If I believed in a god, I’d thank him or her for letting me be there yesterday

By Tony Attwood

Where to begin?

I will quote from the Guardian this morning.

Wenger, to put it into context, has now won this trophy more times than Everton and Manchester City, and on as many occasions as West Ham, Sunderland and Leeds combined.

That’s quite a thought to kick us off.

I mentioned before that my friends didn’t get FA Cup final tickets, but I did, and so although I had the good fortune to be there, I had the journey to and from the Midlands on my own which took the shine off it a little.  Football is best taken with friends.

For reasons that will not become clear at this point I turned on BBC Radio 5 for companionship as I set out soon after midday and listened to seemingly everyone talking up Villa, talking about how they clearly had a secret approach – perhaps the line up, perhaps the tactics, perhaps managerial nous (of which of course Mr Wenger has none) – which would take Arsenal by surprise and mean the underdogs would win.

They had, we were told, swatted Liverpool aside, and Liverpool were a mean lean cup winning machine, we were told, and this was going to be a really great and surprising cup final.

And so it was – although I could have done without the guy two along from me spending the first half telling his mate in a loud voice how this was going to be “another one of those days”, and how we weren’t taking our chances and were tactically naive.

Really, it is staggering that someone with such overwhelming insight and knowledge is not managing a top team by now.  How does our nation let this happen?  The Secretary of State for Education has questions to answer, methinks.

But at least he (the guy two along from me, not the Secretary of State) shut up in the second half.  I feel sorry for his mate, who sat next to me.  I only had most of one half of it, and then at one person removed.  He has to listen to the appalling turgid crap each time he goes to a game.

Wembley itself was Wembley as we have come to know and be bemused by it.   There were thousands, tens of thousands probably, milling about by the time they managed to get the gates open.  We did get an apology on the speakers telling us that they knew we were out there (well there was a bloody cup final on so it was more than likely) and they would open the gates soon.  But why delay?  We’ll never know.

Inside, I thought I might have the drink I normally have. I had deliberately not gone to one of the pubs – no fun drinking in a pub without one’s mates, and the pubs at Wembley on a scale of 1 to 10 score about minus 156 for comfort, quality of drink, service etc etc.  And they charge you £10 to go inside.

So I thought I’d partake of a glass of the red before taking my seat.  But no, Wembley doesn’t sell red wine.  It sells white wine, but not red.  (If you are not a wine drinker, that won’t mean anything, but take it from me, it is daft).  Hey ho.  At least I didn’t try the food.

And ultimately to the game.  Oh, the excitement of the Villa crowd as Aston Villa attacked en masse, towards the …

half way line.

And that was it.  As far as I can tell I have been at the first ever cup final in which one side never had a single shot.

Villa fans were leaving 15 minutes before the end … 15 minutes before the end of a cup final.  What sort of support is that?  But then, this was the team which, according to Radio 5, was going to take the game to Arsenal with their secret tactics.  Yep, the tactic of not having a shot.  Ah Tim Sherwood.  The great hope of English management.

Some Villa fans, let’s be fair, most Villa fans, stayed to the end.  But to have any at all who walk out before the end of the Cup Final is awful.  It is not what support is about – at least not in my view.

This was one of the great Cup Finals, and certainly the greatest I have had the honour to be at.  And it was more – sitting there, Billy No Mates, I remembered one other wonderful occasion, one that I often think of as a key moment in my life of supporting Arsenal – the final match of the Unbeaten Season.   Being at that is a memory to cherish, but this was so much more of a thrilling game.

And although I haven’t been back to check, it was something else too.  A game in which I think I more or less predicted the team right. That’s a first I think.

There was a most almighty cheer, one hour before kick off as the teams were read out and Theo’s name came up.  Everyone loved the idea, and of course it was right – it wasn’t a different tactic from Villa, it was the change from Arsenal that turned the game.  They were not ready for this, and really didn’t know what to do.  (Maybe they should have watched our final home match of the season).

So we won the cup for the second year running – it doesn’t happen that often and Arsenal have now done it twice… under Wenger.  We are the all-time record holders, Arsene Wenger has equalled the record (set in the early days of football when the number of entrants was often tiny) of winning the FA Cup the most times, we have equalled the top score for a Wembley final…

And here’s something I didn’t hear on the radio… it will make it even easier to sign new players.

What the aaa have never understood is that Wenger is admired and adored in the footballing world for his ability to turn good players into great players, and great players into world beaters.  Footballers want to play for him.  But the aaa’s constant sniping made an impact and made players worry about our future, despite being in the Champs League each year.  What sort of club, it asks, has supporters like that?

