Tuesday 29 October 2013

Meet the Gooner Family [Par, Vancouver, Canada]

Meet Par and Daisy, my hosts for the Vancouver segment of the Gooner On The Road mission. I was particularly looking forward to meeting these people because I had previously met them at the Blind Pig in New York back in May - it was around the time when I had initially conceived the idea of Gooner On The Road and they were really supportive. Essentially they were the first Gooners to offer me somewhere to stay. All I had to do was get over to the West coast of Canada!

What makes this particular encounter with the Gooner Family more special is that they are expecting a baby Gooner, 'Henry', in December, and had asked me to pick up a baby onesie kit from the Armoury. Photos to follow!

Selfie attempt no.47. The Gooner 'bump' not visible
Par Esegbona

Q. Why Arsenal?
The history, I loved going to Highbury despite the days of standing up in the pissing rain. I Especially enjoyed going with my mates who were all Gooners. Even then it didn't matter if we won or lost it was just a great day out.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
In my mid-teens, more than three decades ago (showing my age). I was a late convert to football. I guess I didn't like it because my brothers started playing football before I did. My older brother Clement played for Brentford Colts but they were both Arsenal fans. In the beginning I went to watch Arsenal because my mates were fans, I only went because it was the best opportunity to hang out with my mates but all I remember is the weather being consistently terrible and not enjoying standing up getting wet, cold and pushed around. One day we went up to Watford to watch Arsenal away and the sun was actually out, and we won. That was the turning point for me.

Q. Favourite Player?
Thierry Henry is my favourite player on the pitch; even when he left the club he did it with dignity and he has the same middle name as me and my unborn son (Henry). But, in terms of staff, my favourite personnel is Arsene Wenger because his mentorship and talent-spotting ability is second-to-none and he sets a very good example with his financial acumen . He's also stubborn and he's 'le professuer' for the right reasons.

Q. Favourite current Player?
Santi Cazorla. I think he came into the Premiership last year and made an immediate name for himself. He makes Wenger laughs when he talks about him, which is really funny. Cazorla makes me smile when he plays well.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
1989. I was in a pub in Skegness surrounded by Leeds fans that didn't really want to have it on the TV screen. There were no Arsenal fans in Skegness whatsoever, I was the only one there. When Thomas scored that winner I was ecstatic but of course I was the only Gunner there, surrounded by all those Leeds fans. I didn't care...

Q.Where do you watch Arsenal in Vancouver?
In the comfort of my cinema room (in my decrepit attic) when I'm not at the Phat Bar. The only reason why I don't go to the pub to watch it is because I always feel like I've spent loads of cash and come away with a defeat – I think I jinx the team when I don't watch the game at home!

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
I've actually never been to the Emirates so it has to be Highbury for me. Being in the Clock End, the pitch was so small, being close to the players. I remember us standing at Highbury as well, and that was fantastic. Of course you can't do that in England any more.

Q. League Prediction?
The heart says 1st, the head says 2nd. But I do feel like we'll get some silverware this season.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
I think this is Ramsey's year. He's shown character coming back from injury, he's showing loads of confidence and has grown as a player after being played out of position last season.

So, a quick stop in Canada before heading back across the border to Seattle, to watch us take on Chelsea's Oil Boys in the Capital One Cup


Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal [Par's house, Vancouver, Canada]

I'm back in Canada eh! Another quite brilliant city in North America, Vancouver is a haven for outdoor lovers. It's one of the only places in the world where you can ski, sail, bike and run all within the city limits, and all on the same day. Of course I spent the majority of my time eating and drinking and not partaking in any of those activities. But, if I had more time, I certainly would.

Vancouver skyline viewed from Stanley Park
The photo opportunities in Vancouver and the surrounding area are unbelievable, with the mountains providing an un-rivalled backdrop to the glass and concrete mecca of the downtown skyline. It's a city like no other. It's also extremely expensive, with the exception of Sushi, believe it or not, where you can get some of the best the world has to offer for very little outlay. It was a welcomed alternative to the usual deep-fried gastronomic delights I have subjected myself to in the United States over the past few months.

