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image courtesy of the author

It was a few weeks ago that the four of us, me, my son, wife and daughter were sitting in our living room watching the Lionesses win the Euros. The following day, Arsenal women were advertising their games at the Emirates in the WSL (Women’s Super League). I noticed that the game against Spurs was on the middle weekend of the interlull. Naturally my son was up for it, but to my delight so were my wife and daughter. Brought up in an Arsenal household, they “got it” but regarded going to games as something the lads did (I tried, my daughter was even a mascot against AC Milan, but once she hit teenage the interest waned). But they were up for this. Tickets were easily obtained (we even got our own North Bank seats plus the two next to them) and remarkably cheap, £12 for adults and £6 for concessions.

So, on a delightful early autumn day we found ourselves taking the familiar route to the Emirates. Holloway Road seemed a bit different, fewer replica shirts, the Ten Pins and The Tollington looked noticeably less crowded than usual. Parked up in the usual spot we strolled the ten minutes to the stadium. On the concourse the mix was apparent. Here the replica shirts boasted female names (Mead, Leah etc) and were sported by women and girls. Many family groups were apparent. The queues to get in were pretty lengthy and a bit slow, but we got there.

As is usual after the long drive, we scattered for a prematch pee. However while the gents were virtually deserted, the ladies, my wife and daughter told me, were very crowded. Into the stadium and the familiar walk down to Block 7, row 9. None of my normal North Bank buddies were there (I later found out that many of them were in the stadium but had taken the opportunity to watch from a different vantage point. Me I’m just a stick in the mud). Again there were lots of family groups, many of the Mums and Dads with quite young children, usually daughters. Lots of young women, either in groups, or with boyfriends. Many of them, I’m guessing, were regulars, judging by their enthusiasm and knowledge of the team. Oh and pizza. The pizza outlet at the ground must have made an absolute killing by the number of people going to their seats carrying pizza.

In the prematch slot, there was a lovely tribute to Maria Petri, a loyal follower of the Women’s team as well as the Men. This was followed by the chorus of North London Forever that has become a regular at the men’s matches. The fact that we had many irregulars with us was apparent by the fact that, around us at least, only my son and I knew the words. No matter. The sun was shining, the atmosphere was buzzing and we were about to watch The Arsenal.

So before I get to the football what was the atmosphere like? Well you won’t be surprised to hear that it was different. There were 53,000 tickets sold, but evidently 47,000 turned up. For some obscure reason, the front two rows of the lower tier were left deliberately empty. We all sat down, which we hardly ever do in the North Bank (except maybe for league cup games when again the very cheap prices mean many children around). There was virtually no swearing. There were songs but they tended to be generic (Arsenal, Arsenal) rather than player focused. There were a couple of choruses of “stand up if you hate Tottenham” but they soon fizzled out. But it wasn’t quiet. Lots of applause and appreciation. The young woman in front of me was clearly emulating Maria because every now and again she would come out with a huge shout of LEAH! She also celebrated the goals very enthusiastically.

So what was the football like? Arsenal were excellent, showing top level ball control skills, playing incisive passes inside and outside the full back and very, very quick. We played out nicely from the back and were soon 1-0 up, Beth Mead recovering her own blocked shot and firing in an unstoppable rocket into the top right corner of the goal. We pressed like crazy and this paid off later in the first half as Spurs lost control just outside their own penalty area. Caitlin Foord intercepted and calmly played in Viv Miedema who, one on one with the keeper, slipped it past her and into the corner of the net. As the first half developed, we could have had four or five more, but showed an Arsenal like tendency to want to walk the ball in.

Half time. 2-0. More pizza. More queues for the ladies (I’m told).

We started the second half as we had ended the first. Total domination. We won a corner on our right at the Clock End. A good high cross came in and Rafaelle Souza, our Brazilian right back, rose (I am contractually obliged to write “like a salmon”) and channelled her inner Bacary Sagna by thumping a glorious header into the Spurs net. Finally, for the scoring, Steph Catley clipped in a lovely ball for Miedema to head in. That was about that. Mead and Miedema came off to standing ovations. The game drifted a bit. But 4-0 was as comprehensive as it could be.

One of the problems with the WSL is that it is uneven in quality. The top four sides (Arsenal, Chelsea, City and United) are head and shoulders above the other teams in the league and it showed here. But Arsenal were brilliant. They only lost the league by one point to Chelsea last year. They have a difficult away game against Ajax mid week in the Champions League, having drawn the first home leg 2-2. But, like the Men’s team, they are great to watch.

