The major chapter in the history of Arsenal Football Club draws to a close tomorrow as the final match takes place with Wigan Athletic the visitors. Below are some of my Highbury memories, good and bad:
1979…first visit, Billy Tucker equalises for Swindon with five minutes to go in a League Cup Quarter Final…coach is pelted by bricks on the way home by West Ham fans…1984/5…start going on a regular basis…Brian Talbot curls freekicks home in successive matches against Newcastle and Liverpool…we knew where the ball was going and tried to warn Grobelaar but he didn’t listen…Tony Adams makes his debut against Sunderland in a 3 – 2 win…Tottenham win on New Years Day, a smiling fan makes the wise decision to get off the tube when he realised that the good humour was not shared…Hereford lose 7 – 2 in a cup tie, a prelude to York…1985/6…Mariner scores against Sheffield Wednesday just as we reach the top of the steps on the Clock End, still didn’t stop us leaving…30th November 1985, Arsenal 0 Birmingham City 0, the worst football match I have ever seen..redemption two weeks later as Liverpool succumb to a 2 – 0 defeat, Niall Quinn and Charlie do the damage…Villa rain on our parade winning in the League Cup…Graham Roberts dumps Charlie over an advertising hoarding in a coma-inducing New Years Day game…1986/7…the start of something good, opening day win over United…all the way to Wembley, only one trip out of London, Clive Allen scores but so begins a sequence of 2 – 1 wins over Tottenham…John Barnes and his Watford chums rob us in the cup Quarter Final…clubs centenary match is a let down, a great day not a good game, 1 – 0 over Southampton on December 27th…Freezing our nuts off when we could have watched a 0 – 0 boredraw with Coventry on TV…1987/88…Smudger takes a while to get going but Portsmouth get the brunt of frustration in a 6 – 0 win…League Cup Semi Final with Everton even more packed on the North Bank than the previous year, taking 25 minutes to move back into position after the opening goal…Brian McClair’s penalty is still in orbit as United go out of the cup, the start of all the hatred as Winterburn takes the piss…shame Forest had not read the script in the next round…Boxing Day, 0 – 2 to Forest and a parking ticket to boot…1988/89…what a year…Winterburn’s screamer to keep the dream alive at home to Wimbledon…Paul Davis throwing a better punch than Henry Cooper did twenty five years earlier…I still hate Dean Saunders sixteen years later for nearly screwing it up…Leroy Rosenior doing us a favour by winning a third round replay, although it didn’t feel like it at the time…Liverpool to a third replay, proof that a 0 – 0 draw isn’t always a bad game…moving to the West Lower, a second home for the next decade…looking on in disbelief as the blokes next to us waver about going to Anfield after Derby’s win, loving Dean Saunders to this day(!)…convincing the same lads after the Crazy Gang deserve their draw that going to Anfield is a waste of time…buying their tickets at face value on the pretext that we were off to Glasgow for England v Scotland so were up in that general direction(!!), a prelude to what is still the greatest night out I’ve ever had…1989/90…a forewarning of things to come, as we fail to defend the title…pissing the Scousers off again by winning in the League Cup…bundle as Norwich come to town…Bumstead scoring for Chelsea, stupid name, stupid result…Millwall at Highbury, kicking off left right and centre…1990/91…an unbelievable year…sweet revenge over Chelsea, sticking four past them…taking Liverpool apart, 3 – 0 flattered them…Motty moment, “thats’ a beautiful pass” heard by everyone around me before the fourth against Sheffield United, the nickname stuck for a couple of seasons…the last of the great cup marathons, this time against Leeds…Lee Tosspot Sharpe and that 6 – 2 defeat…Villa concede five as Platt goes in goal…guard of honour which must have stuck in Fergie’s throat, another Smudger hattrick in a 3 – 1 win…Coventry roll over and die on the last day, 6 – 1 just completed the party atmosphere…1991/92…Europe, Europe, Here We Come…Thanks to Austria Vienna for making us think this is a piece of piss, matching Liverpool’s 6 – 1 win the night before…Benfica taking the piss out of us in extra-time to prove it was not easy…another disappointing year, why the f*** did George Graham not improve the previous years squad?…seven past Sheffield Wednesday and I missed it due to my then girlfriend’s cousins wedding…it didn’t last…Merse’s top notch finish against Palace…Super, Superswede Anders Limpar scores the goal of the season over birdwatching Mike Hooper…sticking five past Southampton, not much of a birthday present, eh Al?…1992/93…Cup doubles at the ready…opening day horror show against Norwich summing up the home form all season…losing 3 – 1 to Tottenham days before the FA Cup Final…Leeds again the third round of the cup, another draw…Wrighty’s twenty five yard volley over the keeper against Forest…Palace taken apart in the second leg of the League Cup semi, queueing for bloody ages to get a pint that night in the Barn…1993/94…wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen…another opening day horror show, this time against Coventry…the domestic football was some of the worst ever seen…even Swindon got a point at Highbury…diabolical surrender to Bolton in The FA Cup…nearly as bad in the League Cup against Villa…did we care? Did we f***! PSG and Torino fall to “1 – 0 to the Arsenal” on European Nights…1994/95…”shooooooot!”, “f***ing hell, he’s scored”…Johnny Jensen finally breaks his duck against QPR…ran like a loon in celebration….about the only thing that