Birthday Weekender 2.0 – Arsenal vs Sunderland


You might remember a post from way back in 2011 that was an alternative to a Father’s Day card. I wrote a list of things I was thankful to my Dad for and one of those things was a love of Sunderland AFC.

Enter birthday weekender 2.0.

Post half English breakfast at Hoi Polloi I headed over to Stratford to meet my friend Kate who I’d become friends with after a tent rave at Secret Garden Party Festival (the best UK festival ever!)- it involved too many people in a very small space, soggy from the rain, drunk and belting out Mariah Carey’s massive tune – Fantasy – you know the one with ODB “New York in da house, is Brooklyn in da House” –  before venturing back out into the rain to see what else the festival had to offer.

But I digress…

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(That’s Kate and I above – I can’t help but notice how shattered I look from the night before!)

Now Kate has managed to find a place, forever in the heart of my family (well, Dad and twin brother) by offering to take us along to the sold-out Emirates stadium to watch our beloved Sunderland play Arsenal. We couldn’t have been more delighted after fearing we’d been relegated to watching in the pub or worse, at home. The only minor downside was that we’d be sitting in the Arsenal end and therefore unable to cheer particularly loudly at all for our team but at least we’d see them play. I was also unable to wear my shirt so had to settle for this SAFC necklace I made…

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Pretty snazzy hey! I say made – I bought an alphabet necklace from H&M so merely ordered the letters. I can’t find it on the site but ASOS have one HERE

We met in the Drayton Park Arms at 1pm for a few pre-match beers. The pub is sort of an away-fans pub although there were a few Arsenal in there so I guess it’s fairly neutral. It is a total grotty boozer, no, not just grotty – gross and it’s a bit hard to understand why as it must rake it in on match days? There is no card payments at the bar though and no cash machine nearby so make sure you come cash ready if you’re popping in here before a game. We chatted with the other Sunderland fans – mainly about who had Wembley tickets for next weekend – in the beer garden (that’s a loose use of the word garden). It was surprisingly warm and sunny. Spring is definitely in the air!!

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Me and my bro posed for a couple of birthday twin pics – the first of which I wasn’t too happy with…

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My face looks disproportionately big around the cheek area. then a more candid shot of us which Jack didn’t fair too well in…

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Do you think we look a like or are we – as my boyfriend always says – the worst twins ever?

Pints sunk we left the pub and headed over to the ground. Courtesy of Kate, my Dad and I were in the club Arsenal section of the stand to watch the match (my brother and his mate were in another stand above us). Club Arsenal is basically the posh(ish) bit. We headed in, spotted Trevor McDonald, my dad tried to tone down his northern accent to fit in with the cockneys, we ordered a round of drinks and then sprinted to our seats to catch the start of the match.

The seats were fantastic albeit for the Arsenal fans surrounding us who, just as we sat down, stood up to cheer the first of the afternoons goals.

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We then proceeded to watch 45 minutes of the worst football Sunderland have played in a while and before the end of half time it was 3-0 Arsenal. So much for an early birthday present.

What struck me throughout the first half though was how quiet the stand was – not one person near us was singing, cheering or chanting. I understand home fans are probably a lot quieter than away fans but the Sunderland lads and lasses across the pitch from us never shut up. All we heard every now and then was an Arrrrseeeenaaaalllll chant from the gods to the right of us. They really don’t call Emirates ‘The Library’ for nothing. I just found it odd as normally by the time I leave a football ground I’ve no voice left at all.

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At half time we headed inside for the free booze that was on offer  (perks of club Arsenal) and very much needed to drown our losing sorrows. We then proceeded to drink well into the second half where Arsenal scored again before Sunderland finally made a dent and Giaccherini put one away for us. Obviously my dad and I went mental but at 4-1 none of the Arsenal fans really cared.

I can’t say I wasn’t massively depressed by the loss – but that is the roller-coaster ride of being a Sunderland fan. And despite the low of losing if you haven’t been to a football match I really, really recommend it. I know a lot of people think of football hooligans and larger louts but it’s not all that. There a loads of families and women there these days and I love it when all the fans burst into song together. Plus when your team scores there’s a feeling of euphoria that is hard to replicate – 80 year olds are jumping out their seats, grown men are hugging each other, kids are up in their dads arms, it really is amazing to be in a stadium when it happens. Or failing that a pub – I mean look at this video I took of us Sunderland fans in a pub in London after we beat Man U to go through to the Final of the Capital One Cup…

I mean if that doesn’t look like a great atmosphere to be part of then well, I guess I’ll never convince you.

Post match we headed back to the Drayton Arms for one more drink before I dashed home to change for Birthday Weekender – 3.0. Chico Banditos.

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