Category Archives: JW Diaries

JW Diaries: To Kharkov , Poltava and Beyond!!!

Landing at Kharkov Airport early Tuesday, we already knew our minibus to Poltava, where we planned to stay for 4 nights had been cancelled, therefore 2 taxis were ordered with 7 of us making the 150 mile trip in -10 conditions where the roads weren’t gritted!

On arrival to our hotel, turning the WiFi on and my phone was buzzing, the news that UEFA had changed the venue came through and alternative arrangements had to be made.

Our first plan was to spend 2 nights in Kiev and return home a day early; understandably, all the travelling Gooners had the same idea meaning the cost was getting close to £200 for a single flight!

Three of us decided to get a train to Kiev in the Thursday, stay one night and return to our base in Poltava, hopefully getting our original flight home Saturday.

On Wednesday, we went to the central station, after queuing for nearly an hour, we somehow managed to book first class return tickets which cost about £23!

We then went to look round the stadium but this was shut due to irate fans outside. We managed to speak to the Youth Team Manager who said that his players and all the locals were disappointed that the game had been moved.

After some sightseeing and an afternoon/ evening spent in a central bar, we had an excellent meal before going back to the hotel for an early start to Kiev.

Arsenal were excellent, telephoning every fan where possible as well as sending 4 emails giving updates as it happened.

On matchday at the Station, our expectations for a comfortable 400 mile, 40 hour journey to Kiev was low; how wrong were we, the first-class carriage was 4 seats wide that reclined, footrests, tables, WiFi and a buffet made it a real pleasant journey and more importantly, on time!

We managed to get in a few beers before the match, which was played in -13 conditions which was probably the coldest I’ve ever been at a match! The match ended 3-0 as we coasted to top spot in the group.

The following day, we were once again up early getting the train back to Poltava. Once we returned, due to the increased snow, we decided to get a train ticket back to Kharkov on the Saturday. We went back to the Stadium where this time we were invited in, was given a tour of the ground including both dressing rooms, got given tea and was sold some souvenirs.

On Saturday, we went to a different station expecting nobody there, it was rammed! Our first-class carriage was completely different to the one a couple of days earlier, it was a sleeper with 4 beds for 3 of us and basic.

When we arrived at Kharkov, other than at the match, we saw our first military personnel of the trip, our conclusion was that UEFA overreacted and there was no justification for switching the match.

Most Gooners returned to the UK via Kiev which meant that the plane was less than half full, I managed to get to row to myself. We spent 2.5 hours on the tarmac, nearly spending a 5th night with a possibility of missing the spurs match. Fortunately, the captain announced that in an emergency the front doors would not be in use! Who cares, we were getting home and not missing the North London/Middlesex derby!

After travelling nearly 4,000 miles over 5 days literally on Planes, Trains and Automobiles; this was my 128th European Away match following The Arsenal and ranks in my all time top 5 trips, a fantastic experience that will live with me forever.




JW Diaries: 50 games already done

The Checkatrade Trophy has been good for the youth team as well as the fans, the game against Cheltenham Town meant that I have now seen Arsenal play at 83 of the 92 current grounds; the match ended with a 6-2 defeat with all to play for in the final Group Stage match.

The next day I saw us beat Blackpool 2-1 in the Carabao Cup, as the score line suggests, it was far from easy and then a 15-2 win for the U15s at Hale End followed by an unfortunate 5-4 defeat for the U23s against Chelsea at Boreham Wood.

Liverpool were next for the first team; a real test in the current unbeaten run, I thought we played well and was worthy of our point; I was pleased with the way we responded with a defeat looking ominous.

The New Lawn, the home of Forest Green Rovers was the setting for our final Group Stage match in the Checkatrade Trophy. It’s a totally ‘green’ stadium with vegetarian food  for the pre match meal which I have to say was excellent. We needed to win the match to ensure our place in the knockout stages; the U21s never let us down with a throughly deserved 3-1 win!

Sporting was next with a boring 0-0 draw; which was arguably our worst performance of the season! 

On the Friday there was a soft opening of a new bar in Holloway Road called ‘The Islington Sports Bar & Grill’ this is to become my new pre match drinking hole! Following a heavy evening, on the Saturday I somehow managed to make an 11am match at the training ground watching us dispatch Fulham U18s 4-0.

My 50th Arsenal match of the season came and went at Hale End with a 3-1 defeat against Norwich U14s. Following this, I made a mad dash home to drop the car off before the first pre match drinks at the new pub before watching a dull 1-1 draw against Wolves!

Two 3-2 defeats for our U16s & U18s, then it was a day out in Bournemouth. This started off badly with the first train out cancelled! We made it with ample time to spare with a couple of hours in our now regular pub. We played OK and just about deserved our 2-1 win. 

Next up is a trip to deepest Ukraine…..


JW Diaries: From Dover to Lisbon

Following a weekend in Dover for the Supporters Club annual Legends meal in the company of Pat Rice & Eddie Kelly, I made a mad dash to Waterloo to watch our Women play Chelsea at their Kingsmeadow ground, what a game it was, we beat them 5-0 which was an extraordinary result as Chelsea haven’t been beaten at home for nearly 2 years and are current Women’s Super League Champions! 

Next up on the Arsenal tour was a drunken weekend in Offenbach for a German Gooners 50th Birthday which was only possible due to our Monday night fixture against Leicester City at the Emirates in which we won a hard fought match 3-1.

Next up was a 3 day trip to the beautiful City of Lisbon, it was meant to be low key as I took my other half and her sister – wrong! 

Drinking with the usual crowd ensured that a 5am finish on the first night in a number of bars up in the hills and there was no hold up on the match day. I won’t go over the match as we all know we won 1-0 in an uninspiring game against a well drilled Sporting side.

Another climb up the hills and a not so late 3am finished ensued our last day was spent on flat land sightseeing and having a lovely meal with a couple of glasses of excellent Port.

Having got home at 2am on the Saturday due to a late flight and an M25 closure, I managed to get up at 9am to watch our U16s beat Lincoln City 2-1 in a close match at Hale End.

Sunday I was out by 9am for our trip to Selhurst Park where I had the full prawn sandwich experience with seats in the Directors Box. From what I can remember and watching the highlights the following day, I thought a combination of some poor performances, blatant cheating and crazy refereeing saw us draw 1-1. A diplomatic result from my point of view as my host was a Palace fan.

After being the last out about 5pm, a cab journey to meet up with the usual suspects at London Bridge ensured that another journey home with no recollection of how I got there!