There's only four teams involved in football's top honours these days, so what's it like to win silverware every season? This is the blog of one football fan who decided to, fully and unconditionally, do the unthinkable and change the football team he supported to spend one season at the top... AND NOW HE'S DOING A SIMILAR THING FOR EURO 2008 WITH A MATE BECAUSE THE SEASON'S FINISHED AND THEY'RE BOTH BORED

Archives for: December 2007

Lofty ambitions

29/12/07

The Silly Season’s parent’s are moving out of the parental home in Stockport, where I spent so many years being ridiculed (but enjoying the attention) for being a Norwich fan.

As well as throwing up endless memories, a quick search in the attic produced a couple of classic football finds, including this: the pennant for Norwich City’s biggest match of all time.

The other find was a pair of Mitre Norwich shorts from 1996… I don’t think we need a picture of them though.

Those really were the days for me… Some will no doubt disagree, but I think European football is far more important than winning any domestic trophy.

The best bit’s got to be the inclusion of the football though, just in case you thought it was a cricket match…

It may have been Norwich’s finest hour, but this discovery has left me in my first real hour of need since starting The Silly Season. I’m an emotional wreck at the moment because of this experiment… Might go on a soul-searching mission with a few footie mates, and return at the start of the new year with some answers as to where my heart lies.

Match prediction: I think Arsenal are enduring a real wobble at the moment. Everton 2-1 Arsenal…

And considering I’m having a wobble of my own, let’s have the Norwich prediction too. Norwich 2-1 Wolves.

Mouse abuse

25/12/07

Happy Christmas from The Silly Season.

It’s probably a little late for presents, but here’s the best of Arsenal’s Superstore gift range. The most worrying? I’d say the poor little mouse who was probably minding its own business on Holloway Road before being swiped off the streets and having his stomach branded with a hot iron.

THE SILLY SEASON TV

Congratulations to Norwich City for climbing clear of The Championship relegation zone. Please don’t go down this season or I will be lynched.

In other news, I was quite rightly branded as “naive” by The Family last Saturday for predicting Spurs would lose 5-1. So, here we go: Portsmouth 1-2 Arsenal.

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Christmas comes early

24/12/07

Now, I know I said that £67 for the cost of a ticket for any match - derby or not - was a massive rip-off.

But that was Worth. Every. Penny.

A beautiful back-heel to set up a superb goal; a brilliant equaliser; a missed penalty by Spurs; a winning first touch by a substitute; a bee the size of a tennis ball flying at the crowd where I was sat… this match had it all.

Spurs were way better than anyone was expecting, and Berbatov was a thrilling as Adebayor. What’s confirmed though is that, as I suspected, Faregas is my favourite player. He’s a renaissance painter. I’m told by The Family that he didn’t have a particularly good game, but the contributions he did make were wonderful. Back-heels; beautifully chipped balls straight to the feet of players… Rosicky? Er I saw him lose the ball, once.

This is The Silly Season arriving right on kick off - what a buzz…

THE SILLY SEASON TV

I really wasn’t expecting the game to be that good. What I was expecting was the feeling of ugliness - that undercurrent. Something that, thankfully these days, is only confined to the arrests of a few boozed-up loud-mouths. However, I’m reliably informed by The Family that ’stuff’ does go on later in the evening, and that there had been some ‘action’ on Highbury Corner before I had arrived. Here’s the pre-match tension (not a great deal happens here, but, if you look carefully at the fluorescent coats in the bottom left of the screen 21 seconds in, you can just make out someone being arrested).

THE SILLY SEASON TV

Plus, I’m sure this drill-bit had just been dropped on Holloway Road the day before by a trustworthy handy man on his way to fix a door or something… Funny how you don’t see things like that when it’s a run-of-mill home fixture against Wigan though.

