It was the morning of June 15th in Minehead, Somerset. George was standing with his son Dan on the sunlit platform, waiting for the First Great Western to arrive. The train was bound for London. As was always the case in mid-June, George was planning to attend Arsenal’s kit launch. As years went by, the event became overhyped and attracted too much attention for George’s liking, but he couldn’t miss it. He never missed it once in over 20 years. So as soon as the date was announced, he booked two tickets to London.
Finally, the train ground to a halt before them. George and Dan boarded it and were surprised by the lack of fellow passengers. But then of course it was Monday, the first working day of the week. It takes dedication to ask for a day off to attend a kit launch, dedication few people have. George was one of these few.
A kit launch always brings about happy memories. After the subject of Arsenal’s latest success in the cup was exhausted, George moved onto his fondest memory: clinching the league at White Hart Lane in 2004. It was indeed an occasion to behold: winning the league at your rivals ground is a dream come true, doing such a thing twice is mind-blowing.
Dan had a favourite moment of his own: the FA Cup triumph in 2014. It was the first major cup he saw Arsenal lift, one which ended a nine-year trophy drought. That game was tense, nervy, but a bad start only made Arsenal’s comeback that much more enjoyable.
The train was half an hour away from Reading, when George felt sharp pain in his chest. Suddenly breathing became harder. “No” thought George “This could not be happening. It cannot be happening now!”
“Dad, are you alright?” – he heard his son’s voice as if from a distance. With an effort he steadied himself and managed a smile. “I’m okay” – he said. Another bout of sharp pain. This time the pain didn’t go away, rather, it stayed and became a dull ache. There could be no doubt: it was his heart playing up.
George barely remembered how Dan helped him off the train at the next station, Reading. How Dan flagged a taxi and asked the driver to take them to the nearest hospital. All he could think of was the kit launch. He won’t attend it this year.
He spent that night at the hospital, his son by his side. His brother picked them both up the following morning and drove them back to Minehead, where George checked in at another hospital, this time his local one. The doctors said he was going to spend at least two weeks at the hospital, maybe more.
In two weeks time (on July 1st, which was his father’s Birthday), Dan came to the hospital in the morning (as he always did) bearing the good news: Arsenal have just announced the signing of Petr Cech. From Chelsea. Against Mourinho’s wishes. For a meagre sum of 10 million pounds. Arsenal have bought a world-class keeper, one they had lacked ever since Jens Lehmann left the Club in 2008.
“This signing can genuinely push us to the title” – George thought “maybe we won’t even need further additions…” Suddenly his face darkened. “You’ll enjoy Cech’s long-term future at the Club, Dan, I won’t”. He thought he saw a tear sparkle in his son’s eye…
As he closed the door behind him. Dan couldn’t even cry. He felt…helpless. Empty. Powerless even, powerless to help his father. But then it occurred to him that Dad didn’t really mean what he said…he just couldn’t know exactly what his condition held in store. Or maybe he misinterpreted what the doctors said. Dad most likely said what he said because he was down. And who can blame him after what happened on that day two weeks ago… A day that seemed far away now, almost as if it never happened.
So the real problem might not be his father’s condition; the problem Dan had to solve was overcoming Dad’s mood. How could he do it? Then it hit him – the kit launch. Heart problems wasn’t the only reason George was feeling low, missing the kit launch also contributed to that. But how does he rectify missing the launch? The only thing Dan could think of was buying a shirt from the The Armoury, yet he himself couldn’t do it, as he had no money right now.
Dan was starting to feel desperate. His plan was destined to succeed, yet it could also fall through at the first hurdle – the financial hurdle. He needed someone to buy the shirt for him, his only option was to tell the story somewhere where a large number of people can hear it and help him by donating the shirt…Twitter was such a place.
Arsenal Twitter is a powerful thing. Though some joke the Twitter Gunners are only good for winning polls, they have actually saved a man’s life not so long ago…Surely raising money for a shirt was not too much to ask?
His story was picked up almost instantaneously, by someone under the name of David, from London. David passed it further and two Gunners responded: Nils and Cameron. Both helped immediately, by doing a simple act of ordering the shirt with a delivery-to-the-doorstep option. A simple act, yet one which nobody so often bothers to carry out.
A further week elapsed. George was checked out of hospital a couple of days ago and was sitting at his desk in his room on the first floor. He was absent-mindedly twirling a pen in his hands while staring at the blank computer screen. He was so deep in thought he heard neither the doorbell ring downstairs, nor his son’s shout “I’ll open it!”. Only when Dan knocked on the door had George finally returned to reality and responded: “Come in, son”.
Dan entered the room holding something in his hands. His face was paler than usual. no doubt he was deeply affected by the recent events. Yet he was also smiling.
“I have something for you, dad” – Dan said “As a welcome-home present. Should have arrived a bit earlier…” – his voice trailed off and he rather sheepishly stretched out his hand, inviting George to take the parcel. “What could it be?” – George thought “A book?”. But the parcel was far from being either heavy or rectangular… He tore it open with a deft movement.
First thing that caught his eye was the logo. It was Puma’s logo. Several seconds later the wrapper was lying on the floor and George was holding the brand-new Arsenal’s Puma shirt. It looked exactly like the ones paraded less than a month ago at the Emirates, with one notable exception: there was no name on the back. But how…?
He looked up at his son. “You know, that day, on the 1st July when you said…when the Cech deal was announced” – Dan quickly corrected himself “I decided to buy this shirt for you. I know how you wanted to attend the kit launch, even though you never mentioned it then…So I contacted my friend on Twitter and helped me out. Do you like it?” – Dan asked cautiously, closely watching his father’s face. “I thought this would cheer you up a bit so…” He didn’t finish the sentence as his dad hugged him so tightly he thought he heard his ribs crack. “Thank you, Dan” – he thought he saw a tear roll down his father’s cheek. “Thank you”