Arsenal comeback show why you should never, ever leave a match early


Do people really leave football matches at half-time?

Sure there were probably a couple of Arsenal fans who cleared off with five minutes to go at 4-2 down against Reading (only for their team to win 7-5 in extra-time). But surely no one in their right mind would leave at 4-0 down in the first half as reported? Indeed, my source on the ground called such reports a "myth", they were off for an early pint.

But there's no doubt that some of football's most remarkable comebacks coincide with some fans' biggest regrets.

I was at Eastlands in May for Manchester City's bonkers 3-2 win over QPR. I didn't notice a soul leave at 1-2 with minutes to go. A handful claimed to have done, though. The Sun found two women who said they were already on the bus home when they heard about City's goals. Supporters of my team have form for this – hundreds left Wembley in 1999 at 2-0 down to Gillingham with minutes left. The story goes that many were only allowed back in after a steward was persuaded by one of their number – a Mr N Gallagher.

It's probably not that common in big games. There wasn't much point in Liverpool fans leaving the Ataturk Stadium at 3-0 down to AC Milan in 2005 if their flights weren't until the morning after. Ditto Manchester United fans in 1999. Though George Best was famously rumoured to have legged it from the Nou Camp when Bayern Munich were still 1-0 up.

Perhaps the best team comeback after a fan walk-out was when a pair of Norwich fans threw their season tickets at manager Bryan Gunn during a 7-1 defeat on the first day of the 2009/10 season. Inevitably Norwich were promoted that year. (And again the next season.)

Sadly, most of the time, being two goals down with five minutes to go usually does mean a defeat and – the odds are – that nipping out before the other 45,000 fans can, especially if you're driving, save you an age.

But for many it's a point of principle not to leave on 85 minutes, it's not just the risk of missing a comeback. With Premier League tickets costing £45-ish, that's £2.50 down the swanny.

And why risk it? There are few things better than a late winner. Unfortunately, for some, one is beating the traffic.

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