Monday 30 September 2013

Meet the Gooner Family [Colin, New Orleans]

Meet Colin Ash, an Arsenal fan living in New Orleans, and another host for the Gooner On The Road. Colin showed me around New Orleans and took me to some great bars, restaurants and jazz clubs. 

Another City another Gooner.
Colin Ash

Q. Why Arsenal?
I love the way that the club is run and I love how we play on the pitch, aesthetically we're still one of the best teams to watch, and we're always getting better.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
2002. The World Cup in South Korea & Japan was what really got me into watching football. Because it was in the summer (when I wasn't at school) I just watched every game. Then I had to pick a team, and I chose Arsenal. My earliest Arsenal memory was beating Spurs 5-4 at White Hart Lane in 2004, with that remarkable fifth goal from Pires.

Q. Favourite Player?
Henry. He played a big part in me being an Arsenal fan in the first place. How easy he made everything look, his demeanour, he's a legend.

Q. Favourite current Player?
Aaron Ramsey. He seems like he loves the club as much as I do and always gives his all. It's great to see him come back from what he's gone through and that incident over time has made him much stronger.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
Fabregas scoring in the San Siro against AC Milan in the Champions League. I was at the Student Union at Louisiana State University and when he scored I stood on top of a table as people were eating lunch, just screaming in ecstasy. With AC Milan having never been beaten by an English team, it was especially gratifying.

Q.Where do you watch Arsenal in 'New Orleans'.
Watch it at Finn McCool's Irish Pub in the Mid-City district. I've been going there regularly for the past few months, although I've known the place for the last few years. The NOLA Gooners have literally only been an official Arsenal America branch for a few weeks. We're young but we're growing fast and we're proud of our group.

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
One of my biggest regrets is not making it to Highbury, I would have loved to have seen it in person. Highbury sticks out in my mind for better memories, and I'd pick this place over Emirates for that reason alone.

Q. League Prediction?
We're going to finish top. I don't see why we can't at this point.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
At the moment Ramsey is the man to watch. At the same time I'm excited to see how Gnabry will progress this season as he gets more playing time with Theo being out.  

So, next stop is Austin Texas for some Tacos and Rodeo (maybe!) Remember, if you enjoy reading the blog please help out by donating to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.


Sunday 29 September 2013

Swansea 1-2 Arsenal [Finn McCool's, New Orleans]

The winning streak continues! For every game I've been 'on the road', Arsenal have won in all competitions. It feels good to be a Gooner right now, and what a better place to celebrate yet another win (and another Ramsey goal) than in the wonderful city of New Orleans, Louisiana.

M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. One of the world's great rivers. Smells a bit.

New Orleans is one of the most characterful cities in the United States. The mix of French, Spanish and American influence has given the place an unbelievable feel. Being situated in the Deep South, in-between a river (the Mississippi), a lake and the Gulf of Mexico, it gets extremely humid from Spring to Fall. This heat is one of many incentives to drink yourself under the table in one of New Orlean's countless bars and pubs, many of which have their own unique offerings, and of course many of which serve alcohol 24 hours a day. With this in mind, you can understand why New Orleans is the party capital of the country along with Las Vegas.

The infamous Bourbon Street, or as I like to call it,  'The Street Of Shame'

The local Arsenal fans, known collectively as the NOLA Gooners, meet up at Finn McCool's Irish Pub in the Mid-City district of the city for every match. The supporters club itself has only recently gained status as an officially recognised branch of Arsenal America, but, by the atmosphere I experienced, it looks like they've been going since the beginning of time. Of course, as is typical with the Gooner Family, I was welcomed with open arms, had several pints of New Orlean's finest ale bought for me, and raised $120 for the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.

As you can see from the video above, The NOLA Gooners were out in full force and were understandably elated when Aaron Ramsey scored his eighth goal of the season. The celebrations went long into the day and night, as we once again claimed top spot in the Premier League.

Typically happy Arsenal fans in New Orleans

Talking of the Flying Welshman, Ramsey has quite simply become Arsenal's main man and every time he has the ball he does something productive. It's not like he has the technical ability of the Premier League's greatest, but he has the engine and the determination to become Arsenal's own Lampard or Gerrard and, much like they did ten years ago, score 20 or 30 goals a season.

