North Bank Boy

No Team Like

Tomorrow my team the  Arsenal play in a luck lustre Cup Final against Hull City. Hopefully their long hunger for trophies will  end. They have a history of stumbling in finals against lesser sides. But it has got me thinking about my fanship and its greatest moments. Brought up in Highbury Grove, supporting Arsenal was as natural as going to the sweet shop or playing on Highbury Fields. It came with the territory. Away  at school and university I met others who had a team and that only cemented my loyalty.

 Typically the height of my passion was between the ages of 15 and 25 when I  stood often on the North Bank. I saw the last time they sold  bottled beer at Highbury when Glasgow Rangers fans used their empties to vent their fury at their team losing 3-0. I remember hot tears when Ajax beat my boys. As  a debutant  journalist I  interviewed Charlie George before he made the first team. Later I would interview manager Terry Neil and have my picture taken in the famous marble hall next to the bust of Herbert Chapman. In my period as a school teacher I got a class to write to the Arsenal manager  when they lost in a Cup Final-to Swindon(ouch). He wrote back that it was my job to help my students get these things in perspective!

 But the passion  if not the interest has died. This season I have watched the team only twice. Some seasons never. I have only  ever been to the new stadium  the Emirates once. But  I  follow.

But the two great moments of  fanship came in 1968 and 1971. In  1968 I took the overnight coach to Liverpool then the home of the all conquering  Shankly. I breakfasted with Welsh speaking Liverpool fans and stood in the Kop – still the most legendary end in  British football. Arsenal won 2-0 with goals by Radford and Ball. I kept politically quiet as all around me tears and rage were expressed. Brilliant

Two years later Arsenal were on for the double. To  win the League they had to get a result in the last game of the season at arch North London rivals Spurs. Tens of Thousands queued to get in. Only some and I was one were lucky. My two companions were left outside. Ray Kennedy scored the  only goal near the end and Arsenal were on their way to what was then a famous double. Tattooed on my soul.

I walk with a wiggle and I don’t’give a wank because I’m an Arsenal boot boy!


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