The Vancouver Gunners (known locally as VancouverArse) follow the team passionately and usually watch matches at Phat Bar, located in one of the city's many upscale districts, Yale Town (sounds expensive doesn't it?).

However, I was thrown into the deep-end in terms of adjusting to life as a Gunner on the West-Coast. The first match on this side of the continent was of course Crystal Palace, a 12:45pm kickoff. When you consider that Vancouver is 8 hours behind, well...you can do the math; it's a 4:45am start, understandably too early for Phat Bar to open. And as the challenge is 'to watch every Arsenal game with another Gooner' I had no choice but to get up at stupid O'clock with my host, Par, and watch the game from home. And I might also add, once we had watched us beat Palace 2-0, we immediately headed over to the bar to watch it again, 'as live', both of us trying our damnedest to act like we didn't know what the outcome of the game was. We deserve Oscars.

So, the GOTR unbeaten run continues. Next stop is Seattle, back in the United States. Keep an eye out for the 'Meet The Gooner Family' feature on my Vancouver hosts.


Friday 25 October 2013

Meet The Gooner Family [Jeremy & Janean, Salt Lake City]

Meet Jeremy Matthews and his partner, Janean. These lovely people, along with their many cats, were my hosts in Salt Lake City, and did a fine job of showing me around the sights in the short time that I had there. 

No cats in this picture
Q. Why Arsenal?
Ultimately the glory of Arsenal is that we tried to do everything with class and whater issues people have with Arsene Wenger they can see he is a man that not only wants to win, but wants to win in the right way. He doesn't want to go to the excesses that other teams might go down.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
My sister and I were in Europe during the Euro Cup in 2000 and unfortunately we decided to follow England (and didn't know any better), the favourite part of the matches was watching David Seaman, we enjoyed his play but we especially appreciated the way he shouted at his teammates after every defensive mishap, of which there were many. At the time we didn't know of Arsenal but we enjoyed his personality on and off the pitch. At our house we didn't have the cable channels that were shown in the Premier League, so a few years later we got the Fox Soccer Channel, we watched a few games. We watched the games post-Invincebles. I remember the Champions League Group game against CSKA in November 2006 and I really fell in love with Arsenal at that point because despite it being a goalless draw, we had so many chances and I just remember the despair in never seeing a goal (but still finishing top of the group and qualifying for the next round).

Q. Favourite Player?
Thierry Henry is a personal favourite. During the period I was watching, he was always just a pleasure to watch, he finished like no other and made it look so easy. He was the first legend I saw, in the making.

Q. Favourite current Player?
I love Rosicky and I'd like to see him win something with the club, his work-rate is fantastic and he takes our game to a different level when he's on the pitch.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
The Champions League match against Barcelona where Arshavin scored the winner. I think the reason why it's such a fond memory is because everybody that was around me was elated. People in the pub were saying they could go back to work and get fired but it would still be a great day for them.

Q.Where do you watch Arsenal in Salt Lake City?
Fiddlers Elbow, which is a 5 minute drive or a 10-15 minute bike ride. I make pretty much every game at the Weekend unless it's very early, where the pub doesn't open, in which case I'll watch it at home. I travel on occasion and will like to see the local Arsenal pub wherever I may be, the Fox and Hounds in Los Angeles being a good example.

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
I love the history of Highbury but I have a personal connection to The Emirates as I've been there for a few games, so the The Emirates has to top it for me, but I will always acknowledge that Highbury was an amazing stadium with some great stories.

Q. League Prediction?
We're going to win the league! Looking at the squad and looking at how our talented players are taking it to the next level this season, we have a great future. Ramsey, Giroud, Ozil, Cazorla, Wilshere. This is a trophy-winning team.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
There are multiple people that could be Arsenal's Player Of The Season this year, I would tend to lean towards Giroud because of his team-play, he scores goals but he assists and provides fantastic link-up play, and I think that's why Wenger bought him – not just because he's a goal scorer but because he creates goals too.

