Tag Archives: Wembley

The Arsenal and Me – Matt’s Story

“Ok son. Time to pick a team”

Those words will never leave me. That was my dad. I was 8/9.

I grew up in Reading. My father’s side of the family were all very strong arsenal fans, all living around Islington and wool which. So from day 1 of the club, my family were there.My grandfather’s brother (Sammy Caston) worked at the club.

My mother’s side were all from Reading, so it was assumed Id follow Reading. To be fair, I do follow their results, but I can’t remember ever wanting to following anyone else but. It just happened. Milk,solids,school,arsenal etc. natural progression.

I remember my cousin and I, staying up Saturday nights waiting for our dads to get back and talk about the match. We’d avoid hearing the results so we could hear about it later. My dad handing me a program and talking me through it was so exciting, my mother knew there would be NO chance trying to put me to bed on time. From that, I have followed on a little tradition of only buying the merchandise, every year, from the club shop.  A few years later (1985) I’d managed to get my first experience of the north bank. My story from there, as so many of us can relate to, follows parallel to fever pitch.

But, I’ll never forget the excitement of that day. I was shitting my self. Football hooliganism was rife, and I was young and my first game was a 1-1 draw with Chelsea.

But the songs, the chanting, the smell of stale tobacco,beer, and onions all added to the atmosphere. I stood speechless as the team was announced. The cheers going up as each player was named, I couldn’t tell you if Chelsea were named or not, as the serge tipped my over and the shouts and abuse went up, I was upside down trying to figure out how or what I’d turned up for!
But, I was still a boy and allowed to yell anything I wanted with out coping a smack round the head!

By half time I was an expert and was planning my next games and how long I’d need to save up for. I was sold. I had home and away kits, and would yell “NICHOLAS” when I scored a goal at school.
All through secondary school my passion for arsenal grew and grew.

87 saw my first ever trip to Wemberly,  the league cup final. The walk up we beryl way, singing at the top of my voice, surrounded by what I can only describe as my new school. A world of emotion hit me, I suddenly realised, I’ve drank, fought, traveled, sung and cried with these people. And I always would. To top it all off, Charlie banged them both in !  Just when I couldn’t laugh at Liverpool anymore, ’89 came along, and gave every Gooner from that era a tale to tell. I can remember sitting infront of the tv, every Gooner in the street had turned up. When the Liverpool players started to protest about smudges goal, I thought the floor was going to give way, as a massive tirade of abuse went up, slagging off every player that flicked up on the screen. At 90 mins,the moaning and tears started, but, very shortly, the place was like party Central. Running out into the street, singing “your can shove your daily mirror up your arse”.

The arrival of Wright in 91 saw the arsenal take on a completely new entity. Who else remembers the “Gary who?”  Nike adverts?  Maybe, if only, some of the England managers at the time would have seen the ads as well. Then we were honoured with a pure football genius. Bergkamp and Wright became such a feared strike force, and Dennis was to become part of the home grown ‘v’ import argument. Stating that Dennis cost less than Andy Cole and Alan sheep-er. Then the arrival of our Marmite man AW. What ever people may think of him, he didn’t only change things at arsenal pretty quick, and it didn’t take the other teams around to follow suit. They all looked into diets and methods more and more.

I’ve got Some very good memory’s of the early days of the champions league, playing at Wembley thanks to some daft car park rule. BUT, European football at Wembley for a tenner ! And on top of that, think of the world stars we got to see play. Figo, Batistuta, (fat) Ronaldo, Winterburn, etc etc..   And that is how you show everyone that we needed a bigger stadium!

And why oh why did we spend all that money for Henry ?  My steady diet of “humble pie” started back then, and yes, I’m still eating it now.

And all that, on top of a decade of Arsenal ‘v’ Moan Utd.  The champions section banner held up at OT is still one of my favourites, (and it pisses the Salford Red Sox fans off a treat).

The emirates brought a new beginning for arsenal. But loads of fans (like myself) miss Highbury. But, arsenal needed to evolve.

my son is about to enter the world of football. I was chatting to my father about writing this, and we laughed at how we wants to be there when my son turns 9, and I can ask him the same question.

“WHY THE HELL ARSENAL!!!!!!!!!!!   WHATS WRONG WITH MAN U …. LIKE ALL YOUR OTHER MATES ??????? He’s to young to have all the emotion needed to be a Gooner……….

1989 Daily Mirror’s sports sections led with the headline “You Haven’t Got A Prayer, Arsenal”.

Matt

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The Arsenal and Me – Lee’s Story

Boxing day 1978.

Arsenal 1  West Brom 2.

A wide eyed 9 year old sat in the east upper watching his first match at Arsenal was probably the happiest person in the stadium. Yes it was me and I didn’t care that we had lost because Liam Brady had scored our goal. Ok, it was a penalty but it was Liam Brady!

Growing up in Holloway I was only going to support one team. The Arsenal, but having a father who despised football I had to do it off my own back, although the 78,79 & 80 cup finals helped.

