On we go…..
Saturday 24th October 2015
I’m travelling home on one of those trains that splits. Not my usual route but trying to cut a long story short, last night I went to see Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse in Brighton. A very very good deal and my intended ferry back to the little island where I live working on my plans means I am at Horsham.
We are being held up because someone has ‘thrown up’ and the driver of the rear ‘portion’ going to Bognor Regis is refusing to go forward because it ‘pongs a bit’. Genuinely.
At this stage that is very amusing. And I’m dealing with it. But it would be very difficult had we not just got a positive result.
But we did. Whatever way we look at it. Or want to analyse it. We won. 3 points. Yes. Thanks. Lovely.
And it don’t smell of sick.
I like 5.30 kick offs. In fact I’m thinking of starting a campaign to name this the new 3pm. Whatever way we look at it, it certainly makes for a good day out. If you like a pint of course. And I do.
It was Royston the other week……..but today it was Brighton. A ‘different’ routine keeps us all fresh I guess! But within an hour I was embarking on a similar London pub tour to pre-Watford away. It’s these 5.30 kick offs you see……
Looking back at home games against Everton, one in particular will always spring to mind for all us Gooners. The 4nil victory to seal the League title back in 1998 (yes that was 17 years ago!!) was yet another very special day in our history. And footage of that ‘would you believe it’ moment still sends shivers down the spine.
For this memory jerker however, I’m going back a further 10 years and our Littlewoods League Cup Semi final 2nd leg victory in 1988.
After a fine Perry Groves strike had given us a hugely important 1 nil lead from the 1st leg at Goodison we were strong favourites to return to Wembley just 12 months after our famous win over Liverpool.
That confidence was tempered however, when reminded Spurs were one up from their away leg that year and we all know what happened after that!
Highbury was packed to the rafters and with the atmosphere electric we secured our spot at Wembley with an emphatic 3-1 victory on the night against The Toffees.
Those are the facts and figures but I also remember it for one particular moment for me personally that has forever remained in my memory as the evidence things just ‘had to change’.
I’ve watched us play from all parts of Highbury but my favoured spot at that time of life was the North Bank. Half way up, just in front of the gangway that separated the ‘top side’ from the ‘middle’ and just to the left of the left hand goalpost to be exact.
It used to get very busy at times looking back, but that slight discomfort was heavily outweighed by the sheer excitement and enjoyment of swaying and jostling and feeling as one. Like down the front at gigs, there was an unwritten rule that you all looked after one another should things get a bit ‘hectic’.
As a result I, along with all of us who remember those times, look back on them with a huge amount of fondness.
On that night in early 1988 however, there was a few quite frightening seconds where I genuinely didn’t feel safe.
Rocky had just smashed home and the usual pandemonium ensued. As it progressed however, I remember being somehow twisted so my back was to the pitch. And then that same back was against one of the crush barriers. For the first time that involuntary (as it had become at that moment) leaping up and down as one was really hurting my back.
The sheer weight of those around me was bending me backwards over the barrier. Not only did I think I was going to snap but I couldn’t breathe and/or do anything to stop it.
Of course, as it always did, that swaying, swell and forward pressure subsided within a few seconds and relative normality returned. But it was a moment I will never forget and the grazes and bruises on every single one of my back bones the following morning was the evidence. (Yes I was pretty skinny back then, no comments required! 🙂 )
I loved the terraces. I really did. But change needed to happen. And quickly before something catastrophic happened. But what did we/I know? Terribly, shockingly and desperately sadly, an awful lot it seems.
This afternoon the world’s eyes were upon us. Nothing unusual of course but we needed to win. Above all else. And we did. Not particularly impressively in the second period, but we won. 2-1 goes in the record books, we’ll take 3 points and move on to another competition.
That will do. And tonight if you start at the bottom of this country’s awesome football pyramid and keep looking up, eventually you will see the name Arsenal. That’s alright that is.
Sheffield Wednesday, for a long time were our bogey team. Certainly at Hillsborough. I’ve been there many times over the years but victories are hard to find. That needs to change on Tuesday night where the number of travelling Gooners expected exceeds those back then by quite some distance (apart from our FA Cup Semi final exploits back in the 70s of course).
We know our travelling support can make some serious noise. Let’s show our hosts the respect they deserve and give another example.
Come on you mighty reds!