So that's it for Utah. Next stop is Vancouver, Canada, for a 4:45am kickoff. Uh-oh!


Arsenal 1-2 Borussia Dortmund (Fiddler's Elbow, Salt Lake City)

I'm in Salt Lake City, Utah the land of the Mormons and the latest city on my quest.

My 'unbeaten' run has come to an end, or at least that's the case for the Champions League. Thankfully, that #KeepGoonerOnTheRoad hashtag still applies to the Premier League, where we haven't lost a game whilst I've been out of the country.

Although my time in SLC was short, I managed to make the most of it by visiting the Mormon Temple and seeing some of the wonderful scenery on offer. For the first time, I had a rental car at my disposal so I took a drive into the mountains to see what Mother Nature had done to this continent when she was at her most creative. I wasn't disappointed, this was the first real opportunity I had to get away from all the concrete jungles I had stopped off at previously and, on the way it made me feel emotionally, it's been the highlight of my trip on the road so far.

Beautiful, and just a stones throw from Salt Lake City
The Gooners in Salt Lake City are few and far between in comparison to other supporters clubs, but there is no loss of passion. Unfortunately, I didn't get to witness this group at their most passionate because we lost to Dortmund and, as you can see by the picture below, we were all a bit down. They are all blaming it on the fact that, for the first time on the road, I was drinking an orange juice rather than a beer. They told me to get out of Utah...

Not exactly a happy bunch of Gooners after the Dortmund loss
The match itself was actually a good one for the neutral to watch. In the end we were subject to a few bad decisions and, despite Giroud demonstrating once again his determination levels, we succumbed to our first Champions League defeat of the season. We missed Flamini, whilst Özil had his quietest game so far in an Arsenal shirt. Still, it is what it is, we're still top of the group, still top of the league and we don't have to worry about playing a team called 'Sheriff' on Thursdays. And of course, we know what we're capable of doing to German opposition on their own turf.


Tuesday 22 October 2013

Meet the Gooner Family [Sick Boy, Kansas City]

Meet David Colgan, aka 'Sick Boy', my host in Kansas City.

A rare selfie: Sick-boy and I
Just a little background about David so you can get an idea of who he is and how hectic his lifestyle is at the moment. David's originally from Ireland and works as a Sales Manager at Kansas City's leading kraft brewery, the Boulevard Brewing Company. Yes, it's an enviable job, moreso if you're from the Emerald Isles. This particular kraft brewery is actually the Mid-West's largest and is symbolic to the city. However, a few days ago it was announced that they were being acquired by the world-famous Duvel Moortgat Brewery (as in Duvel, the 'champagne' of beer's). To cut a long story short, there is a feeling of uncertainty as a historical part of the city's culture is in question, and David has been rushing around the city convincing punters and landlords that everything is fine and it's not the hop-and-barley equivalent of the armageddon.

David is also family guy and had to juggle that along with a bout of pharyngitis, so the last thing he needed was a clueless Brit to act tour-guide to. Regardless, he pulled it off and, in typical 'Gooner Family' style, made me feel right at home with his slightly-more-than-nutty family.

David Colgan

Q. Why Arsenal?
I don't want to get to deep, but I guess they've mirrored my life. I've seen Arsenal through some very bad times and being so mediocre it was hard to watch, then into the George Graham times, Bruce Rioch was over in the blink of an eye but he still signed Dennis Bergkamp, and then on to 'who is this Wenger guy?', to going 8 years without a trophy, to now (where we are having our best season at The Emirates so far). It's a story and I'm glad to be a part of it.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
I was 4 years old. My Mother went into town back home in Dublen and saw football T-shirts on sale. There was a Man United shirt, a Leeds shirt and an Arsenal. She thought I'd like the gun on the chest and so she bought the Arsenal shirt. I have a lot to thank my mother about in life, this moment is one of them.

