The Arsenal History web site (which is where you are) sponsored by AISA, is currently inviting all Arsenal supporters to write in with details of their first time of seeing the Arsenal play. If you would like to write for this series, there are details at the foot of this article.
My First and Last Trip to Highbury
By Kieran Wheeler
Being a Gooner can be quite tricky here in the land down under. While a pint may be the standard match fare for a fan in the UK, here a coffee is often more suited to the time Premier League game air at. Not quite as much fun, but never the less I have been a passionate supporter of the Gunners for over a decade now. There have been many highs and lows over the years, one such high that instantly springs to mind is the time I ventured to London and saw my beloved team live in the flesh.
It was August 2006 and my sister had been living in London, “dossing” with a group of “jafa’s”, for some time. I had been meaning to visit her for a while but just not got around to it, (after all it does involve spending 20+ hours in economy) but with Arsenal set to move to the Emirates at the end of the season urgent action was required if I was ever to witness Highbury.
So, I got the time off work, packed my bag and high tailed it over to merry old England. My sister had lots of fun stuff planned, she took me to…. well I forget, the important part was I had managed to score tickets to the opening day of the season, Arsenal V Newcastle! The price I paid for these tickets was nothing short of extortion, but did I care? Not one iota, I was going to Highbury.
I don’t remember much about getting there or what the buzz was like outside the ground, we had pints, a certain young Dutchmen had caught my eye during the 2005 season, so an RVP red currant shirt was purchased, but apart from those details it’s a tad foggy, but where it all becomes crystal clear again is when we walked into the ground.
I’ll never forget it, the first thing that got me was that I could actually smell the grass, the pitch that had served as the stage for so many moments of joy, despair and drama was now so close to me that I could smell it. The second thing that got me was that Thierry Henry was standing a few metres from me accepting the golden shoe and the golden boot awards for his efforts from the previous season. If at that moment God himself had floated down from heaven to share the meaning of life with me, I would have asked him if he could please step aside so I could get a photo of the great man, I mean come on, it was Thierry Henry.
I got a few more snaps of other great men, as they paraded “past Gunner greats” before kick-off, getting the unexpected chance to cheer Martin Keown for the first and last time was greatly appreciated, not to mention utilised. It brought back fond memories, like the time a certain horse faced manc had me so livid I was spitting pleasantries at my TV, there was so much I wanted to say to the long faced swindler but felt powerless sitting in my pyjamas on the other side of the world, Keown being the true gent that he is, somehow tapped into this desire and acted as my personal avatar. Good times.
After soaking it all in for a bit I found my seat, I have to say the amount I paid for the seats was grossly disproportionate to the view which they provided. I was in the farthest corner of the lower tier in the East Stand, closest to the Clock End. These were not great seats, but as the Gunners were attacking the Clock End from the kick off I would have a tremendous view of any goals scored in the first half. Unfortunately, there were none. The game was settled through a Henry penalty and a RVP finish in the second half, and I had no idea what either goal looked like until almost a year later when I purchased the season review DVD.
But it didn’t matter, I had joined in on the songs and cheered on the team, I booed Stephen Carr with everything I had, I saw the boys win a game and felt like I was a part of it, I was there. Still to this day I have a framed photo of me when I first walked into the famous old ground. It’s probably my favourite picture and sits triumphantly next to my wedding photo. The look on my face is generally only exhibited by children on Christmas day and as you get older the number of things in life that can give you this look is steadily diminished, it was a special, special day and one I’ll never forget.
For now, I must make do with getting my weekly Arsenal fix via satellite in the middle of the night, but another special day looms ever closer, the Emirates is next on my to do list! Soon my wedding picture will be flanked by another photo of me, proudly sporting a red shirt with an expanse of carpet like turf behind me and a goofy smile no doubt spread across my adulated face.
If you would like to contribute to this series please email Tony.Attwood@aisa.org with your story, ideally written as a word file (if not then in the text of the email). I also need your address and phone number, although these will not be published. In writing for this series you are giving us to right to publish the piece on this site, and in other formats (we are working on a book etc, but nothing is completely fixed at the minute.)
PS: As luck would have it, just at the moment that we are launching this piece I am off to Italy for a week, but when I return – prior to the Blackpool game – I will get down to the regular publishing of the articles that are being sent in.