Friday, 24 March 2017

Sweet FA! No sign of a ticket for the semi yet ...

It has been a fairly quiet week on the Road to Wembley from Scotland. In four weeks time Arsenal will play Man City at Wembley in the FA Cup semi final but for now the two protagonists are match-free this weekend while their superstar players are away on international duty. While they are on their travels your blogger has been trying to get a ticket for the semi final and the pressure continues to mount on Arsene Wenger.

Getting a ticket for this match is not going to be easy but I do have a fall back position. Both clubs have been given an allocation of 32,000 briefs for the game. Arsenal have declared that you have to be either a ‘Platinum’ or ‘Gold’ category Arsenal Club member to apply for tickets. Manchester City have published their eligibility rules and you have to be at very least a season ticket holder to be declared a ‘qualifier’ and even then it is only one ticket per qualifying member. So there is more chance of Nicola Sturgeon moving to England than me getting a ticket from either of the clubs.

So, next port of call the FA. I used to be a maths teacher so I consider that my arithmetic skills are serviceable. The capacity of Wembley Stadium is 90,000 and if the FA have allocated 32,000 to each club then that still leaves 26,000 tickets floating around. If you are trying to get a ticket for this match as a neutral then the FA web site is about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike. The site states: “The remainder of the tickets are split between Club Wembley and commercial partners”. Hmm! Very unconvincing. I have been unable to find out how many people are members of Club Wembley but I can’t believe it is more than (say) 6,000. How many commercial partners would be eligible for tickets? Maybe 4,000 at most. So unless my assumptions are way wide of the mark then that means something like 16,000 tickets are floating around. One thing for sure the web based glorified touts have had no trouble at all getting their hands on many of these tickets not given to the clubs. Which brings me on to my fall back position …

With a couple of clicks and a very basic google search I have come across Specifically the link takes you straight there. You will find loads of tickets available for the match starting at round about £160. The face value of this ticket is almost certainly £30. I really don’t want to line the pockets of some pretty dodgy operator but I am not going to fail at the penultimate hurdle on the Road to Wembley from Scotland. So, unless some kind reader sorts me out with a ticket over the next few days then I will be pressing submit and parting with the thick end of 200 quid at some stage next week. Ouch!

The international break is a busman’s holiday for the players of Man City and Arsenal. Almost all of their squads are away from their base playing for their countries. Beleaguered Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s future continues to come under scrutiny from the rabid English sports media. Part of the problem for Arsene Wenger has been the spotlight on his relationship with his star striker Alexis Sanchez. Last weekend he substituted Sanchez stating afterwards that his right ankle was in “an absolutely terrible state”.

Sanchez injured for Arsenal and leaves the field on Saturday - out for a few weeks?
It was clear from Wenger’s comments that he would not be happy if an injured Sanchez turned out for Chile in midweek. Not only did Sanchez play he was running around like a 3 year old.

Sanchez on Wednesday - hot stuff for Chile and ankle holding up well !
Questions are now being asked on Arsenal fans social media platforms and in the media more widely as to whether Sanchez will put in a shift for his country but not for Wenger. Footage showing Sanchez getting very worked up after missing a chance for Chile has been doing the rounds with Arsenal fans asking the rhetorical question ‘why does he not show that sort of passion when he plays for us’? After the Germany v England midweek friendly the scorer of the German goal ex Gunner Podolski was asked on his view as to whether Wenger should continue as manager! Even on a week off The Professor can’t seem to get any peace.

My own midweek saw me visiting Easter Road to watch Scotland play Canada and the least said about that the better. I also started my investigations into Man City’s links with Scotland and the Scotland based Man City fan twitter feed @thegingerwigmcfc have pointed me in the direction of City legend Andy Morrison. Highlander Morrison was something of a cult hero with City fans it would seem and anyone who sticks it to Stan Collymore can’t be a bad lad.

Have some of that! Stan Collymore finds that City legend Morrison is in his face.

