I hate our North London neighbours. I don’t even want to say their name. If I see a complete stranger walking down the street in their shirt I think to myself “fuck off you wanker”. Is that rational? Is that normal? Its part and parcel of life, of being a football fan, that you’ll know someone who supports them, they may even be a very close friend. In my case it’s my brother-in-law. He’s a bloody nice bloke, a great husband to my sister, and a great father to my nephew. We get on very well, I very much consider him the brother I never had, but if I’d have seen him walking down the street before I knew him I’d have thought “fuck off you wanker”.
As I said, I’m not sure it’s a rational or normal reaction to have towards a complete stranger, but it’s how they make me feel. The sight of their shirt, that disgusting white and blue with that pathetic little chicken sitting on a basketball. Hearing their name, seeing their name, seeing they’ve scored a goal or worse still won a game. I fucking hate it. I hate all of it; all of it brings out such a strong feeling of hatred. I hate United. I hate Chelsea. But I fucking hate our neighbours.
This Saturday is the North London derby and I mostly hate them too. I hate the build up, the nerves, the tension. For us, The Arsenal, it is a lose-lose situation. A win is treated by the football world as expected, certainly during the Wenger era, but defeat is treated like they’ve just won the league, the feeling is unbearable. That they released a DVD to celebrate getting a 4-4 draw at The New Home of Football tells you all you need to know about them.
But a victory? Well, a victory in the North London derby is the ultimate feeling in football, it’s what you crave more than any other. With the exception of winning a trophy there is no better feeling; it’s better than sex. The 11 seconds derby, when Cesc scored straight from the re-start to make it 2-0, I couldn’t breathe. The ecstasy of going 2-0 up, with both goals coming so closely together was incredible and suffocating, as was going on to win 3-0. I loved it. Like I said, I mostly hate these fixtures, but when you’ve won it’s the best thing ever. So in preparation for this weekend’s North London derby, with the aim of lifting spirits and calming nerves (I’m a complete wreck before these games), here is a list of my all-time favourites:
1993 – FA Cup Semi Final – Donkey Wins The Derby
As we all know the same fixture two years earlier was a painful one, lessened by going on to clinch the league title, but at the same time compounded by knowing they had ended our chance of ‘The Double’. So 1993 was about justice, it was about revenge. And thanks to Mr Arsenal, the great Tony Adams, it was delivered. That we could still win it whilst allowing Lee Dixon to get a red card for kicking the crap out of the fucking hideous Justin Edinburgh made it all the sweeter. My Dad bought a t-shirt afterwards which summed it up nicely; “Donkey wins the derby…Arsenal 1 Scum 0”.
1996 – Premier League – My First Live Taste of a North London Derby
This was the first time ever I attended a North London derby and what a beauty. Ian Wright Wright Wright made it 1-0 to The Arsenal, only for the scum to equalise with a John Lukic own goal via an Andy Shit-ton strike off the post, after they had failed to give us the ball back when we’d kicked it out of play for an injury (they do that kind of shit often). But all it did was piss off The Arsenal and once again it was Mr Arsenal to the rescue, with Tony Adams smashing a left foot volley in for 2-1. The game was wrapped up when Wrighty made an absolute mug out of Clive Wilson, crossed for Bergkamp, who with sublime control came back inside and curled it home for 3-1. Off went Dennis, sliding on his knees in celebration. Pandemonium in the North Bank as a passionate young man chanted “3-1, we beat the scum 3-1”…I kept singing it all the way home and for the rest of the month.
2001 – Premier League and FA Cup Semi Final – In Memory of David ‘Rocky’ Rocastle
David Rocastle was, still is, and always will be an Arsenal legend. David sadly passed away, far too early at the age of just 33. His death was on the morning of a North London derby and there was only one thing to do; win it, win it for Rocky. The Arsenal did just that with Robert Pires, wearing Rocky’s number 7 shirt, scoring a pearler. It was a very emotional day. Only a few weeks later we beat them again, with Pires at it again as we won 2-1 in the FA Cup Semi Final. Once again we did it for Rocky, we did him proud. We remembered who we are, what we are, and what we represent, and we did it – twice – in the memory of the legend that is David Rocastle.
2002 – Premier League – Calm Lauren Keeps The Double Alive
It was the tail end of the 2001/02 season and we were honing in on the League and Cup Double – the third of our history, our second in four seasons. Our flying Swede, Freddie Ljungberg, gave us the lead with one of his typical diagonal runs and finishes. As the end drew near and the nerves were fraying they won a dubious penalty and the biggest scummer of them all (you know who I mean) stepped up and scored it. 1-1. Our hopes and dreams in doubt. But within minutes we won a penalty of our own and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say the sight of Lauren stepping up to take it was one of shock and concern. Little did we know that Lauren was ice cool and never missed penalties. Up he stepped, waited for Kasey Keller to dive, then rolled it gently down the middle; the ball barely had enough weight on it to cross the line. The North Bank erupted and we won 2-1. The Double was of course achieved via a win over Chelsea at Cardiff (with Terry falling flat on his face) and the title claimed at Old Trafford. Our three most hated clubs, what a lovely hat-trick of victories. And my abiding memory of this North London derby? Watching replays on television and seeing Tim Sherwood jump up and down in a girly hissy fit after he stands and watches Lauren roll it home. He comes from Boreham Wood, he ain’t no fucking good…and like many others Lauren made him cry.