Q. Favourite Player?
Out of my top 5 (Brady, Adams, Bergkamp, Wright, Nicholas), Ian Wright is my favourite, he was full of character and did the unthinkable at times. He had attitude and flair that was hard to match back then.

Q. Favourite current Player?
Aaron Ramsey, he's had such a hard time, but he's playing so well right now. It used to be Van Persie, but understandably he's now my villain.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
1989 Anfield. Nothing else to say

Q.Where do you watch Arsenal in Kansas.
Johnny's Tavern when I can, don't like watching Man United/Chelsea play in public as I get too caught up emotionally and don't want people to see me get carried away.

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
Highbury. We haven't won anything at the Emirates have we?!

Q. League Prediction?
I think we're going to win it, I really do! Now is the perfect opportunity, if we don't win it, it will go to Chelsea. But, they don't have Drogba now, so I say it's ours for the taking.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
Flamini is going to have a great year, he is no.1 on the team sheet as far as I'm concerned, he is the one guy I want to be playing every game. 

So that's it for Kansas City and my time with Sick Boy. Next stop, Salt Lake City, land of the Mormons. Eeeek! Remember, if you're enjoying the blog, please donate to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation here.


Arsenal 4-1 Norwich - [Johnny's Tavern, Kansas City]

Before telling you all about Kansas City and my time there, let me tell you that I will always remember Kansas City as the location where I witnessed Jack Wilshere score the goal of the season millennium. I can't remember the last time I watched an Arsenal goal over and over again (I've actually just watched it again, as I type this). 

More concrete
I'll also remember this particular leg well because it was the game where some of the guys from Madison in Wisconsin made a (quite considerable) road-trip to personally deliver $1100 for the fundraiser. Considering I didn't even go to Madison WI, you have to say it was an unbelievable thing to do. Hats off to the guys up there, especially to Andrew Schmidt who orchestrated it all - unfortunately he couldn't make it down to KC because, to cut a long story very short, he can't fart at the moment. The guys in Madison know what I mean.
Interestingly, whilst in Kansas City I had my first trip to an American hospital, thankfully nothing to do with me but more about accompanying my host, David, who came down with a nasty bout of pharyngitis, which is basically inflamed tonsils. It's similar to tonsillitis, but I don't know if it's the same thing or not (you know these Americans and their way with words). If anybody can be bothered to explain the difference between the two, feel free to let me know so I can fall asleep. The hospital trip was particularly entertaining as there was a chap in his 40's in the waiting room, bucket in between knees, legs trembling on what appeared to be an acid-trip of a lifetime. The fact that he was the only person in the waiting room other than David and I made it a particularly memorable moment. I can still hear his only words: "This can't be f***ng happening man!". I felt sorry for him but I'm sure it was all his own fault and I hope he learned his lesson. And it was still a priceless experience. 

I also managed to indulge in a spot of MLS 'Soccer' whilst in the city, the second match in my time in the U.S. The first one being in NYC where I saw the Red Bulls play FC Dallas. The only reason I went to that game was to see The King himself, but he was definitely having an off-day and the match itself was like watching paint dry. Sporting Kansas City, on the other hand, was great. The atmosphere was a blast and the fans just loved giving stick to Bill Hamid, the DC United goalkeeper who also happens to be fourth in line for the American Men's Team spot. Judging by his performance I don't think that line is going to get any shorter for him.

The KC Gooners
I didn't get to see much of Kansas City itself as David had the bubonic plague and was originally going to be my tour guide, and he lived quite far from town, but regardless I still had a great time with some great people, and it was nice to relax without having to rush around taking pictures of everything. The highlight for me, and an experience that is probably symbolic with Kansas City, was grabbing some fodder at Oklahoma Joe's BBQ, which serves arguably the best barbecued ribs and brisket in the Mid-west. And it's in a full-service petrol station, I kid you not.

