It’s March 1991, and the week leading up to the biggest game of the Barclays Division One season, Arsenal three points ahead of champions Liverpool and looking to stretch the lead at Anfield on the Sunday in a veritable ‘six-pointer’. That same Sunday afternoon, Mum has arranged to visit her best friend, Lesley, in hospital. With Dad. I can only speculate as to the response he gave her when told of the time and date, but he certainly released his disdain to me: “You know what’s happening that day, don’t you?”
But this season, this present day, the joke is on me. The game: Arsenal versus Manchester City, February 15th: Current Position of Competing Sides; 1st vs 2nd: Coverage: Amazon Prime Video. Streaming Service Access Available in My household: Amazon Prime Video (thanks to borrowed password from a family account). So What's the Problem, Then? It’s the first night of our half-term holiday away. Ah…
I knew all about the holiday of course, had agreed it was a great idea for a great price, and was looking forward to something that normal people did when school was out. I didn’t think to check the date before we booked, as I’m not in that sphere anymore, which in itself perhaps questions my disappointment; moreover, I’d only checked the date of the match on Sunday, when feeling that I’d missed out on the high of Arsenal’s 3-2 win over Manchester United with last minute winner. The chance to sell my soul to Sky Sports would have been there if I’d thought of it earlier. With two of the household horizontal with the virus going round the family, and me functioning the best, the 4:30pm kick off could have been purchased via Now TV, though by the time the opportunity presented itself, the match was imminent and I’d committed to picking up an urgent dose of peptol bismol for the missus (out of stock everywhere, it turned out.) The voice in the head played it down: you spent a tenner on Spurs away last April and look how that turned out. I agreed and headed for the chemists, switching the radio on, hearing the noise in the stadium and the thrill of the game and feeling a little irrelevant.
So I was looking forward to the Man City game even more eagerly, only to find, 32 years after I was denied the highlights of this fixture’s 1991-92 incarnation by a mandatory family lunch (I sulked the whole way through it, determined that Mum, who’d engineered the outside occasion, saw how much she’d hurt me. For the record, I’d been to the actual game in question the previous afternoon), the family dynamic had struck again to thwart me.
Unlike that 91-92 season of terrace-filled electricity, I cannot get in to the ground these days, no matter how early I get on the phone lines or web page when it’s ticket sales day, so have to rely on the telly to get closer to the players, to get to know them more. It’s what I’m left with. So missing the Man City home match is understandably a gripe.
The other thing to say is that this fixture would already have been played had the Queen not died just before the weekend of the originally scheduled meeting. That decision to postpone matches still seems stupid, and is part of an ongoing conspiracy by the monarchy to ruin my football life. For instance, just 26 years ago no one cared about my hat trick in a pre-season friendly for Highground against Cotterells Club when it fell on the same day as Princess Diana being killed. It was completely overshadowed when the news came through.
Friends, family and royalty, who needs them?