Friday 10th November 2006

Been a roller coaster few days, only now do I feel it is the ideal moment to share both the highs and lows. The week began perhaps badly in the sense I had so much work to catch up on and I knew it would a struggle. On top of this, I was awaiting news on tickets for the World Music Awards online. Being distracted is one thing, being a man down (questionable, some colleagues would beg to differ on that description, and prefer to use the word ‘boy’) on the helpdesk is hardly the greatest start to the week. To further add to the burden, I felt a terrible headache coming on, quite early in the morning. Fantastic. Anything else? Thankfully the phones were quiet, so I was able to concentrate on the important tasks. My colleague Peter was outstanding, picking up many of the calls and helping to reduce the call stack.

The main thing on my mind were tickets. Not Arsenal today but tickets to an award show. Had it been any other awards show, anywhere else in the world, I would just not be interested. Although I do enjoy watching the ceremonies on television, never before have I wanted to be there. A legend would be in town and making his first public appearance in the country for nine years. As a fan, how could I not make the effort and go and support my idol. It was perhaps today, the first time I truly appreciated the beauty of full unadulterated unrestricted internet access. If I had been working in the IT department of a big blue chip company there would be no way I would have been able to access a web page, let alone MSN. I was searching the forums for any news but also speaking to two big MJ fans on the IM client. You would think that I had the ideal setup to ensure I got tickets. I had called the box office twice but on both occasions given perhaps the worst customer service imaginable. They may be sick and tired of us fans calling them but, a single bone in your body to show you actually care would have helped ease our frustrations, a little.

Daniel, over in Singapore received a package from a mysterious Clark Kent on Tuesday. He messaged me on MSN as soon as the packaged arrived and confirmed he had uploaded an image onto his blog and would give a full review later. Of course, my ban on personal blogs during office hours, meant I could not view the posting until I got home in the evening. Even though I was tempted to get Chris to go and take a peak for me. When I got home, to my surprise Daniel had also uploaded my cryptic note which I will now have to go to some length to explain. When I am on MSN at the office I use the username ‘Andrew’. When I am back home, I use ‘Teg’. Daniel jumped on this and instantly made the connection with a stumbling journalist at the Daily Planet and his alter ego, the Man of Steel. The notion stuck and now when we talk while I am in the office he often refers to me as Clark. He also refers to my work log as the Clark Kent blog, because I never mention football, which is his main motivation for reading my postings.

Also on Tuesday, I received a Fed Ex parcel from the United States and America. It was my archive kit from Archival dot com. Over the course of last season I collected numerous newspaper and magazine articles on the final season at Highbury. Along with the move to the new stadium at Ashburton Grove and a French nobody celebrating ten years at the helm of one of Europe’s biggest football clubs. Rather than let these sentimental documents be filed away in my drawer, I wanted to display them. To have them presented in a way they could be passed on to generations to come. My search actually began back on 29th May when I contacted the Book & Paper Conservation Studio at the University of Dundee and they advised I purchase a Archival Grade Album. So I searched around, but with limited success until a few weeks ago on 24th October when I contacted the lovely people at Archival and they recommended me the full kit to get me going. Including Archival Mist to neutralize the acids found in newspapers. Perfect. I placed my order, which was confirmed two days later. The item arrived on my desk and when I explained to Chris it was not a work laptop but my attempt to start my very own Arsenal collection, he called me sad. I suppose, this is something supporters of true football clubs can understand. I hope to start the archiving process sometime in January. As I do not have the adequate space at home, I will be carrying out this job at a friend’s house but with no real care for time. We can get only one article set in place, at each go, as long as at the end of the process I have a wonderful album to reflect the joys of the North Bank and the promise of Emirates. How does the saying go? Sure, when was the last time you did something for the first time? At this rate, I can simple say 2006, your honour! Guilty as charged.

Talking of first times. I will going to my first North London derby next month, with the added after thought that it will be the first such clash with Spurs at our new home. I was lucky, I logged onto the site promptly at 9.30am (last Thursday) and was able to get tickets straight away. There was only one place to sit really. Upper tier, right above the Tottenham fans. Fantastic! Roll on December 2nd. However my record was incomplete, there was final piece of the jigsaw that needed to fall into place. That was on Wednesday 8th, this week. Just after 9.30am, I booked tickets for my first ever Champions League match, against Hamburg (a qualifer doesn’t count, so I don’t want Chris leaving some annoying comment to the contrary). Although I wanted to sit in the lower tiers, my membership was not valid for these seats (apparently, not sure why). So I am poised to be one of the lucky few to have visited the new home of football, every month since it opened in July. Long may the tradition continue into 2007 and beyond.

