Three weeks ago, United played City and for the first time ever, I didn’t see a single ticket tout working a United game. The same thing happened yesterday at Arsenal’s stadium at Ashburton Grove. The circumstances though between the two games and lack of ticket grafters were radically different. For the derby, the local plod had decided on a zero tolerance policy for the enterprising free marketeers who work on Warwick Road, doing as the government tell them to do by going out and earning a living. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Yesterday at Arsenal, I did not come across a single person selling a ticket until the game had kicked off. The concourse was flooded with reds desperately trying to get tickets and there was absolutely nothing about. Through desperation, I tried jibbing my way into the ground. Twice I got in and twice some over-enthusiastic and underpaid jobsworth woke up at the very second I didn’t want them too. On the third attempt, I was clocked by a Policeman who’d saw me getting kicked out five minutes earlier. After he compared me to a feature of female genitalia, he advised me in Anglo Saxon language with all the humour you’d expect from a copper that I’d be spending some time courtesy of his friends and her majesty at Blackstock Road Police station if he saw me again. I didn’t want that to happen as they have a habit of releasing people minutes after the last train has left so you don’t even get a nights stay out of them. With resignation, I was walking towards Holloway Road to find a pub showing the match when I bumped into an Arsenal fan who offered me a spare for £200.00. Seconds after I told him this amateur once a season tout which orifice he could place his ticket, I heard a faint cheer go up and I was convinced United had scored. Due to the local mobile phone masts going berserk, it was a good five minutes before I could phone somebody to be greeted with the news that it was actually Arsenal who had scored with a goal by Theo Walcott.
I ended up watching the match in the Hercules pub on Holloway road. The pub was only slightly more offside to Arsenal as Theo Walcott’s goal. The gaff was full of Arsenal fans and the easiest way of describing it as a United fan is to say that it is Arsenal’s equivalent of the Tollgate. The groan that greeted Bacary Sagna’s appalling back pass which was intercepted by Robin Van Persie in the run up to United’s penalty could have powered North East London such was it’s vigour. If Van Persie had missed that penalty yesterday then I believe Arsenal fans would’ve celebrated it with the same enthusiasm as they celebrated the miss from his compatriot, Ruud Van Nistelrooy in September 2003. He didn’t and the match finished up honours even.
I can only assume that opticians in Islington are doing booming business. On 15 minutes yesterday they sang You’re Just a Fat Granny Shagger at Phil Jones after he fouled Mikel Arteta. The only similarity between Phil Jones and Wayne Rooney is their physical stature. It’s either that or the fans of Arsenal are collectively onto something that the tabloid press haven’t yet revealed. My favourite moment from Arsenal fans though came halfway through the second half when they serenaded referee Phil Dowd with You’re Not Fit to Referee. They must’ve forgot the holy mess he made of a game between Arsenal and Wigan Athletic at Ashburton Grove in February 2007. That day mistakes made by Dowd cost Wigan the match and ended up getting their manager, Paul Jewell a fine for his comments. To everybody’s surprise, Arsene Wenger didn’t see the incident and the howls of protest coming out of the Arsenal fans over Dowd’s competence was somewhat muted.
Guard of honour viewed from the United end (Photograph courtesy of Lee Thomas)
For all that, I’ve gotta say fair play to the Arsenal fans. During the week, there was all sorts of rhetoric from some of their more excitable fans about them doing a Poznan during the guard of honour. It wouldn’t suit a club of their standing for their fans to do something as tacky and classless as that, no matter how much they don’t like Man U. When the teams came out yesterday, the Arsenal team reciprocated the guard of honour that United gave to Arsenal themselves on the May day bank holiday of 1991 when that afternoon, they had been confirmed champions after Liverpool lost at Nottingham Forest. Some Arsenal fans booed but that’s to be expected and they really have taken the Robin Van Persie transfer personally. Barring the odd gobby prick shouting the odds from the safety of a Police line though, the vast majority of Arsenal fans behaved with a dignity that fans of clubs like Norwich, QPR and Chelsea would have no comprehension of.
The trip home on the monkey bus was, as per usual, like an old fashioned charabanc. Twenty years ago, I remember being at an all nighter at the Banshee on Oxford Street and a never ending tune that I later found out to be called On A Ragga Tip by SL2 was pumping out. If you had told me that night that the same song would one day be used as homage to Uniteds keeper, I would’ve advised you to go easy on the pills (and I don’t mean Holsten). Last night on the monkey bus, we had not only a dance competition but the truly infectious De Gea, De Gea De David De Gea to the tune of On A Ragga Tip. How that hasn’t taken off on the terraces, I’ll never know as it’s far better than the execrable Kicking A Blue. As for the Monkey bus, for any red who wants to go on the road watching United and not have the mither of driving, I can think of no better way of going than using the Red Issue/United We Stand bus.
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