Maybe I am getting old. Maybe I am just fed up of another Sunday game, but rather than being on a train to Newcastle right now, I am at home, wondering whether to spend my morning cleaning or gardening.
Trips to Newcastle and Sunderland used to be some the most anticipated of the season. A load of us heading up to the North-East on an often delayed 3 hour train.
The incredible amount of alcohol consumed on these trips often led them to having the most memorable moments. But today, none of my lot are going.
A 1:30pm on a Sunday afternoon game away to Newcastle would not normally be an issue. We would get a train about 8:30am, getting us into the Toon at about midday. Few beers in the former O’Neills across the road for the station, before the uphill walk to the ground.
We would be back down at sea level at around quarter to 4, so probably get a 4:30pm train back to London. Enough time for a quick pint and to get some cans for the way home. We would be back into Kings Cross about 8pm. Couple of pints in the O’Neills opposite St Pancras, before heading home for some sleep. Then up at 5:30am Monday morning for work.
Maybe it is old age. I am now 33. That the trip did not interest me. I did not fancy an early start on a Sunday (I would have to be up at 7am to catch the train to Kings Cross). I did not fancy the late night Sunday finish. And I did not fancy the hangover on the commute to work on Monday morning.
Back in my 20’s, I would think nothing of getting to Euston for a 6:30am train for Wigan away – beers flowing even at that time of the morning. Or getting back home at 11pm on a Sunday after a 4pm game in the North East. I would suck it up, and deal with the consequences the next day.
Maybe it is age and responsibility. But it is also apathy.
Not apathy towards Arsenal (or not completely).
This season has been tough for away fans. I have probably done the least amount of total games (home and away) for some years. I have left numerous times at half-time to head back to the pub (even when winning). I have stayed in the concourse for entire halves. And sometimes, I just have not bothered going in at all.
Not just the results, but the atmosphere. The knobheads that sit around us. Both home and away. Football has changed massively in just the last 5 years that I have been an away scheme member. Even more since I got my season ticket a decade ago. And it is now a completely different game to when I went to my first game in October 1995 as an 11 year old.
The fact that I am not going is not just because of The Arsenal, however. There are about 10 of us who travel regularly away together. Whether it be Stoke City or Cologne. None of us are going. And a big reason is due to it being yet another Sunday game.
When we qualified for the Europa League, we knew we would see an increase of Sunday games. But the additional scheduling of Sky Sports and BT Sports have made matters worse. We have actually maxed out on the amount of times Sky Sports can show us.
Instead of Sky Sports being smart and thinking “Arsenal have to play on Sunday due to the “Europa League, lets show them” many of our post-Europa League games have not been on TV. They picked other games for TV. This results in even more games played on a Sunday, and even less games played at 3pm on a Saturday.
Now that we have beaten CSKA Moscow, the fixture against Burnley will now be moved to Sunday. as it can not be on Sky, it will probably be on at lunchtime.
This means we have had just three 3pm kick offs this season, and 18 games on a Sunday.
Sunday games mean longer train journeys, less trains, and that Monday morning hangover. That is where my apathy sits.
I dream of a return to Saturday games. A return to drinking all day, then battling the hangover on Sunday, with a roast thrown in. This season, I have spent the Saturday fiddling with myself. Not sure what to do. Keeping myself occupied. It has not been fun.
The Europa League has been brilliant. Cologne was brilliant. One of the greatest trips of all time. But with Sky moving so many other games to a Sunday – which did not require moving – I am fed up.
Today, I will watch on TV. Next week I will be at the West Ham game. On a Sunday. Again.
It is all a little bit rubbish.