Tag Archives: Pat Jennings

The Arsenal and Me – Chad’s Story

First, I am a middle-aged American, so I am always the little brother, I suppose. Never to be a Proper Gooner, at least by the old meaning of the term, never to stand on the North Bank. And despite being an avid sports fan and playing the game, that’s fine. As a result, this isn’t a story about my first trip to Highbury, or a lofty tale about away boys on the terraces in the 80s, or some distant memory of watching Pat Jennings or Charlie George from my Dad’s lap. This is, however, a story with the same net result, be it plastic or proper. It’s a story of love and passion for The Arsenal. And in the end, it’s a story about my sons watching Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott from my lap every weekend morning.

For me it started when I needed a pair of workout shorts sometime in the early 90s and found a pair of Arsenal shorts I thought were cool. I just liked the name, that’s it, pretty boring and silly, I’m aware. When you come from a place where it’s Braves and Falcons and Hawks, Arsenal sounds awesome. From there it was a random CL match aired on ESPN 2 long before the Premier League was on American TV. I’d look for Arsenal when I randomly saw the table because it was the only team I knew, or I’d remember the shorts when I heard the names of Thierry Henry or Dennis Bergkamp, who were big enough stars to cross the Atlantic. Then I grew up, got a job, and got married with ‘soccer’ always on the back burner to Super Bowls and World Series.

Then I had my first son and it started to change. Then I had to get up with said son on the weekends and was looking for something interesting on TV in the mornings. I decided English Premier League on Fox Soccer was better than any kid’s show. Then I remembered those stupid old pair of shorts and tried watching only Arsenal matches. For every sport I enjoy, I watch one team and one team only. I guess I just enjoy knowing a lot about one team and seeing their pursuit through a season.

Then I saw the since maligned Robin van Persie tally a hat trick against Blackburn—just two short seasons ago—with my son on my lap. That was that. That match was the turning point. I know a 7-1 drubbing of a side destined for relegation isn’t exactly winning the league at Old Trafford, but that was the tipping point for me. I remember my son, who was just learning to talk, singing ‘We Love You Arsenal’ at 8 in the morning. I remember him figuring out the cannon meant Arsenal on that cold winter morning. It will always be etched in my memory as one of the first sport-related things I shared with my son. Not the MLB Braves or NFL Falcons, who I have been watching since I was his age, a club thousands of miles away. The Arsenal.

1From there it was learning all I could about an incredibly rich history, connecting with Gooners—or just Arsenal fans if you prefer—from all over the world on Twitter, consuming blog after blog after blog every single day. Waking up early to watch matches, streaming weekday games at work on pop-up riddled sites, joining Arsenal Player, annoying my American friends and my wife with conversations they knew nothing about, ordering my first Arsenal shirts, singing 1-Nil To The Arsenal in the car on my morning commute, and following insane transfer talk all summer long. Funny stories, I discovered Piers Morgan through Arsenal, not CNN. My son saw an old Civil War cannon in Tennessee just last weekend and thought it had something to do with Arsenal.2

Then I had another son to begin sharing this with and it all starts again every Saturday or Sunday morning. Me and my two boys watching The Arsenal is what it’s about. The love.

I also found the get-the-fuck-out-of-my-club-boys, the Kroenke-doesn’t-care-boys, and the it-ended-when-we-left-Highbury-boys. The exclusive trying to exclude some fans instead of include, which is something that doesn’t really happen here. To me it makes no sense even having grown up right in the middle of a sports town. I would love to talk to a Braves fan from another part of the world, or an African or Asian that had even heard of the NHL Carolina Hurricanes. The Arsenal is a truly global brand and the 10th most valuable sports franchise in the world. Having a global network of fans and the added money they bring in is the reason Arsenal is able to compete at the top of the Premier League and in Europe. Why want us gone? Why assume we are plastic and ignorant? Why not try to share your experiences? Why lament changes to the periphery of the sport? Why not focus on the love of the game and the common experiences from other fans wherever they may be and whatever generation they were born into? I really feel sorry for the fans that don’t grasp this.

On Twitter, I follow Arsenal fans on five continents and feel the same passion from them as I do from the Travel Club Members I follow. Sure, I absolutely love hearing the away boys sing, and hearing the Highbury boys tell their stories, and appreciate the hell out of the pictures from grounds all over Europe, but the feeling is generally the same. Gooners in India, Nigeria, and right here in NC—shootout to Triangle Gooners, by the way—love The Arsenal. The love is what pulls me in deeper every day.