I am now hooked up to the ‘Ginger Wig MCFC’ twitter feed and they have confirmed that Paul Dickov was the last Scot to play for City. So no jocks donning the famous sky blue jersey for 10 years. In my next post on Tuesday I will be describing Manchester City’s rich Scottish heritage including the contribution of Andy Morrison. Before signing off today I must admit to having withdrawl symptoms after getting off the Lincoln Loco at the Arsenal station two weeks ago. I have noticed that it would seem the wheels have come off the Loco since the Arsenal defeat. In the last fortnight they have lost in the FA Trophy semi final (and hence missed out on a Wembley final) and lost an important league match. Tomorrow they play host to Forest Green Rovers as top plays second in a huge Vanarama National League game. It is live on BT Sport at lunchtime and I will be tuned in. Come on the Imps – get that Loco back on track! The day out at The Emirates Stadium two weeks ago was truly memorable and of all the photos I have seen on Imps social media forums since then the one below is my favourite.

Arsenal v Lincoln City in the FA Cup quarter final: It really did happen!
I have no idea who the lady in the pic is but her scarf marks out the occasion and the photo captures the magic of the day.

Will I bite the bullet and pay over the odds for a semi ticket from a dodgy web site? Is the sky blue in Manchester laced with tartan? Will Arsene Wenger survive another weekend in the hot seat at Arsenal? Come back here on Tuesday for the answers to these questions and much more … and … keep reading.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

City draw with Liverpool and under-fire Wenger's Arsenal lose at West Brom as the countdown to the cup semi begins

Arsenal v Manchester City in the semi final of the FA Cup is next up on the Road to Wembley from Scotland but that match is still nearly five weeks away. The two protagonists began their preparations with important league matches at the weekend when Arsenal travelled to the West Midlands to take on West Brom and Manchester City played host to Liverpool.

Things are not getting any easier for the beleaguered Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and his team were beaten 3-1 on Saturday by a very energetic and workmanlike West Brom side. The Gunners were undone by two well worked corners both leading to headed goals for the Baggies. This was the main difference between the two sides. As they did the previous week against Lincoln City, on the ‘Road’ match, Arsenal were trying to walk the ball into the net and although they scored 5 times against the Imps they could only manage 1 against a resolute West Brom defence. The defeat has sent the media into a frenzy with huge coverage of Wenger’s plight and the now undeniable fact that many Arsenal fans want him to leave.

Arsenal fans at West Brom on Sat: No respite for the Professor at the moment
Among the more unkind comments was former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton’s suggestion that he was like the unwelcome old uncle who won’t leave the party. If the Imps fans are still reading this blog they will know that is rich coming from Sutton. Sutton’s only experience of management was with Lincoln City and it was an unmitigated disaster as he oversaw the Imps demotion from the football league to the national league. Still, he feels qualified to tell a man who has won 3 league titles, 4 FA cups and provided funds from prudent transfer dealings to build a fantastic new stadium how to conduct his affairs. The anti-Wenger campaign is gathering pace and it may be that the professor will have left the Emirates Stadium by the time the FA Cup semi final comes around. I hope not.

Wenger looking concerned but still assertive and in control - for the moment
On Sunday at the Ethiad Stadium in Manchester, City played host to Liverpool in what is being hailed as one of the matches of the season so far. The passing was slick, the forward play was inventive and the level of technical ability on offer was truly amazing. Liverpool opened the scoring with a disputed penalty in the 51st minute and Man City equalised 12 minutes later with a well taken goal from Aguerro. The diminutive Argentinean Aguerro also missed a good chance to win the game and Lallana of Liverpool also missed a gilt edged opportunity so a draw was a fair result.

What's that smell? Is Chris Sutton in the dugout area at the Ethiad?
Both managers were unhappy with the referee and it was an afternoon when one of England’s top refs, Michael Oliver, got a few decisions wrong.

Both Arsenal and Man City have a wee break now as international football takes centre stage this weekend. They resume on the 2nd April when they meet at the Emirates in what is now an FA Cup semi final rehearsal. The match is on satellite TV and with both City and the Gunners committed to playing the beautiful game in a beautiful way it is unmissable. I have got a semi on already just thinking about it!