What a day. Biggest surprise? I involuntarily jumped out of my seat and screamed when Bendtner headed the winner. It’s the first Arsenal goal I’ve celebrated ‘organically’, if you like. Whether it’s because I’ve made the emotional transformation from my old team, or I was understandably highly absorbed remains to be seen.

Arsenal fans: "Seriously, don’t wear colours"

21/12/07

In the words of John Motson: this is getting better and better and better.

Spurs in the League Cup semi-final… AC Milan in the European Cup… The Family are ecstatic. To be honest I think they’d be happy if they played Spurs every week.

They’ve all been going on about tomorrow’s match for weeks, so here’s a few things they said in the pub as part of The Silly Season’s crash-course in the north London derby.

“There’s no getting away from the fact that they are to a man, in-bred, knuckle dragging, malnourished, ugly scumbags.”

“Never wear colours to a league game, although for the cup I usually do. Don’t know why, but the rules are the rules.”

“Up until fairly recently it wasn’t unusual for someone to watch Arsenal at home one week, and then watch Spurs the next.”

“Things notched up in the ’70s and ’80s when football violence was at its peak, but you can read reports of people carrying knives and getting stabbed from the 1930s.”

Surely that’s not true… People didn’t disagree about stuff in the ’30s - they just shook hands really quickly. Did they even have knives? Anyway, the best and, frankly, most frightening pearl of wisdom was saved until last:

“Seriously, if you are travelling on your own, I suggest you don’t wear colours. Take it easy, and just be aware of who is around you.”

Riiiight. Well if I do make it to the stadium I’m looking forward to seeing Fabregas play for the first time - I want him to be my favourite player. Also Diaby after that goal at Blackburn.

Score prediction? Lot’s of injuries and suspensions for Spurs’ defence so: Arsenal 5-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Quite simply, this is The One for the Arsenal fans. I hope it is for me.

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CORRECTION:
The Silly Season would like to apologise to fans of Tottenham Hotspur for - on December 19 - implying that striker Robert Keane does a stupid celebration. I had it pointed out to me by Hobbsy at work that he “doesn’t do it any more because he thinks he might hurt himself". What a twat. Not Hobbsy…

Here’s the celebration in all it’s glory. Would you believe that, as if it isn’t bad enough done by Keane himself, Spurs fans then go on holiday and impersonate the bloody thing…

THE SILLY SEASON TV

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Also saw this on the BBC sport website today (Friday):

The first legs of the first Uefa Cup kockout stage will be played on 13 & 14 February

Cup for it

19/12/07

The north London derby tension is hotting up, and now The Silly Season is getting involved…

I know I said I had no reason to hate Spurs in earlier posts but, fittingly, one Spurs fan appears to have decided they’ve got absolutely no problem hating me. This lovely comment was nestling in the comments box:

“Your a Prize c**t, f**k off back to tractor land and leave north London football to those who grew up with it and undwerstand it. C**T C**T C**T.”

I suppose I genuinely have a grievance now. I can take my hatred of Spurs to Ashburton Grove on Saturday and swear my head off legitimately. Thing is though, that’s just one nutter, not a whole football club. I mean, I’m really excited about this match, but that’s because The Family are salivating at the prospect.

Naturally I went crying to The Family on email about this comment. Outraged, they sent me back a retort.

If I had the wings of a sparrow
If I had the arse of a crow
I’d fly over Tottenham tomorrow
And shit on the bastards below, below, below.

Thanks lads… It’s no ‘On The Ball City’, but…

I’d better find reasons to hate Spurs for Saturday then:

Shirt? Nah, White shirts and navy shorts are quite a good neutral combo.

Fans? Hobbsy and Alan, the Spurs fans at work? Nah, they’re alright.

History against Norwich? Well, Norwich have always been absolutely tonked by Spurs for many years – fairly and squarely. Plus, there’s a long and established bloodline of Spurs rejects who have served Norwich City well (Ian Crook, Mark Bowen etc).

Ground? Well, it’s quite a nice double-tier affair to be honest.

