All for Toll (And Toll For All)

Well that was absolutely fantastic.

I spent yesterday evening in the Tollington in Holloway, and what an Arsenalsome night. I came out of Finsbury Park underground, my usual exit from all things Gunner-related, and took a stroll towards Holloway and into the unknown.

I’d not been to The Tollington before, but was reliably informed it was a fine place to drink, chat and be a total Gooner. I wasn’t to be disappointed.

Obviously I was there for the So Paddy Got Up book launch and, arriving quite early, asked one of the members of security personnel where said launch would be. Following instructions, I tentatively tiptoed my tall frame to the rear of the pub and (somehow) found myself at the front of two simultaneous queues that would last for a good three and a half hours.

Arseblogger was unmistakable in tone, and was looking relaxed before he gave a fine welcome and introduced his wife (Happy Belated Birthday, Mrs Blogs), and his brother the Mugsmasher. I was lucky to get my copy of the book sorted early, which handily left the rest of the evening for beer and random chats. Unfortunately, my planned strike partner for the evening couldn’t make it, and so I was on my own in playing forward.

But you’re never really on your own in an Arsenal pub as a Gooner…and certainly not with hundreds of others patiently waiting in line and/or drinking, and/or watching Man U and City exit the Champions League. So very soon I was talking and drinking with two regular away fans; Mark and Joseph.

Once I had established they weren’t contributors to So Paddy got Up (and they that I wasn’t either), I took a seat and we proceeded to watch the confusion in the eyes of people who weren’t sure whether they should ask for our signatures.

We perched on the end of what was to become the book’s contributor table, and managed to remain here throughout. We were asked if we should sign books once or twice but we declined, being honest folk, and went about our business of getting rounds in.

While all this was going on the Tolli was bubbling up nicely. As the United and City situations continued to look unfavourable for the Mancunians, I went in hunt of a few more established Arsenal bloggers so as to put names to faces and tweets to tones. I tracked down one half of Gingers4Limpar who was parched from a fair bit of signing, and then had a brief but enjoyable chat with Arse2mouse…and then Arse2mouse and Gingers4Limpar, and then Goodplaya, each of whom were top company. Then a little later on I introduced myself to the very finely-heeled (top shoes, I have to say) SianyMacalarny.

And, do you know, everyone was happy to chat and chew the fat. Meeting some of the people I regularly follow the blogs and tweets of was a very real treat. I’m not always the most forward of chaps, but in such friendly and relaxed surroundings a fine time was had, beer consumed and results and resulting songs enjoyed.

What’s more, I think I’ve found my new pre and post-match Arsenal pub. The Tolli staff were superb. Not content with having a pub rammed full of Gooners chanting “Thursday Night, Channel Five” at the Europa League bound Manchester clubs, the staff actually joined in! All the while delivering beer at the most impressive of speeds, and keeping smiles firmly on faces.

And actually, just thinking of yesterday evening puts the smile right back on mine. Last night it was good to be a Gooner, good to be at the Tolli, and good to enjoy the company of others just there to soak up the atmosphere.

Alas, I didn’t get to chat to many of the other fine people (bloggers or no) who were undoubtedly enjoying their own nights. But perhaps another time. And perhaps with a post-game pint or two.

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Title-winning Tweets?

One of the great things about Twitter are the insights afforded to us football fans. We know about the edgy banter between Rio Ferdinand and Robbie Savage; we know that Glenn Johnson made unsavoury comments about Paul Merson before – too late – deleting them, and we know that Darren Bent is likely to tell his followers about why he wants to leave his current club/find a new one (I kid, sort of).

And this week, after all the ‘churnalism’ surrounding what Cesc Fabregas may or may not have said at half-time against Everton, on the pitch or in the tunnel, to or at Lee Mason (or at the fourth official perhaps) we see some of the spirit in the current Arsenal Squad. Spirit that might help guide them as a group of professionals towards silverware this year.

Yesterday the Gunners captain started secretly snapping members of the squad who had fallen asleep while travelling to the North for today’s Newcastle match. Not only that, but he commented on each of them with jocular comments reflecting just how fondly he and his team-mates regard each other.

Exhibit A:

As I commented at the time, a little harsh but funny. I’m sure Tomas wouldn’t take offence, and that’s exactly the sort of spirit and camaraderie you want in any squad at any level if you’re intending to push for honours. Tongue in cheek with a bit of back and forth pushes team-mates on and, realising this, the canny captain went on with some more of his amateur photography:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

With all this going on, Jack Wilshere got in on the action, tweeting:

Wow dangerous to have a kip these days! Need some coffee to stay awake or im gonna be broadcasted all over here!

And then Robin Van Persie joined in, snapping Bacary Sagna and wishing him “Sweet dreams”. Alas, when RVP attempted to grab some revenge for the squad and catch out Cesc, he only managed the following:

Well, what can we say about this? Firstly there’s plenty to agree with when bloggers like Arseblog comment on journalists’ questioning Cesc’s qualities as a captain: This is exactly the sort of thing a good captain does. Being ‘one of the lads’ (not in a Richard Keys way), and being a leader on and off the pitch in everything from FIFA tournaments to snapping dozing team-mates. It shows how happy he and other players are at the club, and that they have an understanding an relationship that goes beyond training ground drills.

The importance is this: Gary Neville, discussing his retirement from football in an interview with Geoff Shreeves on Sky Sports News this morning, commented that the players he played with were some of his best mates, and hinted that being that close with them enabled him and his team-mates to achieve great success.

I dare say Gary Neville knows a bit about such things, having won everything there is to win domestically. So, who knows, the tweets that us, the fans, see from our heroes can maybe mean a little more. And the tweets of this Arsenal squad might well point toward coming domestic success with us fans having a clear insight into the sort of spirit that was once harder for us to appreciate.