My next-door neighbour Ian, who is a Gooner, asked me if I would like a ticket for the Big Match. His friend Chris, who sits beside him, was not going. The condition was that I had not to jump up and down on my seat every time Spurs scored. I said brilliant, fab, and of course I will behave. One should not mock or boast or take advantage of lesser mortals in their bad times.
As I was writing out a cheque for £60 - remember them? sort of rectangular bits of paper - I asked why Chris was not going. Did he have a family wedding, a funeral, vital work? He is an architect, so stuff can come up at weekends. Must be pretty mega, to make him give up his season ticket. Ian hesitated, not sure how to explain, then he let me read an email Chris had sent him:
“I wonder whether you would like both tickets for the Spurs game? To be totally honest with you I am so disillusioned at the moment I really don't want to go to this match and see us thumped again. I realise that this is not the spirit and that I am therefore not a true supporter as I can't seem to 'keep the faith'. I will drop my season ticket off at your house."
Folks not interested in football often think fans are sloppy, emotional, sentimental, maudlin, all of which is spot on, believing such feelings should be kept for really important things in life, like birth and death, not boring, trivial football. In reply, we usually quote Bill Shankly.
At the same time, a true fan of some years' standing, or in these days sitting, takes the disappointments and defeats in their stride. It is part of being a football fan. We all have to suffer.
For decades , the Gods seemed to have blessed Liverpool. Not now. It will happen soon to Barcelona. Then watch them weep. All the same, I was surprised that Chris should voluntarily elect not to watch this Arsenal-Spurs match, which could confirm Spurs as the top team in London, surely destined for third spot, while an Arsenal win could turn round their miserable season.
Little chance, of course, of the latter happening. Had not the Sunday papers anointed Spurs as odds-on favourites, saying only one Arsenal player, Van Persie, could get in the present Spurs team, while Harry had been christened England manager, winner already of the 2012 Euro, plus the 2014 World Cup? Poor old Wenger was being continually criticised by even the loyalist fans.
On the way to the game, I was perfecting a remark I would come out with spontaneously at the end of the game. "What's happened to all those banners I used to see saying 'In Arsene We Trust'? Presumably now you will be dropping the first T . . ." Hee hee, jolly witty, Hunt.
When we, I mean Spurs, went 2-0 up, I carefully did not stand up or cheer. I agreed with Ian on my left and a big burly bloke on my right that yeh, Spurs were jammy, a deflected goal and a penalty. Both of them were moaning about Walcott - should be pulled off, waste of space, why hadn't Wenger bought a decent player from Southampton, such as Bale?
When Arsenal got their first goal, the big bloke jumped up in the air, throwing his arms around so much he knocked my specs right off. I made no protest - poor things, Gooners do need a bit of pleasure.
Same thing happened when they got a second goal. This time he accidentally hit me in the eye, even harder. When the 3rd, 4th and 5th goals flew in, I got bashed each time around the head.
He didn't even notice, too busy singing along with 55,000 other Gooners. "Two nil, and you fucked it up." Followed by, "Harry, Harry, what's the score . . ."
Spurs were appalling, just as bad as they had been against Stevenage, a recent rubbish game I'd wiped from my slate, convinced that after 40 years of misery and disappointment, Spurs really were different this season, would continue to flatter and not deceive and not end up middling, as per bloody usual. I came home emotionally deflated as well as physically bruised. I bet Chris was gutted to have given up his ticket. That's a technical term, used in architecture.