The final whistle went. The PA cranked up with Beth Mead’s on fire, followed by (of course) Sweet Caroline. The fans loved it. There was literally dancing in the aisles. The woman in front of me did her best Shakira impersonation. More power to them.

I had a great day out.

72 Drinks to “Beth Mead’s on Fire”

  1. 1
    TTG says:

    Thankyou for an example excellent and atmospheric report. I can sense the feeling around the ground having been
    To the previous record attendance at the Swamp pre lockdown
    I would have gone but for an all day commitment locally . While ensconced in the country I saw a mid air fight between two Sparrowhawks which was more even than what I saw of this game . We seemed to control it from
    start to finish and tailed off only when
    the game was safe in recognition
    of the upcoming Ajax match .
    Women’s football
    Is massively improved and girls are now pouring into
    playing the game. We have some terrific players . Kim Little is rated as one of the best players in the world but my favourite is Leah Williamson who is a superb footballer .
    Glad you had a good day out C100. Many years ago I took
    A young lady to Highbury and none of the stewards knew where a ladies loo was .
    ! Hope your ladyfolk enjoyed it it and escaped the discovery that the head of the household is a hooligan !

  2. 2
    TTG says:

    Sorry about formatting and irrelevant words . Typed in a field on bright sunlight . You don’t need to get the sense of what I wrote because there isn’t much sense in anything aI write but it’s a great report

  3. 3
    Bathgooner says:

    A most enjoyable report of what sounds like a most enjoyable family day out. Just one question. No curry?

    It sounds like the gulf in quality between our Ladies and the scrubbers from up the road is as vast as it was between the men for a decade from the mid nineties. Long may that continue.

  4. 4
    Countryman100 says:

    No curry Bath. We returned home for steaks and baked potatoes and the last of our home grown tomatoes.

  5. 5
    North Bank Ned says:

    It sounds like an excellent day out, C100, and I like your eye, and ear, for the differences between being at a men’s and a women’s match.

    Back-to-back 4-0 wins at the Ems would do us nicely.

    The top four clubs being head and shoulders above the rest of the league sounds like the PL 15/20 years ago. Is the WSL on the same trajectory?

  6. 6
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks C100, sounds like a great day out!
    Best of luck to the team on the tricky trip to Ajax

  7. 7
    Ollie says:

    Good stuff, C100, sounds like a great day!

  8. 8
    Uplympian says:

    What a great family day out C100 – a marvellous performance and result. Perhaps you could come en famille for the NLD and ensure we get the same result.

  9. 9
    bt8 says:

    Sis Boom Bah!
    Terrific report c100.

  10. 10
    North Bank Ned says:

    KT3 is out of the next Scotland game because of his head injury sustained against Ireland. Partey has gone in the fetlock, too, and has dropped out of the Ghana squad.

  11. 11
    Cent says:

    Thanks for the review, C100. It was particularly nice to hear first hand info of how the atmosphere was outside the ground compared to a men’s game.

    Little correction: Raffaella Souza is a left CB, not a right back. I believe our women’s RBs are Laura Wienroither, who started this particular game, and Noelle Maritz, who started against Ajax.
    P.s. You can edit the post and delete this last paragraph of my comment.

  12. 12
    Countryman100 says:

    You are correct Cent. It was the fact that she wears number 2 that confused me! I’m not claiming any great knowledge of the women’s team, or indeed system. Still one hell of a header that vividly brought back that day when Bacary turned around the NLD with his head.

  13. 13
    Bathgooner says:

    Cent, some of us old codgers were brought up in the 2-3-5 system developed by the great Herbert Chapman and therefore a player wearing the number 2 shirt is a right back wherever they pop up on the pitch. However I have to admit that that useless fellow Gallas used to confuse the bejeebers out of me when he spent almost all his game time at the wrong end of the pitch when he was supposed to be playing inside left. Nonetheless he did show a bit of talent when he scored that goal with his Johnson.

  14. 14
    Countryman100 says:

    I heartily concur with Bath’s description of me as an old codger. Guilty as charged!

  15. 15
    Ollie says:

    Less than two weeks to go and I still haven’t spotted any hint of a Liverpool ticket on Tx.
    Not once has there been a ‘oh’ followed by a sigh when a seemingly available ticket was in fact not available. Not even a trace of any ridiculously overpriced Club Level ticket.
    It’s practically unheard of to the point of being weird.

  16. 16
    Countryman100 says:

    Everyone has heard that Scruz is going to be in town Ollie.

