Wednesday 8 January 2014

Meet the Gooner Family [Michael Barlow, Brisbane]

Meet Mick Barlow, my host in Brisbane, the final city on the Australian leg of my tour. Michael helps run Arsenal Australia's Twitter account and also does ticket allocation for members of the group. He's Brisbane born and raised, but Arsenal still runs through his blood.
Mick Barlow - Just a little bit 'Arsenal'

Q. Why Arsenal? 
The history and the class of the club. A lot of people in Australia will choose money rolling machines like United, City, Chelsea, but Arsenal is more like 'The People's Club', if that makes sense. Travelling 36 hours from the other side of the world to be greeted by Arsenal fans in London in a way that no other club's fans can do. That's the Gooner Family.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal? 
1999. It was because of Bergkamp. I saw him playing for Holland in the 1998 World Cup and he was just great against Argentina. I followed him at Arsenal, I don't think it was until he left that I started becoming a lot more passionate about the club.

Q. Favourite Player? 
Dennis Bergkamp as per above.

Q. Favourite current Player? 
Per Mertesacker. He shows the characteristics of Arsenal, he shows that he's part of the Arsenal family, he gets involved in the camaraderie and is almost like a father figure in the club at the moment. He's also a bloody great centre-back. 

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment? 
It would have to be Giroud's goal against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, it was my first ever game I've seen at that stadium and the goal was scored after a few minutes of me arriving.

Q. Where do you watch Arsenal in Brisbane? 
Pig n Whistle at the Brewhouse. We normally get about fifty Gooners at a game when it isn't at a ridiculous time. We've had 150+ at a North London Derby when it's been at a decent hour.

Q. Emirates or Highbury? 
Highbury, even though I've never been there. When I first followed Arsenal they were playing there, I just appreciate the history, the original stand is still there, which I see when I go over to visit.

Q. League Prediction? 
I hate to say it, but I think second. As much as I want to see first, I think we'll make way to City because they have the squad depth. But, I think we can win the FA Cup. In my opinion, when we're fully fit we have the best first team squad in the league.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch for the second half of the season?  
Tomas Rosicky. He seems to be getting a break at the moment, he's got a fantastic engine on him and I think that, if he can stay fit, he's going to be a major contributor to some silverware.


Arsenal 2-0 Sp*rs [Pig n Whistle, Brisbane]

North London is Red & White and Brisbane is my last call on my 6 week tour of Australia before heading to New Zealand (excluding a quick stop off in Sydney at the end of January on the way back up to Asia). What better way to do it than by watching our Red Army comprehensively knock out that team up the road.

This is my second visit to Queensland in those six weeks, having visited Cairns in December. Brisbane is QLD's largest city and is a nice, calm departure from Sydney. Most Australians will come to Brisbane to visit the beautiful Pacific coastline nearby, namely the laid-back Sunshine Coast to the north of the city, and the touristic Gold Coast to the south.

I took a short ride to the latter, Gold Coast, or more specifically, Surfers Paradise, to soak in the sights of the country's most popular tourist destination. People from all over the country flock here in the thousands to frequent the beaches and attractions. It's the Orlando of Australia, only less giant mice and more seawater.

Surfers Paradise. 
For the North London Derby, the venue of choice was the Pig N Whistle in central Brisbane. Having watched Manchester City draw 1-1 against Blackburn Rovers, the small gathering of Arsenal fans were in good spirits for the Spurs match. What made it all the more entertaining was the group of silent Spurs fans that congregated next to us in the pub. It made for a great experience, and of course the result speaks for itself. It's a shame about Walcott, I really feel for him, especially as he'll miss the chance to play in Brazil. But he'll come back even stronger, and there's Gnabry and Ox to fill the void.

The icing on the cake for me and my host Michael was the ride back from the pub. The game had kicked off at 3:15am, so by the time the final whistle had gone and we had caught the train back to the nearest station, it was 6am. Mick and I walked out the station, looking for a taxi, but couldn't see a single one. To our disbelief, we walked past an SUV and the driver winds down the window upon seeing us in our jerseys. "Up The Gunners" he shouts as we walk past. He gets out the car, complete with Arseblog T-shirt, and asks if we need a lift home. Introducing himself as Pete Boyles, I ask if somebody put him there, he said he was picking up a morning paper from the shop across the road and wanted to get out the house for a little while. You couldn't write it, could you?!