My father was a docker back in the 70’s and worked a lot of shifts in those days and although he played football with me when he could he could never really take me. He did take a Saturday off one miserable Saturday afternoon and as a five year old boy took me to a rain drenched Cold Blow Lane in the old Dockers stand at Millwall.
Needless to say, the pitch was sodden the football not great and the language was not what a 5 year old boy should be hearing.
My dad though, was one of them. He knew lots of folks around the ground and had laughs with them all. Me however, sat on the bars at the Old Den watching this miserable game v Carlisle soggy wet was nearly enough to put me off going again.
Oh the game… well that finished 1-0 to Millwall with an injury time winner. Me and my dad? Yes we missed it as he wanted “a quick piss” before leaving…
My mother on the other hand wasn’t a staunch Arsenal fan but her 4 brothers were and were all season ticket holders in the West Stand (2 still are). My mothers parents died when she was 13 due to various illnesses and was the youngest of 4.
Her brothers, my uncles were 5-15 years older and all worked. My mother had to go to school, come home cook them dinner and wash and iron their shirts to earn her keep in the house… gradually they all moved away when my mum met my dad.
This brings me onto the Arsenal part and me (I know it’s taken a while). The eldest of my uncles took me to Arsenal v Ipswich in 79 in which I think was a 1-1 draw. I don’t remember much but I think Mariner scored for Ipswich. Score didn’t matter.. game didn’t matter.. I was Arsenalised.
My Uncle knew it would happen. you’ve all seen fever pitch when a young lad walks out of the West stand gobsmacked. That was me. Sold
From then on I would pester my uncles to take me games not realising it would mean one of them giving up their tickets for me to go. However, this didn’t stop my closest uncle taking me every other week to the reserve games. Proper adult football with the likes of Sparrow, Devine et al in front of just the east stand hundreds. I just loved it, watching the trains go past opposite and hearing the echo’s of players shrieking to eachother was magic. I remember a reserve game against Man U where Pearson who was kind of a star for them was playing and both stands had to be opened…. I was in love with the ground.
I found myself bragging at primary school where I’d been and brought programmes in to show my schoolmates (even when my uncle gave me a programme to games I’d never been).
I went to about 10 games a season from about 80-85 not really remembering many. Those I did remember was the days when the crowds were packed and hatred spilling around the ground. Tottenham….. I remember an Alan Sunderland turn and goal in the clock end and the berating of Spurs fans. That moment I fucking hated Spurs… don’t even know why, I was only 7-8.
My uncle took me to away games and the semi in 83 against Utd at Villa park and remember as we got in a burly Utd fan in our section with “you’ll never beat Utd” ringing in my ears. I was 9… I hated Utd now. I watched and marvelled as Petrovic played like a wizard in the first half and Woodcock scored….
I had a bad feeling and sat through the second half with my fingers crossed looking down hoping the time would tick away. Alas no, a goal from Robson and Whiteside made me hate that big fat burly Utd fan more. And Utd
Many more dross games passed and my enthusiasm got better. Pretending to be Rix (I still have my Rixy is magic scarf) at every opportunity.
Anyway in 1986 my Uncle bought me a Junior gunners season ticket for £54. I loved that he did that for me and worshipped my big season ticket book. Every game from then I’ve been too (work permitting) at home and am still a season ticket holder to this day. Anyway, the glory years of early GG I took in as an oldr teenager and really hit me more about the game. 89 Anfield will live with me forever. I was an home in my bedroom watching. With 10 mins to go I turned over to watch Cheers. I say watch but was just hoping that my Mum would come up and tell me it’s all ok. I was so sad I wanted to cry… as Cheers rolled on I heard my mum going ballistic downstairs clapping frantically.. I turned over and just had “how they’d both love to get out there” referring to GG and KD… however as it was injury time the scores had come off the screen…. I had no idea.Then..then the whistle blew and Quinny and Miller were going bonkers on the bench. I ran down and my Mum just grabbed me crying…. (making me quiver writing this).. great times. Kids from school ringing my home number to congratulate me as if it were me… I think they just knew my passion, my love.
My Uncle then bought me a 10 year Bond in the NB in the early 90’s where apart from the cup double win we did endure a lot of mediocrity..
My Uncle took me more and more away games and went Copenhagen with him for the final. We knew we would win just with our defence.
I always met before the games in the Bank of Friendship with my uncle for years and always went away games with him even if mates were coming.
We had to endure Rioch but the magic of Bergkamp’s signing… then all these rumours about a bloke called Arsene and the famous headlines of Arsene Who?
My uncle and me debated for ages and my uncle who had been going since 53 didn’t think much of it. I couldn’t convince him otherwise.
Just for a second whether you are Arsene In or Out right now. Not knowing football from That season to now and how much Arsene changed Arsenal into a dreamy football team. Just stop and think about if we’d got Frank Clark instead what life would be like.
I imagine this everyday. I got up on the Saturday getting ready for Blackburn away in 1996 in to what was Arsene’s first game.
My Uncle died on this day….
Every day I miss him and wish he’d seen one of Arsene’s teams winning.
Whether you are for or against him right now, you are privileged to have seen his teams.
My Uncle would have been.