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Arsenal 3 v 0 Rovers - Cup Semi Final


Nuclearsox
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Deep into stoppage time, the crowd were chanting his name, “Nuclearsox, Nuclearsox, Nuclearsox!” as he body-swerved between two defenders, flicked the ball over another and advanced on goal. As he reached the 18-yard line with the ball at his feet, he suddenly became aware of Kirsty Gallagher nuzzling into his neck and whispering seductively into his ear.

“Not now, Kirsty!”, he protested. “Later Kirsty, later”.

This was it! One accurate finish and he would put Blackburn Rovers through to the FA Cup final for the first time in 45 years. One more moment of composure would send 60,000 Blackburn fans into rapture. All that stood in his way was the goalkeeper, Osama Bin Laden, who was visibly shaking as Sox poised to shoot. All of a sudden, Osama let out the most annoying high-pitched bleeping noise ever heard in the Western world.

“BLEEP! BLEEP! BLEEP!”

Sox screwed his shot badly wide and it hit Michael Jackson right in the family stand.

“Ow,” shrieked Jackson as he disintegrated into his compostite parts, “ya know it! Sham on.”

“BLEEP! BLEEP! BLEEP!” said Osama.

Sox threw a punch in Osama’s general direction and knocked the alarm clock to the floor.

The room was suddenly silent and, opening one eye slightly, Nuclearsox peered over the edge of the bed. The green digits on the prone clock told him it was 4:00. 4:00 on a Saturday morning!! He’d set the alarm wrong again.

Then realization dawned. This wasn’t just any old Saturday morning, this was the morning of the FA Cup semi-final and he had a big day ahead of him. A big day and a big journey. He began to wish he’d travelled down to Cardiff the day before like any sensible Rovers fan would have done.

“Who’s Kirsty?” enquired a voice from the other side of the bed.

“Go back back to sleep dear,” said Sox.

***

Two hundred miles away, a group of sensible Rovers fans, we’re staggering towards the front door of the Bristol Travelodge, singing raucously and clapping their hands above their heads.

“Shhhhhhhhh!” said the one at the front urgently, gesturing to the others to be quiet, before loudly breaking wind as the singing died down. A volley of abuse immediately followed and the ensuing chorus of “There’sh only one darty bashad” echoed around the car park.

It had been a good session overall, starting on the train from Manchester and coming to a natural conclusion, just an hour or so ago, when Scotty and Manchester Blue were evicted from a town centre bar following a heated argument over who had the hardest punch, Kieron Dyer or Lee Bowyer. They re-enacted the scene from the Newcastle v Aston Villa game to sort it out. Once outside the bar, neither of them could remember who was pretending to be who and a late-night curry was the obvious solution.

***

Sox looked at his watch as the minibus came into view. Five O’Clock! He was looking forward to getting aboard and getting back to sleep. He hauled himself and his rucksack, laden with essentials for the day ahead (a couple of ham sandwiches, a packet of crisps and a crate of Boddingtons) into the minibus. With a quick glance round, he nodded a general greeting to the occupants, received a few tired grunts in reciprocation and slumped into the nearest seat. But that was occupied so he moved along to the nearest empty one.

“Now then, breakfast time” thought Sox and pulled the crisps from his rucksack.

“One more stop,” said the driver, as the minibus pulled away. He said it in such a jovial fashion that each of the passengers would have hit him if he wasn’t driving.

“OH NOOOOO!! EH?” said the bloke behind Sox, “Is Oysterhausen getting on?!”

“Beer for breakfast then,” decided Sox replacing the packet of crisps.

He cracked open a can, took a swig and closed his eyes.

***

The Bristol Bed & Breakfasts shook with the sound of alarm calls following by swearing and groaning as last night’s revellers dragged themselves out of bed and contemplated the prospect of a greasy full English breakfast.

Chasing an overcooked sausage around his plate, Scotty, thought back to the events of the previous evening. Surely there wasn’t a pub in Bristol they hadn’t been in.

In one particular pub, he recalled, they had found themselves sitting at the next table to a group of Arsenal supporters. The good-natured banter evolved into a singing contest, in which each group of fans questioned the other’s parentage, before descending into a finger-pointing and rude gesturing competition as the alcohol flowed.

Things looked like turning nasty until someone produced a football and the pub emptied into the street for a kick-about.

The Arsenal fans were much quicker and skilful than our boys but, for some reason, they would insist on rolling around on the road clutching various parts of their anatomy every couple of minutes. The landlord, who had kindly agreed to referee, fell for it every time, much to the annoyance of the watching crowd in the queue for the chippy.

