This Summer will mark my 40th anniversary as a Gooner. In that time, I’ve experienced the highs (9 F.A. Cups, 5 League Titles, The Invincibles) and the lows (Piers Morgan giving Trump a personalized jersey). But first, allow me to provide a little backstory. My allegiance began when I was 12 years old during a family vacation to London. There, I bought a pack of trading cards, including one of Pat Jennings — a memento I still cherish like a treasured heirloom. As an American, I had no idea who Jennings or Arsenal was — nor really anything at all about this brand of ‘football’ played without pads, helmets or cheerleaders. But I liked the fierce Arsenal logo and was told they were a top team with a cool-sounding nickname — and that was enough for me! Amusingly, I later learned Pat Jennings actually used to play for another North London team with a ridiculous crest featuring a frail, skinny chicken.
Eventually, I immersed myself in all things Arsenal and the club’s esteemed history, honors and achievements. The legendary names of Chapman, Graham, the “famous Back Four”, and the incomparable Thierry Henry all became part of my Highbury vernacular. I familiarized myself with the songs and traditions, and took immense pride that even punk god, Johnny Lydon bled Gooner blood, too. I soon began collecting Arsenal-themed memorabilia, including rare, vintage tobacco cards and a coveted signed photo of the “hatchet man,” Peter Storey. Books such as Nick Honby’s classic, Fever Pitch, as well as player biographies and football histories have gradually filled my shelves. And for the record, it never fails to move me when I think of the players who lost their lives in world wars, including goalkeeper Bill Dean, who famously declared, “at least I can say I played for Arsenal.”
Well, dear friends, flash forward to 2018 and a chaotic world that becomes seemingly darker with each passing day as Russian villains plot WWIII, a village idiot sits in the White House and Arsenal suffers through another disappointing season. However, as a truly great leader once said, “Never, never, never GIVE UP!” Indeed.
Lastly, although it appears certain we’ll finish no better than 5th this year, the Europa Cup is now tantalizingly within reach, and Aaron Ramsey (“the Welsh Messi”) continues to dazzle with tricks and heel flicks that would make Merlin envious. So fear not, fellow Gooners, history is on our side and we’ll inevitably cheer loudest once again.
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