. You could tell which members of staff were Arsenal fans as well as they were very friendly when they saw our scarves and clothes.

On the boat it was rather funny as there were a few Villa fans on board. We gave them a friendly reception by letting them know which was the greatest team the world has ever seen and for the rest of the trip they tried to avoid us as much as possible. Not that we ever would do any harm to other fans. In fact we know how long the road can be after defeat so we never rub it in too much.

We left the boat and after an hour driving we got a bit hungry and stopped at a petrol station just when our president did the same with his car. And could you imagine who was also in the petrol station…. yes those Villa fans. I think they must have thought they had a nightmare and we gave them our biggest possible smile once again.

The rest of the trip went as smooth as can be in fact and when you look back at it, it was a great day. We won a real top game, I met Tony Attwood, we had laughs and fun with the other fans so it was with a warm and thankful feeling I drove up my cul-de-sac and gave my car its deserved rest.

Walter Broeckx has been a passionate Arsenal follower since 1979 from Flanders, Belgium.  For the last couple of years he is the main news reporter for the Arsenal fans in Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg where he produces a daily portion of Arsenal news. His passion for football goes so far that he even is a referee. In the real world he is married, has 4 children including some Gooners, and he works as a civil servant involved in planning permission in a small town.

18 comments to Arsenal / Villa: the Untold Game

  • Tunde Bello

    The blue scum are struggling again! Lord am i having fun? Yeah u bet!

  • Tunde Bello

    Urrgh poor substitn cost fulham d match a one-legged paintsil dd much better than that kid that gave away 2 goals when he was substituted.anyway i’ve seen enough to know they’ll struggle in january.

  • Don't believe the hype

    Thanks for sharing the story of your trip Walter. It’s amazing the trouble you go to to get to a game. It certainly puts to shame those ‘locals’ who arrive late and leave early just because they don’t want to queue for the underground!

  • Hartwick89

    Well now that’s a great article….Do you have a copy of it in Dutch? Makes me want to plan another trip to London. Someday I will tell all of you about it…..6 guys…5days…4nights…no tickets..Arsenal vs. Portsmouth…at Highbury…2005 or 04? All the way from Upstate, NY, USA. What memories.

  • Walter and I were discussing the issue of Song going to Africa in January and we both felt that Diaby could be used in the Song position. As Walter pointed out, Diaby had dropped into that position a number of times during the match, as if he were practising for the position.

    In midfield we have

    Cesc, Denilson, Song, Diaby, Ramsey, with Nasri and Theo who can play there if needed. Plus coming up Merida and Wilshere. That’s a fair old range of players.

  • Getty

    Walter, I was anticipating your detailed trip report and didn’t disappoint. I’m glad it all worked out after a few challenges along the way. Did you take pictures? If you do, is it possible to post them somewhere so that we can imagine how it looked from your view?

  • walter

    Getty, we have made some pictures. My son has put some up on facebook.com (his name is Ben Broeckx)a rather popular site in my part of the world.
    There are also some pictures from our travelling party on our own website (arsenalbenelux.be) which is (mostly) in Dutch but if you click on forum and then go to “wedstrijden” (= games) and then “Foto’s Arsenal – Aston Villa” (foto’s= pictures) and then you see some pictures that already have been put on the site. The pictures from the user ‘homersimpson’ (one of my sons) include me a few times. On the boat I was wearing a light green sweater. I’m the one with a little bit grey hair left on his head. But I’m losing it rather fast the last years. My hair that is… 😉

  • walter

    Hartwick not for the moment. I have made an article in Dutch for a new fanzine that we are going to bring for our members and there I will have a day report in Dutch.
    But this fanzine will be out after new year and is not available for the moment.

  • Getty

    Thanks Walter, I checked out the site, beautiful pictures of the Ems. Now I have the complete picture of your trip. Thanks again. If it makes you feel any better, I have lost most of my hair and wasn’t even gray yet. Whatever left has been shaved off, love it. 🙂

  • Arsesession

    Walter, many thanks for sharing your experience. I’m certainly envious.

    Maybe one day I’ll find myself standing on the Arsenal grounds.

  • SharkeySure

    Walter, many many thanks for this article, it was a great read.

    Wot a nice change from the obsessive blogging about who we should or shouldn’t sign.

    Thats a great effort from you guys to get there for a 13.30
    kick off.

    What was the average drive time to get to Calais for your various vehicles..??

    Ps. I can’t see the pictures from here at work, but will view them later!!

  • walter

    From my home it was 2h15 minutes (from around Antwerp) but there are also fans comming from Limburg and thats almost another 1h15 minutes extra. Our fans living near the sea can make it in an hour or so.
    So all very different but it really was worth it.

  • Tone

    OMG! Is it me or has every pundit, news papaer article, blog, radio presenter, etc used or rather misused the word ‘cameo’ for Cesc’s peformance against Villa. A cameo is a small walk on part of no real significance to the plot. The appearance of the king for 30 minutes in a 90 miute play is NOT a flipping cameo!!!

  • SharkeySure

    Thanks Walter.

    I just had it in my mind that it was a longer car journey than that, I guess like most in England that my perception of Euro distances is a little off piste.

    Still a great effort though…all credit to you and your ‘gang’.

    Were the ‘virgins’ on your trip wide eyed like kids at Christmas…?? I’ve taken a few to Highbury and the Ems for their first games and it always makes the day more special for me.

    Anyway, I’m at work, its dead, and I’m starting to ramble….. 😉

  • SharkeySure

    Ps. You’re 100% right about that roundabout in Dover !!!

  • Gf60

    Good article and pics Walter. Lucky you’ve still got so much hair!

  • Tommo

    Walter – thank you for sharing your experience on match day! It was a great read. The game was as you say, a great great GREAT victory! Smashing result and some superb goals from captain fantastic. I’m going up to the Bolton game in a couple of weeks, haven’t been to arsenal for a few months so I’ve yet to see the “Arsenalisation” in full. I’m looking forward to seeing the differences.

  • LRV

    Walter: I am speechless. Incredible, your experience. Thank you for sharing.