Kansas City BBQ with Gunners from Madison and Kansas (and I can't forget Ireland, too)
Of course the main reason for being in Kansas was to catch an Arsenal match at Johnny's Tavern, home to the KC Gooners. The atmosphere there was probably not what they would have hoped for as I came through town, and mostly this was due to the half-marathon taking place in the early morning. A few runners actually finished after the Arsenal match had begun but still made it to the pub to catch the remainder of the game, most notably of course was Boyce, who helped organise a fundraiser that will see the TNBC Foundation net 20% of the pub's bar tab. Still waiting for final numbers on that one but you'll all know soon enough.

As you can see from the video above, the KC boys were happy with Jack's wonder goal, and in the end we yet again stay top of the league. It also means my 'on the road' unbeaten run continues. Look out for the #KeepGoonerOnTheRoad hashtag on Twitter, understandably nobody wants me to return home!

Until next time.

Friday 18 October 2013

Meet the Gooner Family [Gabriel, Austin TX]

Meet Gabs Pineda, a Brit living in Austin, Texas. Having spent most of the international break back in Austin, I met up with Gabs a few times to watch the international games and cause some trouble on 'Dirty 6th Street'. As you can probably tell from the picture below, he is an Arsenal nutcase, and although he's not one of the GOTR hosts, it wouldn't be right without doing a quick 'Meet The Gooner Family' feature on him. By the way, to his surprise, Gab's wife Audrey organised all those jerseys like that. How awesome is she?

Not sure what's more impressive here, the kit collection or Gab's facial expression

Gabs Pineda

Q. Why Arsenal?
I grew up in London Colney, Hertfordshire which is the village where Arsenal have their training ground. The area is predominately full of Arsenal fans but occasionally you will find the odd Spurs fan. With the training ground a stones throw away from my parents house, as a kid I would cycle down to the old UCL training ground, watch them and just dream. From then on all I wanted to do was play football, collect my Arsenal Panini stickers and follow them whenever I could.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
I think it all started when my mum bought me an arsenal bag for school when I was 7 years old.

Q. Favourite Player?
This is a difficult one because I class the players in different eras in my head. Transporting myself back to the 70s I’d say Liam Brady and his wand of a left-foot. His unselfish game was a powerful combination of guile, graft and creativity that made him unique. Moving onto the 80s, I’d say David Rocastle just because of Arsenal’s finest ever moment at Anfield in 1989. Rocky played every single game of that 88/89 title winning season and I loved his skills, speed and true passion for the Arsenal. In the 90s, Ian Wright was one heck of a goalscorer and loved his crazy character. I modeled myself on his way of playing and tried to copy his clinical striking whilst being the striker for my local football team. Tony Adams has to be mentioned because he was the ultimate one team defender and natural leader. Finally the two kings, Thierry and Dennis. Which is my favourite?....I think Dennis Bergkamp shades it because he just mesmerised me with some of his amazing goals, control, skills and elegance on the ball. He has produced some sick goals and skills over time but my highlight has to be the finest hat-trick in history at Filbert Street……………damn it….I forgot about Pires! Anyway, all True Legends!!

Q. Favourite current Player?
Laurent Koscielny because of how important he has become to the team after such an erratic start to his Arsenal career. I was at the Wembley Carling Cup final to witness his last minute shocker that gifted the cup to Birmingham. I know he was still adapting to English football from the second tier of French Football in that first year so I’ll let him off on that one. Since then he has improved immensely and made that position his own. He has become Arsenal’s pivotal player and it was down to his defensive displays and goalscoring last season that saw us pip Spurs to 4th place.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
Don’t need to explain this…………Friday 26th May 1989. Will never be beaten as my favourite moment.

Q. Where do you watch Arsenal in Austin.
Watch the games mostly at the Tavern, but occasionally try to do away games around town.