Gnabry also grabbed his first Premier League goal on Saturday and his performance is going to really give Walcott something to worry about. It's definitely some much-needed competition for the right wing, especially when we consider Walcott's performance has been slack of recent weeks prior to his abdominal procedure.

The next stop on my itinerary is Austin, Texas! For now though I'm enjoying my last day in New Orleans. Please look out for the Meet The Gooner Family link on Colin Ash, my host here.


Friday 27 September 2013

Meet the Gooner Family [Brett, Durham NC]

Brett Stein was my host for the North Carolina leg of Gooner On The Road, and what a fantastic host he was! Brett drove me around everywhere, bought me beers and food all the time I was there and was generally an extremely hospitable guy, making me feel right at home. He was also instrumental in raising money with the Triple Negative Breast Cancer/Gooner On The Road raffle and really went out of his way to make it a memorable place.

Brett with his son, Jack (a little Gooner) and the GOTR.

Q. Why Arsenal?
I watched a lot of champs league in college, I wasn't die hard until 2007. I was living in New York City and I watched with Arsenal with friends, the carmarderie, the culture and the friendliness of other gooners made it a no-brainer for me. Obviously their style of play doesn't hurt either!

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
Around 2007 was when I became a proper fan, as described above.

Q. Favourite Player?
Thierry Henry, didn't get to see him play live but I'd watch old matches and the quality he had was crazy.

Q. Favourite current Player?
Jack Wilshere. he bleeds the club. Pictures of him being a bulldog to players two feet taller than him, he's a fierce competitor. Actually my Son is also called Jack, some might say we named him after JW10!

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
On October 29th 2011, my good friend Bolt Flakson got married in NYC. The morning of the wedding, Arsenal were at Stamford Bridge away, 730am kickoff. Bearing in mind we were out for rehearsals til late the night before, the whole wedding party went to the Blind Pig to watch the match. Obviously we won 5-3 and the Blind Pig was mental. Then he had to get married after! I'm sure if we asked Bolt this question he'd come up with a similar answer.

Q.Where do you watch Arsenal in 'the Triangle'.
Bull McCabes in North Carolina with the Triangle Gooners. It's growing, 25 people to 85 people in less than a year. Everybody's really passionate, they pull together when they need to as well. The food and beer selection is really good and the staff are very attentive and friendly.

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
Emirates for me! Never been to Highbury, being a more recent supporter. I had a tour of the Emirates with Perry Groves, went in the dressing room, around the pitch. It was a dream come true.

Q. League Prediction?
Top of the table! We have great fighting spirit right now, with people coming back from injury we've got a real shot. It's not a guarantee we won't have more injuries but it's possible we can have a great squad and a great season.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
Ozil. You can't turn your back or you'll regret missing seeing him do something. He's like a magician.

Thanks for reading! Next stop, New Orleans.


WBA 1-1 Arsenal* [Bull McCabes, Durham NC]

'Southern Hospitality'. I was told by many that I would experience it upon setting foot in North Carolina. The people that I met in this state didn't just meet these expectations though, they blew them out the water! When you combine this effortless warmth with the accommodating Gooner Family, you get the Triangle Gooners.

Durham in North Carolina, otherwise known as the 'Bull City'

First though, a bit of background on the area I was visiting. The 'Triangle' is a region in North Carolina encompassing Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, three cities with a real southern feel, some delicious soul food, great microbreweries and amazing people. A few of the culinary highlights that really stood out for me was the visit to Lonerider brewery for a great pint, and some real (some say North Carolina's best) BBQ Pork at the Backyard BBQ Pit, as featured on Man v Food. I highly recommend visiting both.

World famous North Carolina BBQ at its very best.

One of the USA's younger supporters clubs, the Triangle Gooners is growing in numbers and there's a real community spirit about the group. 'Be a Gooner, Be a Giver' springs to mind here, and they demonstrated this by arranging a charity raffle for the North Carolina leg of the Gooner On The Road mission.