Decorating my bedroom window with pictures from the Islington Gazette & Evening Standard and rosettes started becoming as regular as putting up Christmas decorations. It was an Uncle with a spare season ticket who took me to that first match and I had to wait just over 2 years for my next match when I started going with friends at the ripe old age of 11! It seems strange these days to think of that but its what lots of kids did. Some of the kids round the estate used to just go up there for the last 15 minutes when they opened the gates to get in free but I would dig deep into my pocket money & cough up the 90p to get in the schoolboys.

That was it then every other Saturday (yes Saturday) and through the 80’s I done the Arsenal apprenticeship of schoolboys, North Bank, Clock End and when seating came in West Lower. We didn’t go because we thought Arsenal would win a trophy or challenge for the title, we went to watch the Arsenal.

It went deeper than just football. Some games were spent crowd watching and as a teenager growing up the best fashion trends of the 80’s would be seen on the Clock End on a Saturday afternoon. Items that were hard to come by or not on sale in Holloway sports would be looked at in awe. Some of the older lads were the smartest dressed supporters in the country.

To todays fans, winning the league cup means very little but back in 1987 it meant the world to me. After going Arsenal for the best part of 7 years I finally got to see them win something and a first trip to Wembley. No memberships or away credits needed then, just queue up after a match with a voucher from the turnstile. Even that great day couldn’t compare to what happened 2 years later and I was lucky enough to have a ticket for Anfield 89. The best football match I’ve ever been to and I don’t think I will ever see anything like it again. You can’t put into words the feeling of being there that night.

I used to love going to Highbury and  the whole match day experience. I would walk to Highbury via a pub when I was old enough (well nearly old enough) passing Arthur Daley type ticket touts ‘I’ve got seats upstairs’, the smell of horseshit, hamburgers’ and cigars all rolled into one, the reassuring click of the turnstile, then you were in. Some of the most funniest things I’ve heard in my life are comments that were shouted from the terraces. You can’t explain the pandemonium that hits a terrace when a goal is scored compared to todays cheer clap and then take a photo.

The 90’s were great and some of the players Arsenal had you would only dream about as a boy. But things were changing, all seating really hit atmosphere’s at games & it started becoming harder to get tickets, and then every game became all ticket and memberships arrived.

The trophies I’ve seen Arsenal win has been unbelievable and if you would have told me when I was standing on the Clock End in the pissing rain watching a 0-0  bore draw v Birmingham or the night we lost to Walsall at home I wouldn’t have believed it.

I still go to the odd game now and again but I have been priced out and feel I’ve been taken for granted and I’m not a fan of the new stadium but that’s the way it is now.

I’ll always be Arsenal through and through, it doesn’t just go away.

Lee

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The Arsenal and Me – Jools’ Story

So where do I start? I was born the day before Arsenal beat Liverpool in the 1950 Cup Final, an omen? Well my love affair started back as a nine year old back in 1958/9 season. I was born in Stepney but most of my mates were Spurs fans. The first game I remember was a 2-1 defeat up at Sunderland in the FA Cup. Over the next couple of seasons leading up to 1960/61 I endured my mates gloating at the all conquering Spurs team beating all before them and the double. Little knowing that they would not do it again,still all these years later! Haha. I read all I could about the Arsenal glory days of the 30s period and was mesmerised by the rich history, the marble halls of Highbury and ended up being a walking Arsenal facts kid! Lets face it, it was better to live in the past as the present team then was awful! Not a bad attack, but a terrible leaky defence, propped up by the amazing Jack Kelsey coming to the end of his career. I first saw Jack playing against Man City and in nets for them? The late great Bert Trautmann.

Early 1960s we had McGill and McCullough in defence, tried their best, but to be honest we were bad! We had a superb natural goalscorer in David Herd who scored goals for fun and probably kept us alive in Division One for many a season. Ironically Herd started a trend of our top goalscorers being sold to Manchester United over the years..unfortunately…Herd, then Stapleton, then RVP a bad trend.

We moved on and had a very cultured player in George Eastham and signed another prolific centre forward in Joe Baker from Torino. Joe was short for a centre forward, scored bags of goals full of heart and my favourite image was him squaring up to big Ron Yeats in the Cup at Highbury who was about a foot taller!

We drifted through the early seasons of the 60s I managed to get to a few away games Blackpool against a young Alan Ball. Both Manchester teams, Liverpool after they were promoted. Arsenal appointed Billy Wright as a manager, may have been a great player but awful as a manager. I remember the demonstrations outside Highbury and the burning effigy of him on the Avnell Road.