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
With Arsenal not having won anything since leaving Highbury, then it has to be Highbury. I miss the trophies we used to collect with monotonous regularity. Highbury was a place of pure beauty. It was compact and actually felt like a proper football stadium. With the fans being so close to the pitch, most of the time it had a great atmosphere. Highbury could even be quite intimidating on Cup nights. Emirates still has a long way to go but we needed to evolve with the times. I was also at Highbury when Dennis scored those two screamers and his first goals for Arsenal against Southampton in 1995.

Q. League Prediction?
Really depends on how we cope with such a small squad. We must invest in a striker in January. I predict minimum Top 3.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
Ramsey is on fire so he has been the highlight so far and really hope his form can continue without any further injuries. I’m also looking forward to seeing Ozil acclimatise to the Premier League. Once he does, he could get scary. He reminds me of Liam Brady.

So, the international break is almost over. Tomorrow I watch the Norwich match up in Kansas City (home to Walt Disney believe it or not).


Thursday 10 October 2013

Meet the Gooner Family [Barry, Dallas TX]

Meet Barry, host for the Dallas segment of the Gooner On The Road trip. Once again, I was welcomed by another member of the Arsenal family with open arms. I stayed with Barry, his wife and his two young kids and it was a privilege to be in the company of these genuine, warm-hearted people. My trip, or more importantly the cause behind it, was particularly close to Barry's heart and that made it more of an incentive for him to help out any way he could.

Aside from making me feel at home and being a great host, he also treated me to my first college football (handball) game. Having studied in Oklahoma, Barry drove us up to Norman, some two and a half hours drive from Dallas, to enjoy the festivities (such as a tailgate party) associated with this hugely popular American sport. It was a great experience.

Finally, as is the case with most of my hosts, Barry really went out of his way to make sure that there was money donated to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation on the day of the match, which was done in the form of a raffle. Barry helped to raise over $300 for the cause, which is another great dent out of my $15,000 target.

GOTR and Barry (did I tell you he's an Oklahoma fan?)

Barry Randle

Q. Why Arsenal?
Arsenal is the first team I remember seeing. When I learned more about them everything, their culture, their method of operating, their transfer policy was something I appreciated. I think if I saw Chelsea or Barca as a first team, I don't think I would like football today, I don't like the thought of winning championships through money. Everything about our culture, the 'Arsenal way', I could relate to.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
I started following Arsenal in 2006 through the Champions League run. My friend Trevor, a Liverpool fan, took me to the pub for a lot of Champions League games. I enjoyed the run and although Trevor was a fan of Liverpool, I proudly made my own choice. I realised I was a fan when Arsenal lost in the final and I was gutted for a week afterwards; I had my first heartache as a Gunner. 

Q. Favourite Player?
Cesc Fabregas. In his most passionate moments, they brought me deeper into Arsenal. The goal against Spurs after Van Persie scored and the San Siro goal against AC Milan were highlights for me. His passion made me crazy. It didn't hurt me that he went to Barca because he went back 'home'.

Q. Favourite current Player?
Bacary Sagna! I love him, he's a workhorse, he's consistent, he's passionate, he's versatile (plays out of position at center back and doesn't just 'do the job', he dominates there). He seems so Arsenal and sets a good example, not in the spotlight, doesn't cause issues.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
My favourite Arsenal moment is actually the Champions League quarter final against Liverpool in 2008. Never celebrated a goal that much just because of that run that Walcott did. That 10 seconds was the most insane thing I remember. It won't be remembered to most fans because we lost the game, but to me it was a great sign of things to come. Of course, the rest of that game is history and [pointing to a window in lounge] I kicked that window so hard, I'm surprised I didn't break the glass. My wife was not impressed...

Q.Where do you watch Arsenal in Dallas?
At the Londoner Greenville if I don't watch it at home. Unfortunately I don't get to the official pub that often because of family commitments. It makes it more special when I do manage to watch with the Dallas Gooner Society though.

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
Well, I never got to go to Highbury. Emirates can be a bit quiet but is a wonderful palace of football and I have a tile there (along with my wife's name and my two children). For me it's got to be Emirates.

