“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”.
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