Sunday, 2 February 2014

Meet the Gooner Family [Shane Lust, Auckland]

Meet Shane Lust, my host for an evening in Auckland. Shane hails from Highbury. No two fans are the same, and they all have their own ways of being passionate towards the cannon. Shane is no exception. He's a little bit eccentric, which might explain him rambling on a bit in this 'Meet the Gooner Family' episode. Or maybe it was just him being drugged-up to the eyeballs on Vicodin after breaking his foot playing football with his five-year old nephew. No joke.

Shane Lust

Q. Why Arsenal?

Shane doing his best Källström impression
Arsenal have a tradition and class about them that very few clubs have.  From their humble beginnings as the royal armoury factory team through the Chapman era with the famous Art Deco stands to the fine suits the players wore in the Graham era.  From the captain's decision of what length sleeves the team wears to the sports science revolution that Wenger brought to the English game. There's an atmosphere of respect and discipline that surrounds the club. Arsenal have always advanced the sport.

Arsenal have watched footballing dynasties rise and fall but we have always been one of the top clubs. We've won the title in all but one decade since the thirties and had an unbroken run in England's top division for almost a hundred years. An accomplishment no other club comes close to. Oh, and The Invincibles.

If Arsenal was a bloke at a party, he'd be the one that arrives fashionably late, dressed to the nines and takes the best looking girl home. I hate that guy, but I love Arsenal.

That and I love the chicken curry and chips at the Arsenal Fish Bar on Blackstock Road, Highbury.  

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
As long as I can remember though wasn't really interested in following it until I was about 12 and saw us win the Littlewoods Cup against Liverpool in 1987.

Q. Favourite Player?
Thierry Adams, the two Mr Arsenals!

Q. Favourite current Player?
Theo. He gets a lot of stick but he's great to watch and scores some really important goals. The way he was carried from the pitch being showered with scarves made him look like a young Pharoah being adored by his subjects. Gutted his season is over.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
Beating Loughborough Town 12-0! Okay, Anfield 89.

From a more personal point of view though, I worked for Arsenal in the club shop in Finsbury Park in the early 90s having done 3 weeks with the club on work experience when I was 16. The staff got to go to the games and stand in the staff enclosure but had to leg it back to the shop a few minutes before the end to open up again for the punters.

The day we were presented the trophy for winning the league in 90/91, having just beaten Man Utd 3-1, was about to be gutting, as I had to leave before the festivities. That's when the commercial manager, John Hazel, tapped me and his son, who worked with me, on the shoulder and said "I need you two boys to stay back and help set up the trophy table in the centre circle". There we were on the pitch with the likes of Adams, Bould, Seaman, Smith, Rocky, Limpar, Dixon, Winterburn and Arsenal legend, David Hillier! The 40,000 plus crowd were deafening from the middle of the pitch. After patting Tony Adams on the back I faced the North Bank held aloft my scarf and ensured Monday at school was met with great fury and jealousy by those who were there and had seen me. Best job I've ever had and being part of the Arsenal family in the days when it really felt like one will always hold great memories for me.

Q. Where do you watch Arsenal in Auckland?
On my patio in the sun having avoided all media until it's acceptable to drink beer and eat peanuts.

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
You can't beat the smell of horsesh*t and onions on Gillespie Road can you? Highbury for me, all day long. North Bank middle, middle, standing just behind the trench coz I'm short.

Q. League Prediction?

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch for the second half of the season?I wanted to say Draxler but that never materialised. Santi's coming into some form now, I think he's going to have a considerable impact.


Southampton 2-2 Arsenal [The Fox, Auckland]

My final game in the continent of Oceania (or Australasia depending on who you are and where you come from) has arrived. Arsenal v Crystal Palace. I'm really, really fortunate to be staying with Chris Jack, the Grandson of Arsenal legend David Jack, in Sydney. It's a great way to bow out of this vast country before leaving for the pandemonium of Hong Kong and the rest of South East Asia on Tuesday.

But, before all that, a little bit about my last few days in New Zealand; I was staying with Surrey-born Gooner Neil White for a few days in the suburbs, trying to recover from the booze-laden weekend with the Essex lads who I met during the Coventry match.

The Southampton match kicked off, once again, at 8:45am. Being a mid-week fixture however, we weren't expecting a massive crowd. You see, there are a few problems with watching Premier League football in New Zealand, which in turn makes it more challenging to get fans together to watch live games. Firstly, the time differences for watching them can be even worse than in Australia. A law was also passed recently by the NZ government which means that no bar/pub can open between the hours of 4am and 8am. When you consider that the only legitimate way to watch Premier League games is by going online and logging into a paid subscription of 'Premier League Pass' (ludicrous, I know), it makes for a pretty fragmented and often unreliable viewing experience. [By the way, what was the Premier League thinking when they awarded sole media rights to a broadcaster that has no TV presence whatsoever?]

Auckland Gooners. An all-British lineup.
Anyhow, there is no active Arsenal supporters club in New Zealand at the moment, the above issues certainly don't help the matter. There are many fans around however, so the Southampton game was a good opportunity to get some more people together in the hope that it would rekindle the Gooner Family spirit in Auckland, and in turn New Zealand as a whole. I have been to so many places on my travels where I've witnessed the joys of being part of an active supporters club. It's not just the football, it's the community efforts and the camaraderie. For want of a better word, it's a fellowship, and it's something that the NZ Gooners are missing out on.

I suppose it might have been a bit easier to get these new 'fellows' fired up if it wasn't for the fact that Arsenal played abysmally for all of four minutes against a very resilient Southampton. I'm not a football tactician (despite being an EA Sports FIFA veteran) but even I know that our midfield had no dynamism whatsoever. It was a tactical #fail by Mr Wenger, putting Flamini and Arteta together (with Wilshere, Rosicky and Ramsey injured) in midfield and asking the latter to do a playmaker role. I know the man with lego-hair had a creative responsibility at Everton, but it was a recipe for disaster when asked to play in an advanced position for us, when all season he's been playing the anchor man who sweeps up loose balls and disperses them without hesitation. It would be like asking Özil to play right-back. I think Arteta has lost his pace over the past season too, and that makes him a questionable starter in any position other than a direct replacement for Flamini.

Of course that's where he'll be starting for the next few games as the Frenchman went all Semtex on Schneiderlin, which certainly didn't/doesn't help matters going forward (excuse the pun). 

It's all but a disaster though, yes Man $ity may be a point ahead of us but let's not get away from the fact that Chelsea play them soon. Plus, we still have blood and heart in our squad, whilst they have oil and aircraft parts in theirs. Also, please don't all throw your toys out the pram over the general non-happenings of the transfer window. Yes, there may be a slight boo-boo somewhere with the Källström's fitness debacle, and we didn't manage to tie down the Draxler and Vucinic deals, but we've come a long way without them so far and I'm convinced we can take the battle all the way to the wire with the two sugar-daddy clubs. Keep the faith and for f***'s sake get behind your team.

Until Asia then...