There is a little bit of a lull on the Road to Wembley from Scotland with the next FA Cup tie on this journey not taking place until Sunday the 23rd April. In the meantime I have been catching up with my beloved Hearts and watched them on BT Sport on Saturday lunchtime losing 2-0 at Aberdeen. Tough times ahead at Tynecastle as long as the 30 year old ‘little boy lost’ Cathro stays in charge. I wonder if Wenger would consider Hearts when he finally leaves Arsenal? Maybe not. Also on Saturday, two of my older brothers Brian (aka The Dook) and Joe were at Easter Road watching Hibs. For reasons explained in the very early posts in this blog we are a split family with both Hearts and Hibs supporters in the ranks. My brothers were caught on camera on the BBC web site looking disgusted when ex Hearts striker Christian Nade opened the scoring for Dumbarton against Hibs.  

Joe (green hat) and The Dook (red collar) not impressed by ex-Jambo Christian Nade
So, my next job on the Road to Wembley from Scotland is to secure a ticket for the semi final tie on the 23rd April. I also intend to rouse myself from this lull and investigate the links between Bella Caledonia and Manchester City. Come back here later in the week to see if I have solved the ticket problem and unearthed any noteworthy links between City and Scotland … and … keep reading

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Man City crash out of Europe ... they can now concentrate on the FA Cup!

Arsenal and Manchester City are now starting their build up to the FA Cup semi final on the weekend of the 22/23 April in what will be stop 16 on The Road to Wembley from Scotland. This midweek City have been in Champions League action while the Gunners have been preparing to meet West Bromwich Albion at the weekend.

Manchester City have lofty ambitions this season. This time yesterday they were eyeing a treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup. This morning they are eyeing a double as they surprisingly crashed out of the Champions League against the elegant AS Monaco outfit. City led 5-3 from the first leg in Manchester and hence were defending a two goal lead. Their advantage did not last long as Les Rouges et Blancs scored twice in the first half hour. The architect of the City downfall was an 18 year old French forward Kylian Mbappe who tore the City defence to pieces. We will be hearing a lot more about this lad in the future.

Happy Mbappe! Young Monaco forward gives Man City boss Guardiola food for thought
City got their act together in the second half and their own wonder boy, 21 year old German Leroy Sane, scored a good goal to put them in the driving seat. A third Monaco goal 13 minutes from time put the Sky Blues out of Europe on the away goals rule.

Meanwhile in north London Arsene Wenger gave his weekly press conference this morning. The beleaguered Professor skilfully batted away questions concerning his own future in a style that Brian Lara would have been proud of and instead concentrated on the immediate future of Arsenal. He noted that there is still ‘all to play for’ in the Premier League and that despite the negative press coverage the Gunners have now reached the last 4 of the FA Cup. Nice one Prof and I am with you. How can anyone, especially Arsenal fans of all people, criticise the great man?

Bothered? Me? Under fire Wenger fronts up at the press conference
Will the Gunners be firing on Saturday in West Bromwich or will it be a black day for Arsene Wenger in the Black Country? Will the blue moon be rising again when City play host to Liverpool on Sunday? Will I get my ticket for the semi final sorted? Will I ever find out if Paul Dickov was the last Scot to play for Manchester City. Come back here early next week to find out … and … keep reading

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Its Arsenal v Man City in the semi final of the FA Cup as the Road to Wembley from Scotland reaches Wembley!

Last night in the last quarter final to be played in the FA Cup season 2016-17 Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. So the four teams who are left in the world’s most famous football competition are Chelsea, Spurs, Manchester City and my new team on the Road to Wembley from Scotland – Arsenal. The draw was made and the pairings are Chelsea v Spurs and Arsenal v Manchester City. So the die is cast and on the weekend of the 22/23 April I will finally arrive at Wembley Stadium for the match between the Gunners and City.

Arch rivals Arsenal and Man City will match up at Wembley in April
After all the controversy in the earlier rounds relating to some of the bigger clubs fielding weakened teams in this iconic football competition it is interesting that now we have reached the business end of the tournament that the four semi finalists are four of the top five teams in the Premier League. The winner of the 2016-17 FA Cup is going to be one of English football’s royalty.

