Happy 80th Birthday to the original Dover Gooner

Me and my family are all Arsenal. We’re now into the third generation. But why? Well that is really quite simple. My Dad, Tim Padfield, is an Arsenal supporter. He was inspired when he was 8 years old and read that Arsenal were wearing gold shirts for the 1950 FA Cup Final. From that day on, despite being born and raised in Dover, he’s considered Arsenal to the greatest football club in the World. Today he celebrates his 80th birthday and I want to pay tribute this Great Man on such a special occasion.

On 5th March 1955 he was taken to Charlton’s Valley to see Arsenal play live for the first time. Jimmy Bloomfield scored Arsenal’s goal that day and Dad can still remember it, such is the impact it had on him as boy. In 2022 he still rarely misses a home game, and does more than his share of away games too. Many of you reading this today will either know or recognise my Dad. He is, to coin a phrase, a “proper Arsenal Man” steeped in the very best traditions of our great club.

My brothers, sister and me have been very fortunate (and now our children are too) to have been born into an Arsenal family. Not just an Arsenal family, but one where our Dad actually went to The Arsenal. Dad and his late friend Gordon “Bushey” Noremac first got their season tickets in 1971 but, along with other mates like John Hawkins-Moseling and Vic Carr, had been going to Arsenal for many years. Dad saw every Arsenal final live in the flesh from 1968 up until his run was ended by the debacle of Arsenal playing Chelsea in Baku. In that time my cousin Russell, brothers Mick and Mark, sister Emma, and now our children have all been taken to Wembley to watch Arsenal. If you want an idea as to how Dad’s support for Arsenal has influenced our family let me tell you that his grandsons are Freddie, Liam, George, Patrick and Charlie. Their names aren’t a coincidence.

I was taken to my first game in 1983 in the East Stand Upper (Dad had taken Bushey’s season ticket when he passed away) and have been a regular ever since, while my brothers (who’d have been just 11 and 8 at the time) were in the North Bank throughout the 80’s. I’m guessing my Mum either wasn’t quite aware, or didn’t understand what football terraces were like. Dad made lifelong friends in the East Upper and we all miss those days. Bob Everett, who sat to Dad’s right, sadly died in 2001 and his son Glenn took his place. To our left were the Goodson family who are still great friends to this day and are also into a 3rd generation of match-going supporters. When we moved from Highbury we were all split up, though it gave the chance for my brothers to move their season tickets next to us, but it’s never quite been the same for Dad.

I mentioned that Dad is a regular at away games, and this was also the case on the European tour of the past 25 years or so. He went everywhere from Moscow in the East to La Corunna in the West, and all points in between. He also attended the pre-season tours of Austria before Arsene Wenger was finally bullied into the corporate far-flung friendlies, and here he made other great friends joined by their love of Arsenal – Tony Hodgson, Keith Martin, Rod Miles, Jerry Quy, Jill Smith, John Williamson, Graham Stubbles, Matteo Scarpellini, Roberto Gionchille, Thomas Fuchs, Max Frey, Baard Hagsett, Andreas Kovacs and many others are firm family friends and followers of The Arsenal from across the continent. Dad holds these friendships very close to his heart and our European friends have been very much missed these past two years.

Many readers will know that Dover has an official supporters club affiliated to Arsenal. The Dover Gooners banner will be familiar to a lot of people. Well my Dad is the original Dover Gooner. Without him we’d never have been inspired to do it, for little other reason than we might not have been Arsenal supporters in the first place, never mind lucky enough to have had season tickets for all these years. We have a great group of Arsenal friends from this town of ours. Gary Cattermole and Bill and David Browning are the other Dover Gooners with whom we’ve travelled far and wide, and not forgetting the dear departed Frank Benn who Dad misses immeasurably but is never far from the conversations when going to and from The Arsenal. The supporters club, through our annual dinner, has also given Dad the opportunity to meet many of his heroes as they have been our guest speakers – Charlie George, Eddie Kelly, Bob Wilson, Frank McLintock, Pat Rice, Sammy Nelson, Peter Marinello, Graham Rix, Brian Talbot, Terry Neill, Martin Hayes, Perry Groves, John Lukic, Tony Adams, Gunnersaurus, the FA Cup and Charity Shield have all been to Dover! None of this would have happened if my Dad wasn’t Arsenal.

I asked my Dad what his favourite moments were from his long Arsenal life and he doesn’t hesitate in saying that the Fairs Cup win in 1970 was the greatest Highbury moment, while being right behind the goal for Charlie George’s winner in 1971 provides another. While he might not say it I think that 2014 and 2017 will be up there as well, sharing those special FA Cup wins as he did with all the generations of his family.

There’s are two particular Arsenal memories of my Dad that stick with me. The first was Anfield 89 which we watched in our living room. I was 10 at the time, probably not quite understanding what it all meant to a degree. But I will always remember what my Dad did as soon as the TV broadcast finished; he went to the phone and rang up his Highbury neighbour Bob Everett. They’d seen it all together over the last 20 years, from Brussells in 1980, to White Hart Lane in 1983 for a League Cup win and riot, and every Highbury occasion in between. Now here they were on 26th May 1989 emotionally celebrating Arsenal’s greatest ever night.

The other thing I will always recall, and it makes me emotional even now to write about it, is the last day at Highbury. When they played the montage of those players who had passed away and asked us to remember our own people, Glen Everett reached his arm round Dad as we remembered his own dear father, Bob. Here we were, families deeply connected by The Arsenal. All those people I’ve named in this post, and countless others are also in that group. A shared passion for a football club. THE football club.
As I sit here writing this I realise how lucky I am to be able to support Arsenal. I’m even more lucky that today my Dad is celebrating his 80th birthday and still going strong, still going to The Arsenal. How fortunate we are to have been able to share so much. Happy 80th Birthday Dad. Thanks for being Arsenal.

Dover Marksman

3 thoughts on “Happy 80th Birthday to the original Dover Gooner

  1. George ukaz

    Thanks to God for giving us this day to be alive to read and witness our 80rg year father and the almost founding fathers of Arsenal football club to God be the glory for keeping him healthy be Arsenal supporter for many years and celebrating his 80 birthday I Mr, George Ukaz wished you happy good time on your birth day celebration. May God Almighty grants you many more years to come Amen

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  2. Johnno

    Good read that one mate. I`ve been going over there since 1957, tell your old man there`s an old Gooner living in the North East that hopes he has a good day. Tell him he`s right about the Anderlecht game as well, definitely the best match at Highbury.

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  3. jw1

    Wonderful read, thank you (and your Dad) for the story. Halfway round the world, I may never have the chance to watch The Arsenal live at this point. But I enjoy reading the stories about those who do. Happy Birthday to your Dad!

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