Robbie Keane? Yes! THAT F**KING GOAL CELEBRATION! Christ, did he choreograph that ridiculous forward roll/smoking gun thing when he was drunk? Anyone who thinks that is, in any way, a good thing must be shot. Some Spurs fans must like it, so by way of reasoned thought, I have my reason for hating Tottenham.

Well, it’s no less stupid than me being a “c**t” for choosing to support a football team.

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Last night’s dramatic result against Blackburn handed me my biggest cheer for Arsenal of The Silly Season so far. Not sure why, but I’m really buzzing off the idea of watching Arsenal get ever closer to silverware (something English football no longer allows me to do as a Norwich fan). I think I secretly hold the League Cup close to my heart, as it’s Norwich’s only cup (won in ‘62 and ‘85).

Not surprised the Arsenal reserves are doing so well though. Many of them won’t play any other first team football this season, which must be determantion to enough stay in the competition. Plus you play in front of 90,000 at Wembley, get a trophy and qualify for the UEFA Cup at the end of it all.

And how on earth did Diaby strike the ball the way he did for the first goal? His technique is totally mystifying, yet beautiful. Here it is…

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3sqm9_01-diaby-blackburn-arsenal-carling_sport

THE SILLY SEASON TV

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The Big Four: Grand Sham Sunday

17/12/07

I was actually half pleased I couldn’t get to the Chelsea match because I was still recovering from the frostbite I got at the Steaua Bucharest match. Plus, if I’d gone I would never have wasted my life on the classic 0-0 draw between Torino and Roma on Channel Five.

Since starting The Silly Season, a number of people have sarcastically asked me whether they have under-arse seat heating at The Emirates… the answer is an emphatic no. Never before have I looked so yearningly at the hospitality tier than last Wednesday, when at half-time, the seats emptied, the doors shut, the blinds went down and the lawyers and city boys quaffed champagne and burgers to keep warm. As most lower-league fans will attest, there are rarely such offensive illustrations of class-divide at Saltergate and the like. We all freeze together on Planet Real Football. I mean, who wants to go to a live football match and have their own bar, food and bog there in front of them - all with zero queuing? OK, let’s be honest, it must be heaven. I’d sit there and rattle my jewellery if, I had any.


AFC hospitality

The Chelsea match was a good game for any fan. Arsenal back to full strength - with the return of Fabregas, Hleb and Flamini - looked like a great team again, and the game ended in a loss for Chelsea with Ashley Cole lying on the turf in pain. You don’t need to spend a season trying to be an Arsenal fan to enjoy that.

This weekend’s Clash Of The Big Four has highlighted one thing though:

I lucked out going for the Gooners. It’s looks inceasingly that United and Arsenal are the two strongest clubs of the Four, so my attempts at a season-long smash and grab on the game’s silverware using Arsenal as my vehicle is looking strong at Christmas.

Remember? I chose Arsenal at the start of the season after emailing each of the four clubs. Arsenal (the club I chose because I was least offended by them as a small club fan) and United (the club who’s website www.manutd.com bollocked me for not being real after I asked them to convince me to join them).

Which reminds me, I never did email them all to tell which club I chose. I’ll do it now…

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Talking of being offended by The Big Four, me and few other football ‘experts’ came up with this intriging made up statistic in the pub the other day…

The Big Four’s Premier League Of Hate standings:

Club Percentage of football fans who hate them
Man United 96%
Chelsea 92%
Liverpool 60%
Arsenal 40%

That seem right? Or do you disagree?

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Score predictions aren’t going well - I haven’t won any money from Labrokes for weeks. They were chucking it away at the start of this experiment. I don’t know anymore… Er, Blackburn 0-2 Arsenal for Tuesday’s Carling Cup quarter final at Ewood?

On the ball Arsenal

14/12/07

I missed the first goal… Too used to a sluggish lower-league match, where nothing usually happens unless there’s a howling error, I took to my seat 10 minutes into the match and missed the best goal of the night. Where was my seat you say? Yep, right next to the goal Arsenal were attacking.