The game was delicately poised at 8-2 to Arsenal or 2-1 to Rovers, depending on who you asked and how high the imaginary Rovers crossbar was meant to be, when an overhit cross from Rovers’ strangely-haired left winger smashed through Woolworths window. The ensuing alarm bells were the signal for everyone to go their separate ways as fast as possible.

***

Back on the minibus, Sox glanced around at the other passengers. Some faces were familiar. Some weren’t. The person sitting next to him looked uncannily like he imagined Brian Barwick, Chief Executive of the FA, looked.

“Excuse me,” said Sox, “aren’t you Brian Barwick?

“Indeed I am,” replied the man obviously delighted to be recognised.

You Tosser!” said Sox.

“I beg your pardon!?”

Rumour has it you took the wishes of the fans into consideration when deciding the venue and time. Is this true?

“Of course it’s true and it is scandalous to suggest otherwise. The FA always has the welfare of the fans at heart and a cross-section of the fans are consulted about every decision that is made – in this case Arsenal fans Dai and Gwyneth Jones from Merthyr Tydfill and Blackburn Rovers supporter Rhys Rees of Caerphilly. We had suggested a 17:15 kick-off but Mrs Jones would have had to cancel her dentist appointment at 16:45. When we extrapolated these figures, to account for the 60,000 supporters traveling to the FA cup semi-final, it worked out at around 20,000 cancelled appointments which is, obviously, unacceptable.”

Please explain the rationale behind playing both FA Cup semi-finals at Cardiff?

The FA are committed to promoting friendship and goodwill among all sets of football fans. That’s never going to happen unless we can get them together to discuss their issues and concerns. And what better way to do that than to get a hundred thousand of them, weary from travelling long distances, squeezed into a few hotels, pubs and B&Bs in Cardiff for a weekend and letting them have a few beers together.

Did you know that the trains between Bristol and Cardiff are not running on the weekend of the semi-finals?

Yes, that was pointed out to us at one of the preliminary meetings. We were concerned for a while about that but, thankfully, it has turned out not to be a problem as neither of Bristol teams has made it to the semi-finals.

How much are you paying for your ticket at Cardiff

We believe the ticket prices to be spot on. Fans have the option of paying £0, £25, £35, £45 or £55. Of course, due to the structure of the millennium Stadium there are fewer seats in some of these price brackets and some fans are bound to miss out on the lower priced tickets as they are sold on a first come, first served basis. As soon as I knew the venue of the semi-finals, I purchased my ticket. I was fortunate enough to be allocated a £0 ticket before they were all snapped up.

An FA Spokesman, Adrian Bevington, suggested that playing both semi's at Cardiff would be a good thing for the fans as it would allow more of them to see the games. Please could you give me the name of his drug dealer?

Barwick didn’t answer and Sox had lost interest in talking to him anyway. Looking round again, he spotted Barry Ferguson, the slimy Scottish poo-face.

“Excuse me,” said Sox, “aren’t you Barry Ferguson, the slimy Scottish poo-face?

“Indeed I am,” replied the homesick mammy’s boy, obviously delighted to be recognised.

You Tosser!” said Sox.

“Eh?”, said Ferguson.

Have you found your dummy after you spat it out just before the transfer deadline in January?

Actually, no, but then I didn’t bother to look for it. I thrashed out a deal through my agent when I first joined Blackburn that included a five-year supply of dummies. I’ve still got a couple left.

Now that Blackburn have reached the semi-final of the FA Cup do you wish you'd stayed at the Rovers?

I’m disappointed I won’t out there playing today but I’ve got a big game away at Dunfermline to prepare for. I was sad to leave Rovers but when you get home to find a member of your family in tears, you have to do something about it. It really hit home when Blackburn played Bolton. I realized then that the intensity of the rivalry in England isn’t the same as in Glasgow.

Back home, my son was getting into fights at the swimming baths just because his father played for Rangers. In St. Annes pool, he wasn’t even recognised and he always came out in floods of tears that he hadn’t been able to smack somebody. He tried picking on a couple of the local OAPs that were just floating about but they weren’t interested. Now we’re back in Glasgow, he’s getting beaten up every week. He’s much happier.

Are you happier now that your mum is cooking your tea and ironing your smalls?

Oh absolutely. I’ve never been very good at domestic chores. I had to make a court appearance a while ago for a minor Road Traffic offence. I wanted to look my best so I washed my white shirts the night before. Unfortunately I left a red sock in the machine and all my shirts turned pink. I got away with a fine but I had to agree to go on a date with the judge, Percival Gaylord.

