In November of 1798 the Earl of Elgin was appointed as Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of His Britannic Majesty to the Sublime Porte of Selim III, Sultan of Turkey. Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire. Much like all fine and intrepid colonialists he decided he would rightly excavate and remove some great works of antiquity and place them in the British Museum in Holborn. It was all perfectly legal. We have a piece of paper and everything. Hurrah and Huzzah! God bless Her Majesty!
What fine statuary they are. 21 figures from the east and west pediments, 15 of the metope panels depicting battles between the Lapiths and the Centaurs, and then a couple of big ugly statues depicting the Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. Sadly, the Greeks do not accept a simple fact of International Law, and regularly have conniptions about the work being in London. To which all right-thinking Englishmen take their pipe from their mouths and utter with one voice: Bugger off, you’re never having them back.
To the site of another, more recent, but just as wonderful British plunder, the Karaiskaki Stadium. Which is a just a ghastly, traffic-choked, stinking 19 minute taxi journey from the Parthenon itself, which does, on reflection, look a tad bare.
Arsenal, because, well, Arsenal, needed to win by two clear goals to go through to our customary early knockout in the European Cup. Arsenal, because, Arsenal, love to do things the hard way. We learn this week form the lips of Fenton, no less, that we had disrespected Monaco in last year’s final 16. We disrespected a team who had made it through to the top 16 clubs in Europe. What in the name of Dickens’ ghost is that sort of attitude? It is no great leap to imagine that we had disrespected Zagreb and Olympic of Athens in the earlier disasters of the group stage. We had a job to do. We needed a comeback of biblical proportions. We needed to become Arsenalazarus.
It was written. The Arsenal Gospel according to St. John, Chapter 11.
- 1 Now a certain club was sick, named Arsenalazarus, of London.
2 Supporters went to unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
3 When Jesus heard that, he said, even though Sanchez is out, the game must be won.
4 Jesus said, ‘Are you lot giving up now? We have had our doubts about Campbell, but we must giveth the lad a chance.’
5 Supporters sayeth to Jesus, ‘But what about Giroud? Ofteneth he chokes in big games’
Jesus spake to these supporters, saying ‘you lot make me want to puketh sometimes. Have some faith in the big lad, for he haveth a good deal of mental strength.
6 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Arsenalazarus is dead unless we can pulleth this one off.
7 And the supporters sayeth, ‘if we drop into the Europa League, we’ll be up against the likes of Molde FK, FC Krasnodar and Tottenham Hotspur. On a Thursday.
And Jesus wept.
And so it was. We escaped a fate worse than death. Special mentions must go to Harry The Helmet. What a purchase he has been. Perhaps if the Fulham Unmentionables hadn’t sold him to us they might not be two points above the relegation zone with a six pointer coming up on the 19th against Sunderland. I’m going to make the butler type that sentence again, because I love saying it out loud. Perhaps if the Fulham Unmentionables hadn’t sold him to us they might not be two points above the relegation zone with a six pointer coming up on the 19th against Sunderland. I’m going to make the butler type that sentence again, because I love saying it out loud.
Costerley was a typically superb sentinel. Telepathic & athletic, a constant, nettling presence for opposition attackers. Mandeville, what a player. And Monsieur Campbelle with the sumptuous gentleman’s favour. There is a player who has seized his opportunity like a Stoke fan seizes his cousin for sex. And finally, the majestic Brigadier Goring-Hildred. His best performance in the fabled Black/ dark blue shirt with the three strange parallelograms on it? Perhaps.
Post match, from Mr. Fenton again, he stated that the chaps knew the importance of getting the first goal, and therefore the home team turning up the pressure on their own team by getting on their backs. Turning on their own players. Booing their own team, that kind of thing. I wonder if a few of the more vocal critics of the chaps might remember that in the undoubtedly testing months ahead.
And finally, may we all enjoy some epicariacy in Manchester United’s exhausting trips to Europe’s wastelands between now and May.
Q: I say I say I say, how do you get into the Europa League?
A: You spend £250 million pounds and start off in the Champions’ League.