The Triangle Gooners pre-match crowd (trust me it was twice this size during the game)

The problem was it was a weekday, it was the Capital One Cup, and of course it wasn't televised.
But there were a number of 'I can't believe we managed to...' moments here; I couldn't believe that we managed to watch the match live, I couldn't believe they raised as much money as they did (some $500), I couldn't believe that I managed to get on local NBC Morning Television, and of course I couldn't believe that we won on penalties! Bloody Hell!!!

The most edge-of-the-seat moment though, aside from the last gasp penalty winner from Nacho Man, was when we lost our TV channel momentarily, precisely when Eisfeld put the ball past the keeper. You couldn't have come up with it yourself. The TV and the sound stopped as we were in pre-goal-celebration (you couldn't tell whether the ball was goal-bound). It was probably the longest 10 seconds of my life, and as the feed came back our wishes were confirmed. I hope you can understand from the video below what that actually felt like!

As you've probably guessed by now I don't do minute-by-minute recounts of games as there are plenty of other people out there that do, some of them extremely talented, some not so much! But I did want to say a few things on the match.

First off, it was great to see senior members such as Vermaelen and Arteta come back into the fold, and it was also a 'moment' (because 'moment' is the only word I can use) to see Bendtner wake up from underneath a bridge somewhere to put in a tepid performance. I'm going to stick by him for now and wish him well, everybody makes mistakes, and some people make one-vehicle pile-ups, Bendtner being a good example for the latter. I think he is a good backup and I'm convinced that with some proper service (which he can now receive from Özil and Cazorla) and a bit more conditioning, he can be a decent backup to the Good Looking French Guy. Another thing to note is the spirit that the younger team members demonstrated in order to win a penalty shootout against a decent, more experienced West Brom side. Remember, we rarely win shootouts, so for them to cope with that pressure is worthy of an applause in its own right.

So, to summarise, North Carolina is awesome and I will be going back, we've won every game I've been on the road, and, because we didn't get knocked out of the COC, my itinerary still stands! Next up, New Orleans!

Look out for the 'Meet the Gooner Family' feature later, and remember to donate here!

Until then.


Tuesday 24 September 2013

Meet the Gooner Family [Kurtis, New York City]

Meet Kurtis Powers, host for the NYC segment of Gooner On The Road and probably better known as  co-founder of the NYC Arsenal Supporters club. Kurt is a great friend of mine, and I have to say that if I hadn't met the guy back in 2010 I probably wouldn't have come up with the idea for the Gooner On The Road adventure.

Gooner On The Road and Kurtis Powers

Kurtis Powers

Q. Why Arsenal?
My family supported either West Ham or Arsenal, so I had a choice to make and I guess I picked the right one, - there's no going back, that's for sure. Aside from football and the history I guess the global fanbase is second-to-none. The family aspect that it represents to me is unrivalled. I go over to the UK and spend Christmas with friends met through Arsenal, the Gooner Family. Even if we dropped to the 3rd division I'd never stop supporting Arsenal.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
Losely in the early nineties, but I became serious 1997-1998.

Q. Favourite Player?
Bergkamp, I know everybody else says the same and I'd like to come up with a more creative answer, but for me it's Bergkamp, and a very close second would be Wrighty, who he used to link up with on a regular basis. To me, Bergkamp was like Iceman from topman, slick and cool. Wright was like the Mick Jagger of football, he had that amazing presence. 

Of course I also appreciate Henry because of the relationship we have through the NYC Arsenal Supporters and that we recognise each other.

Q. Favourite current Player?
Jack Wilshere because he grew up through the Arsenal and he went from a boy to a man with the club, he represents the badge. A close second would be Koscielny, he's humble in his approach and he puts his heart (sometimes before his head) into every performance.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
Of recent, I haven't had as much of a buzz as when Arshavin scored the winner against Barcelona at The Emirates. My second choice would be the Fabregas goal against Tottenham where he went on a run and scored whilst everybody was still celebrating the Van Persie goal and the TV was still catching up. The fact that initially nobody watching the game on TV had any idea what was happening made it all the more entertaining.

Q.Where do you watch Arsenal in NYC?
Blind Pig and O'Hanlons.

