Category Archives: Arsenal and Me

The Arsenal and Me – GC’s Story

So as a 13yr old (1985) i got fed up with noone taking me over The Arsenal

Dad had long since bugged off, mum thought it was too dangerous (even tho she went every week as a girl in the 50s n 60s) and grandad worked Saturdays.

I got a paper round. Up at 6am cycle 2 miles to the shop to do my round before school.

My £3.50 wages paid my travel, got me in the ground and a bag of chips swimming in salt and onion vinegar after the game.

It was different in the mid 80s. These days there no way my kids would be allowed out at 10am on a Saturday and told to be home by 8pm..

I had a good set of mates who went Arsenal. Everyone covered each other for mid-week games and we would go a few London aways.

We would share the Junior Gunner passes, show the bloke at the turnstile then pass it back to the next mate, so we all got in cheaper.

Some games we would be on the North Bank; messing about from 1pm, running up and down the terraces, having a fag, taking piss out of each other.

After a while we got brave and moved and stood in the middle, jumping about and singing, often hardly even watching the game. Rip roar give us a song, topside runs from middle, Clock End do yah job and all those songs now not socially acceptable. I fucking loved it.

I got away with going games for about a year before my mother found out. I wanted my own jnr gunner membership and needed her to write a cheque.

Anyways I did the route a lot did growing up, school boys- North Bank – pub and Clock End.

In 1990/91 I worked as a van driver for the printing firm who did the match programmes. Some weeks I’d be in the marble halls every other day. On match days I’d deliver the programmes, park up and meet mates in the pub. I’d be Clock End, my mum upper west and my brother stood by the dugouts. My mum still to this day swears she saw me getting pulled out by the police (not guilty).

But all that changed on this day in 1992.

The end of terracing and paying on the day ended at games. Going The Arsenal changed for the worse.

Sitting down, singing less, no jumping about, no choosing were to stand (at least we could still smoke).

My buzz was replaced by boozing, drugs, raving and girls. I’d often go out on a Thursday night and get home Monday morning.

Whilst I never stopped looking for our scores the change in football was too big for me to go and watch live. We ended up with a good mob of us that used to meet in various pubs for the sky games and pubs with overseas satellites. All lads like me that had been going since they were kids some games there would be 25-30 of us in east London boozers. A generation lost due to all-seater stadiums.

In 1999, after no live games for 6 years I took the plunge and went back. I managed to get 4 tickets bang where the ‘middle’ was in the North Bank.

I was like a 14yr old again; excited, nervous and looking forward to a sing song. That lasted about 5 minutes, the man and women sitting next to me didnt even stand to welcome the players on the pitch, let alone sing during the game. At the half time whistle I was up quick to get a beer but was delayed as the couple got out what I can only describe as a picnic. I have never hated an Arsenal fan as much in my life (Piers Morgan aside).

Going The Arsenal had changed for the worse…But atleast I was part of the last generation to experience and grow up on our terraces.

Forever Arsenal

*GC*

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The Arsenal and Me – Harry’s Story

My first ever visit to Highbury was a home game against the meanest and most cynical team in the first Division,but the best team Leeds United.

The date was 12th April 1969.I was seven yrs old,dad had been going for years,and had told me much of his visits to Highbury,and finally it was my time to see for myself.

But horror of horrors I had no scarf,they weren’t so easy to get then,anyway mum went everywhere to get,but couldn’t get one,I was gutted and upset, that I couldn’t wear the red and white around my shoulders.

But mum came to my rescue, she bought red& white wool,and sat up all night bless her knitting me one, just so I was dressed properly for my first visit.

We sat off by tube,and it wasn’t until we got to Kings Cross,that I finally saw other fans going to the ground.

It was at this point I knew this was my club,and always will be.We were herded on as was usual dad gripping my coat firmly,it was tough being smaller then most on the train as you were struggling for air.

Finally we arrived at Arsenal station, and steadily slogged our way up the never ending slope to the entrance,finally stepping out into the light.

It was then that I was hit by a wall of noise,and colour,fans everywhere,laughing,swearing and talking.Some fella selling Percy Dalton’s as was usual,and the to become familiar smell of onions.

Dad bought me some badges from a fella hawking them by the entrance to the North Bank.i still have that first badge,and wear it on all jackets I’m wearing. Dad got a program and we ambled around to the East Stand,that’s where we sat for the only time.He still had hold of my jacket with a vice like grip.

I looked up at the spectacular East Stand facade,and it hit home,what a building even though young seeing the cannon, on the wall above the entrance was brilliant.

We then went in to the ground the familiar rattle of the turnstiles filling my ears.

We walked up the steps,and on finally seeing the pitch, it held me spellbound,after all dads stories here I was finally in his second home.

It was to become my second home.

I watched the old bill band marching up and down, hoping the mace would hit the turf,it didn’t.
Some on the North Bank were questioning the parentage of the old bill, I couldn’t understand what dad was laughing at,I soon found out,and often questioned them myself years later.

The teams emerged,and finally I was seeing my team the brilliant red standing out against the green background, the light making it appear bright.

And there was the most hated team in the country.

