Much hullabaloo this week regarding Woolwich’s 14 minute flight to Norwich for our match up with the Canaries. If you had ever driven through Suffolk you would know what a ghastly journey it is to this East Anglian outpost. One’s chauffeur finds it insufferably boring and required more than a little help for his fatigue. Cheevers, for that is my driver’s name, swears by the Government’s anti-tiredness campaign of 1928. The memorable ditty, often read out in a jaunty tone by the radio announcers of the time, went thus:
Driving along and feeling glum
Put some amphetamine on your tongue
Nothing worse than feeling tired
Into a ditch you’ll end up mired
Pop a pill into your tummy
Then boy oh boy the feeling’s yummy
Hurtle along a great ‘A’ road
Tapping the pedals like it’s Morse code
Do you remember it? Happily I had a very friendly doctor, from whom I was able to purchase five thousand speed pills, three of which kept Cheevers wide awake whilst lumbering along the road to Norwich.
The train is even worse. You must change at Cambridge. For a City that is home to one of the finest seats of learning, Cambridge really is something of a terrible dunghole. Even to spend ten minutes changing trains there is a very horrible thing. So if you can fly over Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk, you should. Arsenal’s choice was a sensible one.
Not that it helped much. Quite how the chaps managed to suffer from jet lag on a 14 minute journey I do not know. Yet they contrived to appear to have just landed following an economy class flight from the Australian colonies with Australians on board. Still, the welcome is always warm at Carrow Road. It’s real ‘family’ atmosphere, mostly because everyone is directly related to everyone else – brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, mothers and fathers and sometimes two or three of these at the same time. If only they would improve their transport links, their gene pool could be significantly enlarged and the average number of toes would come down to ten.
Following a real double bugger up of a clearance from John Ruddy, Norwich’s fat and useless glove butler, Saunders set up Melvin Orwell (or ‘Fraudwell’, as he is known to Liverpool fans) for 0-1. He is such a fraud that he has had a hand in (I am using capital letters here in case this missive is being read by the dullard enemies of Spurs or Liverpool) THIRTEEN GOALS in his last TWELVE MATCHES – Eleven gentleman’s favours and two of his own. Here he completed SIXTY SIX of SIXTY SEVEN PASSES, FIFTY SEVEN OF WHICH WERE IN THE OPPONENTS HALF.
Yet that early Christmas gift from Tubby Ruddy was to prove inadequate in the face of general awfulness and mounting injuries, more of which later. Mr. Costerley succumbed to that granny’s favourite, the hip injury. Did he fall, or did he ‘have a fall?’ Perhaps more worryingly, Mr Saunders, Arsenal’s beating heart, has twanged his pigrope and is looking at a lengthy spell at the hands of Arsenal’s Torture Team.
His state of physical and mental health was not helped when he was pushed into what seemed to be a sheep dip at the side of the pitch at Carrow Road. A concrete and brick pit, surrounded by loose concrete slabs, at the side of the pitch, in 2015 in the top flight of English Football. We know what a slum stadium looks like when we visit White Hart Hovel, but one would have thought concrete holes covered by concrete trap doors would have been outlawed by now? Perhaps it was a sheep bath, for the Norwich players’ woolly post match entertainment to be cleansed before they are brought to the dressing room?
Back at London Colney, in a far-flung corner of the training ground, there is a somewhat forbidding Victorian building. Guarded by rusty gates and a seemingly permanent mist, one can, if the light is right, make out human faces in the upstairs windows. Some of the bravest lads have pushed the rusty gates open, and fought their way through the overgrown garden. They press their faces against the glass. None of them speak of what they have seen inside. They murmur of ghostly figures in tattered tracksuits; of horrible, demonic figures in white coats massaging helpless prone figures who lie, sobbing, chained to mattresses on wheels. Apparitions in red and white. Moaning and wailing spectres.
This, my friends, is the Arsenal Treatment Room and it is full to bursting with lost souls. The Ghost of Welé, clutching his knee. Arkwright and his amputated leg. Cousins and his missing knee. Saunders and his sore arse, tormented by the daemons who stalk the corridors. Fenton and his perforated calf. Costerley with his hips of marmalade. Cockleton and his poltergeist’s knee. Wilshére and his incorporeal ankle. Robinson and his phantom kneecap.
Poor, lost boys. One day they shall be released.