I actually was one of the 4,500 approx attendance v Leeds at Highbury mid week to see us lose 3-0 I think. Still I think the lowest ever attendance for a top flight game in England. Wright got the push and we got various managers in Don Howe, Terry Neill. We were still a mid table side. I started to go to more away matches…our cup defeat at Peterborough (a newish team in the league!) I went to places like Bolton, Shrewsbury, Cardiff, Swansea( Town then) at the Veitch Field. Along with fellow fans we hitch hiked to places like Newcastle, drinking in their supporters club, was totally pissed and just propped up on the terraces at St James Park, did not even remember the match!

Chased around Leeds by their fans for burning a Leeds scarf we “borrowed” got away on a train to Bradford by the skin of our teeth! During the 60s our ongoing relationship with Glasgow Rangers usually had us playing each other at the beginning of a season in a friendly alternate years at Highbury and Ibrox. A few of us decided to hitch hike to Glasgow for the game! We split up into twos and set out early Friday evening! We managed to get to Glasgow for 8.00am Saturday morning.

We got to Ibrox outside the ground for 9am and whilst walking around looking at the impressive stadium a guy pulled up in a car. Came up and chatted to us, will never forget it, he was the Rangers manager at the time, was so impressed we had hiked up for a friendly, he gave us a full tour of the stadium, showed us the amazing trophy room and gave us tickets for the main stand!

We drew 2-2 amazing atmosphere and we set back that evening. Took us a lot longer to get back, ended up sleeping in a brick kiln in a wheelbarrow outside Carlisle. Did not get back home till Monday morning and my Dad had reported me missing to the Old Bill !! I got a right hiding! I had already been in trouble the end of the last season for going to Burnley despite recovering from chicken pox!

Things were starting to change at The Arsenal the seeds of a good side were germinating and Bertie Mee was moving on up! Two Cup finals stick in my mind, we lost to Swindon Town 3-1 a 3rd Division team in the League Cup Final at Wembley. We were naturally heavy favourites but to be honest they ran us ragged in the mud with their flying winger Don Rogers causing havoc. I remember being in a daze all the way back from Wembley and sitting in The Gunners staring into my beer in a state of shock! The other side of the coin was our amazing come back against Anderlecht in the two legged Inter Cities Cup Final ( UEFA Cup ) we lost in Belgium 1-3 and turned it around 3-0 at Highbury! The place was rocking! George Armstrong our talented winger ran them ragged, our first trophy since the early 50s! Talking of Highbury rocking, who remembers the mid week derby v Spurs during the mid 60s? Ended 4-4 68,000 inside the ground and an estimated 30 plus thousand locked out!

Bertie Mee was the turning point for The Arsenal along with Don Howe’s zonal system they invoked an amazing spirit and assembled a superb side which flowered in 1971. What a team, Radford, Kennedy, Simpson Storey Mcnab, Graham and Tick Tock McLintock to name a few. You played 42 games a season then, no subs, plenty of hard men about and we mixed it with any one but still had the skills to beat the best. That night when Ray Kennedy soared in the lights at the Lane to win the title was unforgettable, the atmosphere was electric. Somewhere on the net is a clear pic of me celebrating on the pitch! We went on to see Darling Charlie put the Scousers to the sword at Wembley, our first double, think we even won the Youth Cup that week! Was an amazing season!
Over the next few seasons we scrapped with Leeds on and off the pitch haha. By the late 70s I was working at the Daily Express offices in Manchester. We got to the final v Ipswich 1978 and the then editor of the Sunday Express promised me a ticket for the match which he delivered! I was over the moon, got down to the match, red/white scarf on, entered Wembley, looked around and to my horrow was surrounded by a sea of blue and white! I was in the Ipswich end!! To be honest the Tractor Boys were fine, good humoured, found it funny and we shared a drink, maybe them winning helped!

As you know two more final followed Manchester United and West Ham, . Could not get tickets but i had fun winding Man United fan neighbour pre the 79 final. Imagine his surprise when he opened his lounge curtains one morning to find a full size Newspaper Poster “Arsenal for the Cup!” staring in on him! He took his time taking it down, not realising the same poster was facing outwards!

As we drifted through the 80s the appointment of Stroller was perfect, he assembled a disciplined (on the field) side, stuck up for his team and showed he was an Arsenal man through and through. If anyone has not watched Fever Pitch, just watch it! Again we were hard to beat and 1989 Anfield showed the true grit and determination of our side. Who were the best? 1971, 1989, 2004, ??? all different scenarios so I prefer to give them equal status!

Rioch was not an Arsenal man but I would always remember him for one thing signing Dennis Bergkamp a true genius!

Wenger?? When he came a breath of fresh air, very innovative, but now?? Maybe we need a change again! His best side the Invincibles, I have a signed framed away shirt, Bergkamp, Henry,Pires,Ljungberg and Gilberto which I treasure.

Favourite players over the years? Baker, McLintock, Graham,Brady, Radford, Kennedy, Adams, George,Viera, Petit, Bergkamp, Overmars,Wright,Storey, MacDonald to name just a few! So many more.

I could go on and on, hope I have not bored you all …too much. UP THE ARSENAL !!!!

Jools
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