Friday, May 05, 2006

My favourite Highbury moments.







The first game i ever went to was Arsenal Leicester in 1995. Goonerboy was very much a boy back then, and had been excited for weeks in advance. My Dad and I were in the North Bank and this was barely weeks - if I remember properly - before Georgie Graham was sacked. I remember staring in awe at the jumbotrons when I got in the ground: these were still quite the novelty back in '95. Leicester were bottom of the league, and Arsenal weren't exacly soaring above them. That season, when i received my Highbury baptism, we finished about 13th, lost in the ECWC final due to that goal, and Graham was sacked due to taking a bung - although I was too young to understand what that meant. Pretty bleak times. But I was at Highbury!

Only 30,000 fans had turned up, and Georgie came on the screen before the game to thank us all for coming, and that he was happy so many people had turned up. Hard to imagine a premiership game not selling out nowadays at Highbury, but that was the state the club was in.

The game was a fairly scrappy affair. It was pelting down with rain, and my Dad and I were sitting right in the front row or so in the lower North bank. After being drenched in the first half, I'm pretty sure he must have downed a pint at h-t - I remember being so thrilled that the plastic pint glasses had Arsenal badges on them. The stand was empty enough that we were able to sit further back in the second half. It was about 10 minutes or so in that Merson - who was my favourite player, even more than Wrighty, and even after the disillusionment of his multi-addiction frontpage scandal - broke the deadlock. Bliss.

But it was not to be, and Mark Draper equalised with a free-kick - a player we were being strongly linked to at the time. The game eventually finished 1-1, but I was happy. My first game at Highbury and it had been magic. And we hadn't lost!

After that I wasn't so lucky. I remember seeing Arsenal getting beaten 2-1 by Everton during Rioch's year in charge. It was our only last home league defeat before we went on some huge home undefeated run, pretty much summing up my luck. I think after that I saw three draws, two of which were 0-0s.

It was only after about half a dozen games over 3 seasons that i finally saw Arsenal win, A 1-0 against Sheffield Wednesday. I had my view partially obscured by a pillar, but the catharsis was palpable. Dennis, who i still can't believe is also going this year (sob), got the winner and before the match he was presented with some form of European player of the year award thingy. I was so proud to see that. I think he may just have come third, but to see a player like that play for us, at Highbury and to score when i was there...magic.

My best Highbury moment was in the '98 season. We beat Wimbledon 5-0, and we could have scored 10. Petit finally scored his first goal for Arsenal, and the win made it look like we could actually catch United. I remember walking out the ground and everyone singing how we were gonna win the league, and it actually seemed plausible. Within a month, we were champions, and it seemed that I had been there, at Highbury, when it all began to fall into plac. I know that probably wasn't the case - but that's how I've remembered it, and it's a truly treasured memory.

The first actual time I went to Highbury was also pretty magic. We were living in Wales at that time and my family had come up to London for the weekend. My dad decided to take me to Highbury just so I could have a look at the stadium. As we were passing, a tour group went in, and my dad did the old foot in the door routine.

So during my first visit to Highbury, I strode in through the front entrance and into the Marble Halls. Not bad, eh? Saw the dressing rooms, sat in the dugout, secretly took a blade of Highbury grass, marvelled at the spankingly opulent toilets, and saw the FA cup - i think it was the real one, we had won it the year before- in the trophy cabinet. My secret hope that the Arsenal first team would swagger in unannounced as part of the tour did not come to fruition, unforunately.

Ah, memories: in a few days, these will be all that remain of our beloved Highbury. The bricks and mortar will soon crumble, and only the thoughts that we all have indelibly marked on our minds will be left.

I can't wait to see my first match in the Emirates next season, but I'll never forget Highbury. I think it's the most beautiful stadium I've ever been to, because it's not a stadium. Its soul, its history, and all the players and the fans made it far more than that.

So, goodbye Highbury. I'm going to miss you. Thanks for the memories and all the happy times.

5 comments:

tunadog said...

With the greatest respect bleak times were standing at Wembley in 1969 having watched your team lose to a 3rd division team ..a team that had not won a trophy for 17 years whilst the other mob down the road had dominated.
The winning of the Fairs Cup against Anderlecht was the greatest moment at Highbury by a country mile... grown men stood & cried their eyes out with pure joy as the team they adored finally won something...i hope that this great club never has to endure such a barren period again...

Goonerboy said...

Sorry tuna.

I've only supported Arsenal since 1990, so i can't really compare my experiences to yours.

Everyone talks about that Fairs cup match. must have been pretty epic.

gooner gal said...

Been a giiner my whole life but only got the chance to get to highbury a few years ago...

Here is the story of the 1st time I went highbury:

I used to study in manchester. My 21st bday was on a friday night, with arsenal playing at 12pm in QW Facup vs newcastle. This fri was thelast day of term and drink the bar dry at the union. My cousin tells me for my bday present she will get me a ticket for us to go to this match.

My unimates said I had to celebrate my bday in mancs, so I booked the 1st train from mancs-lon on the sat (at about 5.30am) and planned to do an all nighter.

Went out on fri night, got totally wasted but did the all nighter, had a shower at 4am to try and keep myself awake and made my train on sat morning. Passed out on the train straight away.

So I wake up up at Euston about to buy my tube ticket and my purse has been taken outta my coat pocket...dilema if my dad comes to get me at Euston I will not have enough time to get to the match, i start crying. I go to the lost & found section, explained everything to him, he gave me £5 from ouuta hs pocket, told me he will give it to me if I stop crying and enjoy the game and the rest of my bday.

So i get myself home, change my clothes and link my cousin to go highbury. We had seats on the 1st row right by the centre circle. It was amazing. Atmosphere, seeing it live was soooo different to seeining it in a pub!

Then after the match a uni mate had a cousin who coached the arsenal U16 so she organised that I could meet the team. I met them in the players car park. This was the match that pires mashed up his knee, i opened the door for him!

Paddy was such a nice guy. That day was the day me and my cousin realised how fit henry was! AW said 'happy 21st birthday, we won for u!'. Met quite a few players that day. That was my 1st day at highbury and i was def gonna go back!

people cally highbury 'the highbury libary' - I dont understand why coz whenever iv been (iv sat north. east, west and clock end) its never been a libary, atmosphere has always been amazing.

Best match I saw was the one vs Real this year.

I have witnessed 1 loss (vs west ham this year) and the feeling is sh*t.

Iv seen us make history vs bburn (when we beat the unbeaten record off nottingham forrest

i also witnessed my 1st north lon derby this year recently, and that gae has to have the best atmosphere ever.

I for one will miss highbury as it has so many memories, but the new stadium will bring some new ones.

I will be their on sun with my flag, proud to be a gunner!

Anonymous said...

arsenal in cl arsene knows

Anonymous said...

Amazing! I never doubted that we'd win our last games but that Spurs should have bottled it against an under-strength West Ham (with a little help from a chef) - that I really didn't expect. I knew that worm Sheringham would be playing for the Totts, so when he missed a simple chip and a penalty I was plunged into total despair. Ha ha ha. Bet Torres is relieved he hesitated before committing himself. Wonder if we'll be considering him.

Wasn't there to celebrate and say goodbye, sadly, but went out at full time and rejoiced in the fireworks people were letting off in the street where I live.

No, it won't determine whether Thierry stays or not, but it has to help massively, doesn't it?