Arsenal away: Grampian Gooner's trip to Brighton on trains, planes and snowploughs – along with pies, pints, piers and trams
PUBLISHED: 18:51 06 March 2018 | UPDATED: 19:09 06 March 2018
The loyalty of Arsenal fans knows no bounds. Grampian Gooner – aka Danny Coyle – shares the trials and tribulations in braving the Beast from the East and Storm Emma during his epic trip from northern Scotland to England’s south coast to see his beloved team lose 2-1 to Brighton on Sunday.
Sitting on the runway at Gatwick at 7.45pm on Sunday night and our flight to Edinburgh has already been delayed by an hour.
Not the end of the world. But when you’re a travelling Gooner who has endured that sinking feeling all too often on the road this season, any hitch getting home can exacerbate an already fragile mood. All we want to do is get home which by the time we get the tram and train looks like 11pm.
Almost exactly 36 hours earlier, my partner crime Alison and I began our journey for Brighton away.
Not that we for one moment on Saturday morning we believed that we would be going anywhere south of the Scottish border any time soon. Our Brighton away trip seemed doomed.
Glued to Virgin trains updates from early Saturday morning it seemed there would be no trains for the foreseeable future and no flights were available due to the backlog and runways still being cleared.
Alison and I discussed it and came to the conclusion that we’d make a “date day” of it in Edinburgh and on the off chance trains start running to London again we’ll hop on one, knowing our original tickets will be valid. I didn’t rate our chances.
However, Alison was slightly more optimistic and packed a spare pair of boxers and socks in her bag for me just in case! I admired her optimism and was reminded of how lucky I am to be in a relationship with someone who loves Arsenal as much as me.
And so the journey began in Central Scotland at around 11am.
Car parks and roads were still recovering from the Amber and red snow warnings of recent days so we didn’t fancy risking the drive to our local station. So it ended up being a one hour hike through shin to knee snow drifts on the pavements to make it to Falkirk High station.
Shortly after we arrived we got the train to Edinburgh and given the cold weather fancied a curry. We were having a nice time sipping on some warming monsoon martinis - for all intents and purposes a typical leisurely “date day” out.
Then out of nowhere Alison gets an update on her phone from Virgin Trains to say that limited services to Newcastle are now operating, the next one in 10 minutes.
So spurred on by her optimistic energy we both wolfed down our curries, necked the drinks, paid the bill and legged it back to Waverley station.
We didn’t really have time to consider the risks of being stranded at Newcastle as with all the travel disruption in that part of the world it wasn’t clear whether or not we would be able to continue south to London.
We also didn’t have an estimated time of arrival due to the state of the line route to Newcastle so it was very much a stab in the dark.
We made it to Newcastle and settled in with a pit stop drink at the Centurion, waiting for news of trains to London. During this time we noticed trains back to Edinburgh were now being cancelled. The point of no return. So it was music to our ears when were eventually told we could board a train to London.
Luckily the train south to London didn’t throw up any more major spanners in the works.
After a few hours we were sitting in Piebury Corner King’s Cross talking music, wedding pies and Arsenal with the gaffer Paul. Travel wearied we sank a few beers and pies before heading up to Barnet to get a few hours kip at my parent’s house.
We got up early the next morning and got the East Finchley to kings cross train before changing to get to Victoria.
After the previous day’s uncertainty we were still not convinced we’d make the game.
But thankfully before long we were at Gatwick before getting the bus replacement at Redhill and then a further train to Brighton.
Having never been to Brighton before we thought, despite the time constraints and 1.30pm KO in mind that we’d dart down to see the beach and pier.
It would be rude not to after coming all this way.
Sadly we couldn’t squeeze in time to catch up with mates in the local boozers. With the rainy weather closing we joined the crowds getting on at Brighton station to Falmer.
Soon we were in the away concourse with time to spare before KO.
What followed after on the pitch is of course well documented.
The Piglet Pantry Sussex pies at half time were a minor comfort as the thousands strong travelling Gooners endured a depressingly familiar performance on the road.
Yet it’s something you can’t stop doing.
It’s who you are. We are the Arsenal.
I really hope the team shows up for some top Gooners and friends I know who are travelling to Milan on Thursday.
It’s the very least they deserve.