We were given an opportunity to interview Lee Dixon, Amy Lawrence, Alan Smith and David O’Leary before the world premiere of 89, the film documenting Arsenal’s victory over Liverpool at Anfield in 1989.
Andy, from our friends over at The Arsenal History went along, this is his blog.
If you’re an Arsenal fan you’ve probably seen plenty of publicity around the new film “89” that recounts the story of THAT night at Anfield 28 years ago. Today I was lucky enough to be involved in a roundtable Q&A session with some of the stars of the film, along with a number of other renowned Arsenal bloggers.
The session took place at the Renaissance Hotel in St Pancras. If you’re a Harry Potter fan you will recognise it as the hotel from which Harry & Ron drove their flying car from when they missed the Hogwarts Express. It’s a fantastic building, and I expect the rooms are a little out of my budget.
With everyone having arrived on time we were kept waiting for a while, looking expectantly at every movement further along the corridor. Then Michael Thomas just strolled by. We all looked on incredulously as he gave us a smile, leaving us wondering if it was really him.
We were split into two groups, and each group was ushered into a room – Lee Dixon and Amy Lawrence were already waiting for us. I don’t think any of us knew exactly what we were supposed to be doing but having been told we only had 15 minutes we quickly set about asking questions.
I asked Lee when, following a fairly inconsistent start to the season, the team started to believe that they had a chance of winning the league. Lee said that it wasn’t until around Christmas when they were top that they thought “we’re a long way into the season and still up there so we must be doing something right.” That was a culmination of what they had been practising on the training pitch over a number months starting to come to fruition. By then they had become somewhat fearless; this mixture of one group of talented young kids from London and another of “lower league reprobates” who were keen and hungry, and happy to be disciplined by George Graham because it meant that they were winning.
And as a follow up: did they think that they had cocked it up towards the end of the season as we faltered and Liverpool finished like a steam train? “Most days” was the answer. As they got closer to the prize, fear kicked in. The Derby defeat was big but not too bad as we had Wimbledon at home. However, that draw made them think, “uh-oh” especially as that was pretty much the reaction they felt from the crowd as well. It was at this point that they thought they had messed it up because it was inevitable that Liverpool would beat West Ham leaving them with an almost impossible task.
This led into Amy talking about her experience of going to the game. There was a degree of “maybe we can” amongst the travelling Gooners as they boarded the coaches to Anfield, being cheered off by local schoolchildren and people who may not have been to a game in years, if ever. It seemed strange that they were being wished “good luck” as if the fans were actually going to take part in the game itself.
With our 15 minutes up, Lee and Amy departed, and we were then joined by Alan Smith and David O’Leary. After a couple of questions about big names that had left, the number of centre backs that George Graham bought – possibly in an attempt to replace O’Leary – and the change in tactics towards the end of the season, I asked them if the Hillsborough tragedy had affected them in any way, either personally or professionally.
Smith said that, obviously, the events on the day had upset them and he felt for Kenny Dalglish and his team who attended funeral after funeral in the ensuing weeks. There was also a break of more than two weeks before the next game against Norwich which affected them mentally and physically as they were only ticking over in training. Those two weeks also proved beneficial to Smith as it gave him time to recover from a fractured cheekbone which had been sustained in the game against Manchester United.
As our time came to a close I asked O’Leary if it was worth the wait (it was his 14th season at Arsenal). I’m not sure anyone could ask a more rhetorical question, of course it was worth the wait but he thought that they had blown it after the Derby and Wimbledon games. The final whistle at Anfield was the greatest he had ever heard in his life. I have to say that one of my own recollections of that night was of how chuffed I felt for him as he had stayed loyal to the club despite being courted by the likes of Manchester United.
And then it was all over. I would like to express my thanks to Lee, Amy, Alan and David for a fantastic time and being so candid with their answers, and to She Wore for letting me represent them. An afternoon that I will remember for the rest of my life.