So yes, I admit it, I am American and have only been an Arsenal fan for a few years and am nearing 40. The thing is that I self-identify myself as a Gooner now, at least by the new meaning of the term, just like I self identify myself as a father, husband and Braves fan. I’m pretty much like you I think, this club is in my heart and is a part of me now. While I may never have the legacy or be a Gooner by the old meaning of the term, my sons will come up knowing about the club, and that makes me happy. My dream is to one day take both my boys to the Emirates and sing with them.

The funny thing is I never threw away those shorts even though they didn’t come close to fitting my current waist line, I am American, after all. Last season I found them at the bottom of an old drawer and had a tailor cut off the patch and sew it onto a plain cap I bought.3

I wear that hat every day.

Chad

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The Arsenal and Me – Herbert’s Story

When She Wore gave me the task of writing why I love The Arsenal, I had a long search through the memory banks. It’s a question the majority of fans ask each other. Why that particular team? Many cite family loyalties, ‘I come from an Arsenal family’ or ‘I did it to spite my dad/brother, etc’. Others are down to geographic location, ’it’s my hometown club’. For me, I blame Panini.

I’m a provincial. A child of the countryside. An idyllic upbringing among the orchards of Kent. When I was a kid ‘out in the boonies’, the nearest town was 5 miles away and trips to a sports shop were infrequent and replica kits were virtually non-existent. I had an interest in football but only from what I had read in my Grandfather’s newspaper or saw on World of Sport. I had no allegiance to any one team. Panini solved my problem. I was given this album and about 10 packs of stickers just before the 1977-78 season, and being a bit of a pedantic child, I sorted them out in numeric order without looking at the pictures on the front. Oddly I remember working backwards – no I don’t know why either –and dutifully stuck them in, a touch lopsided.

The final sticker I had was right at the front of the book. It was what kids now call, a shiny. A club crest. Red and white with a big gun on it and the word ARSENAL in that font we all know and love. Below the crest read the words:

VICTORIA CONCORDIA CRESCIT

I didn’t know what it meant but it must mean something to someone.
So who were this Arsenal? The double page was covered with empty boxes but with names underneath. Pat Jennings, Pat Rice, David O’Leary, Liam Brady, Malcolm McDonald to name a few. Who were they all? I looked at the honours board noting that this club and I had something in common. They’d won the Division One championship and FA Cup the year I was born a few years before. Fate surely? In that moment, my footballing destiny had been sown and I devoured every scrap of news to do with the team that I could find.

Luckily for me, the team reached the FA Cup final three years in a row, Roger Osborne upsetting me in ’78, Alan Sunderland sending me delirious in ’79 and Trevor Brooking making me cry in ’80. I’ve told Trevor that since in the car park at The Boleyn. A lovely man. Hand on my shoulder, he apologised for making me cry all those years ago but not for the goal. Then again, I didn’t expect him to.

My debut at Highbury, or any Arsenal game for that matter, was in 1991. The 4-0 win over Palace. I stood on The North Bank. I went with some older work colleagues. Pre-match build up started in The Gunners pub on Elwood Street. A couple of ‘sherberts’, then the walk. At the end of the road there was the end of the East Stand and the North Bank turnstiles, what seemed to be thousands of people milling around, the whisperings of the ticket touts, the programme seller on the corner, the diversity of people in the street, young and old, black and white. Heart thudding in my chest, sweaty palms and a dry mouth. I’d only ever seen it on the television. I remember it as if it were yesterday.
£4.00 – those were the days! – at the turnstile and up the concrete steps. At the top, I stopped. Laid out before me was my field of dreams. The hallowed turf I’d been waiting over a decade to see. An overwhelming moment. That shiny sticker that had captivated me all those years ago had brought me to this. I’d waited all my life for this moment and I fell even more truly, madly and deeply in love with what I considered to be my club. I couldn’t get enough and went home and away for the next four years.

