By Tony Attwood
Robert Pirès arrival was surely the transfer to note in the 2000 pre-season period, joining on 3 July, while Sylvain Wiltord joined at the end of the transfer window. Nigel Winterburn, Marc Overmars and Manu Petit all moved on.
Arsenal opened with the usual couple of low key warm ups in the pre-season starting with Boreham Wood 1 Arsenal 1 on 14 July 2000. That it wasn’t the goal fest we hoped for was explained by the side, to some degree…
The Arsenal team was
Dixon Grimandi Luzhny Cole
Vernazza Lincoln Lauren Harper
Then came the big one: the Ajax tournament with two games in three days. This tournament ran each season until 2009, by which time it was overshadowed by the Emirates Cup.
Arsenal, still far from ready at the start of the season, lost both games
- 3 August 2000 Barcelona 2 Arsenal 1 (Danilevicius)
- 5 August 2000 Ajax 2 Arsenal 0
Not surprisingly, Arsenal came bottom of the group.
Things improved a little later on 7 August 2000 when Arsenal went to Scotland and we had Dunfermline 0 Arsenal 3, in front of 10,330 for the opening of the new stand at East End Park.
Viera, Henry and Kanu returned, Robert Piries was on show, but there was still no Dennis Bergkamp.
After seven minutes Lauren crossed for Thierry Henry was there to head Arsenal in. Two minutes later Henry dummied a ball through to Freddie Ljungberg who made it 2-0. It was looking very one sided.
Arsenal then started doing their thing moving the ball from left to right endless moves incorporating Henry, Kanu and Dixon. Kanu had a bash from 25 yards. Then Vieira had a go. It looked like Amsterdam was forgotten and they were all having fun.
Robert Pires started to show his stuff, Viera impressed with through balls to Henry, Henry found it so easy to outpace the entire defence, and Kanu joined in scoring the third. The home side had one shot – and that came from a Lee Dixon error. Arsenal went off to an ovation from the home fans at the interval.
But this was summer in Scotland, so it poured with rain all through the second half. Arsenal controlled the match and looked for all the world as if they were told to take it easy, either to avoid injury on the slippery surface, or to be respectful to the home club.
Thierry Henry hit the crossbar with a 25 yard free kick and Freddie Ljungberg and Kanu went close but there were no more goals.
Seaman (Manninger HT),
Dixon (Demel 68), Luzhny, Adams, Silvinho (Cole 68);
Lauren, Ljungberg, Viera (Malz 68), Pires (Parlour HT);
Henry (Wreh 68), Kanu.
There was one more game – a 7-0 away win over Stevenage Borough, and that was that for the pre-season.
And so as usual we ask, what happened next?
Roger, Ian and I decided to go to Sunderland’s new stadium of light for the opening game on 19 August 2000, and it was only as we entered the city that we each asked the other if anyone had any idea where the new stadium was. We all knew Roker Park, but the new place? No. We couldn’t even see floodlights on the skyline.
Eventually we saw a guy driving a car with a Sunderland sticker on the back windscreen. We followed him for 20 minutes, but unfortunately he was just going to work.
We did find it, we got in decent time, and had very good seats – although uncomfortably close to the baying hordes of the locals. I wasn’t too overwhelmed by their concept of segregation. Seaman came out with a pony tail for the first time, and we lost 1-0.
We recovered and were unbeaten in the next seven, including
- 21 August 2000: Arsenal 2 Liverpool 0
- 26 August 2000: Arsenal 5 Charlton 3
- 9 September 2000: Bradford City 1 Arsenal 1 (the three of us on the road again and my first trip to Bradford’s ground, and I remember parking on what appeared to be a bit of urban wasteland close to the ground and admiring the Victorian architecture of the city).
- 1 October 2000: Arsenal 1 Man U 0.
Thus once more we were up and running and the nights drew in.