I come from a long line of Gooners, stretching back to my grandfathers (on both sides). They supported “The Arsenal” before the 30’s and Herbert Chapman, so they ensured the family blood line remained Gooners. I do have to forgive a cousin who is a spuds fan and an uncle for supporting the red half of Manchester; we can’t all be perfect though.
My earliest memories of seeing The Arsenal are on a black and white TV in the 70’s when most households rented a TV and long before videos were around. I was too young to stay up for Match of the Day back then but would hope to see the goals on Grandstand or ITV’s World of Sport.
My first visit to the sacred halls of Highbury was on the 8th November 1975 for the visit of Derby County, it was my birthday treat and we sat right at the back, high up in the East Stand. I didn’t see us win that day, 1-0 defeat, but did manage to get taken into the bowels of the stand to stand in a bar while my dad and uncle enjoyed a pint or two after the match to let the crowds disperse!
The remainder of the 70’s was supporting from afar, listening to the radio commentaries with an occasional (once or twice a season) visit to Highbury. Radio commentary became the main way I could follow The Arsenal, whether it was score updates or full commentary on a Saturday or week night, whether it was league, cup or European forays.
Along came the 80’s and having got a job straight from school I was able to spend Saturdays standing in the middle of the North Bank with my cousin. We would travel up to Finsbury Park from High Wycombe, park the car on a side street (before permit parking) and walk with the crowds to Highbury. I vividly remember watching what I thought was a drab game against Newcastle in September 85 apart from one David “Rocky” Rocastle stealing the show. As part of my new job, I was sent to college on day release, it just happened the Polytechnic my company sent me to, was the Polytechnic of North London (now the London Metropolitan University) on Holloway Road. I could sit in class, look out the window and see Highbury! As practical lessons were in the evening, guess who bunked off to go to the match if there was a game at Highbury on a Tuesday?
I even took my then girlfriend (now the wife of 20 years) to see the mighty Arsenal; she only ever went to one game – Arsenal v Norwich on 4th November 1989. The huge surge on the North Bank when the second penalty was awarded and when Lee Dixon scored from the spot to give us the 4-3 win. We even managed throw in a mass brawl for her first (and last) visit to Highbury.
The 26th May 1989 was spent in my local sports club, watching the match on a small portable TV, drinking jugs of lager (so we didn’t have to miss anything) with my mates, one of who was a Liverpool fan. The remainder of the weekend is still blurred, that may be down to my age or the copious amounts we drank celebrating.
The barren years followed, I moved to Newcastle and got married, so spent most of my time following from afar, or with the away supporters at St James Park and Roker Park. Thankfully Sky had started so I could catch games live on our new-fangled sky box with the huge dish on the outside wall.
Moving back down South to Bedfordshire in 96 meant I could get to games more often and as soon as my two boys were old enough they were taken to The Emirates to see the team they also support. These days as they are older and more expensive we try to get to see a game when we can and have been to nearly all the Emirates Cups. I occasionally get to use a friends season ticket when he can’t make it, so most of the time now it is Sky, ESPN, Internet streams and the radio if all else fails to see the time I have supported through the good and bad times. I’ve seen the worst Arsenal can offer and the best over many years.