Great atmosphere though - I was treated to a number of Highbury hits, such as ‘1-0 To The Arsenal’, ‘Champions League? You’re Having A Laugh’ and the classic ‘Stand Up If You Hate Tottenham’. I stood up, but only because I couldn’t see anything when 58,000 others do. I don’t actually hate Tottenham… How can I?

Despite being the coldest match since Grimsby away (January ‘95, Norwich won 1-0 - an Ian Crook bullet) I had the pleasure of seeing some silky skills from the likes of Traore and Denilson. It’s great stuff to watch, and even when Arsenal switched off completely in the second half the Steaua fans next to me were great entertainment value. It turns out the ‘wanker’ sign is recognised in Eastern Europe. In fact, Steaua would have nicked it 2-3 if not for wasted chances.

I can’t lie though, there was something missing tonight. It was my first ever Champions League match, and there were thousands of fans singing around me all game long, but I left with one song in my head. Famous Norwich City anthem ‘On The Ball City’… I don’t know why - it was just there, and I couldn’t shake it. Maybe it’s sign. Maybe my support for Norwich is burned on to my brain, and there’s nothig I could do about it. I went to bed with it going round and round my head.

Strangest thing of the night though? Two blokes in Norwich shirts were apparently in the pub where I was meeting The Family [Arsenal fans] drink, but they left just before I arrived. It’s a small pub hidden well away from the main road, and Norwich weren’t even playing that night, let alone in London. Bit scary maybe?

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In other news… I did it. I beat The Man. I managed to walk into The Emirates stadium filming on my tiny little camera without being accused of streaming it live to Australian TV or whatever. Problem was, I was late, so I annoyed the whole row getting to my seat. I really, really hate doing that…

Good view of a beautiful stadium though.

THE SILLY SEASON TV

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Score prediction: Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea (I don’t know why, I just can’t get past that scoreline in my head)

Trophy life

12/12/07

“When I was a shepherd, I was killing the old sheep for meat and I was selling the lame sheep to replace them with new, young sheep able to produce healthy lambs.” - Steaua Bucharest owner Gigi Becali.

Ah yes, that sounds like the eccentric metaphor of a continental club owner… The oak-smoked aroma of the tabac; the sugary stench of glazed fruits… Europe – God, I’ve missed you. After being given a taster of the glorious UEFA Cup as a teenager, I’ve pined for years to follow my team to the dusty, smoke-filled stadiums of Italy or snow-covered, Eastern Bloc concrete bowls of power.

OK, so I’ll be watching this match at the nice’n'clean, (no filming here, and don’t breathe our air please) Emirates Stadium for tonight’s visit of the worst team in the Champions League this season, but it’s a start. And it’s very, very exciting. I know any neutral can go to a European match and enjoy it, but I’m in the zone. I’m supporting Arsenal, and ‘we’ need to win tonight to hopefully take first place in the group to make it easier in the knock-out stage.

It’s my first ever Champions League match and, if I’m honest, this is the one I want to win more than anything. Why? Well, the silverware I’m chasing this season… It’s a once in a lifetime chance for me, isn’t it. If I end up returning to Norwich next season it’ll never happen again at this level. I wish they hadn’t abolished the Anglo-Italian Cup… I probably would never have needed to embark on this crusade if they hadn’t. Actually, that’s bollocks.


The Anglo-Italian Cup
(thanks to Notts County FC)

I feel very guilty about what I’m doing… but is it a crime to lust after silverware? Just for one season at least? I accept this whole experiment could be a pointless exercise if Arsenal don’t win anything, but it’s so exciting to know the team you support could actually win something. Honestly, until you’re in this position, you don’t know how exciting it is. Supporting any football club has it’s elements of excitement and surprise, but knowing you’ve got a real chance to win rally helps.