2004 – Premier League – We Won The League At The Shithole (Again)
I watched this one on television at the home of a scum supporting colleague. Looking back on it I’ve no idea why. We only needed a point, we got our point. It should have been more. Vieira and Pires gave us a 2-0 lead, with two beautifully worked goals. We were flying, we were Invincible. It’s a shame we took our foot off the gas and allowed it to end 2-2 (due to another dubious penalty in their favour), but nothing can take away the fact that we had won the league…in their backyard…again. A quite brilliant banner reminded them that this was yet another reason why Sol Campbell, already a double winner from two years earlier, had left them to join us. He had just won his second title in three years, the same amount as they’ve won in their entire history. As the songs keep reminding us, 71…2004, 71…2004, 61 and never again, 61 and never again.
2012 – Premier League – Mind The Gap
They came to us flying high. Above us in the league their fans kindly reminded us to “Mind The Gap”; they had cute little t-shirts and everything. As they went 0-2 up, through a shitty deflected goal and yes you guessed it via another dubious penalty, their fans started to sing how much they wanted Wenger to stay as our manager. When will they ever learn? Bacary Sagna, showing the pride and passion required for such an occasion, scored a bullet of a header. 1-2. Then a certain Dutchman, who we liked at the time, scored a lovely curler from the edge of the box. 2-2, and all just before half time. The Arsenal came out flying in the second half, continuing where they left off; first with a goal from Rosicky and then a double from Walcott. A 0-2 score line was now 5-2 to The Arsenal. We were going crazy, once again we couldn’t breathe; that’s how it is when you experience a North London derby like this one. As Bacary Sagna said after the game, “In our own stadium, against the enemy, we could not lose”.
So there you have it, my favourite North London derby memories. I’ve selected them from my life time, so that’s why there’s no mention of a certain Liam Brady strike (sorry Goonerholic) and I was still in nappies when David Rocastle scored the winner in 1987, so apologies for leaving that one out. In truth there are so many that I could have mentioned, the 3-1 with Kanu flicking it over Luke Young, the 3-1 with the Fabregas screamer, and so on and so on. Arsene Wenger has certainly been spoiling us; he’s never finished below them in the league, always ensuring we celebrate St Totteringham’s Day. Long may it continue.
Finally, I shall leave you in the words of my good friend @WestStandTone who summarised our Gooner feelings quite nicely, in preparation for this weekend’s North London derby, with a series of quite excellent tweets…here you are:
“Arsene Wenger needs to be held accountable for all football matters, including us finishing above 5pur2 every season he’s been in charge.
I have very fond memories of May 1977. Spuds got relegated that year. My school had indoor lunch break, due to the fights on Monday morning. They were promoted in 1977-78 and, in the first North London derby in 18 months, we beat the cunts 5-0 at their place. What a Christmas that was.
The last defeat against that lot that really mattered was in the 1991 FA Cup Semi Final. They went on to win the cup, but we won the league. That’s the last major trophy they won, 1991; 21 years ago. They’ve had 2 League Cups since. We’ve had 3 titles, 5 FA Cups, 1 European Cup Winners Cup, and 1 League Cup.
I mean, we’ve won the league at Shite Hart Lame more times than they have. My point is that even if we’re having a bad patch you’d need to multiply it by a factor of 50 to be as hapless as those cunts up the road. Seriously, how rare is it to see another team win the league at your ground?
We’re talking about a team that has had 13 managers in the last 15 years. There’s some fucking pearlers in amongst those names too…Chris Hughton, Christian Gross, David Pleat, Jaques Santini, Glenn Hoddle, Martin Jol, Juande Ramos, Harry Cuntknapp, Rick Astley and…my own particular favourite, Clive Allen – caretaker manager obviously. Easily mistaken for the fucking caretaker too. The two-bob cunt.
They played a Europa League match the other night against Maribor (I know, who?). They got 27,089 against a capacity of 36,230. 9,000 empty seats. Put them all behind the one camera podium they have in their shithole, so as nobody could see there was an empty stand.
And as for dear old St Totteringham’s Day. It may have come late the odd time but have you ever wondered why there is no spud equivalent?
I’ll leave you with this thought. It’ll be 53 years since they won the league this season. Do you hear the media going on about it? No? There’s a reason for that. They’re a bunch of totally irrelevant cunts. Might as well talk about Ipswich, they’ve won it more recently. And Derby (twice), and Everton (four times), and Forest, and Leeds (twice), and…I reckon you get the picture. They. Are. No. Mark. Cunts.
The Arsenal, making cunts of Totteringham for almost 100 years”.