Now, with not only winning the cup two years running, twice, and being all time record holders for the number of wins (half of which have been achieved under Arsene Wenger) we showed the world how we can play and dominate a game.  Wenger’s Arsenal Mark II.

This was one of the great performances in the Cup Final.  I’ve not watched it again on TV yet, but I suspect when I do later today, it will be even more so.  This was indeed an Arsène Wenger team that delivered one of the great moments of his amazing time with us.

This was Arsenal playing with style, distinction, pomp, and overwhelming certainty that they showed during the Unbeaten Season, and it is now back in the team.

And tucked away in my head as I came home rather late last night was the fact that over the last few weeks I have been taking the occasional pot shot at Liverpool, because I truly do believe that the media coverage of them has been wholly misleading.  But the fact that Villa knocked Liverpool out in the semi shows the weaknesses Liverpool have.  We were not that good in the semi, I fully admit, but we pulled ourselves together and got through.  Liverpool couldn’t even beat Villa.

And that reminds me of another thing from Radio 5.  They must have wheeled out 20 people before the game to say how Arsenal never turn up at the Cup Final, ignoring the fact that going into the game we were equal first in the cup winning records.

I haven’t had a chance yet to look at the newspaper reports, but I did take a quick glance at the Guardian, which gave me the opening line of my little report here.   They also have this …

Wenger’s players did not fumigate the sport to the degree required [as a result of Fifa] but they did at least remind us about the reasons why we care so much for this daft old game and what makes it so great when everything comes together.

Santi Cazorla decorated the pitch with his mix of high skill and football intelligence. Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey provided the supporting cast and Alexis Sánchez left a wonderful calling card

And let me pick out one more.  Remember Héctor Bellerín – and remember the quotes I ran the other day from just a couple of the thousands of commentators who said he and Coquelin were just not good enough.  Just remember that, next time someone pronounces on a Wenger youth discovery.

If I believed in a god, which I don’t, I would thank him (or her) for allowing me to be there yesterday.  It was a fitting way to commemorate the day of the passing of Ted Drake, the man who scored seven goals for Arsenal in one game, defeating Aston Villa.

Anniversary of the Day from the “Arsenal On this Day” files…

31 May 1947: Manager George Allison resigned, ending a 37 year association with the club.  His final act was to write his autobiography: Allison Calling (a title which makes reference to his long-term work as a radio commentator). In the book Allison’s review of the Norris era contrasts starkly with Knighton’s, and calls into question many of Knighton’s assertions. Ludicrously it is Knighton’s book, written 22 years after he left the club, which is used as the prime source of history by many writers.


34 Replies to “If I believed in a god, I’d thank him or her for letting me be there yesterday”

  1. WHAT A MATCH! WHAT A DAY! Now on to the parade! Great article Tony. Some should hang their head in shame about what they said about Arsène Wenger. The greatest manager we ever had.

  2. I’ve just written up the Arsenal History Society article for the day and the new entry in the Anniversary Files. That says,

    30 May 2015: Arsenal 4 Aston Villa 0, FA Cup Final. Arsenal become only the second team in the 20th/21st centuries to win the Cup two years running, twice. Arsenal also become the first team in those centuries to score seven in successive cup finals.

  3. Watched the game from Maldives, and it was such a joy!
    Thanks to everyone at the club, and congrats to all Gunners & Gooners.
    We are unbeaten in the cup for 2 years. Does anyone know what’s the record for that?

  4. Here’s the answer to my own question;

    Most consecutive wins in FA Cup: 3, joint record:
    Wanderers (1876, 1877, 1878)
    Blackburn Rovers, (1884, 1885, 1886)

    That means no team has won 3 FA Cups in a row in 130 years.

  5. Great game. Great article.
    Many Thanks for the best web site around.

  6. Let’s make it 3 times in a row next! Dam we havent won a trophy for how long? Wenger out!

  7. Great day all round. The players should be very very proud of themselves, Looking at the press, word seems to be getting round that Wenger is actually a bit,special. The fans in the Emirates yesterday certainly thought so.
    Don’t want to get too ahead of myself on such a weekend but interesting interview with Wenger. He was asked about his future, he said the usual, he had two years on his contract. He also stated directly that when the time comes, if he feels he is doing well, he will sit down as normal with the board. A tantalising hint there could be more to come from this great man, who is clearly enjoying himself these days?
    hopefully a nice relaxing summer on the football front, for the first time in years, I don’t give a flying whether we buy or not this summer, because what we have and will hopefully keep is exceptional and is only going to get better.

