Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Great Week Be a Gooner

It's fitting that this week is Thanksgiving as it's been a great football week to give thanks if you are a Gooner. Not only did Arsenal humiliate Tottenham in last Saturday's North London Derby and then easily handle Montpelier 2-0 in  match day 5 of the Champions League to secure their place in the next round of the tournament...what makes it even sweeter is that every one of the other "big" EPL teams suffered gut wrenching losses.

While it's not nice or mature to gloat at others' misfortune, in the case of football it's fair game. Seeing Manchester United and their Judas striker get shut out and lose to Norwich last weekend was AWESOME. Now, while their Champions League meeting with Galatasary was not important in terms of advancing in the tournament, it's always nice to see Alex Ferguson's side lose regardless of what team he fields.

Then there's that tight scarf wearing smooth Italian at Mercenary City. Mancini's squad did win last weekend, but their 1-1 draw at home against Real Madrid today eliminated Sheik Monsour's "hobby" from Europe's elite tournament. With so many shiny high priced players at his disposal, it's hysterical to see Na$ri and friends bounced while Arsenal progresses.

Spuds, as previously stated, were put back in their place looking up at Arsenal in the EPL standings. What made it even more satisfying was seeing Adebaywhore get all cocky after scoring, only to get red carded soon after and all but take his team out of the match. He will certainly be included in the obligatory toast on St. Totteringham's Day

Then there is Chelsea and the club's never ending parade of managers. What is there to say of this ridiculous club run by a man child Russian oligarch? Check out this facts that I am lifting from the Daily Mail:

  • Chelsea have spent approximately  £86m since 2004 in compensation for managers – more than Everton’s entire net spend since the Premier League began.
  • Chelsea had eight managers in their first 70 years from 1905 to 1975, they are now going for a ninth in nine years.
  • Since failing to escape their Champions League group in 2005, Sir Alex Ferguson has won four Premier League titles, one Champions League and three League Cups with United. 
  • Abramovich has now had as many managers in his nine-year reign as United have had since 1937.
  • Chelsea have sacked seven managers since 2005 and won seven trophies. 
  • The average life span for a manager under Abramovich is eight months. Only Mourinho and Ancelotti lasted more than a year.
Watching the defending European Champions Chelsea lose to West Brom on Saturday, then get shut out by Juventus yesterday and then firing the man that led the team to European glory six months ago is comedy of the highest order. Abramovich is like that annoying cousin you had when you were a kid that would kick over the chess pieces when he wasn't winning. 

Of course football can also cause you lots of heartache, but after several weeks of hearing all about the demise of Arsenal and how great all these "other" teams are, it's nice to get a week like this when all Gooners can hold their heads up high, while fans of these "other" teams go in to hiding.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Power of Twitter and the Gooner Family

"I have more in common with the people I don't know on Twitter than the ones that I do know on Facebook." I can't remember where I heard this quote but in the case of Arsenal and the club's loyal fan base of Gooners I can confidently say that this is very true.

I never really thought much of Facebook and seeing the type of idiotic and self centered things that most of the "friends" I am connected to on Facebook often post, I almost never look at it. It's always filled with the right wing political rantings of former co-workers I haven't spoken to in years or photos of a new pair of slippers or the baby of a friend's third cousin's step brother. Facebook has basically helped me redefine the meaning of the word friend....those that I speak to or see in person on a regular basis...not acquaintances or folks I once knew back in sixth grade on Facebook.

Based on my feelings about Facebook, I approached Twitter with skepticism. That didn't last long as I have been a believer in Twitter ever since. It's great for keeping up on professional information, various news outlets and other areas of interest. One particular interest that has made me a true Twitter believer is Arsenal Football Club. Being a New York based female supporter of a London "soccer" team is not a common thing. Through Twitter, I have been able to connect with knowledgeable Arsenal fans both in London and the U.K. as well as all over the world. While these connections may be strangers, our common interest and love of Arsenal have created a bond based on a strong mutual interest. In fact, the hashtag #GoonerFamily is often used by fellow Arsenal fans on Twitter to signify the common connection between fans of the team.

