You've Gotta Fight For The Right To Party!

Last updated : 04 May 2004 By Bernard Azulay

As the day looms when the renewals for our two season tickets will drop on the doormat, I dread to think how much more than this year's £3,300 we are going to have to find. For the 19 Premiership home games and 7 cup ties it currently works out at over 63 quid a match. Considering the amount of times I've tapped my Ma for loans on the extremely 'long finger' to ensure our seats are secure for another season, I thought that perhaps she should for once get some value for her extremely favourable terms, by accompanying me to Saturday's match.

Although there is a downside to the Arsenal's incredible undefeated record. The longer it continues the more it becomes a bit of a millstone for a superstitious sod like myself. Forget the necessity for continued concentration and focus amongst the players and think of us poor fans. As the weeks and months have passed I've had to put all the more effort and preparation into making sure that I don't alter any of my pre-match rituals. There's also the problem of maintaining the correct dress code. I have to take every precaution to avoid donning the one article of clothing which might cause displeasure to the fickle gods of fate, for fear that I might bear singular responsibility for the club's eventual downfall.

I carry a shoulder bag to football in which I keep my binoculars, terrace tranny, fruit Polos, pack of tissues, lip salve and any other accoutrements which have become an integral part of my 'don't leave home without it' footie kit. Admittedly lip salve might be a bit of a nancy boy item especially with winter on the wane, but there's no way I can leave anything out now. A runny nose is another cold weather annoyance, but you only have to be caught short standing in the puddles of some northern p***hole, where the nearest thing to a piece of toilet paper is a tin foil pie wraper, to know how priceless a pack of tissues can be. As each season gathers momentum, so my bag gains weight because on a winning run, anything that goes in there, remains in there for the duration.

When taking a bottle of water to a game, if I remember in time, I usually try and hide it before the stewards take the bottle top away. I forgot at White Hart Lane last week and the stewards forced me to pour the contents into a plastic cup. Indignant over such futile restrictions, I felt like asking them what was the point of preventing me from using the bottle of water as an offensive weapon, when they've ignored the razor sharp penknife in my bag? So much for security! The knife wasn't for stabbing Spurs fans, far too good a fate for some of their scum, but a throwback to my days in the theatre. And I suppose since it's passed through many an airport X-ray machine, unnoticed even in this Al-Qaeda era, there's no reason why a slovenly steward would spot it. Even with my swarthy, certainly non Anglo-Saxon appearance, St. Mary's has been the only stadium this season where I might not have been able to stroll in with a couple of kilos of Semtex.

Anyway I soon went off the idea of my Ma taking my missus' ticket. Not only would she have never forgiven herself if she happened to be present for our first defeat all season but I would have struggled to avoid apportioning blame, trying to pretend it was a mere coincidence. Selling my spare would have been the sensible solution. Yet while I might be more than happy to fork out such fancy prices, I always find myself far too embarrassed to ask for the extortionate face-value.

However any cash would have been a feeble substitute, when compared to the kick I get from springing a surprise on our neighbour's lad and seeing his little face light up with the thrill. He's been the fortunate beneficiary a few times already. But as a lucky mascot to date, I didn't dare leave him at home in favour of a paying punter. Their money would have definitely felt like filthy lucre if we'd lost. Walking round to Highbury with this cock-a-hoop kid bounding along beside me, I was glad my heart had ruled my head. I reminded Jamel that he can return the favour when I'm a hard up pensioner.

After whooping it up with a handful of Gooners at White Hart Lane, I imagined the fanfare for our heroes return, from thirty thousand home fans would guarantee a day to remember. I can't stand these early kick-offs. When it comes to watching the Arsenal perform before 3pm I am reminded of one of my old man's corny cracks. A man goes to the doctor to complain that he has to pee at 6am every morning. He's told not to worry since most folks would love to be so regular. "Yeh but the problem is I don't wake up until 8am!"

Well at least the Arsenal were sufficiently stirred to produce a couple of first-half moves of sublime quality, as the remainder of our Premiership party fell decidedly flat. With the lack of any real ambition after the break, one could be forgiven for thinking there'd been a tacit half-time agreement in the tunnel, to stage manage a mutually agreeable, scoreless, second-half draw. Agreeable to all except the long-suffering fans!

It is a scornful sign of these mercenary times that even amongst teams with something still to play for, far too many of our end of season fixtures are soporific farces involving combatants who can't even be bothered to feign some commitment, to curry favour from these end of season curtain calls. Since we are paying theatre prices, is a little melodrama involving some goalmouth action too much to ask for? If these football 'matches' were bound by the trades description act, many clubs would be bankrupted by demands for refunds.

If I didn't know better I would have said that our lot looked like they'd been out on the lash since securing the silverware. Although I'm led to believe that Henry and Vieira weren't too busy letting their hair down at the PFA awards to forget to request the removal of the skin and fat from their meat. As the first ever player to earn the recognition of his peers in back-to-back seasons, if anyone was entitled to a bad day at the office it was Henry. At least Titi didn't distract us from dwelling on our White Hart Lane war stories.

A constant theme from those with a tale to tell about all the aggro was the conviction that they wouldn't be returning next season for a repeat performance. We were just fortunate that I'd parked in the opposite direction to where the police were pointing us. Fearing that our car park was about to close, we headed past the Spurs East Stand, almost on our tod. Ro tried to ease the tension by alluding to the meat wagons lining the entire length of the street, until it dawned on her that they didn't contain a single copper.

They were all off trying to protect the majority of Gooners including my West Upper neighbour. Ambushed by a hail of bottles and bricks, some took refuge in a school hall. It never occurred to me that while we were enjoying the high-jinks around Highbury, there might be Gooners still stuck on guerilla manoeuvres in enemy territory. According to a Spurs mate the amount of aggro each week is inversely proportional to their on pitch pleasures. It seems their neanderthals are forced to seek alternative sources of entertainment. It was 9pm before these poor buggers finally made it back to a boozer on home turf. I suppose it's easy for me to say because we weren't subject to such malevolent shenanigans but I believe these bellicose bovver boys will be achieving their objective if we don't go back again. Nevertheless I might not have been a paragon of virtue as a young pup but it was just this sort of violence which saw me giving live games a miss for many years.