Monday May 14, 2012
Just before five o'clock on Sunday afternoon, this season's version of the rollercoaster we all choose to ride on as Gooners finally came to a standstill. With a grin from ear to ear it was time to get off!
Looking back at my experiences over the last 35 years or so, some of them not so good but many many more quite fantastic, I don't think I can remember a season to compare with this one.
Even while not challenging with two of the game's financial superpowers at the very summit, as Gooners we all went into the last day with a huge amount to play for and of course all those nerves that go with it.
The enormous benefits of finishing in the top three are both long and numerous but there is no doubt the race has included far more 'spice' this season and not just because there have been a number of clubs challenging.
Our 'difficult' start certainly made it look like being a very long and hard season and although one could argue it still has, I don't think even the most optimistic of all of us Gooners could see us sitting proudly in third place come May.
The most valid reason, certainly as far as us fans are concerned, is the fact when things didn't look good our local rivals, quoting much of the media and fanbase here, were 'enjoying their greatest season for over 50 years'.
Certainly on the vast majority of football fan, blog and social media sites, us Gooners were enduring a right royal and ultimately premature 'bashing'. All of us in red and white are well aware that it was from this very period the 'Mind the Gap' aspect arose.
Admittedly I am one of those who is a little unsure of exactly how big that 'gap' was but two things I do know. It was extremely large and daunting at the time but how good it feels right now that a decision was made somewhere to taunt us so vigorously!
The carefully-created logos, t-shirts and photographs published at the time seem to be all the more numerous now and so wonderfully amusing to view.
This of course is all very easy for me to say having achieved our goal on Sunday afternoon, but when our minibus set off in the early hours the high spirits were very much graced with the kind of butterflies only our great sport can give you.
It is safe to say we had a great great day, a nice easy journey up with plenty of healthy banter and pre-match refreshment making it the perfect start. The result we all wanted, however, was paramount to making it completely perfect.
We started the game in the kind of manner we all wanted to see, looking up for it and filled with desire to win the game. Along with all the other aspects you can influence, however, you often need that little bit of luck.
That came in the opening stages when Yossi, showing the kind of persistence that has made him extremely well liked by us all, benefited from a goalkeeping error to put us in front. Cue the first jostle of an afternoon that tested the emotions!
Lady Luck then chose of course to even things up! TV has proved the first goal was wrongly allowed to stand and not only did we have to endure that but moments later our great start had been turned upside down. Two-one down, a total nightmare.
For me it was crucial to equalise before the break and Andre Santos made sure we did just that with his third crucial goal in the colours of the Arsenal. The jostle was passionate once more, if a little muted due to the nerves seriously kicking in!
My memories of the second period are not long and detailed, not for any other reason than the emotions we were all going through. I do remember Laurent crucially tapping home what turned out to be our winner after a goalkeeping error... but there was long long way to go.
As is always the case in these situations the clock seemed to almost come to a standstill and it was 'hearts in the mouth' time when Gibbo made a timely and quite outstanding block late in the game.
The whistle went and we simply danced with delight, sharing the moment with the players as they came over.
The legend that is Mr Pat Rice was also brought over in what was an emotional moment for all concerned. My own personal tribute to the great man will follow in my next ramblings but there is no doubt it topped off a great day to be a Gooner.
All the talk, all the banter, all the stick is now finally over boys and girls.
We saw the Gap, we closed the Gap and we created a Gap when it matters.
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