I was born in Islington in 1947 and my dad took me to my first game at Highbury in 1954 aged 7. From that day on I was a Gooner. He took me to more and more games until in my teenage years I was going to every home game and many away. I was at Highbury for the last game the Busby Babes played before the tragic Munich air disaster in 1958 and had to suffer watching Spurs do the double in 1961. I used to wait outside Highbury for many hours to get players autographs and thought all the players were heroes.
As history will tell you my teenage years were barren as regards Arsenal winning trophies. Every new season I lived in hope but no trophies came for 17 years (So the last 8 years doesn’t seem so bad to me). However thanks to my dad I did have one spectacular football moment. He got us tickets for every game England played in the 1966 World Cup including the final. It was one of the greatest days of my life. I still have the ticket stubs for the final and a couple of the other games. The ticket price for the final was ten shillings (50p in new money). How times have changed!
As my teenage years ended suddenly Arsenal’s fortunes started to change but I still had to wait a little longer to see Arsenal win a trophy. My 21st birthday came and the day before it I went to Wembley for my first ever Arsenal final. It was 2nd March 1968 unfortunately we lost 1-0 to Leeds in the League Cup Final. Some 21st birthday present! Still the following year Arsenal reached the League Cup Final to face Swindon who were two divisions below. At long last I was going to see Arsenal win a trophy. What happened? A guy called Don Rogers and a very muddy pitch caused Arsenal all sorts of problems and we lost 3-1.
I began to despair of ever seeing Arsenal win a trophy but in 1970 it happened. We won the European Fairs Cup at Highbury by beating Anderlecht 3-0 and winning the cup 4-3 on aggregate. I think that was one of the loudest crowds I ever heard at Highbury. The following year every Arsenal fans dream came true. We won the double. I went to nearly every game home and away that year and was lucky enough to get in at White Hart lane to see us win the league. One of my friends was on the pitch before the game finished and I can honestly say “I danced on the pitch at White Hart Lane”. The days following that game are a blur of drunken celebration culminating at Wembley to see us beat Liverpool for the double.
However half way through the 1970/71 season I promised my then girlfriend I would marry her if Arsenal won the double. She kept me to it and the following year on 11th November 1972 (Yes Armistice Day which means I never forget our anniversary) we got married. I laid down one rule “I would go to football whenever and wherever I want and don’t ever query it”. To my wife’s credit she has kept her side of the bargain to this day.
However I have to own up to doing something on my wedding day which I very much doubt any other Arsenal fan has done. I went to watch Spurs play at White Hart Lane. Let me explain. The wedding took place at Finsbury Town Hall in the morning and after everyone went to my wife’s parent’s house for drinks etc. Trouble was everyone was starting to get drunk and we had a big function in the evening so we had to stop. We said what can we do for the afternoon and someone said let the men go to football. As my wife’s family were Spurs fans and they were at home that’s where we ended up. About 15 blokes and one bottle of whisky went off to the game. Spurs however did not let me down. They drew 1-1 with West Brom (Arsenal one away at Wolves that day 3-1).
From 1971 onwards Arsenal’s fortunes were up and down. I watched them lose to Leeds, Ipswich and West Ham and beat Manchester United in the FA Cup final. My wife and I had three children, two boys and a girl who are now all grown up and who are of course all fanatical arsenal fans. Their teenage years were so much different to mine as Arsenal had an unprecedented period of success. We could not get tickets to Anfield in 1989 but were at Old Trafford when Wiltord scored to win the league and my son was at Spurs when we won the league there for a second time. I also took the boys to Copenhagen when we defeated Palma and they still say that those three days were some of the best of their lives. The boys went again to Copenhagen without me when we played Galatasery and thankfully came back unscathed.
Then came the Arsene Wenger era and of course my family and I have enjoyed the success he has brought the club. Myself, my sons and daughter, and my wife (Yes she has taken the view if you cannot beat them join them) have season tickets in the lower tier of the East Stand sitting with friends of mine who were at that game at Spurs on my wedding day. My sons still go to some away games but I don’t anymore except for one game each year, Fulham away (I love having those beers by the river). I now have two grandsons who are very young but my son is making sure they are brought up the right way as Arsenal fans.
Hope you have enjoyed my story. I could go on for ages but have tried to keep it brief. Do I ever regret the day my dad took me to Highbury all those years ago? No I have enjoyed every minute even the bad moments. I always believe that you have to suffer the bad times to truly enjoy the good.
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Brought a tear to my eye and a few bad memories. Love your passion not seen so much in corporate stadiums now days and your story that echos mine but from a alternative position on the Shelf. From a Spurs fan