Elliot Rogers makes his debut on The Figthing Cock by talking us through Tottenham's trip to the Emirates via The Dolphin.
It was a rainy, dismal day when I got the message from a mate. ‘Do you fancy Arsenal away?’ – Before thinking about what I was getting myself in for, my bank account was £65 lighter.
I’ve been to Spurs home and away for years, but due to a lack of loyalty points, this was my first London away trip, and what a game to start with. I met seven mates at 10am for breakfast and beers. For £5 each, we pick a set of times for first and last scorers.
Six pints later I’m at The Dolphin pub at King’s Cross, laughing about Arsenal banning alcohol in our end, as if that would stop the seven hours of drinking preceding the game. Talking to some other Spurs fans, we all admit we’re losing the game, but only disagree at how many goals we’ll ship. 3-1 is my prediction, we’ll score first.
Tourists take photos of us like we’re animals, our cage is fluorescent yellow rather than silver
The police are everywhere, standing back and watching. We ignore them, they keep their distance. We sing songs about Campbell and toys and hating Arsenal but they don’t react. They do their job and guide us to the station, keeping a tube empty for us. We sing more songs aimed towards Arsenal fans heading to the game.
As we arrive at Arsenal station, the police are waiting for us, shepherding us to the ground. Opposition fans walk alongside, and there is hostility from a number of them. I see my Arsenal supporting mate, and want to go over, but fear the repercussions of breaking the barrier of police horses. We descend on the Emirates as they look down on us from behind the stadium glass. Tourists take photos of us like we’re animals, our cage is fluorescent yellow rather than silver.
We get to our seats and I don’t even know who’s playing, but there’s doubts among the whispers that Mason’s starting. I normally use Twitter to find the team news, but right now I’m caught up in the occasion. Kaboul leads us out and chills cover my body. We defend and defend in the early minutes, and we don’t look too bad.
We’re playing much better than the performance against West Brom. Arsenal are dominating possession however, and Hugo makes a few tidy stops. The guy to the right keeps shouting at us to sing up and get behind the team. Twenty to the left start the ‘Y-word’ chant, the rest of us stand in silence, awash with nerves.
The first half is over in a flash, and the mood picks up in the concourse. A large majority are under the influence, and we’re quickly back out for the second half. We actually look a little less nervy, and put together a decent spell. Then we win a free kick. ‘We’re going to score here’ blurts out of my mouth, to no one in particular. Eriksen stands over the ball, just too far out, and it’s an easy catch for Szczesny. There goes one of our few opportunities.
But Arsenal play it out from the back with all our players pushed forward, something we consistently tried to do last week. We’re pressing them, and Eriksen works hard and nicks it off Flamini. Lamela quickly takes over and plays in Chadli. 2500 Spurs fans hold their breath, someone behind me yells ‘go on!’ and Chadli slots it past a helpless keeper.
I don’t know what to do.
I want to turn to my mate and grab him, I want to run down the front and get on the pitch. I want to turn to the Arsenal fans and swear at them through various hand gestures. I’m in a state of jubilation.
From drinking at The Dolphin to seeing the dolphin score, the football narrative was alive
In the end I do all three like some sort of crazed lunatic, dragging my mate down the aisle whilst laughing at the opposition. ‘We’re going to beat Man City!’ he shouts. ‘We’re going to win the league!’ I reply. Football causes blind optimism and delusion. From drinking at The Dolphin to seeing the dolphin score, the football narrative was alive.
Then we sit back, and hold on. This is interesting. We aren’t trying to attack at every opportunity, we look reserved. This is the kind of performance we need away at the big teams. Arsenal have chances, but nothing clear-cut, they struggle to split us open. Is their attack in poor form, or is this a testament to our defence? I’d like to think a bit of both.
After the shambolic performance against West Brom, our defence are no longer casual and relaxed, they show fight and heart. We lost three times to Arsenal last year without scoring a goal, and got battered home and away by the likes of Liverpool and City. Here we are away at a big side putting in a solid performance, with the bite we need. Some call Mourinho’s wins away at City ‘parking the bus’, others call it a ‘tactical masterclass’, but here we park our masterclass right on the Emirates doorstep.
But then they score, and the word ‘masterclass’ is no longer applicable. Oxlade-Chamberlain rifles one straight past Hugo, no stopping that. My mate gets hit by a few 2p coins from above, at least they aren’t chucking their iPads away. They have possession, a lot of possession. They have pot-shots, small chances, but no clear one-on-ones. The fans are quiet, tense, watching the clock in between begging Adebayor to press their back four.
Another save from Hugo, another Rose clearance, another Kaboul header. Solid. 1 minute to go, we find our voices again as the Arsenal fans start to leave in droves. I’m delighted that my 3-1 prediction is wrong.
My mate gets hit by a few 2p coins from above, at least they aren’t chucking their iPads
Back on the pitch someone’s powering forward. It’s Jan Vertonghen, the man who is about to justify replacing the shaky Chiriches. ‘Lamela! Give it to Lamela!’ we shout. But he’s lost it, and we moan and groan, but it’s 20 seconds off that seemingly broken clock.
Arsenal come back at us and we clear, again. Whistles from the crowd, but one whistle rings loud and we are hit with relief. I pump my fist and smile. We did not lose 3-1, 5-2 or some other thrashing. We’ve earned a point, at a big club, under a new manager.
We’re walking out and an Asian tourist is taking photos of us, which some fans take exception to, shouting back. One of my friends gives me £20, I got the minute right for the last goal. I’d rather there wasn’t a last goal for the sake of £20. And then we’re outside, laughing and singing, mixing with the Arsenal fans. We sing about them running away, they give us some Nazi salutes, the police protect both sides from harm, and I go home happy. £65 well spent.