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Newcastle away
Shane (IP Logged)
16 April, 2018 22:40
I’m slumped on the couch in The Albatross, my hostel in the centre of Newcastle, and staring at the wall. On it, there’s a graffiti image of Muhammad Ali, along with the quote: ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’. It’s a nice quote and one that is no doubt intended to inspire the backpacking, quinoa-eating, panda-saving, dodgy guitar-playing, flip-flops with socks-wearing, shroom-taking , universe-talking types who frequent establishments such as this. Instead, I’m reminded of another sporting figure who spent much of his latter career against the ropes: Arsene Wenger.

Sadly for us and Arsenal, Wenger lives life by the same motto as emblazoned on this wall, but I think the towel will be thrown in for him this summer and I wanted to take in an away trip – my first one – under his stewardship before its too late, sort of like how you visit a dying relative before the chance is lost forever.

It’s 12:30 pm on Sunday and getting up off this couch is proving difficult; not strictly because I’d consumed enough Jagermeister to kill a brontosaurus the previous night, but because it’s extremely comfortable and has vacuuming properties to it, a bit like quicksand. I’m convinced that if I disassemble it I’d find the skull and bones of some Estonian backpacker who went missing in 2014 after falling asleep on it or something.

According to Google Maps, St James’s Park – pronounced by the locals as Seent James’s Pock – is only 10 minutes away, which is quite far when you’re hungover, but some weird fella is bombarding me with stats about the HSS and Eurostar. There’s always one weirdo in every hostel and if this bloke wasn’t him then John Wayne Gacy must be somewhere on the premises, so I take Ali’s advice and decide to suffer the effort of leaving for the match in order to live the rest of the day as a champion.

I briefly thought of Wenger again en route to the ground, after seeing one of those human statues outside Eldon Square – the shopping centre. I saw a man being paid for doing nothing and just standing completely still which, as you well know, sums up Wenger down the years. We all know that we’ve become worse under him on a gradual basis, but I was chatting to a woman at the bar the previous night and she made me realise how insignificant we now are.

I explained that I was over for the match because it’s the last chance I get to see my team for quite a while before potentially moving back to Canada in the summer, which is the main reason for the trip. She laughed and said, “Wow that’s random!” after she discovered my team was Arsenal, as if I’d told her I’m a Southampton fan. It was an interesting moment. I thought, “Is that how outsiders view Arsenal now, as ‘random’ team?”

I reach the stadium, squeeze through the turnstiles and embark on what I can only describe as a trek. I knew the away section was halfway between earth and the moon, but I’ve never almost needed an oxygen tank when climbing a flight of stairs before. It’s seemingly endless, but the noise of singing Arsenal fans is getting increasingly louder so I know I’m getting close. My heart was racing five minutes after kickoff; not because of the intensity of the match, but because the climb was that arduous for an overweight, hungover smoker such as myself. Incidentally, I had already broken more sweat than Calum Chambers, who I noticed was jogging, not sprinting, early on. That’s when I knew defeat was on the agenda, because if one player isn’t bothered then several others won’t be either

But we went ahead through Lacazette nonetheless in a goal that quietened the nearby Newcastle fans, prompting a “Is this the Emirates?” chant from the away fans which had supporters on both sides of the divide – including the stewards in between us - in stitches, as did the “Harry Kane, his tongue is offside” song. Insensitive, but funny and suddenly I felt very happy to have made the trip over, an enthusiasm which wasn’t dampened by Newcastle’s equaliser or indeed the winner.

Nobody around me really cared that much, probably because some of the players – notably Chambers – didn’t. Rob Holding did. He was the only player to acknowledge the away fans at Forest, even after the his shocker, and once again he was the only Arsenal player with the decency to applaud the fans at full time.

There remains a lot of support for Wenger among Arsenal fans. Nobody had the audacity to start a ‘There’s only one Arsene Wenger’ chant, but plenty reminded the Newcastle fans that he had won more than them after their light-hearted request to see him stay. It wasn’t your typical pro-Wenger song, but the message was clear nonetheless.

Later that night, myself and Julien, my temporary French friend in the hostel who occasionally got my name wrong, found a bar showing his beloved Paris Saint-Germain, who thumped second-placed Monaco 7-1 to reclaim the Ligue 1 title. “You must be jealous to see a real team, Seamus,” he quipped, in broken English.

I wasn’t jealous of his team, but I was jealous of the passion that he had for them. He celebrated every single goal the exact same way, bouncing off his stool, pounding his chest and shouting ‘BOOM!’at the television, followed by something in French. There was a time when I’d celebrate Arsenal goals with a similar gusto, no matter where I was watching, and Wenger has robbed me and all of us of that feeling. I’m not sure it was deliberate on his part, but it is certainly a knock-on effect to the tedium that he has introduced.

