Any opportunity to meet one of the men who we have idolised from afar must be taken with a sure grip. Once more my good friend @thedanielcowan extended an invitation to add to my burgeoning collection of restraining orders. The details? the venue was a casino in Piccadilly. The Galatasaray match would be screened. Nigel Winterburn – vital piece of the immortal Arsenal ‘Back5’ – would be attending and fronting an informal Q&A. Quite an opportunity indeed.
@JamesRaulStokes, Daniel and I arranged to meet in London and have a civilized bite to eat. After deliberating for what seemed like an eternity on an empty stomach, my pleading and begging for a well known, American-themed restaurant swayed James and Daniel.
With James showing less meat than a butcher’s pencil and Daniel eating conservatively, it was left to me to eat the lion’s share. I adore the condiment they cook the meat in, to such a degree that I drank the rest of the sauce – to my colleagues chagrin. After they had finished vomiting, we made our way to the venue via Daniel exhibiting how to kill people inadvertently with a fairground bow and arrow.
Grosvenor Casino was the setting for a swell evening. We entered and set up camp. the guests slowly filtered inside and we were joined by the rest of the @Goonersphere cadre – @SimplyEnigmatic and @Buuuuuuurp. The conversation was sharp and varied and the laughter was infectious. It was a great venue.
The moment Nigel walked in was a familiar feeling of having an unexpected cold shower. All my bravado and bluster was instantly replaced by shrieking and shrivelled genitalia. nigel was resplendent in a sharp suit and was soon regaling all with tales of footballing heroism and success. All aside from me who was attempting to hide in the corner like a shy hobbit.
My compadres soon ushered me over and instantly Nigel melted my stage fright with his warm demeanour and charm. A crowd of ravenous bloggers had now formed a semi-circle of lusty questioning around our hero, but he took it all in his stride as one by one, each question was sated with succinct answering and intelligent witticisms. From memorable goals to potential coaching, we peppered the famous Left-Back. Queries regarding our suspect defence, about Wenger’s tactics and even about Jenkinson’s promise were all aimed squarely at Winterburn and each one was neatly replied and with satisfying aplomb.
For an hour Nigel (or Nige as I was calling him, seeing as we’re best buds now) laughed and joked with us and had us raptured. My colleagues were intensely enjoying it but I am a huge fanboy – as illustrated by my crotch-wetting shyness around ex-Gunners. This night was epic.
The match then started. Nigel sat down to eat in front of the screen and who was sitting next to him? Oh yes. It probably ranks as one of the surrealist moments of my life. You know those matches you watch at home with friends or siblings and you shoot the breeze with inane football chatter and other related meanderings? It was exactly like that but it was Nigel Bloody Winterburn. I still can’t quite get my head around it!
The result was more than pleasing. To see Podolski actually make the most of his chance in the starting line-up for once was heartening but Ramsey’s starring role was uplifting to say the least. We have all seen how hard Ramsey has tried to recapture the stellar form that saw him elevate his status to the heavens. The general consensus was that he needed a goal to give him the fillip that was needed. This performance then would act as the gin and tonic to the stage-frightened thespian. He was everywhere in his 45-minute cameo and his 35-yard screamer ( which was his weaker foot ) was testament that his confiidence has returned which is a massive boost to us.
Youngsters were blooded, Fringe players given their chance under the glaring spotlight. A comprehensive scoreline in our favour. All enjoyed in the company of a bona fide Arsenal Legend and friends who share the same passions ( aside from lusty taxidermy, that’s more Sim’s forte ) and sense of humour.
Grosvenor Casino had set us up in a comfortable yet illustrious bar, plied us with our choice of beverage and food, allowed us to watch the match on an ample screen and provided us with entertainment from a hero. What more could we ask for? A dabble in the casino?
We were offered a free bet in the casino which we all gleefully accepted. We chose Blackjack and seeing as we all had little or no experience surrounding gambling aside from owning the Ocean’s Eleven boxset we had a few practice hands.
One by one we all lost our chips until it was only Daniel and the brilliant wordsmith that is @ArsenalVision. Eventually though, the old adage ‘ The House always wins’ rang true and we left potless but with a beaming smile.
To surmise? If Grosvenor Casino set up another event and you happen to be invited – reply promptly and look forward to a cracking evening.