Ohh what a night…
For 9 long years I have been waiting for just one piece of silverware. Well to be honest it’s been the last 6 years that have really been hard to take as I felt emotionally involved with the team you could say. Getting up at 4am every other weekend to watch matches only to see shit hit the fan is bloody tough. I’m sure I’ve lost a few years off my life after the countless dramas I’ve sat through. Since that debacle against Birmingham in 2011, my lads have never come close to a trophy. This was the time for Arsenal to break the trend. We were playing a side that struggled to stay in the top division and had their two top players cup tied, thus sitting in the stands. It was ours for the taking! Everything was in our favour. Everything. We couldn’t lose.
I spent Saturday night having a couple of cold ones, spinning yarns with the fellas and lasses before settling at the Casino of all places to watch the match. Our mate Foxes wouldn’t let us in. Dickheads. After venturing past all the 4am problem gamblers, I found myself sitting down the back with 50 other blokes (one chick too I may add) waiting in earnest for the big one to begin. Us Gunners outnumbered Hull supporters about 20-1, with a few diehard fans making it out to support the scum that is Hull.
After the pre match antics were complete and another couple of beers were consumed, the football took centre stage. By the time I’d stopped yarning to the bunch of guys I’d just met, Hull had already put one in the old onion bag. Just a minor blip. 90 minute game, give them a bit of a head start. Like I said, we couldn’t lose.
After a few chuckles the match proceeded with the fellas looking a bit shocked. What happened next sent me to the dark depths I’d never wish upon anyone. Hull buried a second before my eyes. I can honestly say it felt like a nightmare. This couldn’t be happening. Surely?! This was OURS!!! We had waited so long, this 10 minutes can be taken back can’t it!? After grasping the fact that this was reality and we were really down 2-0, I ventured down to the tables to spend some money/blow off some steam to help me forget what had just happened. $20 later I still felt just as queasy. As I sat in disbelief Arsenal won a free kick 30 yards out or so from goal. Head in my hands, I knew we needed something special. Thankfully young Carzorla planted won in the top corner. My mate next to me felt the brunt of my celebrations as people thought I’d cracked the jackpot. Money couldn’t buy this feeling. The lads were back in it and I could feel the tension lifting.
So I headed back to the fellas out the back of the Casino and it was a more joyous mood. A man well into his 60’s, who was still wearing his lucky 2004 Arsenal ‘invincibles’ jersey still wouldn’t get off his seat, stating the reason Hull scored twice was because he had moved. Fair play to him. I blamed him as well. As we came to half time, the result was in the balance with the Gunners down 2-1. The half time entertainment was a blur, with constant chat among the pundits taking over the room.
Fast forward 20 minutes into the second half and we were still down. Saying we were getting a tad nervous would be an understatement. We had waited so long for this. If there was a football god out there surely he would show himself. The lads were edging closer to scoring but just couldn’t find the breakthrough. Agony. Frustration. Anger. Shit was getting serious.
Then finally, we got it. The goal to draw us level and back in contention to get the trophy monkey off our back. The chants started in full flow as we found our voices once again. You could sense the optimism and we knew Hull was there for the kill. However they staggered on, up against the ropes for the last 20, but they held on after relentless attack from the lads.
Into extra time we went and I could feel the tension just creep back in. After Kieran Gibbs had missed an absolute gimmie and my frenchy Oliver Giroud rattled the crossbar I was just starting to wonder… was this going to be our day? Would this be another one of those chapters that would be etched in Arsenal folklore of the trophies that got away? But we strived on. At this point there was full time focus on the screen and the occasional hurled abuse as Wilshere turned the ball over. But we kept the faith. And sure enough the magical moment came. Giroud nestled a lovely little back heel into the path of the “Welsh Magician” Aaron Ramsey who coolly slotted the ball with the outside of his foot into the bottom corner. Cue delirium.
The place went nuts. I hadn’t hugged so many grown men since Winston Reid scored his famous late equaliser at the World Cup. What a moment.
I felt like I could’ve happily died and gone to heaven. For a few minutes I couldn’t even think, whether it was the alcohol or lack of sleep I won’t ever know. We had surely done enough. One more moment of panic eventuated. In typical Gunners style our fullback tripped over himself and this followed with our keeper thinking he was Usain Bolt and steamed out of his box, only to get beaten to it by the Hull striker. This human had a chance to break hearts.
From a tight angle near the sideline he shot. And to tell you the truth I closed my eyes. I listened. And then celebrated. The ball went across the face of goal and out to the delight of all us Arsenal fans. My heart was beating so fast but a few minutes later the game was over. We had done it. It took over 3000 days but the hatchet had been buried. I was relieved more than anything. No more ribbing. No more accusations of not needing a trophy cabinet or mates’ recollection of all the events that had happened since Arsenal had won a trophy. It was only one trophy. But damn it meant so much. It will go down as one of my top sporting moments. I can honestly say sauntering home at 7am had never felt so good.