As regular readers will know I always look for links between the competing teams and Bonny Scotland. The links between Arsenal and Bella Caledonia have been previously reported and an early couple of clicks on google confirm that Manchester City also have strong links historically with God’s chosen country. In the Times ‘Top 50 Manchester City players of all time’ we find Scotsmen Dave Ewing, Willie Donnachie, Denis Law and Asa Hartford. The club were also managed by Scottish football icon Billy ‘Ceasar’ McNeil in the 1980s. More about all these famous ‘City Scots’ in a later post.

There are no Scots in the current Man City squad and I was racking my brain to think who was the last Scot to play for City. I am pretty sure that someone from north of the border must have donned the famous sky blue shirt within the last 10 years but the name that sprung to mind was Paul Dickov.

Paul Dickov: Former Scotland international who has played for both Arsenal and Man City
Former Scottish international Paul, from West Lothian, interestingly also played for Arsenal. He had two spells at Manchester City (initially from 1996-2002 and later from 2006-2008). He spent his last few months with City on loan at Blackpool and hence played for Man City for the last time in 2007. His big moment with City was in the Division Two play off final at Wembley in 1999 when his powerful shot in the 6th minute of stoppage time from just inside the area helped Man City beat Gillingham and hence end their exile in the third tier of English football. The Gillingham goalie, Vince Bartram, on that fateful day in 1999 was later to become the best man at Pul Dickov’s wedding.

Dickov scores at Wembley and Man City escape from Division Two in 1999

That feeling of scoring a big goal at Wembley
This goal was voted City’s greatest ever goal in a 2005 fans survey conducted by Manchester City. I have a feeling that the ‘Aguerro moment’ in 2012 might have relegated Dickov’s achievement into second place!

Over the next few weeks I will be doing some more investigation into the links between Man City and Scotland. Jumping back to the present day I note that I will have an early opportunity to assess Man City’s current form as they play Monaco in the second leg of a ‘round of last 16’ Champions League tie on BT Sport tomorrow night. Meanwhile the Gunners, now out of Europe, have a chance to put their feet up before they take on West Brom at the weekend.

Will the Sky Blues Skelp Monaco? Will there be any more ‘Wenger Out’ nonsense from the Arsenal supporters? Was Paul Dickov really the last Scot to play for Man City? Come back here on Thursday to find out … and … keep reading!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Imps shot down by The Gunners as Arsenal head for Wembley

Saturday the 11th March 2017

FA Cup Round Six

Arsenal 5 Lincoln City 0

Yesterday evening in north London reality came sharply back in to focus as the hordes of Lincoln City fans finally woke up from the Imp-possible dream. At the Emirates Stadium the gallant Imps finally ran out of puff and ran out of luck. The Lincoln Loco ran out of steam and the Imps are out of the FA Cup. The Gunners were worthy winners against the gallant Imps and after a nervous first half when they were unsettled by a combative Lincoln City outfit the Arsenal artisans turned on the style.

Its all over: Vanquished heroic Imps salute their fans at the end of the game

 Thanks to my good friend Kevin Oliver and his nephew Alan I was able to sit amongst the 9000 Lincoln City fans who made the match a very special occasion. This is how the day panned out.

Pre Match Communications: Some time ago I joined a couple of Lincoln City facebook fans forums. I now feel quite at home in these ‘banter’ pages. I have ‘met’ a number of Imps fans who have helped me with this project and I intend to keep in touch. My contact through the ether with Arsenal fans has been less prolific but I have enjoyed some dialogue with the Arsenal Scotland (@ArsenalScotland) twitter feed 6/10

Pre Match Pint: There is a local hostelry called the Drayton Park very near to the Emirates Stadium that is ‘away fans friendly’

Take courage to enter here! The Drayton Park pub next to the Emirates
This is a good facility and affords the visiting fan the chance to enjoy a small libation before the match. The pub was packed but the service was good with loads of bar staff on. The beer was pretty poor though with plastic glasses and keg beer de rigeur. I opted for the Guinness but even this had been overly chilled to within an inch of its life. You can also get a pint inside the ground before the match but the prices are inflated and the choice of beers very limited. 6/10

Programme: The programme is excellent. At £3.50 it is the most expensive matchday mag that I have picked up on the ‘The Road’ but it does contain a load of good stuff and despite being a bit pricey it is value for money.