Some Rovers fans thought you were crap - are you?

Ferguson didn’t answer and Sox had lost interest in talking to him anyway. Looking round again, he spotted Steve Cotterill, Head of Interbreeding in Yorkshire.

“Excuse me,” said Sox, “aren’t you Steve Cotterill, the sheep worrier?

“Indeed I am,” replied the professional loser, obviously delighted to be recognised.

You Tosser!” said Sox.

“Oh, thank you!” said Cotterill.

How do you think Burnley fans are feeling when they see their biggest

rivals, a club they haven't beat for 26 years, in the FA Cup semi-finals?

I know for a fact that the Burnley fans aren’t happy about it, the Burnley shopkeepers have been terrified at the prospect of Blackburn winning for weeks and Burnley housewives are dreading having to console their husbands, brothers, sons, uncles and fathers should Blackburn get through. Luckily for them though, it’s one and the same person.

Do you not think your celebrations at the end of the game at Ewood were a tad over the top considering you'd lost?

Well we’ve never seen that many fans at the final whistle before and we thought we must have won. It was only later we realized they were locked in.

That was enough of speaking to Cotterill, he was still saying something but Sox turned away to have a more intellectual conversation with MGP who was sat in front.

“Excuse me,” said Sox, “aren’t you Morten Gamst Pedersen, Superstar?

“Indeed I am,” replied the boy-band wannabe, obviously delighted with pretty much everything.

Describe the feeling when you scored the winner against Burnley?

Oh. It was fantastic. It great to score any goal but it was especially nice to score a late winner against the interbreds. They are despised in Norway as much as they are in England you know.

Do you not think that your hair makes you look like a poof?

No. It will be all the rage soon. I’m one of the Norwegian David Beckhams you know. All the kids will want to copy me. Besides, where I come from, no-one cares how you have your hair - it’s pitch black for 6 months of the year so no-one can see you.

So we’re off to Cardiff today. What do you know about Wales

Fishy, wet, evil-looking creature with a lot of blubber and a large blowhole – “Dean Saunders” I think it’s called – comes from there.

Thanks for your time Gamst. Good luck today. Score a late winner again!

I will. Now let me ask you a question.

MGP pulled a torch from his pocket and shone it directly in Sox’s eyes. Sox recoiled and banged his head on the minibus window, waking him up. He’d been dreaming again. There was no torch. It was the morning sun beating down on the M4 as the minibus edged into Cardiff. Sox looked out of the window again just as the WilkyWagon drew alongside.

And so it transpired that a minibus full of the most sorry-looking, jaded, haggard Rovers fans ever seen briefly gazed out at a minibus full of the second-most sorry-looking, jaded, haggard Rovers fans ever seen. Then, as the two parties, recognized each other, they exchanged greetings across the motorway in traditional manner – 30 seconds of two-fingered salutes and other rude hand gestures followed by a row of hairy backsides pressed against the minibus windows.

Suddenly the hangovers and tiredness were forgotten and the two minibuses burst into song. Now the build up had really begun.

Will the story have a happy ending? We’ll soon find out…

The road to Cardiff:-

3rd Round

Cardiff City 1 – 1 Rovers

Arsenal 2 – 1 Stoke City

Rovers 3 – Cardiff City 2

4th Round

Arsenal 2 – 0 Wolves

Rovers 3 – 0 Colchester

5th Round

Arsenal 1 – 1 Sheff Utd

Inbreds 0 – 0 Rovers

Sheff Utd 0 – 0 Arsenal (2-4 on pens)

Rovers 2 – 1 Inbreds

6th Round

Bolton 0 – 1 Arsenal

Rovers 1 – 0 Leicester

The roads to Cardiff:-

M65

M6

M5

M4

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rover.gif i reckon emerton and tugay have played themselve's into the team after yesterday,maybe sparky will play his favourite formation to begin with,but these two need to be on the pitch if we are to beat the arse. tinykit.gif
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Brilliant sox!

So onto Arsenal and the most valuable game of Rovers' season (unless there is a chance to leap five places in the Prem in the last game of the season!).

Victory will assure the Rovers of at least another £1.5m in revenue from FA Cup semi-final winnings and Cup Final gate receipts and no doubt will increase the value of commercial sponsorships during the summer. Added to that the probability that Bumbling U will beat the half of the bar codes not suspended in the other semi and a win for us in the semi is likely to secure UEFA football at Ewood for the third time in four seasons.

