"Arsenal got behind early, and I doubted that they’d be able to come back. I was wrong -- incredibly wrong."
It may sound like a familiar theme from the 2013/14 Premier League campaign, but George Sedgwick is not describing a recent Arsenal match. He's talking about the first time that he watched the Gunners play. It was with a friend at a pub in Philadelphia during the early 2000s.
Meet the fans: Philly Gooners
"Arsenal countered with pace, precision and flair," Sedgwick recalls. "Arsenal turned the game over, embarrassed the opposition and gained one extremely dedicated Gooner."
His passion for the sport and the Club grew from there. Now, with a few other locals, Sedgwick runs the Philly Gooners, a supporters club that got its start back in 2002.
"Back then, finding Arsenal on American television was not easy," he says. "Most supporters took to the Internet or a scant few pubs to watch. As a result, we Philly Gooners bonded as fans and friends."
For years, the group met in a number of those "scant few pubs" to watch matches together - along with supporters from other clubs. But after the conclusion of the 2012/13 season, it had become clear that the Philly Gooners had grown to the point that that they needed a pub of their own.
Fortunately, they found one just down the street from their previous haunt. "Since we moved to Misconduct Tavern, an Arsenal-fans-only pub, we get between 50 and 100 supporters most of the time.
"And for the biggest matches, we’ve had quite a few more."
On those big matchdays, you may witness a mass migration of sorts as the fans stream into the Center City pub. "Sometimes when we are walking to the pub in the morning, and we’re all wearing kits or scarves, and some of us are singing, I wonder if people think that we’re the start of a parade," Sedgwick says.
Sometimes when we are walking to the pub in the morning, and we're all wearing kits or scarves, and some of us are singing, I wonder if people think that we're the start of a parade.
Philadelphia is widely regarded as one of America's most passionate sports towns. You've probably hears the legendary tales of fans pelting Santa with snow balls or of a jail in the old football stadium. Don’t let those stories scare you off. The Philly Gooners are just as passionate, but with more of a family-friendly vibe.
"The big games are where the crowd really gets going," says Nick Garthoff. "The pub is jam-packed with Philly Gooners, their friends and families, and what feels like every Arsenal fan in the city.
"A few minutes after kick-off, we start the cheers and chants, which can be heard not only throughout the pub, but also out on the streets. And when we score, the whole pub erupts in elation: hugs, high-fives, fist pumps, glasses knocked over. There is not a still body in the house."
Andy Tague grew up in the Harrow and Wealdstone area of London and has been an Arsenal fan since 1977. He personally witnessed some of Arsenal's biggest games of the '80s and '90s before moving across the pond.
"Obviously I miss the match day experience, but the next best thing to being there in person is watching it here," he says. "The atmosphere in the pub for the two 5-2 victories over Spurs was second to none.
"It's an honour to watch Arsenal every week with some quite exceptional and very knowledgeable and passionate Gooners."Copyright 2014 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 25 Apr 2014