The last time that the stadium saw such an event was in 2016 when the Old Boys beat AC Milan. Then the star performance was that of Kanu who despatched the well drilled pensioners of Milan. This time the plaudits belonged to “Mad” Jens Lehmann. The team were managed by David O’Leary and it rapidly became clear that this was a game that he and his colleagues had absolutely no intention of losing. David Seaman did not get a game.
The defence was completed with Jeremie Aliadiere on the right, Matthew Upson, Pascal Cygan and at number 3, occupying his normal position at left back, Lord Winterburn of perfectly timed tackles and tough surprises. The midfield was strong with Bob Pires and the Romford Pele, “Raymundo” being joined by Tomas Rosicky on the right wing and Luis Boa Morte on the left. Gilberto was the destroyer. Up front was the President of the Croatian Football Federation, Mr Davor Suker. Chris Whyte came on at half time for Cygan.
Real Madrid (Claude Makelele played) were one would say, man for man younger than our chaps. So much so that they were able to play the pressing game and double up on any of our players who were constructing an attack. Much of the game was therefore spent in our half. We did get out. How could we not with that midfield, but with Kanu and T.H. absent, outlets for a strike on goal were few. Aliadiere went very close in the second half as did Super Tom.
What was remarkable about this game was the mental strength of the team. Late in the second half, O’Leary gradually and tentatively replaced the operative parts of our team with older, often stouter colleagues. IT DIDN’T MATTER. No matter how elderly or infirm the replacement they each slotted in and did their job. David Hillier, Stefan Schwarz, Anders Limpar and most gloriously of all Perry Groves, came on and were quite simply not at home to Mr Cock Up. Gilles Grimandi added his usual steel to midfield.
And so to penalties. Bob, smote his penalty past a despairing keeper. Gilles Grimandi whacked his penalty unstoppably high and left as if executing a traitor to his beloved France. Matthew Upson Van Persied his penalty home and Jeremie crowned an outstanding overall performance by smacking his penalty securely into the net. Tomas Rosicky started walking from half way. “No need“, gestured Mad Jens, who had elegantly prevented Real Mathrid’s second penalty from entering Arsenal’s goal in front of the North Bank.
The German keeper stepped up and smashed his penalty on the target like a high velocity round from a Leopard tank. (Ed’s note – I am informed by the author that this is a weapon of the Bundeswehr, the army of the Federal republic of Germany, our Nato allies)
Exit Real Madrid. The losers on this occasion. The game was attended by perhaps 20,000 people who had an excellent afternoon of fun.
I would have liked our present squad to be there as well, so that they could see what standards of discipline and quality professional footballers playing for the Arsenal Football Club are required to attain. As Pat Rice was taught and would say - remember who you are and what you represent.