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
Emirates. I have more of a personal connection with The Emirates and I've never seen us lose at The Emirates whilst I've attended in person. Highbury is good but once more people accept the fact that we've moved to The Emirates for a positive reason, the better the Emirates will become. The Arsenalisation has made the Emirates feel like it's becoming our true home, but of course we have no history there yet which is why Highbury will stick out in most Arsenal fan's memories. For me, history will be made at the Emirates.

Q. League Prediction?
I think we're going to finish 1st or 2nd. I think top 4 will be Arsenal City Liverpool Chelsea, United finishing out the top 4.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil. Ramsey is getting better and better every week, I think he could score 20-25 goals this season. Ozil brings something special that will help the other players around him get better. He's a real positive influence.

Friday 20 September 2013

Meet the Gooner Family [Jeff, Boston, USA]

Meet Jeff Werner, my host in Boston and the guy that, amongst juggling a million other things in his personal life, helps keep the Boston Gooners ticking over. Despite having a whole host of important errands to run during the time I spent at his place, he still managed to make me feel at home and took me on a crazy guided tour through Downtown Boston and Cambridge, letting me snap away to my hearts' content. Suffice to say, if it weren't for Jeff I wouldn't have got to see anywhere near as much of Boston as I did. Yes, it was at a frantic pace, but when you don't have much time and you have to contend with Boston traffic, I think he did a fantastic job, so well done Jeff!

Jeff Werner

Q. Why Arsenal?
Just for the approach and classiness exhibited by the club. They're commendable and worthy of emulation and of course they are supremely enjoyable to watch. The club conducts itself very well and sets a great example to others.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
1997/1998 season because I was playing FIFA 97 or FIFA 98 with my friends and I recognised the name Dennis Bergkamp and it stuck, I think it's because he was the best player on the game. That did it for me.

Q. Favourite Player?
It's difficult to say, I would probably pick Tony Adams because he was a true leader and a bit of a bad boy which made opponents fear him. If it wasn't Tony I would have to pick Patrick Viera for the same reasons listed above.

Q. Favourite current Player?
Toss up between Podolski and Ramsey. Not specifically because of play, it's because of attitude. Podolski's always in a good mood and he's elated when he does well. Aaron Ramsey because I remember when he got hurt, and expectations for him coming back were ridiulcous, I have a lot of respect for him because he proved his critics wrong and he's flying now. He's Wales' best player too, haha!

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
Henry versus Leeds or Arshavin versus Barcelona. I find it impossible to pick one over the other.

Q.Where do you watch Arsenal in Boston?
Lir Pub. We've only been there since February 2012. It has a certain cosiness about it and all the regulars know each other. The location is fantastic and the staff are wonderful.

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
I never went to Highbury so I can't fairly say which one. I grew up with Fenway Park and I compare that to Highbury as the spiritual home. But Emirates had to happen in order for us to compete with the big boys. We lost some character but gained some extra ability, there was no other way.

Q. League Prediction?
Arsenal are capable of making a title run. We could finish anywhere from 1st to 3rd, but 1st is highly contingent on improving squad depth in January.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
Aaron Ramsey no question, it wasn't a fluke that he's got to where he is as a fan favourite. It's the combination of a lot of hard work and determination.

So that's it from Jeff and I. Remember to keep donating!!! Next stop for me is New York City, stay tuned.


Marseille 1-2 Arsenal [Lir Pub, Boston, USA]

Arsenal's first Champions League match of the season was a result I didn't think was going to happen and I'm quite sure that I shared the same feelings with the majority of the crowd in Boston, the first city on the American leg of my Gooner On The Road challenge.

It was my first time in Boston, having traveled 8 hours from Montreal on the typically American (and typically rickety) Greyhound Bus. The journey was scenic, winding through the hills of Vermont and passing picturesque cities like Montpellier and LeBanon (yes these are cities in the US). I also had a 'preview' of New England in Autumn (or 'Fall' as the Americans call it), with a small portion of leaves exhibiting a golden hue. I can only imagine what the place will look like a few weeks from now.

'Bastin' as the locals call it.

Boston itself was magnificent, you can definitely tell it's one of the oldest cities in the country, preserved buildings, cobbled streets and old tram lines make up a great deal of the character. It actually feels a lot like Downtown New York (not Midtown) with the non-grid system evident.