  8. Francis – it is not important enough to me to discuss. Religion is there, there is nothing I can do about, although I wish I could be accorded the same amount of freedom to do my own thing as Christians are accorded in the UK. But we have Bishops sitting in the upper house of government, so it is unlikely to happen.

    But thanks for your interest.

  9. Glad you had such a great day. Too bad about the wine though, I know how a nice glass of Rioja can make all the difference in a cup final. Hope you didn’t end up having any of that watered down Fosters that they serve at Wembley.

  10. Does any one remember what happened the next season, the last time we won successive FA cup finals! May be I should start praying right now. Loved the match which I watched from tiny Uganda, 3000 miles away. From our academy we had CZCZCZ, Gibbs, Coquelin, Wilshire. Not a bad return, is it? In a way, we could even claim Bellerin and Ramsey!

  11. Watching Arsenal as there were yesterday is perhaps a near religious experience for some. And we do have the Welsh Jesus in our ranks.
    Tony, nice part of the world to live in, some good pubs up there as well, the Toby Norris in Stamford would be my favourite !

  12. Firstly, my Congratulations! to every Gunners, Gooners, the Boss and his coaching staff, Ivan Gazidis and his staff and the Arsenal FC owners for the Gunners retaining the FA Cup yesterday at Wembley Stadium. We thank the Almighty God for this remarkable success. And we pray to Him to give us bigger success next season. Since Arsenal have been abled to retain the FA Cup, I think they have the opportunity to win it again for a joint 3rd time record with Wolves and Blackburn. While Theo Walcott has appeared to have geared up for next season title challenge, I want to caution all the Gunners to be calm over the Gunners title success in next season and first enjoy their summer break. They should all wait until they first played their 3 – 6 Premier League games next season before they can start to talk a bit about a title challenge. The Gunners should strife to have a good pre-season outings by winning the Emirates Cup for the first time. The Gunners should not be obsessed with winning the Premier League title at the expense of the League Cup and the Champions League which they are yet to win. The Gunners must seize the available opportunity to beat Jose Mourinho manage Chelsea team for the first time at Wembley Stadium next season to the Charity Sheild which they must do. I will be looking forward to the Gunners next season opening success start by winning the friendly ties Emirates Cup and the official Charity Sheild. Then other silverwares can follow. Let me appeal to Szczesny to honestly used his summer break to go home in Poland and apologise to his father who brought him to this world and put him in school before he became a top Gunners. I am disappointed with Szczesny calling his father’s comment a ”idiotic comment” to make the Boss give him a start in the FA Cup final. Szczesny must show genuine respect to his paternal and maternal parents at all times. Just because Szczesny has made money does not give him the licence to be washing the dirtiness in his family in the public.

  13. Bus loaded with silver and stars and moving forward.
    Brilliant day yesterday, hopefully many more to come. Well done to all.

    Why oh why do the lads need to be chugging beer on TV at 11:00 in the morning? You did a great job and certainly celebrate but 11:00 hrs?
    Grow up fellas, show some example to the kids.

  14. Just fantastic! Delighted to be there and revel in the masterclass – although felt a little sorry for Villa by the end (some good mates follow them and I did occasionally watch them as a student). To never have even a short spell in 90 minutes, and not to force a single save must have been utterly depressing.

    A friend of mine confidently predicted last week that we would win and Wenger would walk away on a high. I even more confidently offered him odds of 10-1 and a fair chunk of cash that that wouldn’t happen. He then retreated.

    If he is healthy and willing as long as possible please!

    Heard a snippet on Radio 5 phone in last night where one “supporter” claimed he still wanted Wenger out. He was met with total ridicule from the pundits. Of course the pundits only think of the last game, but it was still quite amusing!

  15. Wenger doesn’t do tactics!!! LOL LOL. He mullered Aston Villa with Wengerball.

    What a tic tak display to shove up the gobs of all those commentators. Alexis showed what he has in his locker – the most beautiful goal to behold watched by billions on TV.

    The nerves were stilled by Theo’s opener. The joy of Alexis’ shot from distance & the wonderful headed goal by our captain. The cherry on the top by Giroud. The stunning display by our youngsters specially Hector Bellerin. He stayed back to ensure a good defense and went forward when required. Brilliant play & great management by the Greatest Manager ever – Arsene Wenger.

