You can tell it's another international interlude, as the dearth of decent Premiership material has the media at their most creative. Apart from their wooden spoon efforts to paint Willie Gallas as an outspoken troublemaker (a story that's easy to sell based on the reputation he earned whilst slumming it down at Stamford Bridge), as I was writing the following piece earlier this afternoon, I overheard a Sky Sports News comment concerning the Yanks denial of any efforts to effect an Arsenal buyout.
Who knows, perhaps there is no truth to the story, or perhaps this is merely a belated effort from across the big pond to try and keep the lid on the Arsenal's already soaring share price while they nip in for a touchdown. What we do know (at least according to reports) is that the club's largest shareholder, Danny Fiszman has been flogging off a large chunk of his shares, to the point where his holding is less than the 25 per cent required to rule the boardroom with his veto.
Maybe Fiszman had other reasons for wanting to liquidate his precious Arsenal assets but if not, it seems an odd time to be jumping ship after two trophyless seasons and after sweating it out with the building of the new stadium. With the future on the pitch looking so bright, one might've thought it would've been in his best interests to wait until the revenue from the apartment development at THOF and the new blocks of flats on the Emirates site starts flooding in, to be selling shares when the club was on the up and up, as opposed to while we're still suffering from paying for the stadium on the never never?
To my mind the truth will reveal itself this summer if Arsène actually ends up splashing hard cash, or continues having to paper over the cracks, still playing with both hand tied behind his back financially speaking, trying to polish up more gems from rough young diamonds, while the suits repeated assurances about his £20 million war chest proves to be just that, hot air! Personally I wouldn't be surprised if it's another season or so, before some of all that additional revenue every matchday begins to filter through, to benefit Arsène's team building. That is unless they've already received substantial advance payments for a large number of flats bought off plan.
Myself I will be pleasantly surprised if we spend big this summer. Although the end of season could be influential on the Arsenal suits way of thinking, as if we start seeing plenty of empty seats at the remaining home games, they might start fretting about filling the place for every home game next season, once the new stadium novelty has worn off and all the neutrals and part-timers have emptied their pockets for the privilege of checking out the new gaff. And perhaps for once their will be some substance to their suggestions that Le Prof has access to all the money he needs and Arsène might at long last enjoy an opportunity to splash the cash in Bond Street instead of bargain hunting for seconds in Chapel Street Market once again?
Meanwhile I should warn anyone who's not interested that, as ever on international weeks, there's a distinct Irish focus to the following piece, since it's written primarily with Irish Examiner readers in mind (he who pays the piper and all that). Mind you, if (as mentioned below) I wished I was at the first proper match at the new Wembley at midday on Saturday and then at the first ever football game at Croke Park in the afternoon, the truth of the matter is that with the recent cold spell, in actual fact, above all I'd have preferred to have been sunning mysef beside the Med on a Tel Aviv beach, before heading off to the Ramat Gan Stadium.
However I have to admit that without any current Arsenal involvement in the national team and with probably more family in the Middle East, than over here, I doubt very much that I'd have been supporting Mclaren's team. I'd have needed a special dispensation to join the yid army for one night only!
Going grey around the muzzle and with a bit of a limp due to a dodgy knee, it does seem true that I've taken on some characteristics of our dog, Treacle (or vice-versa). But England played in the exact image of their manager's personality, with no imagination, zero passion and devoid of creativity. Never mind "just like watching Brazil" this was just like watching paint dry and an insomniac's wet dream, as watching on pause on the Sky Plus gadget, I struggled to stay awake. At least if I'd been supporting Israel I would've come away feeling it was a good result and if Saturday's match was an appetiser, heaven knows what the game against Andorra has in store as a viewing spectacle. Ooh I don't know...Andorra v England and Wales v San Marino, there will be some feverish channel hopping in all the excitement of such thrilling international footie...not!
I just hope Staunton has the sense to play Reading's Stephen Hunt from the start, so that the Ireland v Slovakia game is sufficiently attention grabbing to save me from Alan Sugar and this sorcerer's apprentices. Although if various results don't go to plan in the midweek matches then it might well not be the last we hear of his infamous catchphrase before the week is out!
Peace & Love
"They'll Stone You When You're Walking Out The Door"
I’m no great aficionado of international football. Under normal circumstances these unwanted interruptions to the Arsenal’s season are a wind up, as we’re left worrying which of our players are going to end up returning fit following their dispersal to all four corners of the planet. Not to mention our customary disgruntlement with French coach, Raymond Domenech, due to his habitual efforts to do all possible to needle Arsène Wenger, usually by playing Henry for the entire 90 minutes, when other managers appear to be afforded the respect of having their players rested or subbed as soon as possible.
