I came from a family with no interest in football. I was at primary school it was 1971 and cup final time. Everyone was supporting one of the teams and I choose Arsenal for no reason that I can remember. I do remember the final. The only televised game of the year. Crying when we went behind and then Charlie George. How many people became hooked after that lying on their back re-enact ing the goal. That moment shaped my football life. The period after that has been better and more eloquently discussed than I ever could by Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch. Odd Cup finals few highlights and not much success was my childhood. There was of course Liam Brady. The highlight of a mediocre side, a joy every time you saw him play and probably still my favourite all time player. A left foot that could do anything. Only Thierry of Arsenal players since have created that same buzz of excitement in the crowd every time he touched the ball expectantly waiting for him to deliver.
After years of mediocrity came George Graham. My first Wembley final was Charlie Nicholas Littlewoods Cup 1987. What a day that was. It showed we were on the up and finally heading for titles and proper success. In my mind it was the moment we overtook Liverpool and that has continued to this day. Obviously the later frustrations of losing to Luton (terrible day that was) although we laughed about how hopeless Gus Cesar was even on the day.
We all then have great memories of Anfield 1989 and then later Wenger’s early years. Finally league titles.The move to The Emirates has been a joy and a frustration but like Charlie Nicholas Littlewoods Cup perhaps the time has finally come when we will challenge again. Shame that the Birmingham final happened when we were overdue a trophy unlike Luton when it happened after a success.
The greatest thing that Arsenal has given me apart from the stress and the upset is the memories. My first Arsenal game with George Armstrong running up and down the wing in front of me. Getting the train to Highbury aged 15. Standing at Middlesbrough as Martin Hayes scored the winner running terrified back to the car as we thought that we would be murdered, my nephews first game with Ian Wright scoring, standing in the rain at Charlton and my then girlfriend and now wife looking at me saying she loved me and was never coming again, a College night watching Charlie Nicholas (again)scoring at Villa Park in an evening match. There were the joys of Denis and Thierry and despite my move to the North East I have managed plenty of memories. The Invincibles, our last Cup Final with my 3 year old twins lifting pretend Cups and Thierry’s final Arsenal goal at The Stadium of Light. Now we get to see Ozil and Jack Wilshire who I really hope will get fit get better and become a legend. No reason why not.
My first real boss was an Arsenal fan. Came up at the interview and probably helped me get the job. Also made my boss a friend as we often talked football.
My best mate is a United fan and got me a ticket with him for the Old Trafford 8-2 humiliation. After our heaviest post war defeat I managed to run into the back of a United fans car on the way out of the car park. Typical United fan was on his way back to South London. Cost me £1800 in total to watch that. and pay for car repairs. It’s almost funny now and a memory to let my children laugh at me for.
The thing I like most is that if we have a triumph or disaster people think of me. I often get calls after/before big games and when we sit at the top of the league I know that friends and family around the country with only a passing interest in football pass a thought my way. When I die I expect and know that my children will do the same after an Arsenal win and raise a glass my way celebrating. Raise a memory to me.
I have got no less obsessive as I have got older even though I forget about losses more quickly now. I remain impossibly pessimistic.Twitter lets me watch other fans thoughts and laugh at those forever in our shadow and minding the gap more than is probably healthy. But the die has been cast for far too long now. Arsenal and me are stuck together. No doubt about it Charlie George changed my life.