I haven’t been to a competitive league game since 1996 but I’ve lucky to witness the FA Cup finals, good and bad, but like a lot of supporters, it’s down to the cost. What does upset me is that I cannot afford to take my two daughters to experience a game at The Arsenal. My parents weren’t interested in sport at all so I missed out on the matchday experience that I read and hear so much about, and because of the way football is these days, my kids are missing out too. Our love affair with The Arsenal is now sadly from afar.

Throughout the years I’ve been supporting The Arsenal, it’s become to mean more than just the team on the pitch. Of course I’m immensely happy with the success that we’ve enjoyed, the players we’ve had the pleasure to see or read about but one of the key things for me is that we, as a club, have been known for our class and style. We are world-renowned for it. We do things the ‘right way’. We are a club that other clubs aspire to be. Not just now in the present climate with FFP. We’ve always been the benchmark and that’s something to be rightly proud of.

Highbury, the marble halls, Art Deco, the Bank of England club, Herbert Chapman. This may all be history, but it’s ours. Yours and mine. The DNA, where we’ve come from, it’s made our club what it is today. The Arsenal have been innovators, pioneers of what we’ve come to take for granted in this modern football world. As a supporter, I’m incredibly proud that we have a rich tapestry of history, not just from on the field successes and world class players. Not many clubs can boast about the achievements that we can. The first live radio broadcast of a league match, first live television broadcast of a match, first team featured on MOTD, under-soil heating, floodlights, our own Underground station. Our current manager has been rightly lauded as being the catalyst for change in English football. We’ve featured heavily in popular culture whether that be in film, comedy, literature and the theatre. It’s these little things that I love about my club.

The Arsenal plays an important part in my life. It dictates my moods, it elates and deflates me but no matter what it does, I love it. Painfully so at times, to the detriment of everything else.

Every time I pull on a shirt, I feel pride. The shirt and the name on it is my identity.
I’ll end on a quote from our former goalkeeper, the Double-winning legend, Bob Wilson:
‘It was this feeling you were wearing this big gun on your chest and everywhere you went, my word, you felt proud to be wearing it’
No matter what has happened in the last few years and what may happen in the future, that sums it all up. Thanks Panini.

Herbert

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

The Arsenal and Me – Mo’s Story

I have lots of memories: the good ,the bad ,the ugly and the downright scary from my 40 years of following Arsenal! There is just too much to cram into one blog, so I will recall the 70s and the start of the 80s, my formative years at Arsenal!

For those of today’s generation,eight years and all that without a trophy, well that was “de rigour” in the 70s. I was a junior schoolboy in 71 and older brothers plonked me down at the front of the north bank in the double winning run. I remember the 1-0 wins at home to the Geordie’s and the last home game 1-0 against Stoke! I watched the FA Cup Final around an affluent family friends house who had colour TV.We were still radio rentalliing a black and white when we won our next trophy in 79! Yes an eight year gap!

I was free of older brothers guardianship and could head down on my own in the mid 70s. The team had gone downhill,a double team broken up far too soon! But,I had the misfortune of going to games,a bare teen, a quiet one in a maelstrom of an era of football violence.

Excited to see Arsenal in a FA Cup QF at home against West Ham in 1975 I entered the North Bank on a day of horrendous rain to hear “Bubbles” from the back of the North Bank,as West Ham took over that day!I was at angry at what happened off the pitch as the losing 2-0 on the pitch.

Next season, we beat West Ham 6-1, but that day was equally naughty! And as for Tottenham Hotspur…things weren’t much better. I still have a mental picture of a typical y** as being much older ,wearing a donkey jacket and a peak cap! We were bad on the pitch, but they were worse and we saw them relegated in 76!!

By 77/78,things were stirring at Highbury. The team were improving ,the mercurial Liam Brady was emerging as a world class player,O’Leary at the back and the signing of Pat Jennings, the Tottenham keeper, proved a cute bit of business!

We had a team to have a go in the Cups. Off the pitch things were also stirring. A young generation, ages 14-16 emerged in the Clockend, a kind of football intifada was emerging. The lads had enough of getting bullied by older Chas and Daves and Garnets! The young ones would cut their in the mayhem of 70s away games. I went to Ipswich, Norwich and Bristol City that season. I was a quiet bystander in mayhem at every turn,

In 78,we reached a league cup semi over two legs against Liverpool.Liverpool were in their pomp. Dalglish at his peak as a player. My oldest brother took me to the first leg at Anfield.

To be continued…

Mo

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