  17. 17
    Ollie says:

    Really would have been better if the Queen had waited until the World Cup to pop her clogs. Now due to the fucking strike being moved from September to October, my return train on Saturday has been cancelled. I was hoping to move my journey to the last train but it’s not possible.
    So I’ll have to leave London 90 min earlier now and won’t have much time to enjoy the celebrations.

  18. 18
    Ollie says:

    I know, C100 at 16. Just a shame the Arsenal Online Box Office chose to fuck up again when these tickets went on sale to Silvers.

  19. 19
    Ollie says:

    Saw briefly a ticket for Liverpool at last.
    Centre upper tier, but row 22. Price? £132.65.
    I’m not even trying to click any further to check if it’s ‘truly’ available.

  20. 20
    Countryman100 says:

    Is that on ticket exchange? Maximum price for upper tier for a Cat A game is £99 so something strange going on here.


  21. 21
    Trev says:

    Cheers C100 – sounds like a very enjoyable day.
    I have to admit I struggle with the gap in pace and physicality between the men’s and women’s game but those who like it tell me the women’s game is different and shouldn’t be compared.

    Maybe it’s my lack of understanding. Whatever my own shortcomings, the women are clearly excellent and stand out in their league. Congratulations to them for topping the table and thumping the Spuds.

  22. 22
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks Trev. Curiously the two things I was most impressed with were how fast the game was and how physical. The ball control I expected. They also really give the ball a whack as well – see Beth Mead’s goal. Perfectly struck.

  23. 23
    Ollie says:

    It was on the website C100 at 29. Not sure if strictly ticket exchange or not (sometimes you see tickets ‘available’ in a sort of weird way, can’t remember if labelled resale or something). I thought that was a bit too much, but I didn’t know about these price caps and hadn’t looked at Upper Centre tickets for Cat A, but was convinced there were tickets just above £100 there only a few years ago (but not £130). Interesting. Or worrying.

  24. 24
    Ollie says:

    ‘For a while’ is missing after ‘Cat A’.

  25. 25
    scruzgooner says:

    excellent work, c100. it sounds so different to the men’s game experience. yet, at arsenal, it’s what’s on the pitch that’s similar, and congratulations to the women for kicking scum back to middlesex with their tails between their legs.

  26. 26
    scruzgooner says:

    c100@16, i’d’ve rather thought that would cause the crowd to empty out!

    ollie, it’s all happening on sunday, before the game, not saturday. unless i am misunderstanding…but what’s this about a train strike? french or english? will we have to worry about getting in from heathrow on friday the 7th or from chelsea (where we’re staying) to the grove/environs on sunday?

  27. 27
    Ollie says:

    Scruz, sorry for the confusion. Strikes are on Saturday (Spurs match). And also on the 5th and the 8th indeed. Liverpool tickets posts completely unrelated.
    English strikes having an effect on Eurostar, but you should be fine on the Friday and the Sunday indeed.

  28. 28
    scruzgooner says:

    so you’re heading back on saturday if you can’t get a ticket for pool, then? i think that’s where i was confused. and thanks; i just read about it as well, and it looks like we’ll be fine, even with the later start times on the 9th (since we’ll be taking the underground, not a train). hope you can find a ticket!

  29. 29
    Ollie says:

    No, the first bit is still not quite right. I’m doing a day trip for Spurs this Saturday but have to head back one hour and a half earlier than planned due to a cancelled train as collateral damage to the English strikes.
    I should have enough points to make a ‘free’ trip for the Liverpool match if I get a ticket, but I haven’t booked any travel for that and I am not going out of my way to get a ticket, so if will take a huge slice of luck on Ticket Exchange for me to make it on the 9th.

  30. 30
    scruzgooner says:

    ah, this saturday. i see. hence no afters. though i daresay you can chant “north london is red” (or “c’est rouge, londres nord”) on the train home!

  31. 31
    Ollie says:

    On croise les doigts for that, scruz. 😁

  32. 32
    scruzgooner says:

    oui, c’est ça. y nos orteils!

  33. 33
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yeah, fingers crossed for the metropolitan line in from Buckinghamshire on the 9th scruz…

  34. 34
    scruzgooner says:

    indeed, matt! 😉

  35. 35
    OsakaMatt says:

    I wonder if Southgate still thinks Maguire is a better option than Ben…..
    Of all the crosses to die on

  36. 36
    Countryman100 says:

    Why, when this blog was calling out Maguire as a busted flush a year ago, in common with Man United supporters, is Southgate still backing him? Last night showed both his deficiencies and his utter lack of confidence right now. He cannot go to the World Cup.