The highlight of my Boston experience, apart from meeting with the local Arsenal contingent, was seeing the Red Sox play at their infamous home, Fenway Park. The stadium celebrated its 100th birthday last year, and aside from the modern concessions and amenities, very little has changed. It made me realise just how much I miss Arsenal's true home, Highbury.

I was actually fortunate enough to get a ticket for $1, as the Sox were holding a special promotion where anybody with a beard can get in for 'a buck'. I heard about the game the day before it took place, so I put my razor away and kept the itchy traveler beard going one day longer - it was only once I arrived at the stadium and saw people with paper and cotton candy stuck to their faces that I realised it didn't have to be a real beard. After all, how would all the women and children get in?

Not a bad view for a dollar huh?

Anyway, suffice to say, the Red Sox lost to Baltimore Orioles. It was my first Baseball game, and it was definitely one to remember despite the loss. It's not all doom and gloom either as it looks like there's a very good chance they will progress to the playoffs. At least, that's what I think. But then it did take me 2 hours to figure out what team was actually winning, and how the scoring works. But there you go, I gave a sport other than football a chance. Could I get into it? I doubt it, by the time it had finished I actually felt like I had aged slightly, seeing as the game was almost 4 hours long.

Fenway Park and the Gooner On The Road
On to the Boston Gooners then, which is what the blog is all about, am I right? The Boston Arsenal fans watch games at the Lir pub on Boylston Street, which is almost directly opposite the Prudential Centre in the downtown core. It's a great Irish pub with loads of character, loads of wood and loads of TV screens. I met a few people over on holiday from England and Ireland, and they seemed to be having a good time as well.

The Boston Gooners. The person that took the photo deserves credit for getting at least half of us in the frame.

I have become familiar over the past few years with the ritual of watching 2:45pm Champions League kickoffs on the US East Coast, so usually the crowd is diluted compared to the weekend. Nevertheless, the turnout for the Marseille match was great, and of course we were all pleased (and relieved) to see Theo get back on the scoresheet with a scorching half-volley.

So the next stop on the Gooner On The Road tour is New York City, home to the infamous NYC Arsenal Supporters and the Bling Pig pub where they watch the games. I've been there plenty of times but I never tire of the atmosphere there. You can see the 'Meet the Gooner Family' feature with Jeff Werner, the Boston host, later on in the week.

Finally and most importantly, remember you can donate here for the Triple Negative Breast Cancer foundation. I'm at approximately £800/$1300 so there's momentum there, but I need more volume. Please donate what you can and ask your friends and family to do the same, I truly appreciate the donation no matter how small it is.


Tuesday 17 September 2013

Meet The Gooner Family [Graeme, Montreal]

Meet Graeme Cambridge, my last-minute host (literally) for the Montreal leg of the GOTR tour. As I was staying with friends in Canada, I had completely forgot that one of my challenges was to stay with a Gooner wherever I was watching a game. Thankfully Graeme demonstrated once again what the Arsenal Family is all about, and stepped in to offer a place to stay for the night. Top bloke.

Graeme and I spent literally the whole day on Saturday celebrating our win against Sunderland by going on a pub crawl in Montreal with a few other friends. It's a great city to celebrate three points and a return to the top of the table (or at least we were top of the table). Once again, a two-day hangover ensued, one that I'm still feeling the effects of as I type this.
Graeme and the Gooner On The Road

Graeme Cambridge

Q. Why Arsenal?
I love the way they play. There's a class aspect to Arsenal, something that other teams don't possess.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
I'm a new fan. 2006. I worked at a pub called the Hobgoblin in Bristol, and I was there on a day off because there wasn't anything else to do. I caught my first Arsenal match and it was amazing.

Q. All time favourite Player?
Cesc Fabregas. Something intangible, he's just special, he fits into the system. He had the charisma that is hard to match.

Q. Favourite current Player?
Like Podolski because he's great on and off the pitch, but my fave player is Cazorla, he's great to watch and he does that amazing one-two with himself to get out of a sticky situation.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
The second 5-2 thumping of Spurs. I haven't had a lot to celebrate because of the time I've been a fan, but there are still moments to remember, and the second 5-2 thumping of Spurs is at the top of my Arsenal memory list.

