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  1. Happy birthday Ascb, happy birthday to you 20 years, eh? Where has it all gone? Well, let me tell you. It has gone to creating the best supporters club in Bulgaria and credit must go to all the luminaries who have had an active part in building, attracting and creating a gathering of like minds to yes, push for the Arsenal, but also show a side of Bulgaria that few outside probably ever see. This is the joy, the respect, the fun, the friendships, the looking after each other - and that connection that binds all Bulgarians, that they are the plucky underdogs who can do it when it really matters. Alan forges a background at the Sports Academy Never was this more emphasised than on our weekend programme to welcome the legendary Alan Smith. On Friday night in the Sports Academy in Dianabad there was an ambitious schedule of events including a quiz that was worked on intensively by several members but that was discarded in favour of a party to celebrate us coming together from all parts of Bulgaria. A good time is what matters. One nil to the Alan Smith But then on the Saturday night the carnival switched focus to our star guest, Alan Smith, and a superb celebration of his football life was the centrepiece of the night. Questions were fired at him and he responded articulately and well, and it was rounded off by a video soupçon of his best moments to which the crowd roared, sang and cheered and added to the party atmosphere. It was raucous but always fun. And did I mention that Alan scored the critical first goal against Liverpool in 1989 and the only goal against Parma in the European Cup Winners Cup? Great cheers erupted as the goals sailed in. A huge crowd had a fantastic night If Friday was the party, Saturday was the culmination of a massive amount of organisation in which so many things happened and all worked out effortlessly. Bulgarians can do it, you know. From the initial birthday celebrations to the Alan Smith spectacle and onto the birthday cake (very tasty) and the raffles of which the biggest cheer came when our chairman Georgi Stoyanov won the main prize. Cries of Mafia rang around the hall good-humouredly but Joro laughed in good-hearted embarrassment. Alan dealt with everything put in front of him with a smile There was lots of kids and families there, most wearing Arsenal colours and dancing and shaking their bodies at a night we will recall forever. My attempt at an Bulgarian iconic style Alan Smith A huge amount of credit must go to Alan Smith. He turned up both nights where he stood for selfies and chatted and signed everything that was put in front of him. A very decent man, very willing to do his bit to make everything a time to remember. We will never forget his grace, poise and good humour, and he has now become a Bulgarian icon as well. Maybe we should do a picture of him in that famous Bulgarian iconic style as a commemoration? The best supporters club anywhere It is an enormous undertaking to persuade a football star to come to Bulgaria. The money involved including flights and accommodation is difficult to secure considering the money that they can get from events in their own home patch, but I suspect that Alan and his bubbly wife Penny had a great time as well, as I know they were surprised by the level of support in Bulgaria for the Arsenal by the knowledge, sheer passion, and enthusiasm shown, and, along with the level of fun and respect presented may make it easier in future to entice others to come. I will certainly try to get him to persuade others to give Bulgaria a go. They won’t forget it. The voice has come alive I have a confession to make, when I wrote the text for the programme I made an assumption that a lot of our fans would have little knowledge of Alan Smith considering he retired almost thirty years ago. But I underestimated the power of gaming. His many years with EA Sports Fifa has made his voice his calling card among the youth. All the younger people there knew him for his voice as he co-commented with Martin Tyler for all their epic tilts at titles as they tried to manipulate themselves to the top. Alan Smith was with them for endless hours as they pushed their teams to win long into the night. They knew who he was alright. The voice is real I suspect meeting the real person behind that voice must be an even bigger thrill than meeting him as I know him as a footballer and critic/commentator. There are lots of footballers, pundits and commentators but only two were with you in your bedroom as you battled your teams to the trophy. My partner in crime on this blog Dani Georgiev with some random footballer It all means that ASCB got it right with Alan Smith. He is a link to our second coming under George Graham, he was there almost from the start as the Sky revolution of football kicked off which brought with it football 24/7, technology at every corner, and the Premier League beamed to every round of the globe. And, of course, he had a personal foot and head in many of our greatest days. The Bulgarian way is best ASCB got the person right and they got the weekend right. It was done the Bulgarian way, with a cock-up included (but maybe that quiz will happen another night?) however they pulled off a truly great time for everyone and that is what matters. Lots of the culprits who have made ASCB what it is I give thanks in extremis to all involved, too numerous to mention, but we have set a benchmark now and I can’t wait for the day we pull off the biggest coup of all in Arsene Wenger. We can do anything, we are ASCB. So thanks very much, Alan Smith, you are our football star, our commentating expert, and to the younger crew, the voice that accompanied them through their formative years. And you are always welcome.
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