Time: 13:30, Sunday 6th January 2013.
Place: Liberty Stadium, Swansea, South Wales.
Moment: My first Arsenal match.
For as long as I have loved football and supported Arsenal Football Club, I have wanted nothing more than the chance to see my team play right before my eyes. Living near Hull has meant that opportunities are far and few between to see Arsenal play nearby, and even when Hull City managed to reach the Premier League back in 2009, I still missed out for one reason or another. An interview at Glamorgan University meant that I had to travel to South Wales this January and as a Christmas present from my girlfriend, I was lucky enough to receive tickets for our FA Cup 3rd Round Match against Swansea City. This time I would not be stopped.
I woke up around midday, put on my beloved Arsenal away shirt and headed out to Swansea for what I knew would be a day I would never forget, and it didn’t disappoint. Walking around the stadium to Gate 7, the sight of all the other Gooners proudly displaying their colours brought a smile to my face and for the first time I felt part of this huge family, even while my own were still in East Yorkshire. Unfortunately for my emotions, I would not be sitting with my newly adopted family, and instead would be deep in with the Swansea faithful, something which I know now is a harder task than it seems.
Michu goes through on goal. My heart stops, but in my head I know exactly what happens next. Before my heart can even start beating again, both my view and ears are obscured by a wall of Swansea fans in front of me who leap from their seats in jubilation. With Arsenal playing out one of those depressing performances of which we have sadly come to recognise this season, I slouch back in my own seat. And then after a couple of missed opportunities and clenched fists I look across the pitch to see Podolski drive in a goal from Walcott’s corner. About to send my seat shattering back into it’s upright position, and let out my first roar of celebration, my girlfriend was only too quick to remind me of where we were sitting. Then, just as my emotions started to settle back down again, Olivier Giroud pulls off a swift pass to Kieran Gibbs who lashes a superb volley past the scrambling Michel Vorm. My mood, as well as the match has been turned on its head!
But just as I was beginning to feel like we could hold on for the win, some rather amateurish defending from a corner gave way to let Danny Graham thrash in an equaliser in front of me and once again I had my head in my hands. We had thrown away another lead and in the final minutes I was just praying that we didn’t at least throw away our last real opportunity of silverware this season. And as Howard Webb blew the whistle to end the match I realised 2 – 2 was a fair, if not still disappointing result. Yes it may not have been the win I was craving, and yes it does mean an unwanted fixture in a weeks time, but as an experience this was something I will hold forever.
Everyone has their own definition as to what makes someone a ‘true’ fan, but for me at least I feel like I can call myself that at last. This was the day I became a Gooner.