Q.Where do you watch Arsenal in Montreal?
Burgundy Lion if I'm not watching at home. I used to go to the Fox and Fiddle when I lived in Toronto. The pub is a bit on the quiet side but the AMMO group is new and still growing in numbers so I'm confident the atmosphere will get better.

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
Emirates because I'm a new fan. But I will see and hear stories about Highbury and that it was Arsenal's fairytale castle, I wish I could have visited it when it was creating lasting memories.

Q. League Prediction?
3rd position. I think Chelsea are going to win the league. City second. That means we will finish above United. It also means Spurs will once again finish outside the top four!

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
Ramsey. He's been incredible right the way through the end of last season, to the two goals scored on Saturday. He's on the way to becoming a legend.

Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal. National Özil Day [Burgundy Lion, Montreal, Canada]

Well after a nice breather in Canada for the International Break, I'm now in Boston, the first of thirteen cities to be visited in the US over the next 2 months. I must apologise for the lack of blogging recently, but you can be rest assured normal service will be resumed momentarily.

Bye Bye Montreal, my old friend. I'll see you again when the white stuff has come and gone.

Before we talk about kicking off the US leg of my tour, what was Montreal like? I can tell you that it's a fantastic city to visit and one that should be on everybody's 'must-see' list if they are in Canada. Montreal is totally unique as a city in North America, the French influence clearly visible to even the most ignorant and non-educated of visitors. The Old Port (Vieux Port de Montréal for those who feel confident enough to try a bit of Quebecois) is particularly welcoming to people that desire a little more character in their city-break destination. The cobbled streets and micro-brasseries make it a perfect place to spend the closing weeks of Summer, and the whole of Montreal is a gastronomic delight. Of course, in Winter it's a different story and I'm glad I'll be far from there when the weather turns. Full disclosure - I used to live in Montreal for 2 years, two winters are all that I can stand.

Just some of the regular AMMO members

Of course the main reason for visiting Montreal, like all the other destinations on my itinerary, was to meet the local Arsenal fans. Montreal was a little bit different than the other cities I'm doing on the GOTR tour because a) I used to live there and b) I actually created the Arsenal Montreal Member's Organization (AMMO) back in 2010. However, I had never actually watched a game with these guys as I moved back to the UK shortly after creating the group, so for me, it was a perfect opportunity to go and watch Sunderland vs Arsenal at AMMO's pub of choice, the Burgundy Lion, for the first time.

The atmosphere at The 'Lion, as you can see from the video below, was lively yet 'controlled'. I had no idea the turnout was going to be what it was, some people were saying it was the most they've seen and that they were coming for the Ozil Party, others saying they were just glad to see yours truly, the Gooner On The Road. Whatever the reason, I was impressed and quite proud that there's now a place where all the Montreal Gooners can watch a game together.  It just goes to prove that you don't have to be a rocket scientist to set up a supporters club in your own town/city. There's even a podcast that is worth a listen, even if it's just to hear the infamous Lukey give his thoughts on life and the universe.

On to the game itself, and I think we can all agree that despite the dominating first-half performance and Ozil lighting up the world, we were clearly very lucky to come away with three points given the decision not to allow Altidore's goal. I think by the book, the referee made the right decision, but I've seen countless times where a goal's been given in similar scenarios. Fortunately this wasn't one of those cases and we were, albeit for a day and a half, top of the league.

We also had a problem finishing our dinner on Saturday, which was a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping. You can see that the link up play between Theo and Ozil is only going to get better, and that the German looks extremely promising in being a major contribution for this campaign, not just a long-term investment. Our other 'signing', Flamini, once again had a solid performance and he is going to be one of those versatile players that will address parts (but not all) of our squad-depth issues.

Finally, you can't discuss that game without mentioning the likes of Giroud and Ramsey, the latter of whom has proven to everybody that you can reverse a negative spiral by putting your head down and telling your critics to get stuffed. Rambo's done a phenomenal job and you can understand why he's captain material for Wales, and also why Wenger has had faith in him for so long. The Good Looking French Guy is also proving people wrong by scoring for fun. He has to be the best finisher we've had since Henry left. Because that Dutch guy never played for us.

