By Scott C. Mossman
There has been nothing I’ve wanted to do more than visit England and the Arsenal again ever since my first pilgrimage to Mecca three years ago. I don’t have the words to describe the trip other than to say it was the best trip I could have imagined. I’ll break it down day by day to avoid a rambled mess of a blog.
Day 1: Happy Christmas
I made it to England just after midday on the 25th and was picked up in a Mercedes by the taxi service I had reserved (that’s how it’s done right there!). This first day was pretty uneventful as I slept off my jet lag in the hotel, but I finished it off by walking around and finding some fish and chips as well as a go phone which would prove very useful.
Day 2: Boxing Day and West Ham away
I woke up early on Boxing Day and went straight for the Kings Cross tube station and traveled the three short tube stops to Arsenal station. I was waiting on my friend Sam to come down from Peterborough before the match that afternoon so why not walk around Islington first? I went to the East Stand of Highbury, first, to take some pictures and even went inside the old player’s entrance to see the famous bust of Herbert Chapman. I then walked around the stadium to see the Emirates. By the way, every time I walk out of the Arsenal station or walk towards the Emirates it feels absolutely surreal. The words just escape me in describing that feeling.
After the first visit back to Mecca and a walk around, I met up with Sam and we headed straight for Upton Park in East London. I kid you not, a West Ham hooligan was sitting right across from us on the tube. He could have been straight out of Green Street Hooligans with the shiny white sneakers, pressed jeans, and scarred face. Sam and I kept quiet until he disappeared out of the tube when we arrived at Upton Park (he literally disappeared somewhere…weird). We then made the walk to the West Ham ground, picked up our tickets, and made our way in the away entrance for 30 or so of the best minutes of the trip on the concourse area. The Gooners were lively and the singing was non-stop. This was definitely a London derby (although 80% of the songs are spurs related). My personal favorites were the rendition of “There were 10 tottenham points in the gap” and the “Sol Campbell double” song. I highly recommend an away day to any traveling Sooner Gooner and joining one of these sing songs.
The West Ham match was probably my favorite of the three I attended in regards to the match itself. The comeback from 1-nil down and the back and forth from supporters groups was something I’ll never forget. Their Spanish keeper, Adrian, acknowledged their fans after chanting his name from saving a Mesut Ozil shot at 1-nil. We returned the favor by singing his chant back to him after Theo scored our second. This, combined with the celebration of that goal might have been the best moment of my entire trip. I can still feel the bruises on both legs from hitting the chairs around me when the rows of Gooners toppled over each other in mad joy. We matched that reaction when Lucas scored the third and one Gooner grabbed me saying “come here you American or Canadian c*nt!!!” as a group of us smashed into each other in excitement (the celebrating was almost violent haha). When the PA announcer mentioned Carlton Cole as the MOTM we all sang “It should have been you. It should have been you! Adrian, it should have been you!” Again, the support was immense for all 90 minutes.
After the match, Sam and I made the journey back to Kings Cross and finished off the night with some food and beers. What an insane day!
Day 3: We all live in a Perry Groves world!
I was on my own for the day and had already booked my tour of the Emirates. Last time, I got the privilege of being led on tour by the famous Charlie George and this time it was Perry Groves. Perry was hilarious and even had stories of the Tuesday Winners Club about drinking on weeks after a Saturday win with the likes of Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Merson, and David Rocastle. He mentioned the late Rocky with a lot of respect as well and talked of their friendship. The best part of this day was getting a signature and a picture with Perry. What a legend!
I finished this day off with some pints at the Gunners Pub and dinner as I had more travel the next day. Again, seeing the stadium is surreal and walking out of the tunnel is one of the coolest feelings. You really get to see everything on the tour so definitely book it when you make it over!
Day 4: A train to Peterborough and some new friends
I woke up for some breakfast and then headed for the train. I went to meet my friend Sam and his extremely nice midlands family. Oklahoma hospitality in Bourne, England haha! I’ll keep it at that, but a huge thank you to the Deakin family!
