After an exciting 7 days in Singapore, it was literally 8 hours at home; smaller suitcase packed, a few hours sleep due to jet lag and then properly up at 4am for a trip to Dublin!
Arriving at my hotel at 11am, as we couldn’t check in until 3pm, we decided to head to what is reputed to be Ireland’s oldest pub, the ‘Brazen Head’ which according to the signage, was established in 1198. The plan was a couple of Guinness’s and a bite to eat before the check in.
After my other half checked us both in on Social Media, lots of Gooner friends joined us and after 10 hours of drinking and no food, we finally checked in to our hotel around 10:30pm!
On the Matchday, after breakfast we headed to the pub ‘Grand Social’ arranged by the Dublin Arsenal SC for cheap beers at 4.50€ per pint. Also midway through the day, in conjunction with the Club, the SC arranged a free ticketed event with Sol Campbell. Sol, as ever was in great form and spoke openly about ‘that move’ and his personal problems.
The match wasn’t great but an equaliser in the 3rd minute of added on time plus a penalty shoot out win against a London rival meant that we went back to a pub near the stadium happy. After a couple, we left, there was no cabs about so we got a bicycle rickshaw – even though I’ve been to Asia many times, it was a first, what great fun!
The next day was an obligatory trip to the Guinness factory and then to Dublin airport with Mandy flying back to London and me going on to Stockholm.
From rain and lowish temperatures in Ireland, i arrived in Stockholm to heat akin to Singapore. My good friends from Arsenal Sweden gave me a lift to my central hotel, arriving at 11:30pm, I was expecting a good nights sleep. How wrong was I, no air con and a noisy fan meet sleep was a minimum.
The next day I went sight seeing, changed up money into Krona and after lunch, I went to the Swedish Arsenal Supporters Club office which was 5 minutes walk away.
Jocke and volunteers from the SC were working hard organising sales of official merchandise as well as their own branded Arsenal stuff to sell at the pre-match venue the following day. Following this we went to their SC pub to meet up with other Sweds ad well as friends from afar afield as Belgium to the Isle of Wight for a night of drinking and of course, discussing all things Arsenal.
For the match day, Arsenal Sweden organised a ‘pub’ named O’Learys opposite the Friends Arena for Gooners to meet. This held 2,000 people comfortably with a 9 lane bowling alley with various slot machines, dodgems and various other entertainments, more Vegas than Stockholm!
It was great to see so many Arsenal fans there, catching up with many good friends from Scandinavian who I’ve met over the years. The highlight was local boy, ex-Arsenal player Anders Limpar giving a Q & A session. Official Arsenal TV was also there interviewing various Gooners for live social media feeds.
The match was attended by nearly 15,000 fans, which over 95% were Gooners. The match against Lazio was a comfortable 2-0 win and following a few more beers it was another restless night and a flight home which was delayed by 3 hours!
My first team tour consisted of 5 matches, 3 wins, 2 draws which resulted in 2 Penalty shoot outs, 1 of those won and 1 lost, 17 goals for and 3 conceded.
Now the real work begins…..