On the way to Arsenal -- no that's a lie, it was earlier in the day when I was swimming at Kentish Town Baths, now much improved since the changing rooms have been done, no longer a health hazard -- I met an old friend, Glyn Owen, the actor. Very big at one time in a TV series called The Brothers.
"Do you know three football teams with rude words inside them?" he asked as we rested at the deep end. Glyn is not a football fan, so it was bound to be something silly or obscene. "Arse-enal," he said, "Scunthorpe and ManFuckingUnited."
Yes, very childish, but it's based on a truth -- that the half of the country who don't follow Manchester United hate them. I don't, being sensible, fair, calm, unprejudiced, why else would I be so delighted to get my half-season ticket back for Arsenal? It's good football I want to see, not just my team winning.
I felt almost like an Arsenal fan as I approached Highbury for the Euro home game against Ajax -- apprehensive. Deep down, I feel that Man Utd are still better than Arsenal when it comes to Europe. Despite all their brilliant Premiership displays, and so often these days getting the better of Man Utd, they still don't seem to have sussed out Europe, how you plan it, how you play it. Most of Arsenal's players must remember their dreadful Euro displays at Wembley two seasons ago. If I were Fergie, really wanting to wind up Wenger, I would be wondering aloud about Arsenal, saying how sad that such an excellent team has never had much luck in Europe, hee hee. Man U were very fortunate at home against Juventus, but probably believe they deserved it.
Around me in the west stand, the Arsenal crowd were urging on Paddy, then they shouted for Bobby. I thought, heh up, have they signed some new players while I was away? I checked my programme, still only [pounds sterling]2.50 for 68 pages compared with Spurs's at [pounds sterling]3 for 60 pages. Turned out to be Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires, a sign of the affection in which they are now held, and a sad attempt to Anglicise them, make them one of ours.
After Arsenal's goal, the Ajax fans …