Last game of the season, so let’s get arty with the Who Are They? series. Click on the image and you see a scene from the near future, says James Langton*, the first of Salut! Sunderland‘s Arsenal guest columnists. Relaxing in one of the standard “pleb class” suites at the newly relocated Emirates Stadium, a group of typically enthusiastic Gooners enjoy watching their side drop two more home points against Middlesborough. Other Premiership scores scroll below on BBC Sports Arabia……
Would I like to write about Sunderland? Of course. One of the great memories. Dying seconds of the 1979 Cup Final. 2-2. Cross from Graham Rix to the far post… Oh. That Sunderland.
(Puts down prawn sandwich and replaces cup of Earl Grey on saucer.)
I was born in Derby, but left for London at the age of six months. A close call there, then. Moved to North London. Taken to a game by my father at the age of seven or so (he was on the Daily Express when it sold four million copies a day). Sp**s at home. Bored silly. Fell over and cut my knee. Had more fun picking off the scab. So that was it really.
1971. Listening to Spurs – Arsenal on the radiogram. Nothing less than a win or goalless draw to snatch the title for the first time since 1953. Last team to do the double were Spurs. A Ray Kennedy header three minutes from time. First leg of the double. At Spurs. Did I mention that?
Five days later. Wembley Stadium. Charlie George in extra time. Flat on his back as the Liverpool defence slumps in despair. My father was asked by the club to write the official history of the season. Arsenal! Arsenal!
Regular visits to the North Bank in the late 70s and 80s. Can’t recall watching Sunderland (not the one with the perm) although the stats suggest the Black Cats were a bit of a bogey team. Perhaps it was divine punishment for signing Malcolm MacDonald.
It’s a shame this final fixture of the season is so shorn of meaning. Imagine a few results turned round the other way. Points picked up instead of thrown away to Birmingham and home to Middlesborough and Villa for us. Take away those last gasp points for you against West Ham, Middlesborough and Villa. 90 minutes to decide both ends of the Premier League. Wouldn’t like to bet on the result.
See you next season….and now for your questions:
This was the season Spurs would replace Arsenal as a top four side. Does this fatally flawed prediction make up for chucking away the title.? No it does not. Well, maybe a bit.
Did you expect to struggle to win a single trophy and what do you make of being reduced to virtual spectator to the season’s climax?
When did you last see a SAFC v Arsenal game home or away, and what happened? Any other memorable games between us?
Do we play Sunderland? I need to check up on that one.
Have you been to the Stadium of Light (obviously the last question may answer that). If so what did you make of it? What do you think of Sunderland itself? Or if not, had you ever been to Roker Park?
Does Birmingham count?
Do you think supporting Arsenal is a better or worse experience than supporting a less successful club, in that you are programmed to expect, more or less, to win every game, every trophy?
Programmed to expect to win every game? You obviously don’t know that dreadful chill that comes with the realisation that the next game is away to Bolton. Or Blackburn. Or Sunderland, come to that.
What about the signings each club made this season?
Signings? We made signings?
Your predictions for both clubs for next season?
More of the same I fear.
Do you regard Spurs much as we regard Newcastle? Or are you more grown-up about such things?
One word. Lasagna. Snigger….
Memories of players and/or management linked to both clubs? Niall Quinn is one obvious example, Justin Hoyte and Anthony Stokes are others. Alan Sunderland would be cheating.
I had to look this one up. Charlie Buchan, Herbert Chapman’s first major signing in 1924 at the age of 33. Scored 20 goals in his first season. Wenger would have offered him a one year contract and then flogged him to Portsmouth. Does Roy Keane discussing patriotism with Vieira in the tunnel at Man U. count?
Club vs country. Who wins for you?
Club*. But largely because the current England lot are so second rate on and off the field. Nothing, nothing, will ever equal watching England win the World Cup in ’66. (family anecdote. My father, a sports writer with the Daily Express got a ticket to the final for my grandfather, a Yorkshireman while he watched from the press box. Afterward the game, they met up. What did my grandfather think of the historic victory? “Ah’ve seen Brid* Town play better.”)
*see memories, above
*(Bridlington Town, Northern Premier League Division One (North)
Who will win? Score? How will you keep tabs on the game?
This is just the sort of game we love to throw away. Or because it is now irrelevant, win 4 – 0. My guess is the former. To be witnessed via the BBC sports website.
* Salut! Sunderland on James Langton:
Much-travelled journalist – and spare-time, award-winning baker – who was New York correspondent of the Evening Standard and Sunday Telegraph and now works as news features editor of The National in Abu Dhabi. He is photographed during a pause on a dune-bashing trip into the desert.
ps See what another Arsenal fan makes of it.