The Arsenal and Me – Paul’s Story

Tuesday 11th May 1999.. a day that changed my footballing life forever..

For 17 and a half years i had been a massive Nottingham Forest fan, enjoying many a day out at Wembely, FA Cup finals, Rumbelows Cup finals, still basking in the glory of being the only team in Europe to have won the European Cup more times than their domestic league.
Then, that fateful Tuesday, a friend of mine at school, a season ticket holder with his dad at Highbury, came into the common room & announced that his dad couldn’t make it to the Arsenal away game up at Elland Road that night and was there any takers? Well, being a die hard football fan i thrust my hand into the air & the ticket was mine.
We made our way up to leeds & I was really excited about the game, it was the first time I´d been to a game that Forest weren´t playing in so I remember thinking that I just wanted to see a bloody good game & I didn´t honestly care about the result. It wasn´t great, Arsenal lost 1-0 to a late Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink goal after Leeds had missed a penalty in the first half & as I left the ground with all the dejected fans, I kind of felt like someone leaving the house of their lover after having cheated on their wife… almost ashamed. The game had been pretty poor but after having seen the likes of Dennis Bergkamp & Patrick Vieira playing, did i really want to go back to my wife at home after having just been with a supermodel?
Of course it wasn´t an instant thing, I still renewed my season ticket at the City Ground & I still was a big Forest fan, but I always found myself checking the Arsenal scores when I got in, being delighted if they´d won & down if they´d lost. Little by little I found myself taking less interest in Forest during the week and more & more interest in how Arsenal had gone on, who they were playing the next weekend, any signings they were making etc..
Within a year or so I´d made the permanent move. I´ll always have a place in my heart for Forest, they´re like a first girlfriend, you never stop thinking about them or wishing them the best but ultimately, you don´t want to spend your whole life with them. Since then I haven’t been to as many Arsenal games as I would have liked. Living in Nottingham, studying in Sheffield & emigrating to Spain hasn’t helped but nowadays whenever I´m in England I try to catch a game. Villa away a couple of Christmases ago, Wigan last Christmas and this summer I’ve been lucky enough to see them play in Japan.
It´s weird because I got/still get loads of abuse from my friends and family, no one could believe what was happening but whenever people ask me about it, to this day (over 14 years since the first seed was planted in my mind) I give the same response.. football is like love, you can’t choose where and with who it takes you..

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