The morning after the night before. Ouch. The last match of the season invariably results in a tour of Highbury pre-lunch. It doesn’t get any less emotional with time. The old girl looked gorgeous, resplendent in the spring sunshine. Then on to join those who have shared a roller coaster of a season. They have been there through every gut-wrenching setback, and the rarer than usual highlights.
It being the last day there was one tiny ray of hope that we might have a St Totteringham’s Day to celebrate, but surely not? Relegated Newcastle surely wouldn’t see off their best team in over fifty years? Not happening, we largely agreed. Another pint? Yes please, thank you.
We arrived at the ground in time to see Tomas Rosicky being awarded with a gift to mark his ten years with the club. Pure theatre was about to follow for an amazing couple of hours. Olivier Giroud’s header from Nacho Monreal was an early indication of why the visitors finished rock bottom. Not that you would have thought that from the away support who cheered each shot and corner as if they were goals. Brutal irony.
Around the twentieth minute the roars started going up from both ends of the Grove. Surely not? The stewards in the tunnel looked up nodding and smiling. The stadium erupted, but surely they couldn’t hang on? We were being Arsenal, weaving pretty patterns in and around the box. Alexis and Jack Wilshire came close to what would surely be a killer second goal. It was a long time coming.
As half-time approached yet another low cheer spread into a joyous roar. The highly unlikely was unfolding in the north-east. That called for a little wine at half-time. After the break it was fair to say our play became a little less urgent, a little more lethargic. Then the collective groans that told a tale. The neighbours comeback was underway and Newcastle were down to ten men. Even more worryingly Villa were just a lucky strike away from completely ruining the day.
Jack Wilshere was withdrawn to a standing ovation having got over an hour under his belt. His replacement, Mohamed Elneny hit one of his trademark sighters over the bar. With around a quarter of an hour to go the slow crescendo returned. Surely not? With ten men? More euphoria and pleas of ‘Come on Arsenal’. They were about to be answered.
Olivier Giroud came out of his bad patch last week at City and completed his hat-trick by applying the finishing touches to chances created by Mesut Ozil and Hector Bellerin. “Tottenham Hotspur, it’s happened again” boomed around the bowl. Amazingly the ten men struck twice more, each greeted with as big a cheer in north London as in the north east.
Santi Cazorla (how we have missed him) and Mesut Ozil were withdrawn, again to standing ovations. Joel Campbell and Mikel Arteta came on. The emotion when Mikel’s fierce effort found the net via crossbar and goalkeeper was there for all to see and experience. The final whistle has rarely produced such scenes around the stadium. The dissent of recent weeks was pushed to one side (well done all) to show appreciation for the Premier League runners-up.
Tomas Rosicky came out to a guard of honour. He, Mikel, and interestingly Joel Campbell hugged each of their team-mates in turn. After the lap of honour Tomas went and stood in the midfield he has graced when fit in the last decade. The players children played on the hallowed ground. It was one of those moments you try to soak up. It made up for so much of what had gone before in this fractious season.
The queues to get into the pub post match told a tale. The mother of St Totteringham’s Day celebrations was unfolding. Twenty-one and counting, and the most wonderful people shared that celebration. Thank you.