Unfortunately, Arsenal will be able to select the team which went unbeaten in the Prem all last season for the first time in the current campaign- all the injured and wounded will be back refreshed with T Henry quietly limbering up at the rate of a hattrick a game in his previous two Prem outings before Boro yesterday. Wenger has tipped his boys to pass their way round the Rovers' increasingly respected defense.

Let's face it all logic points to an Arsenal victory. No way can Rovers be expected to still be in the Cup by the time next Saturday's Prem programme kicks off. So clutching at straws-

>If Arsenal score first, its probably curtains. But the way we ripped into Chelski at Ewood after going 0-1 in the fourth minute gives a scintilla of hope.

>Arsenal see Rovers as a bit of a bogey side. If we can frustrate them long enough, the obdurate blue and white shirts facing them might begin to pray on the Gunners' subconscious. Desperate straw clutching.

>Even a full strength free flowing Arse are going to find the current Rovers' defence plus the Axe and probably Savage disrupting their supply lines a tough proposition. Then we need a superman performance from Brad. Not so much straw clutching as utterly essential to avoid a humiliation.

>MGP in front of goal when not kicking fresh air is pretty lethal. We will get a chance or two. Hope and pray they fall to MGP as he's the only player up front likely to convert them. Extreme straw clutching.

>If it is 0-0 at FT, we will be as fit as the Arsenal in terms of surviving the next 30 minutes. Then we might have a 20% chance from the penalty shoot out given our miserable track record and the Arsenal's regular qualifications through them. Straw clutching-it's an outside chance.

My forecast is Arsenal 2 Rovers 0 and we are left to dream for another day.

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Have to think Arsenal will win this, but it will be a great day, just nice to even be there.

Great preview as well, possibly the best ever, must have taken some time, well done.

Arsenal 3 - 1 Rovers

Still holding out hope for Rovers 1 - 0 Arsenal

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pure genius again.

Heart rules the head for this one. Although the arse are allegedly going to beat us, I have to dream that in the 90th minute, MGP will fire a fantastic cross to the back post and the Kiwi will rise and bury the ball in the net taking the german keeper with him.

It is a dream, but hey, we are BRFC, a team of thugs and upstarts from a darkened town somewhere up north.

The FA Cup final traditionalist can quote the success of a little team called wimbledon many moons ago when they lifted the cup having beaten the highyl rated liverpool team.

This is a similar situation, how nice it would be for a 1-0 Rovers win.

Now then where's my coat, hat and crate o Bud, I am off to Cardiff tinykit.gif

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I believe in my head, and logic dictates we will get beat on Saturday.

However there is a glimmer of hope that we can do it - sure to be extinguished by kick off and I turn back into the bundle of nerves and jitters that is me before a game.

Then again - I hope Arsenal are reading all the press about them having a cake walk.

Although cant see Arsene allowing them to be complacent. but hey we can hope

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Hughes eyes victory over Arsenal

Pretty much what I think as well.

We can't go down to the game thinking we're going to get beat, there's no point in playing if anyone thinks that.

Arsenal are favourites, kick them about a bit, get at them and who knows.

I'm going for.

Rovers 1 - 0 Arsenal

Nelsen to get his first goal in Extra Time.

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Last five results in the PL:

Arsenal 3 Pompey 0

Bolton 0 Arsenal 1

Blackburn 0 Arsenal 1

Arsenal 4 Norwich 1

Middlesbrough 0 Arsenal 1

15 points

Everton 0 Rovers 1

Liverpool 0 Rovers 0

Roveres 0 Arsenal 1

Man Utd 0 Rovers 0

Rovers 3 Soton 0

8 points

Arsenal have been getting the results you would expect. Rovers have been achieving results that we would NOT have expected, even the Southampton scoreline, but not the win, was a surprise.

I would argue while Arsenal clearly have the better players and are a better team there is every reason to believe we are in form and getting better by the game. Arsenal are the only team to manage a goal against us in those five games and we have been up against some mighty clubs. If we are going with the head there is every reason to say Arsenal will find us very, very difficult to beat. A moment of pure magic from Henry may be the difference. If they beat us it will only be through sheer brilliance

Going with the heart I feel our team will be so fired up for this match it will take a very special performance to beat Rovers. The players were so hungry yesterday, they want to be in the team on Saturday and they want to be back at Cardiff on May 21st. We can win this game, we will see the team give everything on the pitch and through sheer bloody-mindedness we will beat Arsenal.

Arsenal 1 Rovers 2

Henry, MGP, Stead (off the bench)

Got the flags out today, everything is ready to go......and the excitment is building. We will win.

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