 The pull out eight page stats section is an absolute joy for an old football anorak like me. This section includes Arsenal’s full FA Cup record from season 1889-90 to the present day. Indeed a good feature of this publication is that they have made a real effort to make it FA Cup focussed. There is a great 'text and pics' 7 page treatment of Arsenal’s 12 FA Cup wins 9/10

Ground: The ground is quite simply magnificent. The Emirates is a 60000 all seater stadium where every seat offers a great view of the action. We were ‘up in the gods’ in the Clock End of the Stadium and had a terrific vantage point.

Great stadium: Our view from high up in the Clock End at the Emirates
The pitch looked great. One thing I did notice about the playing surface is that it was well watered. In a move I have never seen before Arsenal turned on 8 huge sprinklers at half time to add a bit of zip to the grass.

Sprinklers on at HT: The Emirates ground staff grease up the surface for their superstars
Presumably Arsene Wenger insists on this additional watering so that his team, known for their slick passing play, can move the ball quickly on a slightly greasy surface 10/10

Atmosphere: The Atmosphere in the Clock End, where the Imps fans were housed, was rocking. Lincoln City had been allocated 9000 tickets for this fixture and they sold like hot cakes. The visitors from Lincolnshire were determined to enjoy their day out in London and were singing throughout the match. The shipping of goals in the second half did not dampen their enthusiasm and the tunes and chants continued to belted out with great gusto. I have been watching football for well over 50 years but I only have two matches to compare this game with in my frame of reference. In 2006 I was among 5000 Hearts fans who travelled to Prague to see if Hearts could miraculously overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg of a UEFA Cup tie away at Sparta. Last Summer (see blog post dated 23rd June 2016) I was with the Ulstermen in Paris to see if Northern Ireland could somehow fashion a result against World Cup Champions Germany in the Euros. Neither Hearts or Northern Ireland succeeded and neither were expected to - so both sets of fans were there for the party and the occasion. This is exactly how it felt yesterday. The Imps were given a ‘one in a thousand’ chance by their own manager. Arsenal are habitually in the top four of the Premier League and for the last six seasons Lincoln City have been playing non league football. The chances of Lincoln City winning were remote. The fans travelled in hope rather than expectation. However, with the pressure of achieving a result off everyone could have a great day out and a good old fashioned bevy up. The match kicking off at 5.30 pm also helped the atmosphere in my opinion in that it allowed the Lincoln City fans a full afternoon of sampling the local brews before the game started.

More sprinklers? Imps fans take a comfort break on the way to the Emirates
On social media today there are loads of great pictures of the Lincoln fans carousing in central London but the best photo I found is the one above. On such a day it is essential that the drinking starts early … and then the inevitable happens and you just have to stop the car when nature calls. Whoever these guys in the photo are I salute you.    10/10

Scottishness: As has been reported on this blog, Arsenal do not have any Scots in their squad and have not selected a Scot to play for their team for 19 years. Hence not much Scottishness in their ranks. Lincoln City do not have any jocks in their squad at the moment either but they do have a number of Scots fans.

Montrose based Imps fan Darren Crosby holds the FA Cup aloft!  
One of their Caledonian massive is Darren Crosby from Montrose. Imps fanatic Darren has seen the Imps several times on this historic cup run and travelled even further than I did to see Lincoln City’s gallant effort at the Emirates. I was hoping to meet up with Darren yesterday but unfortunately it did not happen. We have resolved to meet up to go to the Gateshead v Lincoln City league match on Easter Monday. I reckon I have one more journey on the Lincoln Loco this season left in me! 4/10