made the 1 – 3 defeat palatable…the football got worse in the League, worse in the cup losing to Millwall…Georgie boy is naughty and gets sacked, disbelieving that he had been so dumb as to get caught…Coneman takes over…Sampdoria and it felt like heaven and hell in one match, not really believing the 3 – 2 would be enough…1995/96…walking in a Bergkamp wonderland, especially that goal against Bolton…or what of the first two against Southampton…Man United brought to their knees…knowing that dropping a two goal lead against Villa was bad news in the first leg of the League Cup Semi Final…1996/97…Le Boss introduced before a 3 – 2 defeat against Borussia Monchengladbach…thinking “who the hell is he? Cruyff would have been better”…the Tiny Tots put to the sword in a piss-easy 3 – 1 win…reality bites with a 1 – 2 defeat to United and Liverpool…1997/98…realising that this could be the start of something good…Bergkamp against Barnsley, you knew where the ball was going, so did the keeper but he couldn’t stop it…Vieira volleys over Schmeichel…Platty leaps like a salmon to gain all three points…not to sure about this Anelka lad, he’s good but might need some time in the reserves – shows how much I know about football…how the f*** did we lose that one as Liverpool leave town with all three points…the pits as Blackburn mug us 1 – 3…three months later, who knew they could do that, going to United needing a win to make it game on…persuading the bloke next to me that he really didn’t want to go to Old Trafford on his own and that selling me his ticket for a £20 premium was sound business sense…God knows how he fell for that one…Stevie Bould chips through for Tony to lash into the net, the perfect way to seal the title…bloody awful at home in the cup but we still made it to Wembley…hugely disappointed that we did not put Chelsea away in the League Cup Semi Final First Leg…1998/99…United’s all conquering team torn to shreds in a 3 – 0 win…Dave E falling into bog on a 125 after Boro and not waking up until Reading…no home European games having to troll out to Wembley again…believing the unbelievable may come true when Sir Les scores at Old Trafford…knowing it won’t happen when the final whistle goes…Sheffield United in the FA Cup – why replay?…Is putting the reserves out to a full strength Chelsea such a good idea? 0 – 5 seems to say not…1999/2000…
never in the title race as United stroll home…an interminably dull cup tie with Leicester…Roy Keane at the double to seal the points…Wembley way called again without any joy…All back to Highbury for the UEFA Cup…if we thought it was one-sided against Nantes, Deportivo was a complete rout…Bergkamp against Lens set the tone for future European Semi Finals…2000/01…Cup joy turned sour in the last ten minutes as another mugging at the hands of the Scousers…Chelsea’s woe continues as they are dumped out of the cup in the fifth round…Lazio come to town and are run ragged by Bergkamp and Ljungberg…two goal lead thrown away against Bayern…Valencia almost end the cup run in the first leg, Ray Parlour’s superstrike gave hope…Pires provides a fitting finish to mark Rocky’s sad passing…2001/02…after Leeds in the first home match, the only double we had in mind was the MacAllan in the pub afterwards…Carragher lobs a coin back into the crowd as Bergkamps superb header settles the tie…Pires goal in the replay against Newcastle…his injury at the end of the first half…flying to Spain on September 11th having persuaded my wife that Mallorca was only a short hop from her parents apartment…Mallorca cocking up the return thinking 3 – 1 would be OK for them to progress…Juve destroyed…Leverkusen annihilated, has Pires ever played better?…Blackburn prove the catalyst again…United collapse in a 3 – 1 win…Lauren’s late, late penalty to deny the Tiny Tots…2002/03…Dortmund’s reputation in tatters – how was it only 2 – 0?…best to forget the home matches against Roma, Ajax and Valencia…nicking a 3 – 2 win over Chelsea, more beer please…Henry against Tottenham…Southampton crumble to a 6 – 1 thrashing, two hattricks from either wing…2003/04…Inter appear to put European dreams at an end in the first game, what price 5 – 1 in the return…Ashley Cole keeps it alive with a late, late header…Celta offer no resistance…whilst Bridges burnt the faithful…Reyes announces his arrival with a corker…the kids running riot against Wolves…a season unbeaten and unbeatable…2004/05…that comeback against Middlesbrough to keep the run going…seventh heaven against Everton…Liverpool a poor second in a 3 – 1 win…back on track against Rosenborg…all over Bayern but unable to find the crucial second…Everton made to look second rate by the reserves…2005/06…arrivederci Patrick, Hola Cesc…Europe rules the roost…Real stubbornly rebuffed…Juve arrived as the big men, departed as boys…Villarreal tried to squirrel an away goal but a Toure de Force sinks them…Stevie Gerrards wonder pass for the second, Cesc’s for the first…a passionless visit from Man U, all animosity gone…cheating Tiny Totts denied by Henry…Sol collapses against West Ham…Boro hit for seven, this is becoming a habit…Power Ranger has his photo taken with the entire first team squad on Members Day…a fond farewell to the past, hopes of a bright, new future.
My thanks to all those over the years who made the matches enjoyable. In particular to John for the sensible conversation and rare moments of sanity, Jo, Martin, Neil – always able to fit in a swift couple before the trains left, Chris, Graeme, Marcus and last but by no means least, Larry the Fire.
Today’s Tunes are from Paul Weller, culled from a Top Of The Pops performance on Friday June 14th 1996.