This morning’s memory is from Andy Wood, @yorkshiregunner, ever willing to debate on Twitter. Reports and YouTube videos at the end of the piece.
Trying to tie down a favourite Arsenal match is very hard, but I`m going to recount the time I first saw The Arsenal play in the flesh. I was two weeks shy of my 13th Birthday when my Dad realised my supporting Arsenal wasn’t just a phase I was going through and I pestered him constantly to take me to see them in an FA Cup 3rd round tie at Grimsby Town. Actually technically it was in Cleethorpes as that is where Blundell Park is located.
My good old Dad managed to secure some tickets but they were for the bloody Grimsby end! No matter, safe in the knowledge a dream was close to coming true I soon cheered up, the home end would just have to do. It was with great trepidation and excitement when I woke that morning and saw my Red & White Scarf sat on top of my clothes. I seem to remember a sickening feeling when I heard the game could be called off due to severe frost, thankfully though the ref passed the pitch fit to play on and we set off from Doncaster to the Seaside to watch my beloved Arsenal.
We parked up and made our way to the ground and, having picked up a programme, made our way up to our seats in the Findus Family Stand. To this day, when I see a Findus packet in supermarkets it instantly transports me back to that freezing cold January afternoon. Seeing my heroes coming out of the tunnel in their famous iconic Red & White kit gave me Goosebumps. The colours just seemed so vivid and I was so excited to see the likes of Kenny Sansom right up and close. Also in the team that day were three players just starting out on their Arsenal careers, Niall Quinn – my Dad constantly berating him during the game stands out – Martin Keown and one of the clubs true legends David Rocastle.
The previous year Arsenal had been defeated by minnows York City in a famous cup upset; surely lightning couldn’t strike twice could it? After 9 minutes it seemed as though it could. Arsenal made a hash of defending a corner and Grimsby took the lead. All the Grimsby fans around us were jubilant, jumping up and down. I sat crestfallen in my seat wondering why my Dad thought it was a good time to pat my head and start laughing at me! Thankfully there was another chap hailing from Doncaster who also wanted Arsenal to win that day; Graham Rix managed to bring down a ball on the edge of Grimsby`s area, firing a low left hand shot under the advancing keeper to level the scores. Guess who`s turn it was to jump around cheering now and dig my Dad in his ribs.
Arsenal started to apply some pressure now and Davis was brought down outside the area. Rix and Charlie Nicholas both stood over the ball, Charlie duly belted the ball into the Grimsby net which started a huge chant of, “CHARLIE, CHARLIE”, from the Arsenal end. Rocky drew a save out of Grimsby’s keeper, who tipped an effort onto the bar. Half Time arrived with us maintaining our one-goal cushion. My Dad treated me to a Bovril and a pie that was hotter than the surface of the Sun.
The second half started and Grimsby came out applying more pressure. Arsenal managed to repel their renewed efforts. When Charlie Nicholas was tripped on the edge of the area, he only stood up and curled a beauty into the top corner. 3-1 to The Arsenal and I had a smile as wide as the Joker. This is when Arsenal gave me a taste of what to expect from them my whole life. They let Grimsby back into it when yet again the defence didn’t clear properly and their Player-Manager slammed home the ball. The fans around me erupted once again and they must have thought I was a lucky charm as my hair was constantly rubbed, telling me Arsenal were now on the ropes.
It certainly seemed that way as Grimsby seemed to rack up the pressure. Thankfully Sansom teed up Charlie again, his snap shot took an almighty deflection off a defender and hit the back of the Grimsby net. 4-2; Phew! What a relief. A Hat-Trick for Nicholas! It’s strange how memories become clouded as for years I have somehow convinced myself he had scored a Hat-Trick of Free-kicks! I wonder if because the World`s hottest pie was Beef and Ale and I had a sway on?
The game wasn’t over though and Grimsby got yet another goal back when Quinn couldn’t get out-of-the-way of a shot and the Ref pointed to the spot. 4-3. We somehow managed to keep out a final wave of Grimsby pressure and the Ref blew the whistle. It`s often said you never forget your first & I will never forget the absolute joy I had watching The Arsenal for the very first time, I`ve been lucky to go to many games since that Cold January Day but one thing`s for certain I`ll never forget my first time.
Thanks Andy. Don’t forget the YouTube videos of the game below, two parts about 10 minutes each. ’til Tomorrow.