Day 5: Up the A1 for Newcastle away
Newcastle was a very different away day from West Ham, but just as satisfying. There weren’t many Gooners walking around Upton Park in colors before the match being a derby, but in Newcastle the red and white and blue and yellow were everywhere taking in the town. St. James’s Park is located in the centre of the city and there are plenty of options around the ground for food and drink. Sam and I got some food and pre match pints before heading up the seemingly thousands of stairs to the roof of the away section. Despite the stairs, Newcastle has a fantastic concourse area for away fans and very friendly staff. It was the opposite to the old stereotypes of the rough English north. We met our new friend, Brian, who had helped us secure tickets and another new friend, Rob, from the Boston Gooners and had a couple more pints before finding our seats. The singing was superb again and the Geordies reminded us of 4-4 from a few years back. There was a lot of singing Giroud’s song after the goal and “1-nil to the Arsenal”. We were in the very top row, but it’s a steep ground and the view isn’t as bad as you might think. There’s also a fantastic view of the city over the shorter stand. Many pictures were taken from the seats. We were again surrounded by some great Gooners who were interested in my journey from Oklahoma.
Over the course of the first two matches I ran into the guys from Arsenal Fan TV and they told me to meet them after the Newcastle match. I did an interview with them and then headed to the Arsenal team bus and even scored a Santi Corzorla autograph before he boarded. We were about 10 yards from where the entire team and Arsene Wenger got on the bus. I was once this close to Bono, but this was way better haha.
Day 6: It’s up for grabs now!
After the Newcastle match I took a train to Liverpool to meet another friend and see the sight of the most famous Arsenal victory of all time. I did a lot in Liverpool and had a fantastic time, but I’ll just mention the Anfield stop. Anfield is certainly an old stadium which is magnified after visiting the Emirates. The media room is less than a third of the size of the one at Arsenal, for example, and the dressing room is small and outdated. However, I got to touch the “This is Anfield” sign and sit in the Kop. They even play “You’ll never walk alone” over the stadium speakers as you walk up to it. It’s pretty incredible to feel the history of that stadium and I’m sure a match there is awesome. I’d love to do an away day with the Gooners there! They have a pub/restaurant open every day in the stadium as well so I can say I’ve had a pint inside Anfield. We also stopped off at a Liverpool pub right across the street. Most of the outside of the stadium looks old and bare, but the Kop entrance has a beautiful brick entrance and the famous gates you’ve probably seen on TV.
Day 7: London New Years with some Sooner Gooners
After my train back to London I met up with Tyler from Norman and Jon from Choctaw near Finsbury Park and had plenty of drinks before making our way to Westminster for the fireworks show at midnight. This night would prove to be an extremely fun distraction from the football trip as we were surrounded by thousands of people in the streets of the capital. After a humorously long walk to find a place to take a piss we found ourselves in view of Big Ben. It was pouring down rain, but we had a great chat with a family from Belgium and at midnight we found ourselves witnessing a massive fireworks display as well as being drenched in rain and champagne. We even spontaneously broke out in song with a drunken rendition of “Oklahoma” followed by running into a couple of Gooners and singing Arsenal songs. We had to walk for miles to find an open tube station, but when we did, the tube was full of people carrying bottles of champagne and whiskey. It was a festive atmosphere compared to the normal hustle and bustle of the London underground. We finished off the night in the most American way possible, a stop at McDonalds. Can anyone else think of a time three Sooner Gooners did New Years in London? It might have been a first.
Day 8: Cardiff at home on New Years Day
Sam joined me one final time at the Twelve Pins pub followed by Tyler and Jon. We enjoyed a couple of pints there before heading to the Tollington for a few more. The atmosphere was dampened by the rain compared to the two away days, but it was nice having a bigger group of us this time.
The match was the most frustrating of the three as we struggled to score and the atmosphere was spotty being a more low profile match up. However, the Emirates is absolutely beautiful on match day and the crowd went crazy when Bendtner scored. I may have even shouted pineapple a couple of times haha! I was just above the Cardiff fans who had made a good showing, but we certainly gave them some abuse back after the goals. Notably, their fans were singing “we’ve always been blue” throughout the match.
Afterwards, the four of us met up again for some final match day pints at the Tollington and went our separate ways at Arsenal station.
It was such an amazing trip. I got nine points out of nine and memories from all three matches which I’ll never forget. I got to see quite a bit of the country, see old friends, and make new ones. I didn’t have a boring day and I had a sickening knot in my stomach the day I left. There is usually a part of me happy to see home when I leave a vacation, but not when I leave Arsenal/England. It feels like leaving a loved one when you have to go and it really sucks. I’m already planning on doing it all again next year. I can’t wait! Up the Gunners!
Special thanks to Brian for helping us with tickets for Newcastle, Jill Smith from the club, Adrian from Arsenal America, and the Deakin family. This trip would not have been possible without them!!!
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