The game itself wasn’t very good the highlight Gary Sprake,Leeds Keeper knocking Bobby Gould out with a crisp hook to the jaw,screams of dirty bastards went up and send him off,but he survived,you had to kill an opponent to get sent off back then.

The game just ambled on, with Leeds winning 1-2.

Although disappointed I knew it fired my passion,and I knew I would see many victories in the future.

And success wasn’t far away,but that’s another story.

Harry

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The Arsenal and Me – Gary’s Story

There were a few of us of, shall we say fans of a certain vintage talking on Twitter Christmas Eve about Highbury & GC asked us to go back through the mists of time to tell a few memories of those days. This is my contribution

I started going to The Arsenal in the 1960s & my first game was a 3-1 loss to Newcastle in 1965-66 season. I was already besotted by the club as my dad had told me & my brother all about when he watched the great Herbert Chapman side of James, Bastin, Jack, Hulme, Hapgood etc.

When we first started going to Highbury we used to get the 236 bus from Hackney to arrive at the ground double early to be at the front of the queue at the clock end as there was a great spot just above the entrance to the concourse where you could get a great view of the game. We’d usually get there 3 or 4 hours before kick off to make sure we got that spot.

As kick off approached we’d watch the ground gradually filling up & Constable Alex Morgan accompanied by the Metropolitan Police Band would entertain the crowd belting out Lady of Spain or some other equally ancient songs. But they always get a nice round of applause when they’d finished.

“Peanuts peanuts come & get ya peanuts” would be the cry from the man flogging Percy Daltons finest as he pushed his way through the crowd. As we looked across the pitch at the North bank it would be packed with fans raising their arms clapping in unison & singing songs to the opposition fans like “Your going to get your f****** heads kicked in” or ” “I hear the sound of distinct bums over there over there” At night games you’d see a constant twinkling of lights as people were lighting up their fags all across the north bank

 As there were no all ticket games you had to get there early for the big games like Spurs or Man Utd to make sure you didn’t get locked out. So as the kick off approached the singing would get louder & reach a crescendo when first the opposition got booed onto the pitch. While the ground would roar their approval when The Arsenal took the field. The north bank would chant the players names & the players would raise their arms in acknowledgement as they warmed up before the game

At half time we eagerly awaited the man putting the half time scores of the other matches being played that day next to the corresponding letters at the side of the pitch. The police band would then march round the pitch playing their instruments with the man with the long baton leading them from the front. As they approached each corner he’d point the baton to the left or right depending which direction he wanted the band to follow. But the highlight was when he’d hold the baton upright & the North bank would go “wooooooooooooooh” as he spun the baton though the air & caught it. One day he came a cropper when to his horror he missed the baton & dropped it. The cheer from the crowd was massive matched only by John Jensen finally scoring his only goal for The Arsenal v QPR!

The day JJ scored we all celebrated wildly & at the end of the game I walked back to our cars with my brother Tony & my son Neil & started to frantically pat my pockets. I said to my brother “I don’t believe it I’ve lost my car keys. It must have happened when Jensen scored” he replied “I’ve lost my keys as well” We trooped back to Highbury & found a steward who had a big box of lost keys. As we identified our keys the steward said “We’ve never found so many lost keys”

Sorry to digress. As we got older we graduated to the north bank which was where most of the action took place off the pitch in those days! There were gangs of Arsenal fans that chanted “North London”, “South London” or “East London” wherever area they came from. When The Arsenal scored there would be pandemonium. The crowd surged and we were all pushed forward like a human wave often ending up 10 or twenty feet away from your mates!

When opposition fans infiltrated the North bank to try and take our end they’d be running battles, the police in the middle of it trying to form a line between the two sets of fans. If you ran at the opposing fans or they charged at us, you just had to go with the flow or be trampled on like a herd of cattle

When the game ended everyone would try to surge out the gates & often your feet wouldn’t touch the ground as you were carried along by the crowd. How there wasn’t another Hillsborough I’ll never know!

I’ll end this with a couple of away stories. The first involved a trip on a football special. A bloke we knew for some reason decided to take a leak out the train window! As he started to pee another teenager decided to stick his head out the window for a bit of fresh air further down the carriage. He ended up getting a golden shower! Both the windows slammed shut as the two of them looked at each across the carriage in shock. The other bloke with urine dripping from his face! Our pal said “Sorry mate I didn’t know you were going to stick your head out the window” to which the other kid replied “And I didn’t know you were going to get your knob out & piss all over me” with that the whole carriage were in fits of laughter!

Another occasion where I wasn’t there my brother & our mates decided to go to Nottingham to see us play Forest in the FA Cup. We won 1-0 with a Frank Stapleton goal & Pat Jennings performed wonders to keep Forest at bay. They all went up in a transit van & as they left the ground got chased all the way back to the van by the Forest fans baying for blood! They all dived in the back of the van & made a narrow escape. It was pitch black in the back of the van as there were no windows & as someone lit a fag the back of the van was illuminated & sitting there among them was a complete stranger! “What the f*** are you doing here” someone said “well when Forest started to chase us I decided to run with you & jumped in the back to get away from them” everyone laughed & they dropped him back in London.

Those were the days of our life & they may have taken our Highbury away but they can’t take away our memories.

Gary

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