Ali might have been the greatest in his field, and his quote sounds great, but in real life there are times when quitting is perfectly logical and Wenger is walking, talking proof of someone who should have called it a day. Instead, he’s suffering in spite of the fact that he can never be the champion that Arsenal need to be ever again.

 
Re: Newcastle away
CazOnARola (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 04:28
Its been depressing like this for a while now. It goy best when we signed ozil and then sanchez and it felt like we have the money and may compete again, but the Leicester season was the last straw that broke the camels back.

Great writing, as always Shane

 
Re: Newcastle away
MattySadler (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 06:15
Yeah great read mate. Laughed out loud at "Seamus".

 
Re: Newcastle away
Bergmars (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 06:21
The whole aura of the club players coaches fans everything to do with Arsenal is completely flat.He has sucked the life out of it all and the longer he stays the longer it will take to put right.
Rafa Benitez anyone.



A shadow of what we were

 
Re: Newcastle away
CazOnARola (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 06:26
Need someone with fresh ideas. I would say no one from the Ferguson era. So no ancelotti although I've always liked him, no benitez of course, no raineri etc etc. Nobody from that era. Only allegri, conte, simeone and their peers. Ideally someone who has experienced like the above names.

 
Re: Newcastle away
MattySadler (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 07:33
Quote:
CazOnARola
Fresh ideas.

 
Re: Newcastle away
Bergmars (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 09:35
It stuck out like a sore thumb on Sunday what organisation can produce,quite what goes on in our training and briefings is a mystery. Benitez has kept a championship team in the EPL



A shadow of what we were

 
Re: Newcastle away
Shane (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 09:39
Thanks lads glad you enjoyed.

 
Re: Newcastle away
younghansolo (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 13:58
greta read Seamus. do you write a blog?

 
Re: Newcastle away
CazOnARola (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 18:49
He absolutely should if he doesn't yet, a few of his ideas and of others on AT get stolen by journos at times

 
Re: Newcastle away
Shane (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 20:55
I did a travel blog about my adventures and misadventures around Canada last year, but never a football one.

This was originally about twice as long, because I had a bunch of time to kill before the flight, but so much of it had nothing to do with Arsenal so I chopped a lot of shite out.

For the sake of my conscience, I should point out that one of the paragraphs I deleted was the discovery that the "weirdo" in the hostel was actually an extremely intelligent Aspergers sufferer who I developed a real fondness for. It turns out that people with his condition go through phases of being completely obsessed by certain things, and for him it was the engineering behind ferries and trains at the moment, hence why he'd speak at great lengths about them.

He was just a lovely, lovely guy and I did him a huge disservice in that description of him.

 
Re: Newcastle away
Padre Pio (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 21:05
A good read Shane, how was the overall atmosphere in the ground? Could you hear the bar codes?

I am not convinced there is still a lot of support for Wenger amongst fans. No one sings One Arsene Wenger anymore, its more a we can criticise him but you cant response. Same happens at the Emirates, and clearly the now regularly missing 20,000 fans every home match are fed up of him.



- until Wenger moves on, they'll always be the also-rans in the major competitions. A club in elite purgatory. Always good enough to make it to the big race, never fast or smart enough to push over the finish line in first place. That's all about the manager. Until he changes, Arsenal fans will continue to celebrate glorious failure.

 
Re: Newcastle away
Shane (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 22:48
Atmosphere was pretty standard I suppose - good when Arsenal were good, flat when Arsenal were flat - but as I said it was my first away venture so I've nothing to compare it to in that respect.

And yeah I was toward the end of the away section, so within about 20 meters of the home fans I'd guess.

 
Re: Newcastle away
Padre Pio (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 23:12
Is there much of an atmosphere from the home fans?



- until Wenger moves on, they'll always be the also-rans in the major competitions. A club in elite purgatory. Always good enough to make it to the big race, never fast or smart enough to push over the finish line in first place. That's all about the manager. Until he changes, Arsenal fans will continue to celebrate glorious failure.

 
Re: Newcastle away
Shane (IP Logged)
17 April, 2018 23:40
It was nothing special for 60 odd minutes I don't think mate, but things got progressively louder when Slimani came on. Then at one point there was a roar which you could've probably heard in Sunderland; not for the winner, but for a full-blooded Diame tackle in the last 10 minutes or so. He was outstanding second half.

I know you said you hadn't gone there in many years but I'd recommend it next season.


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