The Arsenal and Me – Mark’s Story

My first Arsenal game was in 1968 when my dad took me to Highbury to see a game against WBA which I think we won 2-1. I remember he always took me when Man Utd came to town and they always seemed to win (nothing changes). Because I was so small I used to have a little stool that I stood on against the barriers, wouldn’t be allowed now.

The first big game I went to was the League Cup final in 1969 against Swindon. Wembley was an absolute mud heap because in them days they used to have The Horse of the Year show there and we must of had bad weather when it was on. The only memory I have as an 8 year old was Bobby Gould getting an equaliser in the last minute and running towards our end and everyone going mad. But as we know Swindon won 3-1 in extra time and in the car ride back to High Wycombe Dad and his friends were doing the normal complaining (something we all pick up).

The following year we made the Fairs Cup final against Anderlecht. We lost the first leg 3-1 away but the 2nd leg was a huge night. We stood down the lower west at the North Bank end with my trusty stool. My sister and brother Brian stood on the North Bank. He had one leg in plaster and a DM on the other (more of my brother later) It turned into a great night and I think my dad knew we were going to win. The result was 3-0 and the atmosphere was electric.The following year was the Double year. I don’t remember much but I do remember the Cup Final.

Outside Wembley my dad got me Francis Lee’s autograph in my programme which I took to school to show off. The day was a great day. Everyone were in red,white,yellow and blue. ITV had a competition to rival Liverpool’s ‘You’ll never walk alone” It was “Good old Arsenal we’re proud to sing that name” If you are old enough you will remember the rest. Anyway everyone’s memory is the Charlie George goal but my greatest memory was Frank McLintock coming up to our end at the end of normal time and urging us to sing louder. Even when Steve Heighway scored for them we still out-shouted the kop and the rest is history. The following year we signed Alan Ball with his white boots (shock horror) and it was back to Wembley again but not to be.

After that year I think my dad stopped going for some reason and when we signed Malcolm McDonald, my brother, because he was old enough started going again on the train to a few home games. I started to go with him and times were not that good with crowds about 20,000 and the signing of Willie Young who kept making mistakes and it ended with the North Bank chanting “Go back to Tottenham” But things did turn around with our youth policy of Brady,O’Leary and Stapleton and a couple of good signings in Pat Jennings and Alan Sunderland and of course Willie Young who turned into an effective centre half and a cult hero!!!

We made the first of our 3 cup finals and we made a big yellow and blue banner with “Arsenal FA Cup Winners 1978” written on it. No one told Ipswich they were supposed to lose.That year was also famous for the 5-0 win down the road. We had seats behind the goal and little did I realise the impact of that Liam Brady goal would have on my life 25 years later. Funny thing was 2 days later WBA played us at Highbury and for the first 20 minutes Cunningham and Regis played some of the best football I have ever seen and were 2-0 up. That brought us down to earth. The other great memory from that season was the League Cup Quarter Final replay at home to Man City. We won 1-0 with a Brady penalty.

The crowd was 57,000 and the atmosphere on the North Bank was something else! The following year I started to go to away games and joined “The Arsenal Travel Club” and went everywhere by train. Again we had a good cup run and we made a slight change to our banner and turned the 8 into a 9. We tempted fate and took it to all the Cup games. The best memory was the 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest (when they were a good team). They were all over us and Pat Jennings saved everything with all parts of his body except his hands and I am sure they hit the woodwork too.

Then in the 80th minute we had a free kick and we had 3 up for the cross. We were playing for a draw and I said to my brother what’s the point. But guess what it reached one of our heads and it was 1-0. I turned to Brian and said our name is on the cup. Again we got to Wembley and again everyone were in red,white,yellow and blue and we had that great song “She wore a yellow ribbon”.

