At the start of the month, it was my birthday. It is with a heavy heart that I write this, but ‘Gunners Town’ disrespected me; me, Greg Cross, a fairly prolific provider of Friday columns, and for this reason, I have to consider my future. I received no cake, no card nor even a dry, manly handshake or awkward fist-bump.
I have had an offer from a high-profile, well known website, a website it has always been my goal to work for. I would be writing transfer stories, and when I spoke with them, they shared their devastatingly simple journalistic methods with me: take a team from the hat, then take a player from a second hat and then write about them being interested in each other, all in 750 words or less, submit, and count the hits.
I have a second offer from a hugely followed Twitter agent, a man with his finger so firmly on the pulse they call him Dr Doug Ross. But that job may be a little too indie for me. I can’t even find my own pulse.
My last offer is to provide 1,000 words or more on pretty much any subject for a lucratively advertised on site and watch them generate hit after hit whilst I’m paid absolutely nothing. I may not go for this option… again.
I shall release a full statement after the World Cup. I don’t want anyone putting words into my mouth (but if they could for my columns, that’d be great).
As for Arsenal, it was a quiet week, wasn’t it? Bit of a knees-up down Islington way on Sunday and absolutely no FA Cup winning-related tat on sale by 9am Monday morning…
Bloody hell! What a game that was! Watching Arsenal come out, resplendent in crisp red and white shirts, commemorative insignia marking what was Arsene Wenger’s sixth FA Cup final with The Gunners. Hard to imagine that a mere ten minutes later after the two captains shook hands and swapped pendants, that Arsenal would find themselves 0-2 down and watching on in horror as Kieran Gibbs cleared a goal-bound header from Alex Bruce, the result of yet another shambolic set-piece defensive display. I will freely admit that the hope and expectation that I’d lovingly nurtured since that abject semi-final result, as well as the great run of late league form, was ebbing away like car headlights disappearing over the crest of a hill.
The only hope was that there were fully eighty minutes left. Arsenal had shown on Easter Sunday that they could breach Hull City’s defence and could do so again. Once would be enough to allow doubt to gnaw away at the Tiger’s mind.
Whilst the free-kick was a soft award – one of the few things that the referee gave Arsenal that glorious summer’s evening – the result was as hard-hitting as a Dolph Lundgren roundhouse kick. Santi Cazorla, a player whose form had, for me, dipped into Albert Riera territory of late, stepped up to the plate and projected a sweet, curling pearler into the top far corner. Seventeen minutes gone and Arsenal had a lifeline.
What followed will go down in North London folklore. A brave, scrappy equaliser from Laurent Koscielny evened up the score and broke Northern hearts (‘The North, where we do what we want.’). Kieran Gibbs missed when it seemed easier to score. Olivier Giroud hit the crossbar after connecting with an exquisite cross. Probert, the Final’s hapless referee, celebrated #DontGiveArsenalAPenaltyDay without anyone else knowing that fate had scheduled it to coincide with the cup final date. With the spectre of a penalty shootout looming – the very thought chilling the heart like mist slowly enveloping a graveyard – Wenger rolled the dice and came up with the numbers he needed; or specifically, a ten and a seven (hang on…). The addition of Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky for the waning Cazorla and ineffectual Mesut Ozil (how sad that he didn’t grasp this final like he did the cup at the end) added a fresh impetus to red and white flavoured procedings.
With Yaya Sanogo’s unique runaway bus style already employed – replacing Lukas Podolski’s broken-down bus output – Arsenal’s switch to what looked like a flexible 4:4:2 pulled Hull more effectively. A scrappy exchange between Sanogo and Giroud (the two French strikers really put in a shift) saw the ball break free for an onrushing Aaron Ramsey. Arsenal’s player of the season hit the ball first time, with the outside edge of his smaller toes and lightly curled the ball past McGregor and neatly inside the post.
There was, of course, time for one or two more scares as Arsenal’s name was being etched onto the famous cup. Lukas Fabianski, whose last game for Arsenal was arguably a microcosm of his Gunner’s career – picking the ball out of the net between decent enough saves, rounded off with a rush of blood to his head and a schoolboy mistake – found himself outside of his box after both he and Per Mertesacker had been thoroughly thwarted by Aluko on the left wing. Mertesacker’s topical Steven Gerrard impression perhaps untimely judged. German sense of humour, anyone? Hull’s nippy forward aimed, fired and hoped. The ball unerringly arrowed towards the untended Arsenal goal. Red and white shirts sprinted towards it and my wife screamed. Not a yelp, whelp or gasp. A full on, our daughter now crying in fear, scream. I swear my heart stopped. It was heading in. Kieran Gibbs damn near helped it over the line, but seemed to have saved Arsenal’s collective bacon for the second time in the game… Perhaps it was heading wide, I can’t say for certain that all of my recollections are 100% accurate, as my therapist said to simply focus on the win.
The final whistle – a double dose of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen for a nine year old headache – signalled a party for Gooners and heartbreak for Northerners, the media agenda against Arsenal and bitter rival fans of London clubs who themselves have had shocking, expensive, underwhelming seasons…*cough Spurs, cough Chelsea*.
Where I wasn’t now bald, I was grey.
Arsenal, perhaps owed a tense, often lucky, but fully deserved cup final win, lapped it up. Bacary Sagna has perhaps played his last Arsenal game. Lukas Podolski has perhaps pla… appeared in his last Arsenal game. Lukas Fabianski may have induced his last Gooner-related heart murmur. But what a way to say ‘adieu’.
And now we have summer. A summer no doubt filled with fables, fiction and fairytales, from master story tellers with far less impressive names than Roald, Grimm or Fleming. Dan, Giles, Indy and Ben will be our authors until September.
Names will be linked. Arsenal fans will perhaps be frustrated, delighted and more often than not, bemused for the next three months or so.
We shall see. Let us hope for swift business before an eagerly anticipated World Cup.
Take good care you Gunners and you glorious Gooners.
1998, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2014. Lovely.
Thanks for reading. I sincerely hope you carry on clicking on my Friday pieces.