The first half was a very interesting football contest. Lincoln City competed well with Arsenal on all fronts. The Imps were passing the ball well but also diligent with their ‘off-the-ball’ work closing opponents down quickly when Arsenal had the ball. Some good defending and a couple of good saves from Imps keeper Farman kept Lincoln City in the match. It has been widely reported that Arsene Wenger is under pressure and with his job on the line he selected a virtual full strength team. The only ‘first choice’ omission was Mesut Ozil. It was a measure of how worried Wenger was becoming when he introduced Ozil into the action and substituted Oxlade-Chamberlain after only 27 minutes. The German world cup winner Ozil was eventually instrumental in turning around the Gunners’ fortunes. Arsenal took the lead on the stroke of half time when Theo Walcott netted from the edge of the box with the aid of a deflection. Before that came the moment when all Lincoln City fans held their breath and wondered for a split second if the ‘one in a thousand’ occurrence could happen. The Imps’ Nathan Arnold slalomed his way into the Arsenal penalty box. He then carefully placed a decent shot wide of the keeper’s body …. GOAL ???? … unfortunately not. The Arsenal keeper is the huge and athletic Petr Cech and the legendary custodian stuck out a big right hand and parried the ball to safety. An opening goal for the visitors at that stage would really have made the alarm bells ring. Half time Arsenal 1 Lincoln City 0

If only if only ..... Imps Nathan Arnold almost opens the scoring
The second half was a lot more comfortable for the mighty Arsenal. They have a reputation for playing so many short passes that it looks like they are trying to walk the ball into the net. On two occasions in the second period yesterday (the goals from Giroud and Ramsey) they did virtually walk the ball into the net. An own goal from Imps’ captain Waterfall and a wonder strike from the scarily impressive Sanchez completed the rout.

A truly iconic great manager shaking hands with some guy in a black suit
Lincoln City can be quite a physical team and in Woods, Hawkridge, Power and Rhead they have players who can ‘dish it out’. I did think that their best chance would be to get in a few meaty challenges to unnerve their famous opponents. The truth of the matter was that in the second half the Lincoln City players just could not get close enough to the Arsenal lads to foul them! Final Score Arsenal 5 Lincoln City 0 8/10

Match Day Catering: The pies on offer inside The Emirates included ‘The Gunners Steak and Ale Pie’. At £3.70 the culinary item was expensive. One bite into the pastry and the pie virtually disintegrated. Hot gravy leaking in all directions – not an edifying sight in any sense. Not particularly tasty either. 4/10

Value for Money: The admission price of £36.50. This was by a long way the most expensive ticket on ‘The Road’ so far. However, this was London, this was The Emirates and this was the quarter final of the FA Cup. So the price can be considered reasonable 8/10

The je ne sais quoi factor: A recurring theme in this category is meeting up with old friends. For the third match in a row I met up with my good pal and ex colleague Kevin Oliver. Great to meet up with Kev, his nephew Alan and indeed all of their travelling party from Lincolnshire yesterday.

The old pals re-united by 'The Road'. Me and Imps fanatic Kevin Oliver
Kev, Alan and their fellow travellers arriving at The Emirates
A day out in the big smoke is always a treat and yesterday to have the privilege of spending the day amongst the 9000 travelling fans from Lincolnshire was awesome. 9/10

Overall Road to Wembley from Scotland Rating 75/100

At this point I have to bid farewell to Lincoln City. I have really enjoyed my journey aboard the Lincoln Loco. The Imps have been such a big part of my life ever since the evening back in January when they beat Ipswich in a round 3 replay to ensure that Sincil Bank would be a stop on the Road to Wembley from Scotland. It will however be au revoir rather than goodbye. I have already committed to attending their Vanarama National League fixture in Gateshead on Easter Monday so I hope to catch up with Kevin and Alan again then. In any event I will be looking out for their results for some time to come and before the season is over I expect that they will reach Wembley in the FA Trophy and secure promotion back into the football league. Their future is in safe hands. With Danny Cowley at the helm the Imps are guided by possibly the most talented young manager in the British game. I just wish that my beloved Hearts would offer him the top job at Tynecastle!

So, the mighty Arsenal are now my team on the Road to Wembley from Scotland. In seven weeks time I will be seeing Arsenal again – at Wembley. The semi finals of the FA Cup are now played at the national stadium. The draw for the semi finals will be made at about 10.00 pm tomorrow night. Who will the Gunners play in the last four? Come back here on Tuesday to find out … and … keep reading.