We were all over Man U and at half time at 2-0 I was predicting a 5-0 win. But as we know they got one back and I will always remember their equaliser as it slid into the corner of the goal in slow motion. I collapsed in tears and couldn’t bear to watch any more. Brian tried to console me but it was my first full year of home and away and I was totally gutted. Then a couple of minutes later he pulled me up by the shirt collar and I was just in time to see the Graham Rix cross for Alan Alan Sunderland and we went mad. The cup was ours. We were even thinking of the league the following season. Even in them days we were going to buy everyone and bought no one.

So season 1979-80 was a huge one for me. I said to myself that I was going to see every game that year. Little did I know it was going to turn into a 70 game season with all the cup games. It started off with a day on the coast at Brighton and I proudly took my banner with “FA Cup winners 1979” with me. Now it was sewed onto a Union Jack. We won 4-0 and there were chants of “We gonna win the league” Things were looking good.

This season was my first taste of away European football. I did the long coach trip to East Germany behind the Iron Curtain to Magdeburg. It was like going back to when Spurs last won the league . Everything seemed so long ago and in black and white. A very drab place to live. Next was a week off work and the ferry to Sweden to see a boring 0-0 draw in minus weather. We won the first leg 5-1 so only “loyal” and “idiot” fans made the trip. Let’s be honest it had now become an addiction. They tell me now the addiction is drugs. I’m glad mine was Arsenal. Next was the big semi final against the all powerful Juventus.

The first leg at Highbury was a 1-1 draw so all they needed was a 0-0 draw at home to go through to the final on away goals. In those days that was a guarenteed victory for an Italian side so we had no chance. I went by coach and my banner was proudly put up in the back window. Everyone loved it. When we got there we were told to keep a low profile and wear no colours as the Italians were out to get us. There were only a couple of hundred of us in a crowd of 80,000. After getting off the coach at the stadium we were walking together with no colours when one gooner saw some red and white check flags (left overs from Liverpool Euro win) and decided to buy one. We all pulled our colours out and bought a few flags and went to the game. While it was 0-0 we were okay but when Paul Vassen (RIP) scored the winner at the end we were sitting targets.

At the end of the game they threw whatever they could at us and we were stuck in a stairway. For someone who wasn’t one of the boys who would go in the other end it was quite a scary situation but eventually we were saved by the riot police. I remember a few of the “boys” who I recognised didn’t look too comfortable at the time. But we lived to fight another day and Brussels here we come!!!! On the domestic front we were always a couple of players short to challenge for the title but we were a good cup side.

A couple of games I do remember was going to Spurs just before our Cup Semi finals.In those days there wasn’t the squads we have now so we put a few reserves in. It was the game Paul Davis made his debut. We won 2-1 and the next home game the north bank came out with the song “We beat Spurs with 6 reserves and Alan (Sunderland) scored again” Great times. Another memory was the Friday night trip to Everton which we won 1-0. Coming from High Wycombe Brian and I had to spend the early morning in London.Then we made our way to Highbury to queue up for semi final tickets for the FA Cup semi final against Liverpool. The funny thing was the people at the front of the queue were there before we left to go to Everton. Who were the real fans?????? New Years Day at Southampton away was another difficult obstacle but where there’s a will there’s a way.

After a big night on the booze till about 3am I had to be up at 6am for the 45 minute walk to High Wycombe station to catch the first train to London (Marylebone) then the tube to Waterloo and the special to Southampton for a 11am kick off at the worst ground ever. Like I said before who needs drugs when you got The Arsenal. Back to the FA Cup. In the fifth round we played Bolton away. The train was late for some reason and we turned up at 3-20pm. The score was 1-1 and that was the final score and we missed both goals. By the time I got back to High Wycombe it was 11pm. Please someone help me with my addiction!!!!

