I have this half season for Arsenal, have done for a long time. I just follow the Arse. No, the deal is I only watch half of every game, leaving at half-time so someone else can take my seat. Joke. OK, what I do is sit there all the time, but I can only watch one half of the pitch. I have to close my eyes when the ball goes in the other half. Another joke.
Obviously, what I do is have it for half of the season, subletting it from an Arsenal friend. He has three season tickets, one notionally for his son, but he is working abroad at present. My half has just begun, in time to see Arsenal against Sparta Prague in the Euro Champions League. Good timing, because you get these early Euro games for free, in the sense that it comes with your season ticket.
But not so good in that it was a Wednesday evening, pouring down and it was live on the telly. Two hours before the game, my friend rang to say he had another ticket going spare, and did I know anyone who could use it?
I try to keep it quiet locally that I have a half Arsenal ticket because I'm supposedly a Spurs fan. Which I am, oh yes. But first I'm a football fan. I just like to see a good game. I rang a couple of neighbours whom I know to be Arsenal fans and they said: "Wotyoudoinwifanarsnalticket?" But both were going to watch it in the pub. In the end, the ticket was not used. Isn't that awful, a notional £50 totally wasted - except it wasn't. I have it here in front of me, pristine and whole. My friend gave it to me; as he said, it's of no use to him.
One of the strange things in football memorabilia in the past five years is the rise of tickets. Programmes have been kept, and treasured, since at least the 1870s when they first appeared, little more than a card, with the teams on one side and perhaps a couple of adverts on the reverse. By the 1900s, they had grown much bigger, up to 20 pages, with lots of fascinating facts, figures, articles and illustrations. I can spend hours reading my old programmes. Well, I have got a poorly knee. Good and interesting old programmes can now change hands for up to £15,000. Tickets, on the other hand, are totally boring, content-wise, as there's nothing to read. They're not even of interest typographically, as the same old layout goes on for decades. Until recently, they were worthless. Football fans just threw them away.
Now they have suddenly started to appear in catalogues and sales. I kept my own ticket for the 1966 World Cup final, for the simple reason that I throw nothing away. It's now worth £150. Amazing. Pre-war cup final tickets go for £300, according to the latest catalogue from the country's largest football programme dealer, Sports Programmes of Bedfordshire. By tickets, I mean stubs - because, of course, a bit gets taken off when you go through the turnstile. But my Arsenal-Sparta Prague ticket is unused and complete. It could be part of my pension.
The match, I nearly forgot, yeah, it was good. Arsenal won 3-0. What else?
There's a new sign up in Highbury that says "Kings of London", which must piss off Chelsea. And just to rub it in, the Arsenal crowd, when bored, start chanting: "Fuck off Mourinho."
Thierry Henry has a new trick. A season ago he had this habit of doing a sort of half turn with the ball, with his back to his opponent, which when it worked looked dead clever. This season he's working on a step-over to the side, as if he's going round a player with the ball, but in fact he has left it behind, stationary. The trouble is that he tends to get clattered by the lumpen opponent before he can retrieve it.
Henry, now he's captain, has got it into his head that he must clap whenever any Arsenal player gives a remotely half-decent ball, pour encourager les lads, even when a player is 100 yards away. It means he spends half his time with his hands up in the air.
Robin van Persie, now he looks really good, taller than I had imagined. When Bergkamp finally packs it in, Persie could be just the ticket . . .