Miles on the clock for this match  830

Total Miles on the Road to Wembley from Scotland so far 7733

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Imps Brilliant in Braintree: Gunners gunned down by Bayern: Next up for both is the FA Cup tie on Saturday

Last night Arsenal and Lincoln City were both in action for the last time before their much anticipated clash at The Emirates Stadium on Saturday on the Road to Wembley from Scotland. While the Imps were winning in some style the Gunners slumped to an embarrassing heavy defeat.

In an astute piece of business the clever management  team at Lincoln City signed Lee Angol, a young striker from Peterborough United, on loan on Monday. Last night in the Vanarama National League match at Braintree the 22 year old Angol made his debut. Everything the Cowleys touch at the moment turns into gold and the young loanee scored a hat-trick as Lincoln City won comfortably by 4 goals to nil.

An Angol of no mercy! Imps debutante (right) is congratulated by full back Wood
Angol will be ineligible to play against Arsenal and hence the fully rested cult hero Matt Rhead will return to the Lincoln City starting line up. Nathan Arnold was also on the scorecard for the Imps last night who have now gone 10 games undefeated in all competitions. Indeed Lincoln City have only been beaten twice since September.

It was a different story for this coming weekend’s other protagonists. Arsenal were already down 5-1 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League when they lined up face the Germans in the second leg in north London last night. At half time they were 1-0 up on the night and as they sat down during the interval they were dreaming of winning the tie 4-0 and going through to the quarter finals of the Champions League on the away goals rule. Arsenal’s Giroud missed a good chance early in the second half. Had that gone in and Arsenal continued to press forward then the headlines may have looked a lot different this morning. As it transpired the Germans got a dodgy penalty after 54 minutes and in the same incident Laurent Koscielny the Arsenal centre back was sent off. Bayern went on to win the match 5-1 and the tie 10-2 on aggregate.

Even the polite Arsenal fans are calling for a change
Arsenal fans with short memories and a graceless approach to supporting your football team were demonstrating outside the ground after the match chanting ‘Wenger must go’. I often think that football fans should be careful what they wish for. Arsene Wenger has known almost uninterrupted success, including 3 League titles and 6 FA Cups, in 21 magnificent years in charge of the Gunners. Additionally their style of play has been admired and applauded by the purists. However even the ex Arsenal player Charlie Nicholas, the last Scot to play more than 100 times for the Gunners and now the spoonerisms king of Sky Sports punditry, was foaming at the mouth on the telly last night: “It’s broken – Arsenal is broken. Wenger can’t fix it – he does not have the ammunition!”.

Happier times: Wenger lifts the FA Cup acclaimed by adoring fans who are now calling for his head
The outpouring of grief has continued on the football phone in programmes on the radio. The consensus seems to be that the great Arsene ‘The Professor’ Wenger is past his sell buy date and can’t cut it any more. I can’t go along with this. I can’t feel sorry for Arsenal fans who are distraught with their team still likely to qualify for the Champions League next season and poised to reach the semi finals of the FA Cup. Supporters of (for example) Coventry City and Charlton Athletic would love to have to tolerate this degree of failure.

So, it would appear that the Arsenal v Lincoln City match on Saturday might be historic for a number of reasons. Whether I agree with it or not, I am 100% convinced that if Lincoln City win then the Professor will be given his jotters. Could the canny Cowleys be responsible for the end of one of the most illustrious management careers in modern football history?

The FA Cup records of the two clubs couldn’t be more contrasting. Arsenal have the best FA Cup record with 12 wins, 19 Finals and 28 Semi-Final appearances (beating Manchester United into second place by virtue of having one more Quarter Final appearance; 43 versus 42). Lincoln are appearing in the FA Cup Quarter Finals for the first time ever, becoming the 188th different club to make the last eight and the first Non-League Quarter Finalist since Queens Park Rangers in 1914. The Imps have also equalled the record of most League clubs beaten by a Non-League side in one FA Cup run, matching Telford United who defeated four League clubs in 1985. Tottenham Hotspur are the only other Non-League club to achieve this feat on their way to lifting the Trophy in 1901.

