Gooner Guerrilla Manoeuvres: Over And Out!

Last updated : 19 November 2004 By Bernard Azulay

The colossal power shift towards the Kings Road, as a result of the Russian's millions, might mean that sadly it's only real significance is for bragging rights these days because those bozos at the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Rd. have become such an irrelevance and can't even be relied upon to rattle the cages of our bona fide competitors. Nevertheless, if our encounter with Chelsea has become the derby match of far more import for many Arsenal fans, you only have to witness the White Hart Lane terraces teeming with the contorted faces of Spurs supporters, spitting out machine gun volley's of venomous bile, to appreciate the unhealthy effect of their lifelong humiliation living in the shadow of their more illustrious North London neighbours.

With every season crumbling to dust with increasing alacrity, often over before Christmas, they appear to invest all the more expectation in what has indeed become Spurs' Cup Final as the Gunners present them with their annual glimmer of a chance to cover themselves in some glory. As a result this match remains a "must win"event for many Arsenal fans. Personally speaking, a defeat to Chelsea would be a disaster but a relatively minor one if we could recoup the lost points in the following weeks. Whereas such a philosophical attitude would've been impossible if we'd lost on Saturday, as I know full well that I wouldn't have heard the last of it for months on end. For many Gooners like myself who can't avoid contact on an almost daily basis with close Spurs kith and kin the derby game at the Lane is a potential banana skin to be dispensed with as painlessly as possible.

I imagine just as the neutrals were on the phone to commiserate with them after the match, I suppose they were calling me to share in my happiness. They must have been surprised to find that I wasn't exactly beside myself with joy, but how does one explain that I forked up forty quid for an outing which was as enjoyable as a date with the dentist where I'd come away feeling fortunate to have escaped any fillings.

Mind you I usually have to be in absolute agony before I'll let anyone drag me, kicking and screaming to the dentist. Following similar trouble almost every season outside after the game, the aggravation some encountered trying to escape Tottenham territory last term proved to be the back breaking straw which has seen them swear off visiting Spurs for good. I guess we've been fairly lucky to date, keeping our heads down and our smiles even deeper, only having to dodge harmless insults as we've scuttled to the safety of our car. If I'd have been caught up in the hail of bricks and bottles which forced my neighbour at Highbury to seek refuge in a school hall as the old bill escorted them to 'safety' when they left the Lane last season, perhaps I might also have felt that I just don't need this any more? However after suffering the setback at Old Trafford and schlepping all the way to Greece for a dissatisfying draw, I'm glad I won't be green with envy listening to fellow Gooners reminisce in the future about a rare nine goal derby thriller which I missed a mere few miles from my doorstep.

Despite being up at the crack of dawn, I couldn't get out of the house until 30 minutes before kick-off. Still I figured that having not missed the start of a match since Man Utd, it was about time I did my tardy bit. White Hart Lane actually runs for a couple of miles all the way from Green Lanes to Tottenham High Rd where you turn right and the ground itself is a further couple of hundred yards along on the left (so it's a mystery to me why the ground is called White Hart Lane?). I was going great guns, thinking I was in with a good chance of actually getting there on the dot, when I came to a grinding halt, only a few hundred yards from our usual car park.

That the road had been closed off because of a fire in the chipper sounds like one of my better excuses. I wouldn't have been too bothered and would have taken it as a good omen but I had a ticket for someone else in my pocket. Having already told him that I was parking up ages ago, I was in a quandary. I could either head back for at least the half a mile it would take to find a parking pitch, followed by a long hike which would mean missing most of the first-half, or I could abandon the motor and spend the match worrying about the hundred odd quid clamp or towaway charge and the increased risk of coming to some harm whilst having to hang around after.

The thought of the poor bloke standing outside the ground, tormented by the roar of the crowd as he waited for me to roll up, made my mind up for me. One of the coppers blocking the road told me that I could leave the car for 20 minutes in a cul-de-sac just past him and I legged it from there. I'd already advised this exasperated looking Gooner that with my reputation, he might be better off picking his ticket up on route to the game, so I didn't feel too guilty. Mercifully all we missed was a shot from Mendes or I might have felt more inclined to offer him a rebate!

Forget about the crucial effect on the outcome of the game of our injury time equaliser. The build up of tension during that first 45 was completely extinguished by Titi's solitary contribution. The resulting wave of relief meant that I spent half-time in seventh heaven completely oblivious to the fate of my little Fiesta outside.

Last week's cup win over Everton was an immensely enjoyable match. The relatively stress-free environment of the Carling Cup is one of those rare circumstances in the current era where you can simply sit back and enjoy the feast of football taking place before you. For anyone who missed it, the 18 year old Dutch striker, Quincy, is without doubt the real deal. Whereas it is impossible to relax and savour the skills on offer in the majority of the Arsenal's matches. The over-riding significance of the result causes me to invest far too much emotion in every single kick of the ball.

Sure I enjoyed teasing the Spurs fans "Santini, he knew that Spurs were sh*t, he couldn't wait to quit" (I can't imagine how galling it must have been for their board to see the Frenchman turning up to earn a crust as a pundit for French TV!) and there's little to match the ecstatic euphoria when the Gunners score a goal, let alone five, at the Lane! However it's points which are paramount as it's them that wins the prizes. On the hour, when Vieira found the back of the net for our third (and the first time we took a two goal lead), a familiar refrain fell from my lips "Can we go home now?"

Masochists that we are, we had another half hour to endure of heart wrenching football of the sort that was sufficient to send even the healthiest ticker into fatal spasm. I dunno what the Blues fans were bellyaching about? A boring "1-0 to the Arsenal" might have meant that we didn't lose another few years off our lives at the Lane last weekend. Still I wouldn't have missed it for the world. We hardly had a second to draw breath, let alone fret about my motor during that second-half. As I folded my Arsenal scarf and zipped up my coat while other similarly brazen acts of sensible cowardice ensured we all got out of their alive, it occurred to me that no matter what the parking penalty imposed by the London Borough of Haringey, it was worth every penny.

Many Spurs fans were on their way home when Gardner got their 4th as others dashed back to the bulkheads, huddled there in hope of a last gasp miracle. Heading down the High Road I tried to constrain the skip in my stride as I teased my part-timer Spurs pal about the goal he missed. I could hear the hope in the voices over the phone as he and his passenger both prayed for some slight solace, trying to put a dampener on my delight, by assuring me that my motor must have been removed. As requested I called him back to confirm that once again we'd escaped enemy territory with all three points, all in one piece and without even a parking ticket to show for our trouble. Gooner guerrilla manoeuvres over for yet another season.