  37. 37
  38. 38
    North Bank Ned says:

    I think it says all you need to know about Maguire that one of the first things ten Hag did after arriving at the OT was to buy a replacement for him.

  39. 39
    bt8 says:

    Ned. You’re making ten Hag sound more astute than I’m hoping he really is. It is quite possible that 9 out of any 10 managers would have done the same thing in the same circumstances, considering how shite Maguire is, was, and shall be.

  40. 40
    bt8 says:

    Aha! Another person who seems to be of similar mind about Ben White being a better player than Harry Maguire: https://www.justarsenal.com/pundit-makes-a-very-valid-point-regarding-harry-maguire-and-ben-white/319858

  41. 41
    North Bank Ned says:

    Not to pile in on Maguire, who is having a wretched time, but I think the key point in the Guardian piece C100 links to is that he is not an elite athlete (Maguire not C100, obviously). You have to be that at the very top level now as well as being a talented footballer because you are playing against ten outfield opponents who are both. Exhibit 1: the penalty Maquire gave away against Germany. He is a decent enough Premiership centre-half at the Lewis Dunk/Dan Burn level, but neither of those would get into many World Cup-winning sides.

  42. 42
    TTG says:

    Later in the season I have agreed to review David Dein’s new book . At this stage let me say , as a source of information about what happened at Arsenal between 1996 and 2007 it is umpteen times better than Arsene’s very vanilla effort .
    Coincidentally I am chair of a prison which is part of a cluster on the Isle of Sheppey ( glamorous eh?) . I was there today and talking to an officer who had recently moved from a very tough prison . He told me that David Dein travels around the UK trying to help and inspire prisoners . While the officer was at his previous prison Dein visited and asked to look at a lifer’s cell . He took him to the cell of a massive Arsenal fan who on opening his door broke down when he saw Dein who spent time with him showing great compassion and giving him a completely new perspective on the rest of his sentence .
    Interesting that those who criticise Dein for ‘ selling out ‘ at Arsenal ( read his book to get his version)might struggle to explain why a multi-millionaire would devote so much of his time to good causes . We lost a very good man when he left the club .

  43. 43
    bt8 says:

    There’s one thing about the women’s game. There’s nobody as ugly as Harry Maguire.

  44. 44
    bt8 says:

    At least 43 is to be hoped.

  45. 45
    ecg says:

    That’s a pretty low bar…

  46. 46
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks TTG, I will get Dein’s book and read it before trying to reconcile your story of Dein’s very decent actions in the prison system with his apparently trying to bring Usmanov into the fold.

  47. 47
    bt8 says:

    Southgate’s Freudian slip about Harry Maguire:

    “I know everybody says he’s important to me, he’s important to us,” Southgate said. “It’s us, it’s not me.

  48. 48
    scruzgooner says:

    must be what harry keeps slipping over in, then.

  49. 49
    Ollie says:

    Another ‘resale’ ticket ‘available’ for Liverpool at £132.65. *sighs*

  50. 50
    bt8 says:

    The second leg of the Ajax tie is approaching halftime with the score at 0-0.
    Injury to Raffaele though:

    “Rafaelle is making her way off with a limp. Not 100% what the injury is still. Wubben-Moy replaces her.“

  51. 51
    bt8 says:

    Beth Mead currently not on fire as she was not selected in the first XI.

  52. 52
    bt8 says:

    The Guardian says it’s 0-0 at half time.

  53. 53
    Ollie says:

    The Guardian is right, bt 8.
    And well in for the half-ton.
    The match is live on arsenal.com .

  54. 54
    Ollie says:

    1-0 to the Arsenal! Miedema.

  55. 55
    bt8 says:

    Thanks Ollie. I wish Arsenal would make it easier to login on their website for people like me who have forgotten their membership numbers. Otherwise i would watch it there.

  56. 56
    Ollie says:

    Full-time. Arsenal are through. Mead came on…and went off hurt but I don’t think injured.

  57. 57
    bt8 says:

    Miedema seems to know a thing or two about taking the Dutch down a notch. What a thrill for her to score the only goal in her own country, something no doubt that she has done before so a familiar feeling for her in a couple of ways.

  58. 58
    OsakaMatt says:

    One-nil to The Arsenal!

  59. 59
    OsakaMatt says:

    Nice win in an important away match, great for team spirit.

    Talking of important matches….

  60. 60
    North Bank Ned says:

    A belated well in for the half ton, bt8.

