My first four matches of the 2018/19 season have resulted in 4 wins with 24 goals scored and 2 goals conceded; a very satisfactory start under the new regime at our Club.
The first three matches were played at our academy ground, Hale End based just off the North Circular Road near Walthamstow. Whilst the was no sighting of our new Head of Academy Per Mertesacker, apparently in Germany on Club business, there as plenty of talk that he has certainly already influenced our schoolboys both on and off the pitch.
I was told that the talk which Per gave recently in the well-publicised event at the Emirates with all the academy players, parents and staff was every emotional. Per spoke about his own anxieties of being a footballer throughout his career and how he overcame them.
Per was very honest and open, giving the assembled audience an insight of his “limited, natural football ability” but was able to supplement his shortcomings with hard work, determination and a desire to succeed; he explained how he made the big time over some players, who had a higher football ability but lacked desire – truly inspirational stuff!
After my second match I drove over to Piebury Corner on Holloway Road to attend an Arsenal photographic exhibition held by the excellent OpAa people who are Gooner friends of mine. They hold this event every year making money for good causes. This time round it was even more special as one of the organisers mums had recently passed away. Over £2,000 was raised on the night for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust who looked after John Cs mum during her final days.
Following an academy match on Saturday morning, I made a quick dash to Meadow Park, Borehamwood, arriving with plenty of time before kick-off. After a quick pint and handing out tickets, I unusually got into the ground 45 minutes before the start, wanting to see who was playing for us and how we were warming up.
I’m sure many of you know, Meadow Park is the home ground for the Arsenal Women and U23 teams as well as many U18 cup ties being played there. Arsenal have an excellent relationship with Boreham Wood; we have helped to fund the West Stand, new flood lighting, dug outs as well supplying ground staff to ensure that the pitch is to a very high standard.
Once I managed to get the teamsheet, I was able to see as expected, it was an extremely strong line up and there was to be a completely different team in the second half. Whist I have seen Arsenal score as many as 16 goals in reserve and academy matches, it’s not often the first team score 8.
I know most will think ‘it’s only Boreham Wood’ but the way we went about the match was professional in the extreme. I have been to pre-season friendlies where we went through the motions and gave the impression that the players didn’t want to be there, which as well as being unprofessional, it also short changes those that pay good money and often travel long distance to attend.
Those days seem to be well and truly over, the sun was shining, we had second row seat facing the sun, there was plenty of red faces with my arms still stinging! I’m sure, every one of the 3,000 plus Arsenal fans in the 3,500 capacity crowd, went home happy.
As we know, Unai Emery is still finding his feet and although it was hard to predict the starting formation to be used once the real season starts, the team worked hard and we were worth the 8 goals scored. I was informed in the bar after the game that the ‘first half’ team went straight into one of the two coaches and were taken back to London Colney for further training!
This week will see me watching a few more academy matches as well as an unlikely but possible, short trip to Germany for a match. A lot of my week will be packing two suitcases for my trip to Singapore and a separate trip to Dublin/Stockholm, arriving back to Gatwick at 4pm on a Monday, then flying to Dublin at 8am on the Tuesday, hence the early packing! It’s hard work this pre-season malarkey, but someones got to do it!
Unfortunately, my extra day in Dublin means that I will be missing an U23 friendly against AFC Hornchurch on the Tuesday evening – c’est la vie!