Maybe it’s just the novelty of this season supporting Arsenal. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t felt like this for years. Either way, it’s becoming apparent that there are major benefits to being part of The Big Four.

Carl Bradshaw ate my finger

10/12/07

I’m not bitter because Arsenal lost, and I’m not turning on the team, but Eboue’s a charmless, angry little man isn’t he? I mean, does anyone like him in the dressing room I wonder?

In case you didn’t see the incidents during the Middlesbrough, he slapped a player in the face because he wasn’t strong enough to fight off a challenge and then deliberately tried to murder Stuart Downing with his studs. That player seems quite unpleasent, on the pitch anyway. To me it really seems to upset the balance of concentration for the rest of the team - the other players don’t behave like dicks, so why should he?

Then again, other clubs do tend to try to muscle Arsenal out of their stride away from home, so Eboue’s antic’s could put players off in the future.

But it seems some of the lifelong Arenal fans feel the same. One of The Family said to me the other day: “I was frustrated by Eboue. Looks a solid enough player, but can’t stand the diving and histrionics. Despite what people would have you believe, Arsenal aren’t any more or less guilty than any other English club as far as this goes (except for him).”

Want proof?

Here’s a quick video of him cheating in the 2006 Champions League Final…

THE SILLY SEASON TV

I’ve never been a fan of your ‘nutter’ player like Dennis Wise or Robin Friday - hooligans of the pitch, if you will. And, I’ve never seen a Norwich player behave like a bloody fool… Well, apart from when Mike Milligan fly-kicked that Tranmere player and got sent off. And when Carl Bradshaw bit that taxi driver’s finger. And when Daryl Sutch missed that penality in the play-off final against Blirmingham. And Colin Woodthorpe… just by being Colin Woodthorpe.

But you get my point. I loved all the players who wore the yellow jersey, yet I find myself being very unforgiving of Arsenal’s players, probably because they play for a massive club. Once again I’m letting my Underdog Against The Rest Of The World anger get the better of me.

Or maybe I’m angry for another reason - because I’m beginning to care about Arsenal’s results. Maybe I am bitter because Arsenal lost.

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Earning your Spurs

07/12/07

Yes… The Family have come good. They’ve got me a ticket for Arsenal Vs Spurs – “the biggest game of the season”.

Oh, how much is it going to cost, you ask? Why, only £67 effin’ quid!

I’m still looking forward to it… provided the seat’s made of gold, I get to choose who plays and the beer’s free.

All the Arsenal fans were talking about in the pub after the Wigan match was the derby. To be honest, from the outside looking in, I’ve never seen the north London derby as much of a draw. But, I’m told it’s hardcore… One of the few matches left for Arsenal that still has real tension and buzz, so The Family say. A tension that’s been lost by the sanitisation of the club.

I’m told this is one of the great derby moments…

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European Cup Final Fund
So, I got the score wrong for Arsenal Vs Newcastle yesterday. I went for 2-2. I had predicted a draw though, so I’m still a genius – just one that doesn’t win money from Labrokes any more.

As a result the European Cup Final Fund is reducing pretty rapidly (£36). I should probably explain, that, if I’m gong to spend a season watching Arsenal, then I should put some money aside for major finals in case they make it. After all, one of the reasons for this experiment was to see my adopted club lift a major honour, now that it can’t ever happen for Norwich or any of the other 87 clubs.

Thing is, this fund might have to get me to Moscow (where the final’s being held) and then a ticket (which could be hundreds of pounds). At this rate I’m going to have to sell the car.

To donate leave a comment stating how much you want to give and your card details.
Thanks…

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Score prediction: Middlesbrough 1-2 Arsenal

Getting shirty

05/12/07

Good to see Norwich won last night - that’s 9 points out of 12 now. Looks like they’re going to be safe thankfully - I was being blamed by a number of Norwich fans for the team hitting bottom of the table. Seriously… like it was my fault because I ‘left’ for a season.