    A 1-0 to The Arsenal on foreign soil has a reassuring old-school ring to it.
    And deservedly onto CL knocking out rounds.

  61. 61
    bathgooner says:

    I missed that game entirely due to an evening out with ex-colleagues – it sounds like a great victory. Particularly so as the BBC summary suggests that Ajax did not exhibit the class that one would expect from a club of their stature. What’s with the smaller goals business and the challenge aimed at the head?

  62. 62
    TTG says:

    I saw some of the game and it was a very controlled performance. I didn’t tune in during the goalpost controversy but it looked like a rather Mickey Mouse set-up which didn’t reflect well on a club with Ajax’s pedigree.
    Re the challenge on Beth Mead I thought it was reckless rather than deliberate but I think I would have given a red card to the Dutch girl to discourage these wild challenges . The main downside was the injury to Souza the centre back ( C100 please note 😀) . Her injury lay-off last season weakened our defence and proved costly.Wubben Moy is nowhere near as impressive . Eidevall is a good tactician and organised the side well.

  63. 63
    scruzgooner says:

    well, shit.


    get well soon, and properly!

  64. 64
    Countryman100 says:

    This casts doubt over the competence of the medical team. ESR has been having these pains at least since December 21. They were put down to “growing pains” according to Arteta. Why was this damaged tendon not found before? I’d be interested in Trev’s view here.

  65. 65
    bt8 says:

    Fingers crossed for ESR’s speedy and complete recovery from surgery. A considerable portion of his recovery period will be during the World Cup break so the timing is good.

  66. 66
    North Bank Ned says:

    Injuries in the PL (and the rest of the top five European leagues) have increased substantially. They were up 20% last season over 2020-21, according to the insurance broker, Howden, which does an annual survey of the cost. We had 69 injuries across last season causing a cumulative 746 days of unavailability, the sixth highest injury count in the PL after the Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool, Leicester and Norwich. It cost £8.93 million in terms of paying players unable to play. Among the top six clubs, we and the neighbours had an average of around two players unavailable for every game. Man City, Man U, Liverpool and Chelsea had around three players out. The increasing intensity of the game and fixture congestion are taking their toll.


  67. 67
    Trev says:

    C100 @64,
    I’ll get back with a proper answer – might include it in the Souds preview I gave to get finished tonight ! – or do a separate answer once other things are finished tomorrow.

  68. 68
    bt8 says:

    A really tough break, the injury to Rafaelle. I don’t know how long she is going to be out but this is what Leah Williamson said about her earlier in the week: “

    “it’s an honour for me to play with her. The way she plays is the way I want football to be played. Defensively, she has the body and the strength that I wish I had!”

  69. 69
    TTG says:

    I similarly share your concerns about how the ESR situation has been allowed to develop . As you say before Christmas he was having problems . In our excellent run which started with the Southampton home game we stopped starting him. Arsenal is our main concern but the lad had an outside chance of making the World Cup squad and we can see from Saka’s development , international exposure accelerates a player’s learning curve . That is gone now .
    Several observers worry that the loss of Shad Forsythe is a major blow to us in preparing and maintaining the fitness of players . We have a lot of vulnerable players ( we always seem to going back to Ramsey, Walcott and the Ox ) but this is a disturbing situation with ESR

  70. 70
    bt8 says:

    Impressive stuff by Balogun for the England U21s v. Germany

    England U21 [1] – 0 Germany U21 – Balogun from soccer

  71. 71
    bathgooner says:

    I don’t think it is entirely fair to suggest that the Arsenal Medical Department have made errors in the management of ESR. Everyone involved will have hoped to avoid surgery and intensive non-surgical therapies will have been ongoing. The player himself will have a big say as to whether he is prepared to go under the knife (remember EP17 being sold because he wouldn’t agree to surgery on his dodgy knee?) and will certainly have hoped to avoid it in the hope of making the world cup squad. The opinion of a specialist or indeed several specialists will have been sought weeks if not months ago. No surgical procedure is a guaranteed success and all carry risk (remember Santi?). This is particularly the case with Orthopaedic procedures where many specialists try to avoid surgery if at all possible. That is probably even more likely with elite athletes. After a reasonable period of trials of alternative therapeutic modalities failing to correct the problem, the nettle had to be grasped.

    Initial reports are that ESR’s surgery has been successful. I hope that this is confirmed by his progress over the next several weeks and that he returns to full fitness producing top level performances from January onwards.

  72. 72
    Bathgooner says: