By Tim Bostelle
Some presenter on BBC World Service wakes me. I can't even remember who or what they were talking about, it's just the program that's on my radio at 4am when my alarm goes off. The way I look at it, I'd rather the Beeb wake me than the cranky generic squawk of an alarm.
I'll admit though that like a kid on Christmas, it's not like it would take much to prod me out of bed; I know that Arsenal are playing in a few minutes and I need to get properly situated before kickoff.
I roll out of bed and head over in the dark and silence to find the shirt I'm going to wear today. I pass over a yellow away Fabregas from 2005, the psychedelic away Henry from 2002... what to wear... my hand grabs the Bergkamp 2005 home: the bad luck redcurrant kit. I have a superstition over this selection, it's never been good luck when I wear it and today we face a much-hyped physical test away to Blackburn.
I hesitate but decide that the curse has to be broken eventually and pull the shirt on.
I stumble to the kitchen and grind some beans for coffee. By the time I let the dog out and switch on the television, it's 4:20am Pacific Time and ESPN2 is just wrapping up their 4am programming called "Great Duck Hunters of Saginaw Bay" or something.
If the game had been any other time I would have gone down to my local but today I'm drinking homemade coffee and watching the game on ESPN2 in glorious High Definition. Sitting by myself, it's almost like I'm there in the half-empty Ewood Park.
Funny too, because we used to have a small crowd of Gooners who would go to the games at 4am down at my friend's pub, Doyle's. But they got a visit from the liquor control board who asked them to kindly stop opening before it's legal to sell booze in the State of Washington. So, as it stands nothing is open and even dedicated football fans don’t risk the wrath of the liquor control board when their business is at stake.
Instead, I’m in my special seat, my family is asleep, coffee is on, computer is open, and I settle in for the pre-game.
I had promised my readers a Blackburn preview article the day before but as happens sometimes, I ran out of time that night and so I opt instead for a liveblog. Basically the liveblog is me commenting on the match as I sit in judgment, high upon my suede throne. Before I even post, though, the players are lining up and getting ready for kickoff - already the day is off to an inauspicious start.
As the game starts, I'm variously nervous and shouting invectives at the television, as quietly as I can. I don't want to wake the family at 5am - that's not fair. But before I can calm myself, Robin collects the ball and spies a brilliant run by Walcott past his marker on the right. The through ball is pure class and despite the rough surface, Theo does well to control. One step, two steps, and BAM! Theo fires a net-breaking shot into the only open space on goal. I don't care where you are or what time it is, if you're a Gooner, that shot makes you yell out loud.
Fortunately, my two-year-old daughter remains asleep despite my loud cheer.
Blackburn's response comes too quickly for me to settle my nerves as El-Hadji Diouf shrugs off Koscielny on the left to find Mame Diouf slipping between Vermaelen and Clichy. It's the kind of goal that drives fans crazy and I'll admit that my heart sank when Diouf scored so easily. We'd had so many chances in the game and yet, ironically, it was a goal conceded from open play to a team of dead-ball specialists. Worse, it came just seven minutes after Theo had opened the scoring.
There's lesson there to both teams: Blackburn because they clearly have the personnel to run teams if they wanted and Arsenal because we have the personnel to defend set pieces but need to pay attention to all aspects of the game even against seemingly one-dimensional opponents.
There's a flurry of posts on the liveblog as Gooners from all over the country seem to be waking. I hate to sound bitter but my East Coast readers have it easy considering that their "early" games kickoff at 8am!
Half time comes and I'm still nervous. We haven't played our best football by any stretch. I should be happy for the 1-1 draw and Walcott's goal was the distillation of joy. It's always like this isn't it? Gooners the world around spend 90 minutes of most Saturday's with their stomach in a knot. It doesn't matter if we are watching ESPN2 in the dark at 5am or have the privilege of being in Lancashire on a rainy August afternoon singing songs about Arshavin.
The second half kicks off and almost before I can complain about something, anything, there's a broken play as Cesc's shot caroms off Theo and falls to Arshavin. The little Russian never fails to amaze and his shot finds the back of the net amid a hail of me screaming "YEEEEEEEESSSSSSSS!" I might even have clenched a fist and shook it at the television, I can't remember because I was in some kind of blood lust at that moment.
Thankfully, I didn't wake the neighbors, much less the children in the house. Although, I have to wonder what their dreams are like some nights.
The second half goes on and Arsenal are going from strength-to-strength: defending set pieces, countering and generally playing well. The ESPN cameras keep going back to Sam Allardyce for some reaction, but he's playing it cool and busy chewing his gum. My favorite Sam moment comes when the cameras catch him with a cup in his hands and the announcers suggest it's a cup of tea, but I wonder if he isn't a Bovril man?
The last few minutes of the game are a nerve-wracking mess. I can barely post in the flurry of long throws and even longer free kicks. Blackburn has reduced their game to what we Americans refer to as the "Hail Mary". That’s when during the final minutes of an American football game, the quarterback drops back as far as he can, heaves the ball into the opponent's end-zone and prays that one of his receivers catches the ball. They've been doing it all game but now that Blackburn is desperate for the equalizer, there isn't even a single real attempt to make a play.
The final whistle blows and a wave of relief overcomes me as I realize that Arsenal have beaten a bit of a bogey team on their own soil on a day when so many had predicted they would falter.
It's nearly 7am and the family is finally starting to stir.
I've the whole day ahead of me now and everything I do will be much sweeter because the Arsenal have won. If there's a silver lining to getting up at 4am to watch Arsenal, it's that when they win, I have the whole day to enjoy the victory.
That and I can wear my favorite Bergkamp jersey with impunity now that the burgundy Bergkamp curse has been lifted.
Tim Bostelle writes the popular blog 7amkickoff.com. He's been an Arsenal supporter since 1998/1999, gets to London for a match at least once each season and definitely thinks we are going to win a trophy this year.Copyright 2017 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