Opportunities, when they present themselves, must be grasped firmly. Regret is a poison that can be avoided as long as these chances are taken when they arise.
Meeting bonafide Arsenal icon Ian Wright is one of these very opportunities.
Thanks to a good friend ( Josh, I owe you! ) and Barclays, I was invited, along with a group of Leicester City and Spurs fans, to meet heroes from each respective club, offer our opinions on our prospective title chances and get some snaps alongside the most shiny of baubles – the Premier League trophy.
The day started early, and I made my way on the tube towards the Linford Christie Sports Complex. Upon our arrival, we were briefed regarding the itinerary and then directed toward the free food. Although there were a gaggle of Foxes and Spurs supporters, a burgeoning group of Gooners had gathered. We discussed recent results, opinions on the squad and other Arsenal-assorted topics over bacon, sausages, croissants and cups of coffee, kindly laid on by Barclays.
We signed our release forms and then saw the Premier League double decker bus arrive, complete with the Premier League trophy. The security presence which flanked the glittering cup dwarfed the entourage which came with Arsenal legend Ian Wright and former spurs captain Ledley King – which comprised of their agent only.
Our magpie instinct took over and we were drawn to the Premiership treasure, but we were under strict instruction to not lay even one grubby digit on its flawless surface. We gazed at its glory before being asked by a bubbly woman to answer a few questions in front of camera.
I possess only two levels – one of complete disinterest and the other is an enthusiasm so bright and furious, that it makes most who meet me think I require supervision – and I once again went with the fervent approach when performing instructed tricks in front of the camera lens. I blurted something out about sacrificing most of my limbs for our club to win the League and being able to hold aloft the trophy which stood mere feet away, and then, we gathered together and were asked to sing, chant and support our team loudly.
Well, that is my arena. My neck veins rose, spittle fired from my mouth as it contoured to form Arsenal songs and I momentarily summoned memories of triumphant matches so I could give my all. I gather it was a little too much as I was soon culled from the next batch of photos, but not before being asked to show off my Gunners tattoo which I proudly sport.
Then, all fans were herded onto the top of the bus so the cameraman and assorted media could get their required footage. We were directed to make some noise, and seeing as our ‘enemy’ were represented, we couldn’t very well let them outsing us, could we!
We sang loud and proud, and their vast catalogue of two songs couldn’t match our library of melodies and lyrics. We had done our job and to all who shown up for The Arsenal – credit where it is due. ( James, Connor, @10akhil and your boys, you were on top of your game! )
Then, the moment we had been waiting for. Two rather illustrious saloon-type cars pulled up – firstly with Ledley King ( surprisingly bereft of crutches ), and then the man so good, we sang his name thrice – Ian Wright Wright Wright.
Our songs drew him near and the effervescent character he is, he soon started to jovially talk to us all, even though we were still on top of the bus! Wrighty was soon doing his bit for the cameras, alongside King as they posed with the Premiership trophy.
We intermittently made noise on demand, and when our services were no longer required, we headed to the food and drink to refresh ourselves after getting quite parched. All the while, Wrighty and King were getting snapped and quizzed by cameras You could feel amongst all the Gooners present, that we were all waiting for the opportune slice of time to accost Wright and get a photo.
He finished up with his business with the trophy and we all struck quickly, moving in before his agent could sweep him away. Wrighty, much like Ray Parlour, is very much a people person and his affable nature allied with his love for Gooners means he posed, quipped and signed whenever the need arose, which it did indeed.
I patiently waited for my turn, the excitement building. I finally had my time with him and I began by asking him his thoughts on the Bergkamp/De Boer tandem. He stated that he thought their free-flowing style suited our club well and change will soon be required at the helm of our club, but Dennis being unable to fly may cause problems! I then asked him to sign the shirt I wore and he duly obliged, along with a photo that has made my year.
We then were asked to once more board the Premier League bus and as we did, none other than Gary Lineker entered the fray, being chauffered in a sleek Jaguar. He acknowledged us fans, and was ushered to the Premiership trophy which was just below us. Photo ops for the press followed, and we again provided the soundtrack to the videos that were shot.
After a while, the three players went to different areas of the complex and we took the chance to get our photo taken alongside the thing we would treasure should we ever have the chance to see our Captain lift it. The security had their eyes on us incase our rambunctious nature got the better of us and we attempted to recreate any famous poses which would involve touching the trophy. Needless to say, ridiculous photos were taken and we all had a turn with the famous cup.
The ex-players were being grilled mercilessly by media types and the end of the day was drawing near. It had been a whirlwind few hours, but we hung around for one more chance to see Wrighty. The man who broke our scoring record. The man who celebrated every goal with the exuberance of an everyday fan. He had earned the adulation of every fan and we all wanted just one more minute with him.
Before that was to happen though, we were asked by Sky Sports to answer a question or two in front of the camera. We jumped at the chance and my five seconds of fame can be found here
Lo and behold – just as we finished up with our time on front of camera, Wrighty emerged from his numerous interviews and we swarmed him. He laughed and joshed with us all and every photo he appeared in he seemed genuinely happy to be present in. I managed another photo with him and he kindly signed yet another piece of Arsenal merch before he made his way from the venue.
It was four hours that whizzed by and it was a chance to meet with one of Arsenal’s finest. I’d like to thank Barclays for a fantastic day and organising this event which gave all of us fans memories that we can pass down to our kids. Not all sponsorship events are a success but the work they put in to centre it around us and enable the close contact with our heroes made it truly special.