By the time we got to the semi final v Liverpool things were hotting up. We were on for the cup double The first semi against Liverpool was at Hillsborough and we nearly didn”t make it. Our van lost its windscreen on the way up and it was a very noisy and slow trip with a plastic one from the service station. Again another long trip with no goals and it took 4 games to finally beat Liverpool with a 1-0 win at Highfield Road (Coventry) What a great night that was and how I kept getting away with time off work who knows. I couldn’t afford to do it now. So we were in 2 finals.I said to my brother we will win both or lose both. We know what happened and the trip home from Brussels was a big downer. By then I had been to 64 out of 68 games for the season and I just couldn’t face going to Wolves and Middlesborough away both midweek. I know not a real fan!!! Just totally disappointed.

After that season I became a home fan only again with the occasional away game. The memory is not too good about this time but I do remember I was becoming a reasonable club cricketer and The Arsenal was interfering with this so I decided to stop going.They say if you can play sport then give it your best shot because you are a long time retired. Also Brian and I used to stand with some older gentlemen in the North Bank and we ended up drinking with them at The White House (I think) before the game. Each game we were getting later and later for the kick off and in the end we decided to knock it on the head because we were going up to London just for a few beers. My next memory was winning the league at Anfield. A few of us Gooners were at someones house watching the tv.

I will always remember Liverpool kicking off after we scored the second goal. It was like every Liverpool player had just been told that their mother,wife and child had just been killed. If every Arsenal player had walked off the pitch Liverpool did not have the energy to score.

Then in 1990 a big change in my life happened. Although I played cricket for High Wycombe I toured Australia with Uxbridge Cricket Club and returned home and applied to emigrate. Being single and 29 I thought why not. In those days football hardly existed in Australia.

When we won the Cup Winners Cup I got up to watch it but it was in delay but by then Brian rung me celebrating so I knew the result. He wasn’t to know but then we never had pay tv .As time wore on I became more financial in my new country and could finally afford pay tv. Suddenly the addiction was back and my Aussie wife didn’t get it. Every game in Australia is live and when there is multiple games you press the red button and away you go. I was now watching more games than when I lived in England.

I think the first year was The Invincibles year that I got to see almost every game. 3pm kick off is 11pm and I hate the 4pm Sunday games because it is midnight in Perth Western Australia. And when we play Champions League I have to get up at 3am. In the last 10 years I have seen more of Arsenal than when I lived in England. With the internet and pay tv I like to think I am up to date as anyone is and also I have served my Arsenal apprenticeship by going to enough games.
Four and a half years ago I went back to England for my mums 80th birthday.

Brian (bless him) organised a trip around The Emirates with Charlie George. What a great experience. I was impressed by the stadium but yet to experience “The Library” I am proud to say Brian has a son Craig who is a gooner and after 3 girls I finally produced a boy. Yes he is a Gooner too. Did he have a choice?????? Football is catching on over here now. My boy goes to school and yes you guessed it they are all Man Utd and Liverpool fans. He wanted to change sides but I kept convincing him to stand firm and he is loving it now we are top of the league. He is almost 11 years old and has always had an Arsenal top. My surname is Adams and his name is (yes 25 years later) Brady. Yes I have a son named after 2 Arsenal legends. A proper Gooner

I like to finish on a funny story. It happened 5 years ago when we drew 4-4 with you know who. I got up at 4am (i think) to watch the game and at 4-2 with a couple of minutes left I was ready to walk out of the door and go to work a very happy man. We know what happened next and when the equaliser went in I was effing this and effing that and slamming doors and my Aussie wife had a go at me. She said the children can hear your language and its “only a game of football”. I shouted at her “ what do you mean,it’s only a game. It’s more than a game,YOU GOT NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT IT MEANS”. With that I stormed out of the house with this Arsenal addiction truly in control of my life.

If you would like to tell your Arsenal story, click here


1 thought on “The Arsenal and Me – Mark’s Story

  1. Iceman

    Perfect! Sounds like a re-run of my experiences. I vividly remember that City QF at Highbury as I was nearly crushed in the massive crowd! Fond memories that never wane. And now, the passion is still as strong as ever.



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