It all started with me walking out of the back entrance of Sutton Dwelling with my older brother, onto College Cross and turning right onto Liverpool road.
Little did I know that this day was to forge a relationship stronger than any wedding vowels ever taken in the history of mankind?
Soon I was walking past the Kings Arms on the corner on Islington Park Street, next came Lewis Buildings and its unique red brickwork, then there was Laycock street where I first went to school, past Highbury Station Road, all landmarks I knew well, but now I was into territory unknown!
The next stop was the ‘Adam and Eve’ pub were my brother was soon shaking hands his with his mates, everyone in the pub had either ‘red and white’ or ‘yellow and blue’ on.
I was soon given a bottle of coke with a straw and a packet of crisps and led to a safe haven towards to the back of the pub where there were many other kids of my age, all grouped around our own little table. We looked nervous, we looked out of place but one thing’s for sure “We were all Arsenal”
I don’t recall how long we stayed in the pub that day nor do I recall our opponents that day, but when we turned onto Drayton Park I was swept away with a wave of ecstasy.
Police horses, coaches, hamburger stalls, programme sellers, stall holders – selling hats, gloves, badges and scarves, I was like a kid in a free sweet shop, I was blown away by the sheer exhilaration of it all, I was in “Utopia”
All the way down Drayton Park I held my brothers hand as proud as punch, I felt at home, I felt safe (Although I was a small 6 year kid amongst thousands)I felt that I was part of this broad church that was soon to be my home for next 25 years or more.
Soon I climbing the steps of the world famous ‘North Bank’ this place was huge, the lush green grass, the massive clock at the other end of the pitch, two identical stands running down the side of the pitch what more could a local Islington boy want on a Saturday afternoon?
We soon took our place, just too right of the goal as you look at the pitch; I was placed on a bar on the lower part of the stand, with the middle gangway some 5 feet behind me.
This was to be my ritual for many years to come, come rain or shine I was there every Saturday we played at home and some of the memories that stand out for me whilst sitting in this place are as follows:
The peanut seller
Sammy Nelson pulling down his pants
Emily Hughes getting whacked on the back by a school kid as he went to retrieve the ball for a throw in, in front of the lower West. He was running down the clock in a league cup game, which we needed to score.
Supper Mac grabbing a hat trick against Newcastle
Liam Brady scoring a sublime free kick on the edge of the box against Sheffield Wednesday at the end of extra time in an FA Cup reply, they were a 3rd division team at the time in the old format.
“You’re going home in a London ambulance”
“Clock end, clock end do your job”
“There’s only one way out”
The Metropolitan Police band at half time, they guy never did drop that baton.
The manual score boards in the corner of the Clock End / Lower West and the North Bank / Lower East and Hereford taking us all the way in a league cup tie.
When I was allowed to go on my own my friends and I moved into the schools boys, then back to the north bank, then onto the clock end before I became a football snob and bought a season ticket in the lower East before buying a bond in the upper North Bank.
Over the years that followed and from various parts of the ground I’ve seen Graham Roberts shove Charlie Nicholas into the stand
Brian Talbot score near on identical free kicks at the clock end against both Newcastle and Liverpool
David Platt donning and Arsenal goal keeper’s shirt whist having to stand in goal for Villa, cues to “You’ll never play for Arsenal”
Dennis Bergkamps first goal for the club against Southampton
Ian Wright with bleached blond hair
Getting knocked out of the FA by Watford
Brain McClair’s penalty miss – For which I am in that picture
My list of memories is endless and when I think back of the old ground and the times I spend their right through to end it brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye.
Sadly my days of going over The Arsenal are limited, but it was a pleasure and something that I would never change nor forget and whenever I am introduced to someone new I gladly tell them “Arsenal is my club”
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