Boxing day 1978.
Arsenal 1 West Brom 2.
A wide eyed 9 year old sat in the east upper watching his first match at Arsenal was probably the happiest person in the stadium. Yes it was me and I didn’t care that we had lost because Liam Brady had scored our goal. Ok, it was a penalty but it was Liam Brady!
Growing up in Holloway I was only going to support one team. The Arsenal, but having a father who despised football I had to do it off my own back, although the 78,79 & 80 cup finals helped.
Decorating my bedroom window with pictures from the Islington Gazette & Evening Standard and rosettes started becoming as regular as putting up Christmas decorations. It was an Uncle with a spare season ticket who took me to that first match and I had to wait just over 2 years for my next match when I started going with friends at the ripe old age of 11! It seems strange these days to think of that but its what lots of kids did. Some of the kids round the estate used to just go up there for the last 15 minutes when they opened the gates to get in free but I would dig deep into my pocket money & cough up the 90p to get in the schoolboys.
That was it then every other Saturday (yes Saturday) and through the 80’s I done the Arsenal apprenticeship of schoolboys, North Bank, Clock End and when seating came in West Lower. We didn’t go because we thought Arsenal would win a trophy or challenge for the title, we went to watch the Arsenal.
It went deeper than just football. Some games were spent crowd watching and as a teenager growing up the best fashion trends of the 80’s would be seen on the Clock End on a Saturday afternoon. Items that were hard to come by or not on sale in Holloway sports would be looked at in awe. Some of the older lads were the smartest dressed supporters in the country.
To todays fans, winning the league cup means very little but back in 1987 it meant the world to me. After going Arsenal for the best part of 7 years I finally got to see them win something and a first trip to Wembley. No memberships or away credits needed then, just queue up after a match with a voucher from the turnstile. Even that great day couldn’t compare to what happened 2 years later and I was lucky enough to have a ticket for Anfield 89. The best football match I’ve ever been to and I don’t think I will ever see anything like it again. You can’t put into words the feeling of being there that night.
I used to love going to Highbury and the whole match day experience. I would walk to Highbury via a pub when I was old enough (well nearly old enough) passing Arthur Daley type ticket touts ‘I’ve got seats upstairs’, the smell of horseshit, hamburgers’ and cigars all rolled into one, the reassuring click of the turnstile, then you were in. Some of the most funniest things I’ve heard in my life are comments that were shouted from the terraces. You can’t explain the pandemonium that hits a terrace when a goal is scored compared to todays cheer clap and then take a photo.
The 90’s were great and some of the players Arsenal had you would only dream about as a boy. But things were changing, all seating really hit atmosphere’s at games & it started becoming harder to get tickets, and then every game became all ticket and memberships arrived.
The trophies I’ve seen Arsenal win has been unbelievable and if you would have told me when I was standing on the Clock End in the pissing rain watching a 0-0 bore draw v Birmingham or the night we lost to Walsall at home I wouldn’t have believed it.
I still go to the odd game now and again but I have been priced out and feel I’ve been taken for granted and I’m not a fan of the new stadium but that’s the way it is now.
I’ll always be Arsenal through and through, it doesn’t just go away.