Archive for July 23rd, 2006

Dennis Day: A game of two halves

37 comments July 23rd, 2006

I’ve been to several testimonials in my time, and probably the most fun were Paul Merson’s and Martin Keown’s. Yesterday’s game was different in that it was not played at Highbury, and also in that it was incredibly bizarre.

Despite promising fans that it kicked off at 4.15pm, the game didn’t actually start until around 5. This was obviously a move by the club to make sure everyone got to their seats nice and early, though I think it dampened the atmosphere somewhat: people arrived ready for the game, and then realised they had to sit through Arsene Wenger Tina Turner-ing the ball wide of the “north goal”.

However, this extra time before kick-off did give me the chance to take in just what an amazing sight lay before me. The stadium was almost full, and it looked fantastic. The seats are so comfortable that it’s almost like sitting in your own front room.

One cannot underestimate just how proud we ought to be of this fantastic arena. If I had to compare it to another we’ve visited recently, I’d probably say Cardiff. If we experience anything like the success we have in Wales at our new home, we’ll be just fine.

Then came the game itself – a team of Arsenal youngsters against a strong Ajax outfit. An emotional kick-off saw Dennis’ cancer-suffering father baptise our new stadium. Our most impressive youthful performer was probably Armand Traoré, who just needs to make sure he doesn’t get too carried away with his meatier tackles. Alex Song wasn’t as bad as usual, though the need for us to buy a midfielder is still fairly pressing. Ajax grabbed a goal through Klass-Jan Huntelaar, sweeping home a cross after some inexperienced, Cygan-led defending.

Then it was half-time. Or was it full-time in a 45 minute match? No-one seemd quite sure. Arsenal reckoned the former, but Channel 5 were pretty sure it was the latter, reverting the scoreboard to 0-0.

This interval period brought the highlight of the day for me: the introduction of the Arsenal legends: David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Steve Bould, Martin Keown, Patrick Vieira, Gilles Grimandi, Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit, Edu, Ray Parlour; Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Ian Wright, Oleg Luzhny, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Alex Manninger, Patrick Vieira, Glenn Helder, Kanu. Each name recieved raucous applause, none more so than Patrick Vieira, whose indiscretions were forgotten with a rousing welcome.

His arrival, or that of Ian Wright, was when the Emirates probably reverberated to the most noise. Either side of that, it was worryingly quiet, particularly in my South-West corner. The strangeness of the game(s?) meant that the fans couldn’t quite get into it. The weird nature of the match was underlined when the second half (Arsenal Legends vs. Ajax Legends) kicked off without the teams changing sides.

The first Arsenal goal at the new stadium was fittingly scored by Thierry Henry, who controlled, span, and slid it under the goalkeeper. He hasn’t even trained since the World Cup, yet Thierry turned up for Dennis on his big day. Tony Adams, on the other hand, was conspicuous by his absence.

For most fans in attendance, the real “I was there” moment was the double-substitution which saw Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten enter the field of play (well, either that, or Gilles Grimandi’s devastating professional foul on Edgar Davids). Van Basten in particular still looked very sharp, flicking the ball over Steve Bould’s head and nearly scoring a goal worthy of his extraordinary talent.

Kanu added a deflected winner late on, before the ref continued the strangeness by blowing up on 81 minutes, giving us a final score of 2-1. Or 2-0. Or something.

It was great to get into the new stadium, but I couldn’t help but feel this wasn’t the right way to send Dennis off. Surely the great man would’ve preferred a more traditional game? By all means bring in the legends, but maybe not make it two completely distinct games, and perhaps change ends?

Anyway, goodbye Dennis. It’s a shame he couldn’t get on the scoresheet, but then he has scored enough brilliant goals in his time. The stadium is now up and running, and anyone lucky enought to go will surely agree it’s a fantastic ground. Plus, if you’re hard up for cash, you could sell your free Dennis t-shirt for up to £200 on ebay.

Notice: One of my favourite things about this site is the small community that has grown up around it. One member of this community, a man known as Gelbs, has been recieving a bit of stick for his views in the comments below. Now, in the interest of fairness, I would like to give Gelbs an unedited chance to air his views. If he would get in touch via the contact section, I’d be delighted to hear from him. This is a serious request.


Kolo Toure got lost again.

229 comments July 23rd, 2006

This time it was at the Bergkamp testimonial not the Members Day. He was driving the wrong way down the road towards the stadium, and was stopped by police, not paramedics.

Don’t believe me? Well, perhaps you will when you see this:

I managed to snap another pic of a confused Kolo, this time driving a four-by-four. Although it was pretty dark in there, I think I spied his brother Yaya in the back, though I don’t think that has any particular significance: he was probably just a guest.

One footballer who did turn up of his own accord was former Gunner Luis Boa Morte, who brought his whole family along to the testimonial. I had a nice chat with him on the bus, and he seems like a proper Gooner. Excellent stuff.

One man who is not longer a Gooner (thankfully) is Sol Campbell. When you read quotes like this

“I was out for two months. I was strong, I was professional, so when the time came I was ready and I pulled out a top drawer display in the Champions League semi-final. That showed me the talent was still there. It’s the old saying: ‘Form comes and goes but talent is there forever’. That’s exactly what I felt that night-Sol Campbell is unbelievable, second to none!”

…then perhaps you being to understand why I use the word “thankfully“.

He’ll soon be joined in the land of the not-so-dearly departed by Ashley Cole, after Peter Hill-Wood all but confirmed he’s set to move to Chelsea. If he feels the need to publically quash something, it’s definitely happening.

The Bergkamp Testimonial was so strange it needs it’s own write-up. Perhaps later today.

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