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.