Tag Archives: Association football

The Arsenal and Me – Jack’s Story

Most people to claim to have loved their club from day one, I do not. Don’t get me wrong I’ve always supported Arsenal there was no choice, from the day I was born my Dad would have it no other way. It’s all I knew. But at first I didn’t quite get it.

My earliest football memory is laying on my Nan’s living room floor watching the 98 Cup Final on TV. The image of Anelka and Overmars walking around the Wembley pitch with the FA Cup is not one I’ll ever forget. Good times, but at the age of 7 I still didn’t really get what it was all about.

Fast forward just under 3 years and I was to attend my first Arsenal game. Away to Man United. At Old Trafford in the HOME end of all places. Not ideal if I’m honest. 25th February 2001, I always remember the date as it was my sisters Birthday and she obviously was unimpressed that me and my Dad were disappearing to Manchester for the day.

We left early that morning and made the long car journey there. As you can imagine Old Trafford as a 10 year old is a quite a daunting place to watch your first ever football match especially surrounded by 60,000 Mancs. Like I said, not ideal. I remember it being bitterly cold and within two minutes we’re one nil’ down. Now the plan was to try to blend in within the home end so obviously we’re the only two sitting down two minutes in. Cover blown. Then, 14 minutes in. Henry equalises! My first experience of joy and excitement at an Arsenal game. My Dad trying to keep the celebrations low key, there wasn’t really any point as we were losing again almost instantly. It all went downhill from there and we got absolutely battered 6-1. I seem to remember Stephanovs running down the wing during that game and even at 10 years old even I knew he belonged nowhere near a team like Arsenal.

After the game we met the woman who sorted out the tickets. She asked in a thick Manchester accent if I was going to become a United fan now. I was slow to answer as I didn’t have a clue what she was saying so my Dad was quick to jump in. “No. No he isn’t”

I was a bit gutted after the game not as much as my Dad as clearly losing 6-1 at my first ever game was not what he imagined would happen.

So after that I’m still struggling to see what the fuss is about.

The next game I went two was Liverpool. Again away from home again absolutely freezing cold and again stuck in the home end! I’d won tickets so couldn’t really complain. 23rd December 2001 another date I remember strangely my Dads birthday this time. This time however everything went well we played well and won 2-1. I remember Freddie scoring and running off into the away fans and being insanely jealous of them. This time there we’re know muted celebrations, the full time whistle goes and we went for it! Swiftly leaving afterwards.

Now I had the taste for this ‘going to the football’ lark. I couldn’t wait for the next time.

The first home game I went to was against Blackburn the following season, I can’t remember the date (can’t have been anyones birthday). The whole family went this time. Me my Dad my Mum and my Sister. I was so buzzing for it. We got the tube to Arsenal and walked along  Gillespie road. The first thing I noticed was the smell, burger vans/horse shit/beer,  doesn’t sound nice but its a smell that I’m sure everyone recognises every time you go to football and it always reminds me of that day. We turned the corner on to Avenell Road and I saw Highbury up close for the very first time. A lot of people say they fell in love with Highbury instantly and this time I agree. What a place. Seeing the windows on the side of the North Bank and seeing people finding there seats gave me goosebumps and excited butterflies inside. I wanted to get inside quickly. When we found our spot on this North Bank I couldn’t stop looking all around at this amazing ground. As a young kid it is mesmerising you just try to take it all in.

The game kicked off and we were one nil down early on from a strange Edu own goal. But then later in the half he made it all right by scoring the equaliser. I’ll never forget that goal, the first time I celebrated an Arsenal goal at a game amongst the right fans! It was mental. The noise was deafening and I’m pretty sure I ended up a few seats along.

We went on to lose 2-1 I was disappointed but everything about that day bar the result was spot on. The smells, the sights, hearing the outbursts of chants from all around Highbury, joining in and finally being at a home game.

All of these things finally making me realise what it was all about and making me fall in love with The Arsenal. Something that I will never stop doing, I still get the same excited butterflies every time I go and I hope I always do and I hope when I have a son its exactly the same for him.

I think i’ll avoid United away for his first game though…

Jack

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

The Arsenal and Me – John’s Story

My father was a docker back in the 70’s and worked a lot of shifts in those days and although he played football with me when he could he could never really take me. He did take a Saturday off one miserable Saturday afternoon and as a five year old boy took me to a rain drenched Cold Blow Lane in the old Dockers stand at Millwall.
Needless to say, the pitch was sodden the football not great and the language was not what a 5 year old boy should be hearing.

My dad though, was one of them. He knew lots of folks around the ground and had laughs with them all. Me however, sat on the bars at the Old Den watching this miserable game v Carlisle soggy wet was nearly enough to put me off going again.

Oh the game… well that finished 1-0 to Millwall with an injury time winner. Me and my dad? Yes we missed it as he wanted “a quick piss” before leaving…

My mother on the other hand wasn’t a staunch Arsenal fan but her 4 brothers were and were all season ticket holders in the West Stand (2 still are). My mothers parents died when she was 13 due to various illnesses and was the youngest of 4.

Her brothers, my uncles were 5-15 years older and all worked. My mother had to go to school, come home cook them dinner and wash and iron their shirts to earn her keep in the house… gradually they all moved away when my mum met my dad.

This brings me onto the Arsenal part and me (I know it’s taken a while). The eldest of my uncles took me to Arsenal v Ipswich in 79 in which I think was a 1-1 draw. I don’t remember much but I think Mariner scored for Ipswich. Score didn’t matter.. game didn’t matter.. I was Arsenalised.

