My sister recently got married, and before the service had even started, several people were crying. Now, I found this extremely annoying and unnecessary. I wanted to confront each and every offender with a ‘Get Out!’ similar to the one heard by a Priest as he was blessing George and Kathy Lutz’s new home in Amityville. My wife said to me “You`ve cried at meaningless football matches which is just pathetic, it’s perfectly ok to cry at weddings”. I admit to crying at two football matches, but in no way were they meaningless games, and if you care to indulge me, I will try and explain why I cried at one of them.
Back in 1997, I took the plunge with a rather hefty bank loan and started my own company. The first critical two years went by and we were doing very well thank you! The figures for year three showed a bit of a slow down, but were nevertheless rather healthy. However, about 14 months later, a disastrous meeting with my Finance Director and my Accountant highlighted a cash flow problem and huge losses. The easiest but most terrifying option was to re-mortgage our dream home so I was soon marching off to Barclays, just as Arsenal were marching to the PL title.
It was the 01/02 season, and by the turn of the year, Arsenal were playing some amazing football and I just knew that we would win the league. A midweek game at Old Trafford, of all places, gave us a chance to be crowned Champions. We just HAD to win it there. To win the league in front of Fergie and his cronies, in the home of our sworn enemy, would be a sporting dream that I could cross off my wish list. I sat uneasy in my seat at Old Trafford. The magnitude of the game was being lost on me as the first half came and went. The realisation of a failed business and probable bankruptcy consumed my every thought. I took a deep breath as I applauded the boys back on for the second half.
“Go on!” screamed the guy behind me as he startled me out of another dark daydream. I came back to life as Silvestre got himself into a muddle on the halfway line, and Parlour whipped the ball off him. The Romford Pele strode forward a few yards and gave a simple ball to the awaiting Wiltord. As Wiltord scurried into United’s half he had few options. Kanu was to his left but was only ambling towards him. I urged Wiltord to ‘carry it’, but instead he played a deft little pass to Freddie. The loveable Swede with his streak of red hair was on the edge of United’s box, but was being hunted down. The chance looked to have gone as Freddie,now in United’s box, seemed to have delayed a little. Laurent Blanc blocked the No.8’s path to goal, and Freddie would surely have to check back and lay the ball off. No, not so. In a split second he teased the ball between Blanc’s legs and was in on goal. Freddie quickly glanced at Barthez who was dancing along his six yard line. Barthez returned Freddies look with a ‘you won’t beat me from there’ expression. Freddie pulled the trigger………….silence.
I experienced a very strange ‘Matrix’ moment as Freddie slipped after shooting. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion, and the stadium fell silent. It was an eerie, frighteningly lonely moment. I remember releasing an almost silent ‘Ooooh’ from within, as Barthez dived to the floor and parried Freddie’s tame strike. An electrifying ‘Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssss’ snapped me back into real time. Wiltord, lovingly named ‘Mr Malteser Head’ by my young son, had continued his run, and skillfully swept the rebound under Barthez’s despairing dive at the near post, and into United’s net. 1-0 to the Arsenal.
I was engulfed by Dad beside me and my younger brother in front of me. A mass of joyous Gooners rose in celebration as the players celebrated the goal. Arsene punched the air with delight. We had taken the lead, if we could only hang on. I settled back down in my seat and glanced at my watch. “Shit, we’ve scored too early” I said to myself. The remaining half an hour or so seemed to last an eternity, but United never really threatened.
The final whistle brought a cheer and a joy that will live forever in my heart and memory. We had done it. We were confirmed Champions, and rightly so, at Old Trafford. Hugs to family and strangers around me were halted as our ‘heroes’ came to us to be praised. We sang their names long after they had left the pitch. I sat back down on my seat in the now famous ‘Champions Section’, everyone else around me continued the wild celebrations. I put my head in my hands as a wave of emotion rose from within me. It was all too much, as tears filled my eyes and began to roll down my cheeks. “It`s alright son” said my Dad as he held me. “We came through this and won, just as you will do.”
He was right. It was all going to be okay. The world is always a brighter place when you have just won the league, especially at Old Trafford.
So my dear Gooners and Guests, thank you for reading and putting up with my emotional ramblings. As I repeatedly say to my wife, “It’s okay to cry at football!”………….isn’t it ???
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