Q. League Prediction?
I think we'll get 2nd. It's difficult for me to ignore the danger that Mourinho and Chelsea present, and on that basis I think they'll finish top. I don't think United will get in the top 4!

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
Jack Wilshere – even though he's so young he seems to me to be a guy that will emerge as Arsenal's player of the season, but at the same time with his questionable performances of recent, he might get pushed down the pecking order, so it will be interesting to see how that turns out over the course of the season.

So, it's now the international break, the interlull, the stop gap. More importantly for me, I can RELAX without having to cram myself into buses and flying tin cans to get from one place to the next.

So, until next time!


Wednesday 9 October 2013

West Brom 1-1 Arsenal [Londoner, Dallas]

The Gooner On The Road winning streak has come to an abrupt end, but thankfully the unbeaten run continues.

Dallas - probably twinned with Glasgow
For those that have no idea what I'm talking about; I was at the Emirates to kick off the new season. You know, the one where we lost 3-1 to Aston Villa. After that miserable game I had set off on my travels and, up until yesterday at least, our boys in red & white had won every game. With the draw at the Hawthorns, the winning streak has been downgraded to an unbeaten run, a run which I'm not terribly confident will last much longer once the season resumes in a few weeks. But more on that later.

So, for all those that have been following my progress across the US, you will know I'm now in Dallas, the second Texan city to host me on my travels. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is absolutely huge, a radical departure from the 'small' college town of Austin.

Before having a chance to experience Dallas though, I was driven up to the city of Norman in Oklahoma to watch my first College Football match (or 'American Handball' as I like to call it) - and it really was a great experience. Some of you will remember I was fortunate enough to watch my first Baseball match at Fenway park, home to the Red Sox, last month. Whilst I enjoyed the atmosphere there (think Highbury with baseball bats), the game itself felt slow and I sometimes struggled to appreciate the rawness of the sport with all the statistics flying around the place.

Oklahoma Sooners American Handball stadium
American Football is different though, I felt it was more intense as a spectator sport and, despite the typical commercial-break overload you associate with American sports, it flowed better than baseball and had my attention for longer (it still lasted over 3 hours). And of course, to know that the sportsmen involved were giving it their all and NOT getting paid for it made me understand why the college sports scene in North America has such a huge following. There is nothing comparable back in the UK at all - is there an opportunity there that we're missing? I suppose the alcohol-ban in college stadiums might be a stumbling block for us...

The Dallas Gooner Society. Disappointingly only one cowboy hat.

The members of the local Dallas Arsenal supporters group, called The Dallas Gooner Society, watch their games at The Londoner pub in Addison. Barry, my host in Dallas, rushed us back from Oklahoma on the Saturday morning and we arrived at The Londoner with 20 minutes to spare to catch kickoff. There were probably around 40 Arsenal fans watching the WBA match and we were easily the majority in the pub. Most of us were happy with a point, given the possibility of our second loss of the season. Of course, a big bonus for us was seeing a poor Sp*rs supporter crying into his Guinness in the corner whilst he watched his team ship 3 goals (at home) to the Hammers. Good times.

Our display on Sunday was a bit lacklustre, and you could tell that we had an intense game mid-week. Yes it was a good test, we're still unbeaten and it was a good point away from home, but regardless we looked lethargic and, at times, out of options (Özil or not). The squad depth issue still needs to be addressed, because we are Arsenal FC, and Arsenal FC always has influential players on the treatment table. Yes, I know we bought the most versatile player in the universe in Flamini, but we need another defensive midfielder to take the strain off him and we could really do with a proven backup striker that doesn't look like a cross between a samurai and a hobo.

Still, why complain? It's good to be a Gooner - we're top of the league and will stay there over the international break. We're also on a good unbeaten run and we just picked up a double award for Player Of The Month and Manager Of The Month. When was the last time that happened?

Come On You Gunners!!!