The match is stop number 15 on the Road to Wembley from Scotland and already it is a total sell out with 60000 fans ready to turn up at the Emirates on Saturday. I will be in there amongst them. Will Arsene Wenger lift his Gunners and oversee a victory to take the Aresnal into the semi finals of the FA Cup for a 29th time? Will the Lincoln City pull off the greatest cup upset of all time on Saturday? Will Charlie Nicholas find the words to describe this historic football match? Come back here on Sunday to find out .. and … keep reading.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Imps draw and Gunners lose as the build up to the big match continues

Next Saturday it is the big one at The Emirates Stadium in north London. Arsenal will play Lincoln City in the quarter final of the FA Cup in match 15 on the Road to Wembley from Scotland. Yesterday the two protagonists both played important league fixtures away from home. Lincoln City eked out a valuable point in Aldershot while Arsenal lost to Liverpool on Merseyside.

Another big Vanarama League crowd gathered to watch the Lincoln Loco roll into town. Over 3500 were inside the Recreation Ground in Aldershot to see the home team take on the all conquering Imps yesterday. The match finished 0-0 and both clubs appear to be happy with a draw.

A Power struggle in Aldershot. Imps Alan Power in typical midfield action
Aldershot have extended their unbeaten run to 11 games while the Lincoln City manager Danny Cowley has described the result as a ‘good point’. On a day when Imps skipper Luke Waterfall could have won the match had he taken one of the two half decent chances that came his way Cowley concluded: We're pleased with the way we defended and with the chances we created but a little bit critical that we didn't take one of those chances.”

Up at Anfield the Gunners were beaten 3-1 by Liverpool. Under fire Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger chose to rest his star player Alexis Sanchez for this important Premier League match.

Gunners wings clipped by Klopp: Did Wenger make an Arse of himself?
The 67 year old Wenger has been manager of Arsenal for over 20 years and under his stewardship they have built a fantastic new stadium financed by his canny transfer dealings and enjoyed great success – although not so much in recent years. He has helped the Gunners win 3 league titles and an incredible 6 FA Cups. Football supporters all over the world are fickle and have short memories. The ‘Gooners’ are frustrated with the lack of recent league success and point to the fact that the last time that Wenger led them to the Premier League title was in 2004. Yesterday his team selection was pilloried. On BT Sport during the coverage of the match Steven Gerrard described Arsenal as a squad full of very good players with one world class player – Sanchez. I can go with this synopsis. To leave Sanchez out for this game was a surprise but the astute Wenger, a devotee of Sports Science research, believes that a player can not play in every game during a hectic schedule. With crunch games coming up in the Champions League, the FA Cup and the Premier League Wenger decided to rest Sanchez yesterday. The decision clearly backfired and the Gunners found themselves 2 goals down at half time. The proud and stubborn Wenger surprisingly back-tracked on his original decision and brought on Sanchez as a half time substitute. Arsenal were more like their normal selves in the second period and competed well in an entertaining contest. On the hour mark the inspirational Sanchez provided an assist for Welbeck to halve the deficit. In the dying minutes with Arsenal committed to attack in search of an equaliser, Liverpool broke clear and scored a killer third goal.

The two protagonists both have one more game to play before they meet head on at The Emirates next Saturday. The Imps have an emotional league fixture to fulfill on Tuesday. The Cowley brothers will take their team to Cressing Road in Essex to take on Braintree Town. The Cowleys’ success as the management team at Braintree prompted an approach from Lincoln City last summer and the rest is history. On the same night The Gunners will play host to Bayern Munich in the Champions League round of the last 16. It is mission impossible for Arsenal as they are 5-1 down from the first leg. Of course if Arsenal were to beat the German champions 5-0 then Arsene Wenger would be in the good books of the Arsenal fans again. My advice to Arsene Wenger is sign a few Scots to add a bit of Caledonian flare to your squad. I think that going on for so long without any Scots in the squad maybe explains the recent lack of success at The Emirates.

Will the Arsenal regain some pride by beating Bayern? Will the Lincoln Loco breeze through Braintree on the way to the Emirates? Come back here on Wednesday to find out … and keep reading.