However my horror at the possibility of having to trek North to Elland Road on my tod, turned into joy when I discovered Rona's 15 year old nephew would be coming over from Dublin for his away match initiation. Naturally Shane was devastated at the thought of missing his first day back at school, when I suggested that since he was here already, he might as well stay and accompany me to our midweek encounter up at Everton.
I don't know about the players needing some R & R, but unlike my pal Nell (who's going to suffer plenty of "part-timer" stick for the remainder of the season!), I am determined not to miss a match. Never mind those poorly informed pundits who preferred Zidane and Nedved over Henry, as you might have heard, Arsenal fans are in no doubt that we currently have "the best player in the world" wearing our no. 14 shirt.
Since nothing lasts forever and having suffered my fair share of seasons in the wilderness of footballing mediocrity, I wouldn't dream of taking our good Gooner fortune for granted. I want to be there in person to witness every breathtaking bit of skill with my own eyes. Moreover while I might agree with Wenger that our European prospects could benefit from a brief break in the congested fixture calendar (I couldn't give a stuff for Sven's lamentations about his leg-weary International side), I would be mortified if the Premiership was about to close down for a couple of weeks just as the Arsenal appear to be hitting a purple-patch.
The railways are always at their most unreliable on Sundays and not wanting to tarry overnight in Scouse territory midweek, sadly letting the train take the strain is not an option. So I will have covered 800 miles of stamina sapping, motorway monotony come Wednesday night! Yet it will be well worth it for the vicarious thrill of being able to share Shane's wonderment. He's made the odd pilgrimage to The Home of Football, which might be the perfect pitch to appreciate the amazing entertainment on offer, but with the stadium's unfortunate library like state, it's a totally different experience to this week's double-header.
Hopefully the hair will have stood up on the back of Shane's neck on Sunday, as we gave it all we've got behind the goal, surrounded by a couple of thousand equally raucous Gooners, trying to out sing the choristers on the Elland Road kop. Perhaps the home fans appreciated the way their team was out of the traps like greyhounds and up and at the Arsenal in traditional bullterrier fashion (for "dirty" Leeds - not to mention the odd rabid doberman!), because even 1-2 down their support remained steadfast. Surely it's not just southern fans who are fickle but, you can be sure we wouldn't be singing our team's praises at Highbury if the situation was reversed. And we are quite loyal compared with the turncoats at White Hart Lane. Then again, I guess they've a whole heap more to whinge about!
As a potential Cup upset Spurs v Palace sounded an attractive proposition. So I took Shane to see how the other half live on Saturday. Of my two Spurs pals, one wasn't feeling 100% and the other was so unenthusiastic that he didn't bother going. I think they gave me the one ticket which was going begging, in the hope I might bring them some luck. You could have knocked me down with a feather at the Spurs box office on Friday, as I was flabbergasted when they sold me an adjacent seat, one of the best in the house, for only a fiver (as an U-16 concession)!
Many people pay twice this much to park their car on a matchday at White Hart Lane! Luckily we found a free parking pitch and it felt positively weird for us two Gooners to be walking to their ground for the FA Cup 3rd round, while the two Spurs fans stopped at home. I was reminded of my childhood when my old man often used to take me to Arsenal and Spurs on alternate weeks. Not an uncommon practice all those years back, when you could pay in at the turnstile on the day (the advent of all-ticket matches was a nightmare for the clubs as they no longer had all that cash to slip their star players 'shoe' money).
I thought Ray Winstone was a West Ham fan, but perhaps he was there as Freddie Kanouté's minder. Fortunately for Freddie he banged one in early doors, as I've no doubt the Spurs faithful would have been right on his back if he'd missed. I can appreciate Lillywhite ire but the Franco-Malian was always one of the more mercenary foreigners even at West Ham. Kanouté faces an awkward choice, collecting his £30k a week from Spurs whilst he spends a month in the warmth of the Tunisian sun involved in an International tournament, or battling relegation at White Hart Lane enduring the worst of a British winter? My Spurs mate says they won't have him back if he goes, but I can't honestly see them giving the cold shoulder to the classiest player in their squad and their best, perhaps only source of goals!
Most Gooners would say we woz robbed but it felt like great value to see a live game for the cost of Sky's pay-per-view. Although considering Palace put up such a paltry fight, I would have been somewhat put out if we'd paid the sort of £100 quid plus it would have cost us at Highbury. I suppose it only goes to prove that you get what you pay for these days!
I would have been even more indignant if our German keeper's cock-up had cost us our amazing FA Cup record. Leeds' Aussie striker left Lehmann looking like the proverbial spare penis. Not dissimilar I imagine to the one which was reported in the Star as going missing from a museum in Argentina, where it was previously the property of drug test cheat Maradonna. I find myself maddened by the media when they write about the century old record for consecutive FA Cup wins. They fail to mention the fact that if it wasn't for Henchoz's literal handiwork (with a little help from the cat-burgling boy Owen) we would have already achieved 3 in a row.
If we are going to continue with our undefeated run, we will have to guard against the potential for complacency as we get intimate with Boro, playing 4 games against them in only 18 days (mercifully involving only one 500 mile round trip schlep to Teeside!). God help the opponent who has the misfortune to encounter us on the day when we string together an entire performance of precision artistry. Avid Arsenal watchers will confirm that we are producing brief bursts of beautiful football, while our influential captain remains some distance short of the dominating displays we know him to be capable of. However while we continue to win plaudits for the sort of stylish sweeping moves which decorate our games, by comparison to some of the dour recent endeavours of the Red Devils, it is difficult to imagine a helping hand from a Premiership side able to overcome Utd's indefatigable desire to succeed.