Tag Archives: Charlie Nicholas

The Arsenal and Me – Andy’s Story

It all started with me walking out of the back entrance of Sutton Dwelling with my older brother, onto College Cross and turning right onto Liverpool road.

Little did I know that this day was to forge a relationship stronger than any wedding vowels ever taken in the history of mankind?

Soon I was walking past the Kings Arms on the corner on Islington Park Street, next came Lewis Buildings and its unique red brickwork, then there was Laycock street where I first went to school, past Highbury Station Road, all landmarks I knew well, but now I was into territory unknown!

The next stop was the ‘Adam and Eve’ pub were my brother was soon shaking hands his with his mates, everyone in the pub had either ‘red and white’ or ‘yellow and blue’ on.

I was soon given a bottle of coke with a straw and a packet of crisps and led to a safe haven towards to the back of the pub where there were many other kids of my age, all grouped around our own little table. We looked nervous, we looked out of place but one thing’s for sure “We were all Arsenal”

I don’t recall how long we stayed in the pub that day nor do I recall our opponents that day, but when we turned onto Drayton Park I was swept away with a wave of ecstasy.

Police horses, coaches, hamburger stalls, programme sellers, stall holders – selling hats, gloves, badges and scarves, I was like a kid in a free sweet shop, I was blown away by the sheer exhilaration of it all, I was in “Utopia”

All the way down Drayton Park I held my brothers hand as proud as punch, I felt at home, I felt safe (Although I was a small 6 year kid amongst thousands)I felt that I was part of this broad church that was soon to be my home for next 25 years or more.

Soon I climbing the steps of the world famous ‘North Bank’ this place was huge, the lush green grass, the massive clock at the other end of the pitch, two identical stands running down the side of the pitch what more could a local Islington boy want on a Saturday afternoon?

We soon took our place, just too right of the goal as you look at the pitch; I was placed on a bar on the lower part of the stand, with the middle gangway some 5 feet behind me.

This was to be my ritual for many years to come, come rain or shine I was there every Saturday we played at home and some of the memories that stand out for me whilst sitting in this place are as follows:

The peanut seller

Sammy Nelson pulling down his pants

Emily Hughes getting whacked on the back by a school kid as he went to retrieve the ball for a throw in, in front of the lower West. He was running down the clock in a league cup game, which we needed to score.

Supper Mac grabbing a hat trick against Newcastle

Liam Brady scoring a sublime free kick on the edge of the box against Sheffield Wednesday at the end of extra time in an FA Cup reply, they were a 3rd division team at the time in the old format.

“You’re going home in a London ambulance”

“Clock end, clock end do your job”

“There’s only one way out”

The Metropolitan Police band at half time, they guy never did drop that baton.

The manual score boards in the corner of the Clock End / Lower West and the North Bank / Lower East and Hereford taking us all the way in a league cup tie.

When I was allowed to go on my own my friends and I moved into the schools boys, then back to the north bank, then onto the clock end before I became a football snob and bought a season ticket in the lower East before buying a bond in the upper North Bank.

Over the years that followed and from various parts of the ground I’ve seen Graham Roberts shove Charlie Nicholas into the stand

Brian Talbot score near on identical free kicks at the clock end against both Newcastle and Liverpool

David Platt donning and Arsenal goal keeper’s shirt whist having to stand in goal for Villa, cues to “You’ll never play for Arsenal”

Dennis Bergkamps first goal for the club against Southampton

Ian Wright with bleached blond hair

Getting knocked out of the FA by Watford

Brain McClair’s penalty miss – For which I am in that picture

My list of memories is endless and when I think back of the old ground and the times I spend their right through to end it brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye.

Sadly my days of going over The Arsenal are limited, but it was a pleasure and something that I would never change nor forget and whenever I am introduced to someone new I gladly tell them “Arsenal is my club”

Andy

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The Arsenal and Me – Stephen’s Story

I came from a family with no interest in football. I was at primary school it was 1971 and cup final time. Everyone was supporting one of the teams and I choose Arsenal for no reason that I can remember. I do remember the final. The only televised game of the year. Crying when we went behind and then Charlie George. How many people became hooked after that lying on their back re-enact ing the goal. That moment shaped my football life. The period after that has been better and more eloquently discussed than I ever could by Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch. Odd Cup finals few highlights and not much success was my childhood. There was of course Liam Brady. The highlight of a mediocre side, a joy every time you saw him play and probably still my favourite all time player. A left foot that could do anything. Only Thierry of Arsenal players since have created that same buzz of excitement in the crowd every time he touched the ball expectantly waiting for him to deliver.

liam

After years of mediocrity came George Graham. My first Wembley final was Charlie Nicholas Littlewoods Cup 1987. What a day that was. It showed we were on the up and finally heading for titles and proper success. In my mind it was the moment we overtook Liverpool and that has continued to this day. Obviously the later frustrations of losing to Luton (terrible day that was) although we laughed about how hopeless Gus Cesar was even on the day.

We all then have great memories of Anfield 1989 and then later Wenger’s early years. Finally league titles.The move to The Emirates has been a joy and a frustration but like Charlie Nicholas Littlewoods Cup perhaps the time has finally come when we will challenge again. Shame that the Birmingham final happened when we were overdue a trophy unlike Luton when it happened after a success.

The greatest thing that Arsenal has given me apart from the stress and the upset is the memories. My first Arsenal game with George Armstrong running up and down the wing in front of me. Getting the train to Highbury aged 15. Standing at Middlesbrough as Martin Hayes scored the winner running terrified back to the car as we thought that we would be murdered, my nephews first game with Ian Wright scoring, standing in the rain at Charlton and my then girlfriend and now wife looking at me saying she loved me and was never coming again, a College night watching Charlie Nicholas (again)scoring at Villa Park in an evening match. There were the joys of Denis and Thierry and despite my move to the North East I have managed plenty of memories. The Invincibles, our last Cup Final with my 3 year old twins lifting pretend Cups and Thierry’s final Arsenal goal at The Stadium of Light. Now we get to see Ozil and Jack Wilshire who I really hope will get fit get better and become a legend. No reason why not.

My first real boss was an Arsenal fan. Came up at the interview and probably helped me get the job. Also made my boss a friend as we often talked football.

My best mate is a United fan and got me a ticket with him for the Old Trafford 8-2 humiliation. After our heaviest post war defeat I managed to run into the back of a United fans car on the way out of the car park. Typical United fan was on his way back to South London. Cost me £1800 in total to watch that. and pay for car repairs. It’s almost funny now and a memory to let my children laugh at me for.

The thing I like most is that if we have a triumph or disaster people think of me. I often get calls after/before big games and when we sit at the top of the league I know that friends and family around the country with only a passing interest in football pass a thought my way. When I die I expect and know that my children will do the same after an Arsenal win and raise a glass my way celebrating. Raise a memory to me.

I have got no less obsessive as I have got older even though I forget about losses more quickly now. I remain impossibly pessimistic.Twitter lets me watch other fans thoughts and laugh at those forever in our shadow and minding the gap more than is probably healthy. But the die has been cast for far too long now. Arsenal and me are stuck together. No doubt about it Charlie George changed my life.

Stephen

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