Saturday 5 October 2013

Meet the Gooner Family [Miles, Austin TX]

Meet Miles Gullette, my host in Austin and one of the guys that keeps the Austin Gooners Supporters Club ticking over. Miles has been really hospitable (as is always the case with the GOTR hosts) and has acted as chauffeur and tour guide, showing me round some great sights in Texas' capital city. I'm happy to say I'll be heading back to Austin to hang out with him during the international break next week.

Miles from Austin. Almost a 'Full kit you-know-what'?
Miles Gullette

Q. Why Arsenal?
I started playing FIFA back in 2004 with my mates who were amazing at it. My best chance at winning was picking the best team in the game, Arsenal. Once I saw the way they played the beautiful game in real life in the following years, I was hooked.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
As I said before, my first exposure to the club was in 2004, but it was in the 05/06 Champions League when I really became a die hard supporter. This was the first time I had access to watching matches live. Once I saw Henry's goal at the Bernabeu I knew Arsenal was the team for me.

Q. Favourite Player?
We have had some amazing players down the years, but I have to say Henry just pips Bergkamp for me. His goal scoring record speaks for itself, not to mention those magical goals when he came back on loan. Recently a few of us Austin Gooners traveled to Houston to see him play. We had front row seats behind the away bench and went mental when he scored and did his famous "Henrying" celebration. After full time he graciously came over to sign autographs for the 30-40 Gooners there.

Q. Favourite current Player?
It's a tough pick for me between Cazorla and Giroud. I'll have to go with Giroud, because he is banging in the goals at the moment, his hold up play is fantastic, he's my man crush and his hashtags on Instagram crack me up.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
It's so hard to pick just one. I'll have to go with the 5-3 win against Chelsea a few seasons ago. We used to share the pub with the Chelsea supporters and they had the upper hand in many of those matches before that one and we had to put up with them. It was amazing to be on the celebrating side.

Q. Where do you watch Arsenal in Austin.
We watch all of our matches at The Tavern on 12th and Lamar. Early games, midweek games, you name it, they are open and we will be there.

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
Sadly, I have not been to either. It's my dream to make the trip one day. Highbury is amazing, but I have to go with The Emirates. It has given us the spending power to add players like Özil a possibility and is a truly stunning facility.

Q. League Prediction?
I think it's too early to be talking of winning the league after only 6 games. However, we are definite title contenders and have a fantastic squad. I'm gonna say top 3 for sure.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
For me it's Özil. The lift he has given the club is immense. He got his first goal and has loads of assists after only a few games. I can't wait to see him in action once he has more time to gel with the rest of the squad.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Arsenal 2-0 Napoli [The Tavern, Austin TX]

Austin, Texas - another city, another fixture, another win, another hangover. Good times!

Once again I'm in another of the country's best cities for food, drink, culture and good weather. Whilst I've been here the temperature has consistently been in the low 30s (90s for you farenheiters). Austin is a city that I could quite happily live in, it has everything for everybody; loads of culture, great festivals, favourable living costs, low crime rates and some of the best urban parks in the country.

Greenery and Skyscrapers - Austin.

The Austin Gooners have made my stay here really enjoyable, to the point where I've decided to come back to the city next week (after Dallas/West Brom) to relax for the international break! This city (and the people living in it) really is that good.

The Austin Gooners watch their games at the Tavern, having switched from Cuatros in order to provide a better experience for the supporters club members. The turnout for this mid-week UCL match was in the thirties, once again an impressive number given that these games kick off at 1:45pm local time, when most people are still 'working'.

Austin Gooners pre-match. Good bunch, can't sing though. They need some help.
Of course, with Arsenal going on a shoot-to-kill rampage in all competitions, people are coming up with all kinds of excuses to take a few hours out from the office to watch the team tear apart our opposition, and once again the fans weren't disappointed. We got to see Melvin Orwell bag his first goal for the club, a goal that no matter how many times you watch it, you still ask yourself "how did he do that?". It ain't easy, that's for sure! He later went on to assist the Good Looking French Guy. Suffice to say, he's only been here for a month and already he's playing like a fan.

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Thanks for reading and COYG!