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Ted Harwood Remembers the 2000s
Our regular contributor, Ted Harwood, gets his chance to muse on the decade past.
When I think back on the last decade of Arsenal football, I couldn’t imagine supporting any other team. Two Premier League titles, three times runners-up; three FA cups, once runners-up; one Champions League final, never out of the top four in England…the list of the past ten years is superb, a list that only a handful of clubs worldwide could boast.
I will never forget the 2000s as my introduction to club football, my introduction to something more than occasional snippets on obscure cable channels and the World Cup every four years. I feel quite fortunate to have been introduced to Arsenal, of all clubs, so that I had a beacon of light in my otherwise dismal sporting landscape.
A lot of the early part of the decade is lost in obscurity for me, the limited availability of live matches in the USA making it more difficult to follow every move as compared to now, but thanks to the Youtube revolution and the proliferation of Arsenal DVDs, Americans such as myself can catch perhaps a small glimpse of the moments otherwise lost to history. Still, so many discrete moments in the past decade float up in memory: Bergkamp vs. Newcastle, Vieira leading the fightback vs. Leicester City to seal the greatest top flight season in English history, and lifting the trophy at Highbury.
With the availability of full-on television coverage here, the memories only grew. I have wonderful thoughts of the run through the Champions League knockouts in 2006, a bittersweet memory for many supporters, but let’s be clear: we beat Real Madrid in their house, we beat Juventus 2-0 over two legs, and we shrugged off the robust Villareal, keeping clean sheets the whole way. We all watched as Fabregas lead the charge at the San Siro in 2008. Despite the draw, the 4-4 barnburner at Anfield this spring looms large in recent memory.
One of my favorite Saturday mornings was in early October 2007 when I woke up at 6 AM, biked four miles in the frost to my friend’s house, where our collective screams when Cesc buried a hammer at White Hart Lane woke up her bemused and smiling roommate. There have been so many goals…Henry at Madrid, Ray Parlour in the FA Cup final, Arshavin at Blackburn, Cesc this year versus the spuds.
Despite these goals’ importance, my favorite goal remains the RVP volley at Charlton…Eboue galloping down the right and swinging in a cross with a ticket to nowhere, that’s never…OH MY GOODNESS…van Persie, out of the edge of the tv screen, catching a volley in midair, four feet off the floor, and absolutely crushing it under the bar. There have been more meaningful goals, but that one remains my favorite simply because my mouth was open in sheer disbelief, and then, laughter.
The only thing missing from the decade is perhaps some perspective. This is a team that has hauled in trophy after trophy, has a record that all but one domestic team would envy, and yet to listen to some folks, it’s not enough. I see football as an aesthetic and humanistic undertaking, and there is absolutely no finer team that typifies athleticism, struggle, triumph, and hope for the 2010s than Arsenal. Up the Gunners!