So, it’s finally here, ladies and gentlemen! Tomorrow, The Arsenal are back in action, as we take on Manchester City in the Behind Closed Doors Premier League at the Etihad.
I’m sure I’m not the only one that, just a few short months ago, had this romantic notion that the end of lockdown would be this one magical moment, when the whole world emerge ceremoniously from their homes in unison, rejoicing at the defeat of the evil Coronavirus. Street parties, hugging strangers, licking train and bus seats…the lot.
In years to come, people would ask "“where were you when lockdown ended?”
Football, of course, would be a part of that ceremony, returning with great fanfare - with the first whistle of the first game going down as a significant moment in our history.
In years to come, people would ask you where you were at the precise moment Granit Xhaka shanked the first pass a footballer had made on football’s return from the wilderness into row Z. The moment we knew that The Arsenal were back.
The reality is unfortunately, but necessarily, something else.
Instead we have had gradual easing of lockdown (there are not two words in the English language that you could use, after the turmoil of the last few months, more underwhelming than “gradual easing” are there?), and the only thing coming close to resembling anything ceremonious is when the doors to Primark opened.
As far as football goes, there will be no fanfare – there will be no fans there.
The pubs are still closed as well, so there’s no popping out for a couple of hours to watch the game.
Instead, some of us will have to adjust our match day routines. That’s not a problem though is it? Most of us have gotten used to completely adjusting our day-to-day lives over the last few months as it is.
A quick note to anyone that is able to go out and watch the game in a bar or pub. If you’re one of those lucky bastards, it’s probably best that we don’t talk to each other until I’m able to do the same. Nothing personal, let’s just leave it there.
Yes, many of us are going to have to embrace the return of The Arsenal in the confines of our own home.
Even if you don’t have to change your routine as far as physically watching the match goes, I do think that behind closed doors football will still have that edge missing from it. They can pipe crowd noise into your stream as much as they like, but it still won’t be the same as an Arsenal matchday crowd!
With that in mind, here’s a little guide I’ve put together if any of you wish to use it to try and simulate a regular matchday.
Most of this is based on my own experience and matchday routines, but you might be able to relate to some of it. If not, feel free to join in anyway, it’s not as if you have anything better to do on a Wednesday night.
I would advise trying to rope other members of your household into joining in with this. Even if they have no interest in watching the game, there is every chance that they will join in just to humour you, if only due to a genuine fear of your increasingly odd behaviour over the last few months without football.
The Behind Closed Doors Premier League Pre-Match Experience
For me, it’s always the pub. Always has been since I was old enough to drink (that’s 14, right?)
Of course, that idea is out of the window for now, so here’s how you can recreate this part of the pre-match ritual at home.
Firstly, find a room in your home that you’re not watching the game in.
Walk around your home for a while texting the other members of your household and arrange to meet them in the room you’ve nominated.
Arrive ten minutes late and moan about how busy it is.
Once there, it’s not as easy as just sitting or standing there with an alcoholic beverage in your hand. Not if you really want to recreate the matchday pub atmosphere. This is where it becomes tricky, because current social distancing guidelines certainly don’t allow for you to have a few hundred people in your home.
Also, you can’t just walk up to the fridge and get yourself a beer. Where’s the fun in that??
Nominate someone as a bartender and set something up as a bar. A table would be ideal, but if that’s not possible, I’m sure you’ll be able to improvise.
Then, get everyone else in your home to stand in a line in front of you (come on, it’s rare that you’ll just walk straight up to the bar and get served ain’t it?)
Once there is only one person left in front of you, get another one of them to push in front of you, then let out an expletive under your breath, before holding your money or card out ever further, until you are almost over the makeshift bar.
Once you do get served, all drinks must be poured into a plastic glass, rendering it flat as a pancake, in a state that you wouldn’t usually drink it, but it’s a matchday and you would drink a pint of elephants piss if you were told it would get you drunk.
Once you have your drink, get your friends to stand so close to you that you may as well be wearing the same pants. Spilling of drink is not a problem here, in fact it’s encouraged if you really want to recreate the pre-match experience. If you haven’t got beer on your trainers before kick-off, is it even football?
Once you have repeated this a few times, you need to work out how long it takes you to move from your makeshift pub to the TV. Let’s say for this example that it takes 30 seconds. Exactly 40 seconds before kick-off, get yourself another drink and chuck it down your neck. This should give you the desired 30 seconds to get to your destination. The problem here is that you really should have a quick trip to the toilet before you leave. Do this, then hurry to the TV room, doing that half-run, half-walk thing, arriving at your seat just as the game kicks off.
The Behind Closed Doors Premier League Stadium Simulator
To be honest, by now, after all of these stressful, depressing football-free weeks, you can be forgiven for just sitting down and watching The Arsenal again. I know we’re not out of the woods yet as far as the pandemic goes, but I think we all need this welcome distraction.
For that reason, I won’t dictate to you how you should go about this, but if you do want to continue to recreate the matchday experience, here are a couple of pointers for you….
The angry man behind you - If you have kids, get your least favourite child to sit behind you and shout abuse at a player of your choice every ten minutes (Ozil is usually a good one for this.)
If you don't have kids, then the friend or family member that you dislike the most will do.
After around the third time, start turning round and glaring at the little shit. Increase the intensity of your glare each time, muttering the word “c**t” when turning to face the game again. Depending on how the game is going, the choice is yours as to whether you stand up and tell your child / friend / family member to “f**k off and support Tottenham then!” or words to that effect.
Toilet Breaks – You’re in your own home, you’ve had a few beers before the game, you can pee comfortably whenever you like, right?
Look, there’s no point doing this at all if you’re not going to do it properly. If you must go, be sure to squeeze past your housemates, maybe treading on a couple of toes along the way. Again, your friends or family can help by doing one of those little half smile, eyebrow raise things that in body language actually means “for f***s sake….”
If you can hold it until half-time, then just sit there tapping your feet, but be warned – this will most certainly effect your enjoyment of the game, as the only thing you will be able to concentrate on is not pissing yourself in your seat, thus never being able to attend a match again.
As for the rest of it, you don’t really need me to remind you of how it goes, do you? It may have been a while, but I’m sure after a few minutes, it will be like it never went away.
Should we lose, the Twitter meltdown is going to be EPIC. There will be a lot of people that have been storing up their anger to unleash on social media since March. That’s a whole lot of anger, my friends. It’s going to be a sight to behold!
We may never have that “where were you when lockdown ended?” moment, but at some point in the coming weeks, I’m sure we most certainly will have our very own “where were you for Arsenal Twitter’s first meltdown when football came home?” moment….
Enjoy the game, people!
Up The Arsenal