My Uncle knew it would happen. you’ve all seen fever pitch when a young lad walks out of the West stand gobsmacked. That was me. Sold

From then on I would pester my uncles to take me games not realising it would mean one of them giving up their tickets for me to go. However, this didn’t stop my closest uncle taking me every other week to the reserve games. Proper adult football with the likes of Sparrow, Devine et al in front of just the east stand hundreds. I just loved it, watching the trains go past opposite and hearing the echo’s of players shrieking to eachother was magic. I remember a reserve game against Man U where Pearson who was kind of a star for them was playing and both stands had to be opened…. I was in love with the ground.

I found myself bragging at primary school where I’d been and brought programmes in to show my schoolmates (even when my uncle gave me a programme to games I’d never been).

I went to about 10 games a season from about 80-85 not really remembering many. Those I did remember was the days when the crowds were packed and hatred spilling around the ground. Tottenham….. I remember an Alan Sunderland turn and goal in the clock end and the berating of Spurs fans. That moment I fucking hated Spurs… don’t even know why, I was only 7-8.

My uncle took me to away games and the semi in 83 against Utd at Villa park and remember as we got in a burly Utd fan in our section with “you’ll never beat Utd” ringing in my ears. I was 9… I hated Utd now. I watched and marvelled as Petrovic played like a wizard in the first half and Woodcock scored….

I had a bad feeling and sat through the second half with my fingers crossed looking down hoping the time would tick away. Alas no, a goal from Robson and Whiteside made me hate that big fat burly Utd fan more. And Utd

Many more dross games passed and my enthusiasm got better. Pretending to be Rix (I still have my Rixy is magic scarf) at every opportunity.

Anyway in 1986 my Uncle bought me a Junior gunners season ticket for £54. I loved that he did that for me and worshipped my big season ticket book. Every game from then I’ve been too (work permitting) at home and am still a season ticket holder to this day. Anyway, the glory years of early GG I took in as an oldr teenager and really hit me more about the game. 89 Anfield will live with me forever. I was an home in my bedroom watching. With 10 mins to go I turned over to watch Cheers. I say watch but was just hoping that my Mum would come up and tell me it’s all ok. I was so sad I wanted to cry… as Cheers rolled on I heard my mum going ballistic downstairs clapping frantically.. I turned over and just had “how they’d both love to get out there” referring to GG and KD… however as it was injury time the scores had come off the screen…. I had no idea.Then..then the whistle blew and Quinny and Miller were going bonkers on the bench. I ran down and my Mum just grabbed me crying…. (making me quiver writing this).. great times. Kids from school ringing my home number to congratulate me as if it were me… I think they just knew my passion, my love.

My Uncle then bought me a 10 year Bond in the NB in the early 90’s where apart from the cup double win we did endure a lot of mediocrity..

My Uncle took me more and more away games and went Copenhagen with him for the final. We knew we would win just with our defence.

I always met before the games in the Bank of Friendship with my uncle for years and always went away games with him even if mates were coming.

We had to endure Rioch but the magic of Bergkamp’s signing… then all these rumours about a bloke called Arsene and the famous headlines of Arsene Who?

My uncle and me debated for ages and my uncle who had been going since 53 didn’t think much of it. I couldn’t convince him otherwise.

Just for a second whether you are Arsene In or Out right now. Not knowing football from That season to now and how much Arsene changed Arsenal into a dreamy football team. Just stop and think about if we’d got Frank Clark instead what life would be like.

I imagine this everyday. I got up on the Saturday getting ready for Blackburn away in 1996 in to what was Arsene’s first game.
My Uncle died on this day….

Every day I miss him and wish he’d seen one of Arsene’s teams winning.

Whether you are for or against him right now, you are privileged to have seen his teams.

My Uncle would have been.

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

England a glimpse of Arsenal’s future?

Tonight at 8pm, England play at home against Montenegro. Whilst International football rarely gets me excited, I am actually looking forward to this game – although I am likely to miss the first half as I am taking advantage of the International break by getting away for the weekend – and the reason for this is we will potentially get a glimpse of Arsenal’s future.

Now I am not talking about the amount of Arsenal in and around the England side. Wilshere, Walcott, Gibbs & Oxlade-Chamberlain could all be on the plane to Brazil (if England make it). I am actually talking about the future make up of Arsenal’s central midfield.

“But only Wilshere will play and he will be next to Gerrard, who is Scouse” I hear you all say. And that is true. It might sound odd that by watching Gerrard & Wilshere together is a glimpse of Arsenal’s midfield of the next 10 years.

Wilshere has often played most of his career in the number 10 role. Further up in the pitch involved around the edge of the area. But I have long believed that his future would be deeper. His technique and long and short passing is exceptional. But so is his aggression, and by playing him too far forward, you lose the aggression. Add in Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere’s future at Arsenal is deeper.

For England, he will play deeper alongside Gerrard with Wayne Rooney ahead, in behind Daniel Sturridge. It will be interesting to see how he gets on and if he can still dominate and influence the game. I am sure he can. Now where does Gerrard fit in?

Well Aaron Ramsey shares a lot of similar traits to Gerrard. Stamina, running, able to drive forward, but a solid individual. I have long felt Gerrard would have been a better player had he performed deeper and dictate play, however his own ego dictated where he played. He was, for a time, bigger then any Liverpool manager, and basically played where he want.

I can see Ramsey playing in a similar role to that of Gerrard in the near future for Arsenal. A little bit deeper, a little bit more disciplined. He would provide a midfield two alongside Jack Wilshere, where their intelligence would mean that they could both defend and attack at will. The would be able to build a relationship and become the best central midfield partnership in world football. And with Mesut Ozil ahead, well the world would be our oyster.

For once, watching an England game might not be worthless.

Keenos