The last nine years have been a rotten time to be an Arsenal fan. They are London’s best supported club and have built a world class stadium in the last decade, but they’ve won nowt since the 2005 FA Cup. To make matters worse, they’ve seen Manchester United win the league five times, Chelsea win Europe’s premier competition and Manchester City rise to prominence out of nowhere and win the league twice.
However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel for these tortured souls. Arsenal found themselves in the FA Cup Final with only Hull City standing between them and their first silverware in almost nine years. With all due respect to Hull, this was an open goal for Arsenal to finally get that monkey off their back.
As soon as I emerged from Highbury & Islington station and set foot in Arsenal territory, there was a palpable buzz in the air; the Arsenal fans were in fine voice a whole hour before kick off. This bubble of optimism and singing was burst when Hull City raced into a two goal lead only ten minutes after kick off. The first goal was greeted by disappointment by Arsenal fans, but the second by pure silence and tension; surely Arsenal couldn’t be about to destroy their fans’ hopes and dreams yet again?
As the seventeenth minute approached my pint was three quarters full, yet by the twentieth it was nigh on empty. Arsenal got a goal back and the entire pub erupted into something resembling a mosh pit. At the half time whistle, Arsenal were still a goal behind, but there was still some optimism in the air – not as much as there was before kick off – but there was certainly belief.
In the second half, Arsenal had chance after chance after chance. Each one was greeted by a greater amount of anxiety, pain and swearing than the last. I am not a terribly foul mouthed person, but the football atmosphere in the pub bought out my inner Tourette’s.
Eventually Arsenal equalised. I knew there was no way of proceeding cautiously with my celebration for this, so I just threw the remainder of my pint in the air and hugged a dozen sweaty strangers in celebration.
Arsenal now had all of the momentum and it was just a matter of time before they scored the winning goal. Yet they continued to squander chances: open goals were missed and penalties weren’t given. Ten minutes from the end of extra time, Arsenal finally took the lead. The pub descended into beautiful chaos; this was the catharsis after nine years of anguish. I ended up somewhere in the middle of a thirty man pile on, after having to discard the remainder of another pint in wild celebration.
It felt like the end of the greatest gig: the almost hymnal chants coupled with emotional lows and remarkable highs, while drenched in a combination of alcohol and sweat. It was the closest thing to pure happiness I have ever experienced.