  16. No no no no no no Samuel – we dont have the so-called ‘almighty god’ to thank; we have one of the greatest managers to have ever lived to thank. Or perhaps our great lord took a break from the earthquake disaster and thought that a football match was a much more important thing to focus on. And perhaps we just didnt win the league because not enough of your bloody hedons prayed for us?!

  17. @Tony

    Last year I was in a similar position to yourself. I had a ticket but not my chums. This year I had the great fortune to go with a good friend and my son. It was wonderful.

    I agree entirely with your comments about Héctor Bellerín and Francis Coquelin but the comments throughout the season that riled me were those that cannot or refuse to see just how good Mesut Ozil is. It is a pleasure to watch him play. But yesterday the whole team were superb. But my last word must go to Arsene Wenger. I am so pleased for him. He continues to go about his business with a quiet dignity. I know it wont shout up the moaners but really it should.

    Anyway I saw this on Arsenal TV and pro Wenger. It’s brilliant. Whoever this chap is…well said and well played – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3xPN087SqU

  18. The media have to ‘talk up’ the underdog in the FA Cup final It’s tradition, the romance of the cup etc etc. They’d have preferred Reading or Blackburn to have been playing against a PL team, just to drill home the ‘romance’ tag.

    Tim clearly thought that if they could ‘get to’ Ozil/Santi quickly then it would lessen their impact (which it didn’t). Then they could pressure the ‘weakness’ of HB, NM, PM and FC, but they hadn’t appreciated the quality of those guys and how well they could protect & pass the ball. Hector, Nacho and Coq all played their way past their markers on a number of occasions and that was something the AV players didn’t expect!
    I was worried on one of their attacks as the CBs lost Benteke and Hector had to mark him. He did it superbly and benteke could do nothing when the ball got to him except play it back to a MF player that had Aaron (I think) in close attendance.
    Really good showing by every one of the guys on the pitch.

  19. Jammy J,

    Please forgive Samuel. He is a Yoruba from Nigeria just like yours truly and they have a reputation for being overly religious. God (who I believe is a figment of people’s imagination) has nothing to do with this just like he wasn’t responsible for our painful losses in 2006 and 2011.

    Unfortunately for Samuel, his culture considers it arrogance to not attribute any good thing that happens to you to God.

  20. Thank you , Tony , for this , the oh , so positive Arsenal / AW blog that we AKBs all believe in wholeheartedly ( in ARSENALesque fasion – from ARSENAL 13
    May 30, 2015 at 7:20 pm!) and for the feel good factor and positivity that it gives all of Arsenaldom ( or Gunnerdom , borrowing a phrase from the post of the APOLOGIST-@May 30, 2015 at 8:45 pm in the previous article !).
    C’est Magnifique- merci beaucoup !

    And thank you also for giving us the chance and the platform to humiliate , bash , swat , flick off ‘them ‘ unbelievers and those ostriches with disdain and the contempt their ilk justly deserve . It is , for me , the greatest joy and rapture !

    Bless you , one and all !

  21. Just watching the recording of the match on BBC in 56.29 & comments 58.30 there was a clear handball. Hutton moved his arm to block the shot at goal. Moss didn’t see it but the commentators show their bias & stupid naivety claiming the arm was in its natural position.

  22. 4-0 to the Arsenal!- Looking back at our last few games, we were saving up all the goals for the last two!!.. And what a performance too.. Simply brilliant! All fourteen of our players were superb but yesterday was as much about them as it was about Wenger.. The last man who managed a team to a sixth FA Cup did it 95 years ago. And great link that, Gooner S- just goes to show the respect that Wenger gets from true fans.

    Credits to Tim Sherwood as well for his post match interview. While yesterday’s game may not have done his credentials as a manager too much good, his conduct and the way he took the defeat were both classy. Quite different from that man named Mourinho who apparently refused to congratulate Arsene. Well, he may win all he wants but he is never going to get the kind of fan, in Gooner S’ link, at any of the clubs that he has managed….

  23. Tony,
    We have a full pantheon of gods, including Arsene Wenger, Bergkamp, Henry, Pires, etc…

  24. I saw a Aston Villa Child with his parent on screen and the look on his face made me feel sorry for villa fans, for a brief moment.
    Then i went back to screaming madly. We’ve done it again, we’ve done it again.
    What a team.

    A great base for future Arsenal.
    We’re still on our path.

    Up ye mighty Gunners, up up and AWAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY.

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