The first thing good sign was that, silly UEFA regulations not withstanding, they were serving beer in the bar at The Hive, the sports complex in Edgware where Barnet FC now play their home games, and where Arsenal Ladies were staging their home Champions League tie against Glasgow City as their landlords Borehamwood had a home FA Cup tie against Carlisle. It was busy inside and a fair number had come down from Glasgow. A group of them acknowledged me as I passed them in my amber and black scarf. I went over to talk, explaining that I was really a Turbine Potsdam supporter and had acquired the scarf in a swap after the tie in Glasgow two years ago. One lady looked at the scarf closely, then announced.
‘It was me you swapped with!’
She beamed and gave me a hug. In that moment, I suppose, I became an honorary Glaswegian, at least for the day. I confirmed my impression of two years ago, that the Glasgow City supporters are a very friendly bunch,
Just before one o’clock we walked round to take our places in the ground. The Hive is yet another identikit modern football ground, tidy and modern but really without character. Without much atmosphere either except for the noisy support of the Scottish contingent.
The game was, from a Glasgow respective, a disappointment. A 4-1-4-1 formation never really worked, City failed to press and played too narrow which allowed Rachel Yankey and ex City player Emma Mitchell the space to cause lots of problems down Arsenal’s left. They were in front after 12 minutes with a header following a short corner and although City had a couple of half chances in the first half the pattern of the game was set. After 34 minutes Ellen White turned and shot narrowly wide. Two people thought this was a goal. One was an elderly chap who quickly stifled a cheer. The other, to general amusement, was the stadium announcer;.who. as Glasgow moved the ball upfield informed us that it was now 2-0 to the Gunners. The Scottish mirth didn’t last long as within a couple of minutes it was 2-0 as poor defending allowed Danielle Carter to score following a high ball into the box.
In the half time tea bar queue, which was long enough for people to have to stand on the muddy bank and watch passing Jubilee Line trains, City fans were fearing the worst.
‘It’ll be 6-0’ one announced confidently. No-one contradicted him.
In the end it was 3-0. Ellen White finally did get a goal and as Arsenal continued to dominate it could have been worse. The goalkeeper made a couple of good saves, the crossbar was hit twice and there were a couple of timely interceptions as Arsenal’s pace and movement always looked like opening Glasgow up.
The consolation for Glasgow, I suppose, is that Arsenal could have killed the tie off but didn’t. City will need to play much better than this on Wednesday though. They were too negative today. In the second half Glasgow’s midfield was playing just in front of the back four most of the time, allowing Arsenal too much tine on the ball as they built from deep positions and preventing them getting support to a very isolated Jess Fishlock when they were able to clear. Petershill is a cold uninviting place when the wind blows, there will be a sell-out partisan crowd, so who knows?
Back in the bar I caught up with former Lincoln Ladies Supporters Club chairman Tom Johnstone. He will, he says, not be following the club to Nottingham where they are playing as Notts County Ladies from next season. He’s going back to his roots and Glasgow City are now his team. He tried hard to hide his annoyance as an elderly Arsenal fan came over to tell us how rubbish City were.
‘It was tactics’ said Tom ‘part of our game plan’ .
‘How can you be in the Champions’ League? You’re rubbish!’ persisted the charmless Arsenal fan..
‘Because we’re Champions’ I suggested, ‘in 2013 as well.’
He glared at me and shuffled off.
It was back at Marylebone, in the wonderful wood-panelled bar, that I began to think about the issue of Scottish independence. I have never actually asked a Scot how they will vote in next year’s referendum. I missed an opportunity today. I wondered whether I would vote for independence if I lived in Scotland? There was a film about Boris Johnson on BBC2 in which several participants expressed the view that the prospect of Boris becoming Prime Minister had to be taken very seriously. When I heard this I knew that I would.