There are certain matches throughout a Premiership campaign that are inevitably going to quicken the pulse a little more than a midweek trip to Carrow Road or a home game against Leicester City.
These matches are a hotbed for incidents and draw scrutiny around the globe – every mistake, every flash of genius is analysed and technology is applied to look at every millisecond, in order to draw conclusions. These games for neutral fans are an entertaining watch, but for supporters of the clubs involved in the battle – they mean everything.
As a Gooner, twice a season we have at least one hundred and eighty minutes to beat Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. These minutes represent a barometer of sorts to gauge whether we can duke it out with the best and actually apply our talents successfully – or alternatively, if we will ultimately fall short. They also have a foundation of rivalry, bred from matches in the past and glory earned. We look to these games and wish frantically for a positive result so we can then goad the fans of these respective teams. It is a hierarchy and we want to be Lords of the Manor.
In terms of conflict, struggle and history though, there is only one match that is guaranteed to up the ante with supporters. A must win for both sets of fans. The mere possibility of a loss is unbearable to even consider.
A match against Tottenham is one in which every Gooner will feel every minute, the match events are a torture device, no joy can be taken until victory is assured and the threat from the neighbours who dwell in the shadows is quelled to no more than a whisper of ignorance.
It is strange then, that the recent North London Derby was perhaps the most muted I have ever heard our fans. The away support quite often were far louder than our splintered efforts.
I attended the match with a good friend of mine – a certain Daniel Cowan of North London Is Red and Goonersphere – and on more than one occasion, we started to chant a familiar song with which all Gooners will be more than accustomed to, only for our hoarse efforts to be suffocated mercilessly in a blanket of tedium from the fans around us.
The shame of attempting to drum up a group effort only for it to fall flat on its face was embarrassing enough – but what really drove a stake into the heart was the overall lack of interest.
The tickets for this game were £95. Lower tier tickets were also rather expensive. The fans turned up to this game and had shelled out a handsome amount of money. We were playing our oldest rivals and the not so inconsiderate matter of bragging rights were up for grabs. There was no room for polite applause and a smattering of smack talk.
By the end of the game, your voice should have left you after you have assaulted your vocal chords with constant shouting, singing and bursts of verbal battery hurled at the referee. Daniel and I honestly heard a fan behind us utter the phrase “ Have we scored yet?” This was about thirty minutes into the game and I’m sure they would have noticed if we had found the back of the net if they could drag their gaze away from their phone and onto events unfolding on the pitch.
This isn’t an attack on al fans. There were pockets of fans who gamely tried to gee up our team as we huffed and puffed. We only really started to sing though, when we scored. Before Keiran Gibbs’s timely effort however, the only voices I heard in our stand in the Upper East were to insult the exertions of Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Per Mertesacker.
This article is here to shine a light on the people who have come into the stadium and have no real passion for the game. There are hundreds of thousands of Gooners around the globe who would sacrifice so much just to attend a game, and would make themselves heard in the stands rather than waste a ticket simply exchanging small talk with their friends. The people who sat beside Daniel and me on either side quite honestly didn’t get up once to sing or shout. It was quite disgraceful.
This was the North London Derby. This match is a prerequisite for fervent support. This game is a must for hurling chants at our opposite numbers. It isn’t a time for polite applause and offering opinions on scatter cushions. It is a proven fact that vocal support will inspire the players on the pitch. The ‘12th Man’ phrase isn’t merely a theory, we in the stands can actually alter proceedings and be the motivation for the players. The noise we created on Sunday though, was not enough.
Every time I attend a match, the goosebumps always make an appearance, regardless of whether it is my 1st match or my 50th. The initial viewing of the lush pitch as I rise from the stairs is just as breathtaking as the first time my eyes clasped upon this with awe. Attending a match is a privilege we pay so much money for, so why waste any time whilst you are there? You are there not only to watch the game, but to soak up the atmosphere. My times in the Clock End and the North Bank were crammed full of singing, random people hugging when we scored and the noise was as beautiful as a symphony from an orchestra.
A football match without this cacophony devoids why you go to the game. Of course it is part of the experience to go to your chosen watering hole before and after the game to shoot the breeze with your friends. It is the 90 minutes of letting out your frustrations though, that is the real draw. It is pure catharsis and when everyone else is doing the same, it is an indescribable feeling.
Fans leaving early at half time to get a beer/hotdog or to go to the toilet before the rush. Fans leaving early at any time just to get an advantage over the inevitable masses. Fans who take their seats five minutes after the referee has started proceedings. It is completely justifiable to leave early if you have a lot of travelling to do or a train to catch, but any other reason is merely a poor excuse. How can anyone miss any of the proceedings on the pitch when we all are aware of how quickly events can change? How many times in a week are goals scored ridiculously early or preposterously late?
I still unashamedly take photos when I go to a match. It draws looks of derision but the sense of wonder when I enter our stadium has never left me. There is a difference however, between taking photos and playing Candy Crush Saga when the game is in full flow. I simply cannot comprehend how anyone can purchase a ticket to a game and not become ensconced in the match.
The North London Derby deserves the best support you can muster. If you cannot sing for your team when they face off against our mortal enemies then there are hordes of Gooners who would gladly take your place.
A football stadium has excellent acoustics. We should utilise that.