My ‘The Arsenal and Me’ is quite an ironic one, my Dad’s side of the family were all born and raised around the Angel, Islington, most of them supported Arsenal, with a few supporting that lot from N17 – my Grandad was one of them! He would take my Dad with the rest of the family to Sp*rs one week, then Arsenal the next (I’m told that’s what most North London families used to do), anyway it was 1955 or so before my Dad stopped going to Sh*te Hart Lane, after an Arsenal win in the North London Derby (nothing’s changed!) and continue to go to Arsenal Stadium every week as oppose to every other week.
So my ‘Arsenal and Me’ began with my Dad and his family, I was born, and still live in Newcastle, where my Mum’s family are from, of course they all support ‘The Toon’ so it was a struggle for my Dad to get me in Red & White, but he did and I will never thank him enough for it, because supporting The Arsenal has brought me so many great memories (and some bad ones too). I didn’t get off to a great start, my first game was the FA Cup Final in 2001, which unfortunately we lost, but it was before the game when I was in tears. My Dad spotted John Barnes walking around Cardiff and asked him for photograph, I was about to take the photo when a plastic chair aimed at Barnes came flying from a pub full of Gooners and hit a 7 year old kid on the head – me, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to watch every match I could, and to the ‘Arsenal fan’ who threw that chair, I’ll get you back one day!
Nearly every week I would ask “Dad when are we going to Highbury?” he quickly drilled into me that it was “Arsenal Stadium” and not “Highbury”. I knew because of where we lived, it was difficult to take me, but he finally did in 2003 against Fulham, he organised with an old mate of his for me to have a look around the changing rooms before the match, I had a picture with both Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry’s boots and then went to watch my team, later I found out that his ‘old mate’ was only Bob Wilson! I went to a few games here and there, mostly ones local to me (Newcastle, Sunderland or Middlesbrough) as well as the 2005 FA Cup Final, but it wasn’t really until we moved to The Soulless Bowl that I followed them properly, we’d been on the Season Ticket waiting list since the start and finally got one 5 years ago. Now I travel from the North East to every Away game and every other Home game to watch The Arsenal, into Europe as well. There’s a word I’ve seen mentioned in a few of these stories that stands out for me, ‘family’ and that’s exactly what it is. There’s nothing like seeing your mates, having a few beers and supporting the boys in the famous red and white.
If anyone’s wondering, the ironic part of this whole story is, had Arsenal lost the NLD in 1955, I probably would be a T*ttenham fan…but they didn’t and I’m not!