So that's it for now, please keep an eye out on the customary 'Meet the Gooner Family' feature for Montreal, which I'll be posting later. For now though, I bid you farewell, as a day of Boston sightseeing awaits.


Wednesday 4 September 2013

Meet the Gooner Family [Jesper, Gothenburg]

So a North London Derby win and a true marquee signing has wrapped up the first two weeks of the Premier League season, and it also marks the end of the first 'chapter' of the Gooner On The Road challenge in Europe, with the next stop being Montreal in Canada to kick off the North American section of this ridiculous challenge I've talked myself into doing.

I spent much of my time in Gothenburg nursing a hangover (I sound like a broken record) after celebrating the beating of Spurs. Thankfully my host Jesper Larsson, who also helps to run Arsenal Gothenburg, was more than happy to do what he could to get me feeling human again. 

Jesper's bookshelf: The sign of a true Gooner
To me, I felt that Gothenburg was a bit like Copenhagen in that, although it seems like a fantastic city to experience some great culture, if you're a backpacker and you're watching the pennies, you're limited to what you can really do. Having come from Prague and Berlin before these two Scandinavian cities, the difference was measured mainly in the price of the beer, but I'm sure you can apply the same thing to other areas that don't cause immediate brain-failure afterwards. At least this time I didn't succumb to the tourist trap open sandwich at £15 a pop.

In fact, even if I had wanted to spend any money in Gothenburg, I don't think the local gooners would have allowed me to. It was like this at the Cheers Pub for game day, but it was also the case with Jesper, the GOTR host in Sweden, who paid for virtually everything whilst I was there and didn't want to see the colour of my money, which really was top notch. Of course, Jesper also helped to put together a great lottery that helped raise near-enough-makes-no-difference £600 (with a little help from the pub of course!) for TNBC.

Jesper Larsson
Jesper and I in full body Arsenal man-dress

Q. Why Arsenal?
It was the pre-season tour, we played against Swedish team, Trollhatter 1991, I think I was 10 years old. My Grandad always supported Arsenal, so he took me to this game at Trollhatter (Limpar was playing). I got a scarf and my first questionable replica Arsenal jersey.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
As above, 1991.

Q. Favourite Player?
Dennis Bergkamp. I'd rather see clips on Youtube of his best assists than anybody else scoring goals. He read the game like nobody else, saw things that other people didn't see. Amazing precision. He made Freddie Ljungberg look good with the assists he made for him. Obviously as a Swede we remembered those moments well.

Q. Favourite current Player?
Tomas Rosicky, it has been for quite a while. He's had his ups and downs, but the last year has been great to see him play again, smile, score goals. He has speed, determination, and lots of energy. Very good to see him come back from injury and he is going to mix it well with Ozil and Cazorla in the fight for creative midfield spots.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
Henry's comeback goal versus Leeds. It was a fairytale story. I remember I was at my parents house, and I screamed so loud that my mum came out of the bedroom to see what all the commotion was about, I think she had thought I had won the lottery or something crazy like that. It was a typical Henry goal. The celebration afterwards, you could just tell from that alone that he was, and still is a true Gooner.

Q.Where do you watch Arsenal in Gothenburg?
Cheers Pub. Great atmosphere, only our 2nd season there. The staff look after us, the walls are red and white, there's lots of TVs. It's also just the right size, so it keeps the atmosphere in. 

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
I never managed to go to Highbury, so I would have to say Emirates. I like the artwork on the outside, and I also appreciate the architecture. Yes we haven't won anything there, but that will change soon enough

Q. League Prediction?
I think we will compete for the title but I don't think we will win it. I would say 3rd place finish. I think Chelsea will win.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
Mesut Ozil ! ! ! The expectations will be insane. I think he is in the top 5 players in the world alongside Messi, Ronaldo, Falcao and <ahem> Bale. He could be our new Bergkamp!

So, with the final European 'Meet the Gooner Family' over and done with, it's time to bid farewell until next time. I will be flying to North America on Friday where I will kick back for a while before starting the next leg of the GOTR campaign on the 14th against Sunderland, where I will be at the Burgundy Lion in the city of poutine, smoked meat and questionable infrastructure, yes it's Montreal. In the meantime, please keep spreading the word and donating to the cause!


Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham Coldspur [Cheers Pub, Gothenburg, Sweden]

Firstly, my apologies for this post being later than usual. It is now Wednesday, and we beat our North London Rivals on Sunday. When you consider that I was subject to the usual hospitality from the local Gooner contingent (in this case Arsenal Gothenburg), you might guess that I was in no fit state to talk, or even write up until today. I did manage to stay upright for long enough to see that we've signed some guy called Ozut Mezil, but that was by far the most active I have been up until now.

Thankfully I'm feeling a lot better today so it gives me the chance to talk about a number of happenings on Sunday.

Firstly though, I can't write about anything to do with beating Spurs or breaking our transfer record more than twice over, until I tell you that Arsenal Gothenburg, with help from the Cheers Pub in which they watch all their games, helped me to raise 6060 SEK, or £590, for my fundraiser. That's a massive contribution when you consider that the football season lasts 9 months and my goal is £10k. It gives me a lot of momentum, so for those that are reading in Gothenburg, thank you very much for the efforts.

So, it was a good old one-nil to the Arsenal. Once again the good looking French guy proved he's got what it takes to challenge for the Golden Boot this season by firing one in past his International teammate. It was a goal that made fans around the world fist-pump in ecstasy, and of course Gothenburg was no exception.

I believe the turnout was around 100 people (the video above doesn't do the place any justice as there were just as many Gooners in the room next door) and the atmosphere was, understandably because of the NLD, the best I had experienced so far on my tour. The staff at Cheers Pub were also on top form and I was literally drip-fed beer by the many fellow Gothenburg fans. It was an evening to remember, which for me, is more easily said than done!

Anyway, later on the blog we will do the customary 'Meet the Gooner Family' feature, which this time round will focus on my Gothenburg host Jesper Larsson who is, alongside the Chair of Arsenal Gothenburg Reine Björk, a complete legend in helping me feel settled in and 'at home' in Gothenburg, and of course orchestrating a very, very successful fundraising event that gets the Gooner On The Road cause flying with some real momentum.

Oh, and which team just signed Mesut Özil? That's right, The Arsenal did!


Sunday 1 September 2013

Charity talk

Not sure how much attention I am going to get with this post as it's the North London Derby, but it's very important so if you could please retweet/share this with everybody you know I'd be very, very appreciative.

At the moment I feel like the Gooner On The Road tour is going well. I have been to 4 different countries and met 4 totally new members of the Gooner Family, each whom have been extremely warm and welcoming and have helped me feel like I'm going in the direction I had hoped for. There is quite a steep learning curve that I have been trying to get used to, for example remembering to take pictures everywhere I go (I am guilty of not taking enough whilst traveling), blogging on a frequent basis and writing in a journal every day. I have also had to do this whilst suffering from the dreaded man-cold, which I have moaned about enough so hopefully this will be the last time.

So everything has gone pretty well. But the one thing that is lacking a great deal is the donation side of things. As most of you will know I am raising money for the Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) Foundation. TNBC killed my mum, and it kills other people's mums, daughters, sisters, aunts and nieces. To be more precise, around 10-20% of Breast Cancer patients are diagnosed with the Triple Negative variant of the strain. Triple Negative is bad news, it's difficult to treat and doesn't have the same characteristics as 'conventional' breast cancer, which means the prognosis is not good. TNBC does not get the same amount of focus as other kinds of breast cancer, and when there isn't as much focus there isn't as much funding, which means it isn't as easy to manage. Ultimately, the chance of survival is considerably lower.

I am trying to do my part to change that. But at the moment I'm struggling to gain any serious momentum with the fundraising side of things, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fundraising tool that I'm using. I had never heard of Razoo before I started using it, and people have been giving me feedback on it, claiming they've been having trouble donating and using it on their mobile devices for example.

So, from the middle of next week I am going to be switching to Paypal for donating. Everybody is familiar with Paypal and they can rest their minds that their well-earned money isn't disappearing into a black hole somewhere. The money that has already been donated through the Razoo site will stay in that pot, and I will figure out how to merge the two together so that I can measure clearly where I am on my goal.

Now let's hope we give 5pur2 a good beating!