When I decided that I needed to take a break from the never ending recession in New York, my first thought was that this would be a great time to finally see Arsenal play at their new stadium. It had been six years since I had last seen Arsenal play at Highbury and I had been wanting to check out Emirates Stadium for quite a while. I looked on line and only saw over inflated ticket brokers and potential ticket scammers. It was then that I decided to take to Twitter to see if any members of the Gooner Family could possibly assist me.

Here is the Tweet that I sent out just three times between September 6th-7th:

Jocelyn Taub
 Gooner Help: Looking to buy AFC tix for Schalke 10/24 & QPR 10/27 any sellers,  help or suggestions on how to find tix appreciated! #Arsenal

That was all it took. I immediately got responses from several of my Arsenal connections offering help or suggestions on where to get tickets. I also received responses from two particular Gooners (their names have  not been printed to protect their Gooner identity) offering tickets at face value. One was from a season ticket holder who would be out of town for the games that I was interested in and the other was a fan that shares a group of tickets with friends and was willing to sell me two of his tickets.We exchanged DM's and then e-mails.

Gooner number one met my friend based in London prior to my arrival and handed him both his season ticket card and his silver membership card in exchange for the cost of the tickets. Being a cynical New Yorker, I found it hard to believe that a total stranger would be so trusting to allow someone he never met the use of these valuable cards. I was blown away at the kindness and generosity of this fan.

His seats were in the North Bank and despite the game versus Schalke being a total bust, my first trip to The Emirates was fantastic.

We had made plans to meet up after his return from his travels so that I could give him his ticket and membership card back and buy him a pint to say thank you. Despite being jet lagged from a flight from Asia, Gooner number one met me at a local pub and we got to have a nice chat and finally connect. I am still amazed at how awesome he was in helping me get tickets that are usually impossible to get.

Gooner number two was going to the match against QPR on Saturday afternoon and we made plans to meet up at the Tollington Pub not far from the stadium and Holloway Road. The place was packed with Gooners and the pre-game pints were flowing. My friend and I met up with Gooner number two and a number of his friends and we headed over to The Emirates together. We viewed another pretty lousy Arsenal performance from the lower tier and eventually Arteta scored a late goal for a 1-0 victory. A trip back to the pub and some post-match fish and chips followed to celebrate the victory.

In addition to the Gooners that were kind enough to assist me in obtaining match tickets, I also met up with another Gooner from Twitter for a pint at The Junction prior to the Schalke match. Not only is this Gooner an Arsenal fan, he's also a UK based Mets fan (yes there's at least one actual UK Mets fan). Gooner number three was awesome and led my friend and I to the match.
The legend in bronze

Despite both games being less than inspiring, it was through the goodness of the Twitter #GoonerFamily that I was able to get tickets to see Arsenal at the Emirates. It was a great experience and has restored my faith in humanity....or at least the humanity that are Arsenal fans.

One small side note...ever since hearing that Fulham owner Mohamed al-Fayed had a statue of Michael Jackson installed at Craven Cottage I've wanted to see for myself what exactly this looked like. So, one afternoon I took a walk along the Thames to find Fulham's ground and this ridiculous statue.

Photograph: Nick Potts/PA
Once there I was glad to see a statue of an actual football player, Fulham legend Johnny Haynes, at the front of the stadium. There was no Michael Jackson statue in sight. I was determined to find it. I then walked along the right side of the venue and just inside the back gate, there it was. Perched upon a pedestal was the strangest thing I've ever seen at any sporting arena...complete with glove and doing signature moves. All I could do was laugh. This statue makes a giant mascot with a baseball on his head, Mr. Met, look normal.

So in summation, Gooners and the #GoonerFamily are awesome and Dimitar Berbatov plays for a club that has a statue of a pop star inside its stadium.