For those readers who haven’t been to London, it’s certainly an intriguing place. It’s unfathomably vast, hugely diverse and there’s something for absolutely everybody to do. The unwavering intensity of the place means I’d personally find it difficult to settle there, but I love a long weekend or a few days in the “Big Smoke.”
As luck would have it, the fixture calendar has seen me travel to the capital to watch Everton for three of the last five weekends. And whilst each time I’ve enjoyed my jaunt “down South,” wrenching results for my beloved Toffees have punctured the weekend on three consecutive occasions.
After overcoming Swansea in the fifth round and drawing Arsenal in the quarterfinal of the FA Cup, I couldn’t wait to get to the Emirates. All those Evertonians—5,000 in the end—making their way down to North London to take over the ground and get behind the lads. Just one game away from Wembley. Two away from glory.
So as you can imagine, the week leading up to the game dragged and dragged, as it often does before a big game. Even more so when the day before we’d scheduled to go down to London, my office had a power cut and I had literally nothing to do but sit around. All day.
I think the doodle on my notepad from that day probably says a lot about where my mind was…
But I got through the day (eventually) and the matchday was nearly upon us. We stayed at a friends house on the Friday night and talked of the game, a potential day out at Wembley and the prospect of Phil Jagielka lifting the FA Cup.
We even brought our flag with us from our cup run in 2009; it’s outing’s are increasingly rare these days it must be said as stewards can be a little fussy about what you take into the ground, even more so when you try and hang it over a sponsors advertising board.
For those wondering, “The Black Watch” was Everton’s nickname back when they wore a black kit with a salmon sash, the same colors as a Scottish army regiment with that name.
The Emirates stadium itself is pretty spectacular. It’s elevated above street level and looks a bit like an enormous spaceship on approach. As you walk up one of the many staircases towards the ground, you’re constantly reminded of Arsenal’s illustrious history, with statues of icons aplenty and the exterior of the ground is emblazoned with legends from times gone by.
The Evertonians had the whole lower section behind the goal, which equated to around 5,000 fans. As I mentioned in the last column, the allocation had been cut down by almost half following fears regarding security, with the use of pyrotechnics a primary concern. But it looked as though there were a few blues who had adopted a “screw you” attitude.
When Romelu Lukaku equalized Mesut Ozil’s opening goal to make it 1-1, the away end was awash with blue smoke. I do think the pyro can look a bit tacky sometimes and whilst I certainly wouldn’t go letting any off myself, it did look brilliant on this occasion…