One of those fans is Gary - my mate who I used to watch Norwich with before I took on this crazy experiment. To be honest I thought he’d forgiven me for this, and we’d even been to the pub to watch the East Anglian derby together a couple of weeks back (yeah, yeah I broke the rules, I know).

Bizarrely, though, our friendship has taken another turn for the worse, after he read my comment a couple of days ago about how I “took seconds to get over the fact that Norwich had lost to a last-minute goal at Stoke". Seriously, he was furious. He sent me an email yesterday explaining his displeasure using his broad vocabulary of expletives. I emailed back asking to meet up in the pub so he could explain why he was more pissed off now than before while we watched the Arsenal Vs Newcastle match… No reply - I guess that wound him up even more.

I’ll offer to buy the drinks.. that’ll soften him up - then I’ll find out why he’s not talking to me.

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In other news, I was admiring the Arsenal shirt I bought the other day.

I bought a retro one of course - I’m a bit of an moaning old git when it comes to new shirts, and how they’re tainted by advertising and gold lettering and stuff. Plus the price of shirts are a joke. Retro shirts aren’t cheap from The Armoury (Arsenal’s club sho… superstore), but when you’re a as small as I am, then you have to buy the shirt size for 11 to 12-year-olds. Just £20, which means I win… I’ve beaten The Man.

But then I thought, as if I haven’t been a hypocrite enough this season, that I’m ignorantly wearing a shirt from an Arsenal era I know nothing about. So, homework time…

It’s a replica of Arsenal’s 1971 double-winning shirt. Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Charlie George, Blahry Blahreson…

Turns out that Charlie George goal - the one where he scores in the last minute and slides along the turf on his back (played every three seconds somewhere across the world) is the 1971 double-winning goal. It’s no Jeremy Goss in the Olympic Stadium, but it’s fairly dramatic… I’ll give them that.

The cat’s in the picture because he was in that mood cat’s have where he would jump on the shirt whenever I tried to move it and wouldn’t let go, so I had no choice but to picture him with it.

Nice shirt… great badge. I have shirt pride.

Heart on head, I don't know where I stand

03/12/07

Well, if England had qualified, it would have been the most exciting draw day for years yesterday. But they didn’t, and it wasn’t. More so though because Arsenal didn’t draw Norwich in the FA cup - that would have been weird.

I know that so far I’ve been alluding to the fact that I’ve not really felt anything for Arsenal, and Norwich have still been tugging at the heartstrings, but this weekend saw a possible shift in my footballing emotions…

Like every committed armchair football fan I was watching the scores roll in on Final Score. Norwich were drawing 1-1 at Stoke, until the last minute, when Stoke to the lead, and the win. The change? I’d usually be cursing that for hours, but I was ‘over it’ in a few seconds. I think I’m beginning to desensitise myself.

Arsenal rode their luck a little bit against Villa, but were a class above. Of course it was exciting to watch, but I still didn’t hit the roof when Adebayor scored. I was offered a ticket to the Villa game by one of The Family, but didn’t spend the money because the Champions League Final Fund is not looking too healthy anymore after I lost money betting on the Arsenal score. Down to £39 now - my winning streak at Ladbrokes looks like it’s come to an end.

——————-

The best thing about FA Cup day? The quotes… Now, I’m not saying I’m any better after my stuttering on the radio when being interviewed for this blog, but I loved these two muddled quotes on Five Live on Sunday

Chasetown’s manager (of the game aganist Port Vale): “We’ll be hanging from the town’s church spira if we beat them tonight. Or whatever.”
Eh? There’s a chocolate church in Chasetown?

The Life President of Harrogate Railway about their match against Mansfield: “I really think we have a chance this time - heart on head, I believe we could do it.”
‘Hand on heart’ is usually a less gory way to express yourself, but never underestimate the passion of British football fans…


You’ll be surprised to know I couldn’t find a picture of someone holding a heart above their head, so a Spira will have to do I’m afraid.

The Silly Season

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