Tuesday 2nd March 2010
For me personally the weekend just gone was always likely to be memorable and for all the right reasons too. Little did I know however, that it would be one that all us Gooners will never forget for a horrific incident that seems all so familiar.
Back in 2008, almost two years to the day in fact, us Maidstone Gooners travelled to Birmingham in a luxury VIP coach. Of course the main reason for being there was to see our away game at St Andrews but my birthday offered the excuse to go 'VIP'.
It doesn't need me to describe what happened next.
On this occasion a large group of my family and friends joined me for a long weekend to celebrate (or commiserate depending on which way you look at it) reaching the milestone of 40 years of age.
Everything could not have gone any better. We all gathered in a local village pub to enjoy their wares on Friday night before continuing the fun and frolics back at the huge 'party house' we'd booked for the weekend until well into the wee small hours.
Come matchday and those going to the game had recongregated back in the 'local' and once much refreshment had been enjoyed we boarded our coach for the short trip down to the Britannia for what, especially after the earlier news from Stamford Bridge, we all knew was a massive game in our league season.
Stoke taking the lead seemed almost inevitable, especially in the manner it came about but with everything in the weekend having gone like absolute clockwork so far, I had this big feeling inside me it was going to be our day.
We were playing pretty well, even after going behind and the pitch was much better than I'd expected given the poor weather in recent weeks. Nicky's quite superb, towering, thumping header gave us the deserved and totally crucial equaliser before the half-time whistle and it was very much game on.
Dominating but with PMT rife from my point of view at least, our pressure was building to the kind of crescendo that we all hoped would not end in tears.
Unfortunately for many of us but none more so than Aaron, that is exactly what happened next. From a personal point of view I simply couldn't believe it. Surely this could not be happening again. To say I was extremely emotional, I don't mind admitting is a gross understatement.
I'm sure I speak on behalf of all Gooners and true football supporters worldwide by wishing Aaron a swift and ultimately successful recovery.
Everyone, as they are totally entitled to, has their opinion about the actual incident and for what it's worth I have mine. I don't personally believe the lad meant to injure his opponent, even less so break his leg but at the highest level I do wonder how players can be going in for tackles with their foot higher than both the ball and the opposing player's ankle. I believe he went for the ball but when tackling in that manner, if your opponent gets there first, there is a risk of a terrible outcome.
I do not accept it is coincidence. That's how I feel and with everyone giving their penny's worth I do not feel guilty about giving mine.
With emotions running so high, for the remainder of the game I felt we needed to show bottle, controlled commitment and keep the belief that despite such a horror injury to one of their team mates we could still go on and get our first ever win at Stoke's Britannia Stadium.
We pushed and pushed, got closer and closer and then it happened. Handball, in the box, a penalty in the last minute of normal time.
Was anyone nervous?! Sorensen and expert penalty saver, a terrible terrible day so far, I almost couldn't bear it. If our captain was nervous he certainly didn't show it. Get in there!!!!!
Tommy V's goal was the icing on the cake result-wise if nothing else. An awesome three points on a very difficult day.
I have always considered myself extremely lucky to have a very close and loving family and a quite incredible group of loyal and supportive friends. Circumstance and sheer space issues meant not all were with me at the weekend but those that were contributed to a couple of THE most special days in my life so far. I cannot thank you enough.
One of our players I'm sure is very much feeling that love from his closest friends and family right now.
Believe you me, every single one of us Gooners feels your pain right now Aaron.
Get well soon Rambo, you will be back.
Frank xCopyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 2 Mar 2010