However my total indifference towards this international break was merely another regrettable reminder of our, thankfully unfamiliar antipathy, towards finding ourselves at the end of March, with so little left to play for. If I wasn’t so organisationally challenged, I would’ve sussed that tickets for the England U21 game were only ten quid, as for old time’s sake, I would’ve loved to have travelled that well trodden path around the North Circular to watch the first proper match at the new Wembley stadium.
That enormous arch has occupied an ubiquitous presence on the London skyline ever since it was erected, an unavoidable landmark on my regular travels around this orbital route. Yet where for the past 4 years it was merely a laughable aide-memoire of the incredible incompetence of all those involved in building the most expensive stadium ever, since our ignominious 87th minute cup exit to Blackburn, it’s now become further traumatic testament to the fact that we Gooners won’t be wandering down Wembley Way in May, for the impressive new arena’s inaugural Cup Final.
I guess we should be grateful that the auld enemy won’t be there instead, following last Monday’s QF replay. For most Gooners this was the ultimate definition of a dilemma. A game where really the only acceptable winner would’ve been the referee. In the past Schadenfreude has been the last refuge of the long suffering Spurs fans and it’s taking time for me to come to terms with the shoe being on the other foot. I’ll know we’re in real trouble when this footwear starts to feel comfortable, but in the meantime, with my Spurs mates having endured a constant diet of crow, during countless humiliating seasons, if I’m entirely honest, I’m trying to make the best of this utterly foreign bad lot, by having some fun with it.
Sadistically speaking, I’d have preferred for them to have endured the more painful option of a semi-final exit. Yet with my inkling that the Lilywhites’ name might be on Europe’s Mickey Mouse Cup (after their bye in the last round), I suppose the sooner, the better that their already swollen heads were burst by a bit of a reality check. One of my Spurs pals was thinking of taking his 6-year old son to his first floodlight match. I texted him immediately afterwards, to suggest that it was probably in the poor kid’s interest for him to become acquainted with the taste of disappointment. However the boy’s match ticket never materialised and after hearing his Ma had allowed him to stay up to watch the first half on the box, my sympathies lay with his Da, at the thought of him being woken at the crack of dawn, by the enthusiastic sprog bouncing onto his bed, wanting to know the final score!
Meanwhile we learn what it’s like to look to towards the end of the season, whilst trying to calculate the least catastrophic permutation. The consensus of opinion seems to be anyone but Chelsea for the title. But then the insufferable smugness of all those fake Northern monkeys, heaven forfend the Moaners manage a clean sweep, just doesn’t bear thinking about. We can still cling to the romantic notion of a cup win for one of the two no-hopers, but failing that I suppose most of us would prefer to see Chelsea prevent a Mancunian double. In truth it’s like asking us to choose between crucifixion, or being thrown to the lions. Although I imagine there’ll be a good few Gooner seeking solace in these painful couple of months passing straight over their heads, while they settle for getting stoned!
The football might have failed to live up to the occasion but I was also envious of all those at Croke Park, for its historic initiation as a venue for the round ball game, so despised by the establishment as the plague that’s responsible for demise of Gaelic traditions. If Stan Staunton was a doctor diagnosing a problem that required immediate surgery, I imagine the vast majority would be dashing off to seek a second opinion! If Stan’s so patently struggles to inspire confidence in us supporters, surely he hasn’t a hope in hell of commanding respect amongst his star players in the dressing room. Mind you he hasn’t too many of these to choose from, as once again Damien Duff’s cameo displays of quality only served to remind one of the desperate dearth of quality. Leaving Staunton relying on the likes of Douglas - who I’ve to admit, I had to look up online, to remind me that he can hardly be replete with that winning feeling, when international footie must be more like respite from a failing Leeds side.
Those present on Saturday were perturbed about the pitch and its distance from the stands. It remains to be seen on Wednesday night whether its possible to generate an atmosphere and the performance necessary to prove that Croke Park isn’t set to become an oversized graveyard for the qualification aspirations of the Boys in Green. Whatever the outcome against Slovakia, after the drubbing England received in the rugby and having already been embarrassed by Lawrie Sanchez’s unlikely lads, could there be an outrageous triple on the cards out in the Caribbean. It’s a pity Ireland’s incredible exploits in the cricket have been overshadowed by the Agatha Christie style mystery surrounding the murder of Bob Woolmer. Although I imagine the Irish lads are over the moon to have earned a month long extension to their adventure in the tropical sunshine. Oh to be a fly on the stumps for the likely sledging of Freddie Flintoff after his impromptu booze cruise.
Meanwhile my heart goes out to Peggy McGarry and all the friends and family of Trish one of my myriad of Arsenal mailing list mates, who was tragically taken after a mere 34 years on this mortal coil. Apparently Trish went out in fine style on Friday, appropriately dressed in her favourite red & white, with her beloved blue Dubs shirt beside her, accompanied by a Gooner guard of honour. I’ve no doubt Trish will have been there in spirit on Hill 16 on Saturday.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis
e-mail to: LondonN5@gmail.com
Tuesday, March 27, 2007