I have mentioned this before, but I have a passing interest in soccer Stateside. Listening to the World Football phone-in on Five Live’s Up All Night in the early hours of Saturday morning with Dotun Adebayo (although not everyone is a fan!). So you can imagine the interest in seeing David Beckham going over to play in the MLS. Although it would not be the best move in terms of football, it would make a whole continent sit up and listen to a sport which at the moment hardly registers on the richter scale of the average American. Personally I think Dave would love it, and all his entourage would love the marketing opportunities it would open up. Plus, he would find an fresh faced adoring public. Something he has not experienced for several years in England and Spain. The BBC had a great article on a one of the few players to make a name for himself outside his homeland. The rock star, come footballer, I mean soccer player. The one and only Alexi Lalas. Sometimes stories of living legends are quite unbelievable. Particularly when you can replay in your head the clip of their header against England in 1993.

Perhaps I should pick up the story on the World Music Awards. Which means going back to Monday afternoon, quite late in the day. I had survived, just about. Even though I had seriously considered dropping it all and heading home earlier in the morning. My friend on MSN messaged me a link which I hit and entered in the special (but far too obvious) code. Then entering in my details I received an e-mail a few minutes later. I had won a pair tickets to the show! Great! I was absolutely estatic. I drove home, feeling I had completed my mission of the day. Or so I thought. By the time I got home, it was fine. Until I came back to my computer after watching Eastenders in the lounge. Another friend had messaged me (and then gone offline) to say the tickets were all void as someone had hacked into the site and given away the code. Damn! I was gutted. (Take that as a major understatement!) I headed over to the forums and as I expected there was utter confusion across some of the newest threads posted. However this made me more determined than ever to buy tickets on Tuesday morning. They would be available from around 9am, apparently. The annoying thing was while I had been entering a competition that did not exist, a few fans had called the box office and booked standing tickets. Including my friend Terry. He was over the moon but was helpful in passing on further information. The competition was re-organised for Wednesday 8pm. On Tuesday I called the box office twice but was told by some rude person that no tickets were on the system and I should call back in 15 minutes. When I did, I was told the same thing by someone even more abruptly. The news on the forum was that this was a completely farce and the ticket agents were just holding back tickets and trying to make a greater demand. Michael had already organised 200 tickets for his fans, which were part of the competition (although some had this figure down to 100). The remaining standing tickets which would be sold had not been pushed out to general sale. This was crazy. The event was just over a week away. I tried my luck with the competition, but this time around, when it truly mattered my luck ran out. The site eventually accepted my details at 8.40pm, by which time all the tickets had been allocated. I got an e-mail confirming this only a few minutes later. I had been on the phone to my friend and heard them win tickets! Great! Would I be offered one of the pair?

By Thursday morning, it was time to make an executive decision. I either had to buy them, or hope and pray that my friend gave me their ticket. It was a difficult situation. One diehard fan had queued from 10pm on Wednesday, camping outside the box office at Earls Court to get tickets. They had only opened the booth at 11am, by which time there was already a queue of sixty plus people waiting in line. Through the wonders of MSN, I was being fed live information on the situation. I asked on MSN, if anyone could get me a ticket, as my friend had two friends down in the queue and also to an MJ fan on a chat room. Thankfully there was no need for all this heartache.

My friend came through. Offering me the spare ticket they had won in the competition, it is difficult to describe how I felt and still feel now (a full day after). I wanted to jump up from my chair and punch the air, but instead preferred to smile at the thought I would be there. Plus my colleagues would have wondered what the hell was going on. What more could I say? If he is to perform Thriller it will not bother me. (All these news agencies cannot be wrong, can they?) I am just thankful to the someone, somewhere, that one of my biggest regrets, to never see Michael Jackson live will be overturned with the quick shuffle of the black shoes with white socks, dropping of the shoulders and click of the fingers.

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