Cast your mind back, all the way back to the 2011/12 season.

It was the season, the one good season, of Robin van Greybeard.

It was the season of “Mind the Gap“.

It was the season that saw me attend both North London Derbies (thank you, James Craddock).

It was the season both fixtures were bathed in glorious, unseasonable, sunshine.

Actually, that’s not quite true.

On the day of the Spurs game, the sunshine lasted for as long as I sat drinking cider with James, another member of my created Gooner Family, outside the Twelve Pins.

We all know there’s no sunshine to be found in Tottenham.

You will remember that, in October 2011, we were just beginning to recover from a horrendous start to the season.

James and I had travelled up to Manchester to witness an absolute horror show just over a month previously as Arsenal lost to United. You know the one.

It’s fair to say we were not exactly full of confidence.

The feeling that came to mind, as we sat in the sunshine, was one of condemned men enjoying a last meal. Or, for accuracy’s sake, a last drink- or four.

Spurs 2 Arsenal 1

Eventually, we reluctantly crossed the road and disappeared onto the Victoria Line. The walk up Tottenham High Rd seemed to last forever but we were early enough to get straight into the ground and, whilst we waited, drink.

I don’t remember much about the game now.

I remember Aaron Ramsey being useless and Van der Vaart clearly handballing before lashing Spurs ahead.

Van der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham
(Photo by IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)

I remember James and I not quite understanding just how we were behind at half time.

I also remember, cast in the dull half light of the Lane, not being able to see clearly who had scored our equaliser and I remember how it felt to watch as Bacary Sagna lay on the side of the pitch, being booed and spat on with his leg in pieces- not that the Spurs fans were the only ones to disgrace themselves that day, we all did.

Finally, I remember how Szczesny let Kyle Walker’s speculative drive slip through his fingers for the winning goal.

The feeling of how the entire stadium seemed to swell, to come alive with sheer jubilation. It was a stark contrast to the stillness and silence in our corner of the ground.

There seemed to be an unspoken acceptance that we were done, no coming back from this.

At full time, James and I sloped out of the stadium as quickly as possible, doing our best to look like we hadn’t just watched our team lose a football match.

It was only in the safety of the Twelve Pins that we discovered that it was Aaron Ramsey had scored our goal.

Aaron Ramsey scores against Spurs
(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The evening was complete when a drunk Spurs fan wearing a shirt, danced into the pub, up to the bar and back out.

Next time it would be different, we vowed (hoped)…

Next time.

We didn’t know just how different it would be.

Arsenal 5 Spurs 2 (the first time)

Flash forward to late February 2012 and Arsenal’s participation in next season’s edition of the Champions League was in grave doubt.

We found ourselves ten points behind Spurs and struggling.

So, when I met up once more with James in King’s Cross for a pre match Nando’s, we were feeling even less confident than five months previously.

Then a chat with a guy called Wycliffe (I had to check this) left us thinking that maybe it was going to be our day after all.

This, despite the Spurs fans arriving at Arsenal tube cheerily exhorting us all to “Mind the Gap!”

mind the gap tshirts
(Photo by unknown via Google)

It didn’t feel like our day when Louis Saha strolled into an ocean of space behind our defence and, via a deflection, fired Spurs into an early lead.

Our heroes reacted well to this early set back and set about dominating proceedings, so it was no surprise, then, when Gareth Bale did his Swan Lake thing and got Spurs a penalty.

Memories of this day suggest that it was Bacary Sagna’s header which sprang us back to life- it was the moment I knew, for certain, that we were going to be alright but I still wonder how much Adebayor’s little jig, having successfully converted the resultant penalty, in front of the North Bank influenced what was to follow.

Bacary Sagna scores v Spurs
(Photo via Goonerdaily.com)

It infuriated 57,000 Gooners and the team had already started to hit their stride.

We had to wait a while, but eventually we replied.

Barely had Robin van Persie cracked one against the post then Arteta crossed the ball back into the box and Sagna headed home the most important goal he ever scored for us.

Two minutes later, van Persie worked the space for a shot from the edge of the box and as soon as he hit it, you knew exactly where it was going. The net bulged in front of us (we were standing about ten rows back, right behind the goal, in the Clock End) and the stadium erupted.

In an echo of our equaliser at the Lane, I only kind of saw van Persie’s slidey knee celebration, as both he and I were engulfed in a sea of bodies.

If the first half had been quite a tense affair- at least up until van Persie’s goal, then the second half was just a thrill ride. Well, it was from where I was sitting (standing).

An end to end move saw Tomas Rosicky cap an outstanding display with a neat finish to put us 3-2 up, before Theo decided that it was his time.

For his first goal, he ran from one box to the other to join van Persie. Robin had held the ball up for what seemed like five minutes, waiting for support and Theo duly arrived, took a good first touch, a bad second one but still managed to chip Brad Friedel anyway.

Theo Walcott scores against Spurs
(Photo via soccerissue.com)

Pandemonium.

Yet that was nothing compared to what was to follow.

Theo collected an Alex Song pass and arrowed the ball into the far corner of the net and I have never experienced anything at a football match like I did that day, perhaps- maybe- the last few minutes of that Barcelona game.

I think, fun as that was, we took the lead so late on we never had time to really luxuriate in it- not that we could have against that Barca side anyway. Besides, there was the difficult second leg to come, which I don’t think I really expected anything from.

No, this was something special, a rare example of an NLD second half that just grew ever more joyous.

As the away fans emptied the Clock End and those that stayed held up seven fingers to indicate the points gap and also, unwittingly, the day’s scoreline as well as how many fingers they all have on each hand.

It was a chance to really enjoy a beautiful day.

This time, the songs directed at Adebayor were less “It should have been you” and more “Adebayor, what’s the score?” and there was even a Spurs sending off in the last minute to celebrate- Scott Parker getting his marching orders as Harry twitched away on the sidelines.

The pub, the Tolly this time, was a lot more fun after this game.

I wonder now, what would have happened had Spurs somehow managed to win that game.

I think 13 points would have been too much even for us.

Would it have been Arsène and not Harry who got the summer sack?

Would Spurs have had to sell Modric and Van Der Vaart- or, come to that, Bale 18 months ago?

As it was, the seven point gap we finished the day facing proved eminently more manageable.

Despite a dramatic last day of the season, we ended it as we have finished every season since I was at secondary school, looking down on Spurs.

More importantly, we had the Champions League qualification with which we tempted Santi Cazorla from Malaga.

At least Spurs had the consolation of knowing a result like this was unlikely to be repeated, certainly not in 2012 anyway. Oh, wait…

Further reading:

negative spiral

 

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It's a family affair... third generation Gooner, obsessed with Arsenal since the 80's. I've been writing about that obsession and, ever so occasionally, the team since 2004 in a variety of places, but have found a natural home here. As you will find out if you stick around long enough, I am a huge fan of Santi Cazorla. I'm extremely fond of cheese, Marmite, Pipers Salt n' Vinegar crisps, Pilsner Urquell, vodka tonics and absinthe. I am also hopelessly obsessed with Depeche Mode.