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July 2021

Newcastle Sports Direct Franchise XI vs The Arsenal: The match screening event (part 2*)

Newcastle Sports Direct Franchise XI vs The Arsenal: The match screening event (part 2*)

By Drew Gray (AKA @Blacksheep63)

It was a rather odd Sunday last weekend, partly because I was heading south for London when Arsenal were playing several hundred miles north, and partly because I was going to the Emirates without Tony.

I had decided to go down to the ground to be with fellow sufferers for the final denouement of the season, travelling I must admit more in hope than expectation.  But, if I’m honest, I did reckon we had enough to beat the barcodes and keep destiny in our own hands.

Having listened to Northampton Town get roundly beaten by the Bantams the afternoon before I had no desire to sit in a local pub and watch Arsenal surrounded by unhappy cobblers, Spuds and the ubiquitous United fans. So down the M1 and onto the northern line I went, off at Archway as per usual.

Tony and I usually chat all the way so it was strange to walk the length of Holloway Road in relative silence and without the usual crowds of fans either. I did what I always do when I’m out alone – I observed my surroundings. If you don’t know the place here is a taste of Holloway Road.

It runs downhill from the Archway and the wide street is lined with businesses, many of which have seen better days. I grew up in nearby Tufnell Park (named after the famous Middlesex and England spin bowler) and we regularly went shopping here on Saturdays, but itt didn’t look much like it does now.

However it’s the best place for good strong coffee, but you can also get all manner of greasy take way food here, and if its pubs you want there are loads – many of them with a large Irish clientele. Tony and I usually stop at the Coronet for a very civilised large glass of Merlot and a (less civilised) packet of nuts, but I strolled straight past and headed for the ground.

The club was selling tickets on the day from the Drayton Park office, £8 for members and £10 for non-members. An American couple asked me what was going on – I tried to explain the intricacies of the battle for Champion’s League places but they looked puzzled and wandered off. I handed over my cash (no cards please) and, sheet of A4 in hand, I made my way across the Ken Friar bridge towards the Club Level entrance.

The screening was taking place in that middle space between the lower (where I sit) and upper (where Tony does) tiers, in the posh bit basically. The entrance fee entitled me to a ‘free’ drink (mine’s a small red please) at one of the rather swish bars they have. I could have purchased more alcohol but I was driving.

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Once in, I headed round to the second bar and the back of the carefully laid out seats where fans were gathering. I positioned myself in an alcove behind the  seats because a) I can’t sit still at football and so prefer to stand and b) this was EXACTLY where I stood last year and I’m quite superstitious.

The room filled up quickly as people jostled for position in front of the big screen or many smaller ones. I noticed that several people had taken advantage of the hot snacks on offer while others were being much less frugal than me in their consumption of alcoholic beverages.  One chap in particular who stood near me seemed to imbibe about 3 pints in the 15 minutes before kick-off and I was quite worried he might keel over before we started.

As the game got underway the nervousness in the room was palpable. There were the occasional attempts to get chants going and lots of shouts of ‘come on!’ etc. There was some singing, if a bit disjointed and self-conscious but this improved as the game (and the alcohol consumption) progressed.  At half time there was mix of relief (that it was all square at WHL) and frustration (that we hadn’t really threatened the Newcastle goalie). Things improved immeasurably after half time when Kos scored.

The place erupted and 1-0 to the Arsenal echoed around club level. The stewards shot nervous looks – presumably they are not used to seeing hundreds of noisy oiks infesting the posh area of the ground. The mood levelled as Arsenal failed to capitalise on their league (the story of the season in my opinion) and there was much chewing of nails and worried checking of watches and mobiles to see what ‘them down the road’ were doing. Noise levels were heightened as Theo fluffed his lines and we went into the last few minutes. The noise was so great – singing, shouting, moaning etc – that I totally missed the fact that “the-worlds-best-player-ever” had scored (another) wonder goal and frankly, I was grateful in my ignorance.

Then finally, the whistle went and the outpouring of relief was incredible. I high fived complete strangers and jumped up and down with the rest of the crowd. It felt like a trophy, the elation was real. Ok, it wasn’t one but I felt we had achieved something and I was glad I was there.  The only thing missing was someone to debate it all with on the way home.

So overall I’m glad I went, clearly my careful choice of clothes, positioning and other rituals were the reason we one and the spuds failed so feel free to send me your gestures of thanks (in ‘Arry-style brown envelopes please). But please Arsenal, can we NOT get ourselves in this position again next year because I don’t think my poor heart can take it!

*I call this part 2 because I went along to the Emirates for the screening of last year’s final game away at West Baggy.

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9 comments to Newcastle Sports Direct Franchise XI vs The Arsenal: The match screening event (part 2*)

  • WalterBroeckx

    Cheers Andrew and thanks for the report.
    I can imagine it must be strange sitting in the Emirates when events take place a few hundred miles north.

    Now in any case next time we go for something and you are there just make sure your cloths, place and whatever other rituals (I think Brickfield Gunner has his special pre game rituals 😉 ) are done like you did them this and last year. Thanks for that. 🙂

  • WalterBroeckx

    on they showed a little film on the player. I thought it was even for free. Can’t find it back for the moment. or was it on you tube? or twitter?
    Sorry lost it

  • Sports Direct Franchise XI? Southern humour at its best? Hilarious eh!

  • AL

    Thanks @Blacksheep63. A brown envelope will be winging its way to you shortly. Or better still, if you provide me with your pet dog’s name and his account details we can make that an instant transaction:)

  • Thanks@blacksheep63.i had almost the same experience you had. I was @the rock(here is where the Ugandans ladies wiggle their butts as if there is no tomorrow and if you ask any mzungu who have been to Uganda ooh yeah he damn knows what I’m talking about) opposite the Sheraton hotel Kampala.
    We had several screens showing different matches but the manures where in plenty .Al I just wonder why in Uganda the manures hate us with a passion but love to watch our matches. They shouting a lot as cheat champions and telling us how we are going to Europa, by the way I rather go to Europa and win it after all I play the winner in champions league.
    After we scored in the second half the voices where lowered but they would hit on us that Newcastle will be equalising soon. But their devilish wishes came to pass as it has been always.
    Thanks to GOD kawunyemu the police twats who wait for drunkards on the road are all Gunners they where celebrating and they where never deployed that day.
    We drunk crazy and I don’t even remember how I reached home.
    Hopefully next season we will be celebrating even more than that day.

  • nicky

    Your report was a pleasant and welcome change from the purely football type.More of that sort of thing next season, please.

  • AL

    Couldn’t stop laughing after reading your post; no police on the roads, lmfao.
    Glad to know you had a great time, rubbing it into those manure faces. It was a special day.

  • @AL thanks mate that’s why I love the Arsenal always a class apart everywhere anywhere.

  • Very nice reading. I liked the name ‘barcode’.