Friday, April 9

Our latest 10-month European adventure comes to a close at the hands of arguably the best team in the world but even they may well have found it a little bit more difficult with their best player sitting on the sidelines.

Could we have gone through with the likes of RVP, Cesc, the Meerkat, Billy Gallas, Rambo and Alex Song to choose from? Could we have gone through if Messi was unavailable for selection? All I would say is 'possibly'.

Top players influence matches, it's as simple as that. Is the fact Rooney missed a substantial part of both Man Utd's Quarter-Final second leg a major reason as to why they have joined us in going out? Probably.

I wouldn't say our party of 21 gathered at Gatwick early on Easter Monday brimming with confidence, especially with the ridiculous list of injured talent sitting back at home but Nicky's thumping last-minute header two days earlier had certainly helped the morale!

The number of late goals we have scored, especially in recent weeks, suggest it cannot just be coincidence. The desire to play until the final minute must be driven by the ultimate reward we have enjoyed time and time again.

Jostles can be measured by their intensity but a goal at home to Wolves is not one you would expect to be high on that list. As we threw what looked like our final roll of the dice, the ball smashing into the back of the net was met by total pandemonium.

It might not have been the greatest of games but we kept banging on that door until it finally flew open. Three precious points, love it.

The first day of any Euro trip always proves a bit hectic in more ways than one and Monday was no different! With a full four days in Barca we had already decided to save the 'touristy' bit until the two days after the game and consequently after much daytime refreshment we continued the fun and frolics in the highly-entertaining Port Olympica area of the city.

As a result come the very early hours it wasn't just matchday that will be remembered for the word 'messy'!

Even if it's not your cup of tea, the local authorities have to be applauded for the 'fanzone' set up on Tuesday to provide entertainment for the thousands of travelling Gooners. Music, pool and football tables, a penalty shoot-out and the all-important food and drink stalls made sure spirits were high in the afternoon sunshine.

If anything, the Nou Camp itself is quite unimpressive from the outside but due to the pitch being much lower than street level, the full extent of its enormity only becomes apparent when you get inside.

I have been to the stadium twice before including of course the famous night when a Kanu goal gave us a well-earned point more than ten years ago. I remember being quite nervous that night. Tuesday however, not only seemed on a totally different plane importance-wise but on a difficulty level too.

With the travelling army in fine voice we couldn't have asked for a better start. Nicky's goal sent us doolally but failing to double our lead from a fantastic position just a few moments later probably, with the benefit of hindsight, cost us our best chance to go on and win the tie.

Frank Stubbs in Barcelona

Showing our colours in the Fanzone

Frank Stubbs in Barcelona

Ready for the off in the Nou Camp

Frank Stubbs in Barcelona

The usual pre-match scene from high up in the away end

Great players make things look very easy and although we didn't defend well, and one or two ricochets could have been kinder, Messi took his chances in a way that very much falls into that category.

The home and away format meant we all clung on to that little bit of hope until the latter stages but it wasn't to be.

Most of the Gooners I have spoken to haven't been too downbeat. Rarely do we have to admit we have been beaten by a better side but on this occasion we can do little else.

Or maybe it was just another night down Port Olympica taking in Wednesday night's TV footy that lifted the spirits!

The two days of sightseeing, great company and good refreshment has been enjoyable if not filled by that feel-good factor only a win can give you.

Spurs away is not the easiest fixture to face but we approach it with loads to play for.

Whether our players need the coming football-free weekend to recover only they know. I can confirm however, for a whole bunch of different reasons, we do!


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9 Apr 2010