"Daddy, who was Herbert Chapman?"*

June 17, 2010 11 Comments by Sian

*Title nicked from a t-shirt I saw emblazoned with “Daddy, who were The Clash?” Don’t know if it’s a brand or a really famous song/band/cult, as much music knowledge is pretty much zero. Soz. Would have been SO GOOD to have used “Daddy, who was The Clich’?” but obviously… everyone knows who he is.

Having spent the past week gathering up other fans’ tales of discovering Arsenal for this FootballUtd blog, I’ve realised how easy my own route into Goonerdom has actually been. My whole family support Arsenal (besides a rogue Watford-supporting uncle), I live in the same timezone as the club and I live within easy distance of the stadium. I can’t really take any credit for being a Gooner, unlike those who discovered the club for themselves, who decided after seeing that first match that the Arsenal would be their team and who have followed them ever since. I’ve had emails from all over the world, each with different stories to tell. Mostly, they’re better than mine. But I’m still going to tell you my story because… well, I like to talk about Arsenal, and clearly, myself. Have you noticed?

Being infected (blessed?) with the Arsenal gene goes back a fair way in my family. My Grandad Billy moved to Islington when he was six, and started going to matches shortly after. This was in 1923. In fact, he and his future wife Cathie even happened to be at the same match, a 6-0 win over Grimsby Town in 1935, without realising it. This would have been a coincidence if she had been a local girl too, but, having merely been down for the weekend with her mum from her hometown of Broughty Ferry near Dundee in Scotland, she wasn’t exactly from nearby.

So when my dad was born, he became a fan and was brought up opposite the Highbury stadium in a house on Gillespie Road. Mum too is a lifelong Gooner, also hailing from Islington. They both went to schools with the word “Highbury” in the name. Jealous much? I know I am. Both of their stories are included in upcoming blogs.

Still, though I was aware from birth of which team I was supposed to be supporting, my sister and I were never instructed to be Arsenal fans. It wasn’t until the 1997-1998 season when I was 8 that I remember really getting into it. We won the double that year. Look a me, I’m a glory hunter! My dad says he remembers being really proud walking into my bedroom one day to find a newly-blu-tacked Patrick Vieira poster on my wall, the only poster I had up. I decided I loved Arsenal, and I decided I really loved my Pats. He was a HERO to me.

My first ever match at Highbury was a 5-3 win over Charlton Athletic in August 2000. I remember walking into the stadium (our tickets were for seats in the West Stand) and thinking “It’s so… pretty!” After that match, I was really hooked. We didn’t get season tickets until 2003 but I’m glad we managed to squeeze in six years of match opportunities at Highbury before our move in 2006. I love the Ems but… come on, Highbury’s Highbury for God’s sake!

Matches that really stand out for me range from that first Charlton Athletic game to the second leg of our 2006 clash with Real Madrid. About three mobile phones ago I had a video of the final whistle recorded on my phone. Best 0-0 draw I’ve ever seen and my God, the roar that went up at the whistle!

Another stand-out match has to be the Carling Cup tie against Rotherham (yes, Rotherham), in October 2003. Mostly memorable for the fact the penalty shoot-out went to about 274 penalties, it was also the debut match of that little-known wonderkid, Francesc Fabregas.

May 2006 was a particularly eventful month. Not only did we have the final ever match at Highbury (a match for which my dad’s best friend from school, Das, flew all the way back from California to see), but we also had the Champions League final against Barcelona just days later. There’s a right gutser in that story. I hate people who leave early. Hate them. If you want to get home early, don’t bother coming in the first place. Somehow though, the nerves got so massively unbearable that my Mum and I scarpered off to go and get some drinks while the match was still playing. In our defence, we were at the end of the row so we didn’t disturb anyone on our way out! Obviously, because of the legislation of something known as Sod’s Law, Arsenal chose this very moment to score our only goal of the game. Good old Sol man. We heard the roar, looked at each other, ran back to our seats and were greeted by hugs from random fans we’d never met before. I’ve still never seen Sol’s goal, not even on a replay, because that would mean watching Mad Jens getting sent off and us losing to Barcelona. And frankly, I’ve had quite enough of that this season.

My favourite away game ever has to have been (obviously) when we beat AC Milan 0-2 at the San Siro in March 2008. Once again Arsenal’s seat allocation was up in the gods, though we were sat immediately behind the home fans. Two Arsenal boys in front of us, sauced to the eyeballs, were giving it large at them as we kicked off. At half-time, they were both sat with their heads in their hands, nerves and beer clearly having caught up with them. At the final whistle, they burst into tears. One sobbed to the other “If I never see another football game again, I’ll still die a happy man.” Dramatic, but so very true!

There have been the brilliant times (The Invincibles, the 7-0 wins, the days when we used to beat Chelsea and Man Utd on a regular basis) and there have been the bloody awful times (getting kicked out of the Champions League far too many times to be healthy for the soul, deserving to win a match but not, losing to Chelsea and Man Utd on a regular basis), but all of them have been Arsenal times. Sometimes I kind of pity other teams. To me, Arsenal Football Club is pretty much Arsene Wenger. I’ve never known another manager in all the years I’ve been following them. With the exception of Manchester United, how many other teams can say that? Say what you like about our club, it’s run impeccably. We do the right things the right way, we don’t throw money at problems in the hope they’ll go away and our players are raised (yes, raised, rarely purchased) to be good people as well as good players.

I live in Enfield and often get told off because apparently, Tottenham are my local team. Which is a load of old arse because if we’re going on the local rule, I should be a Barnet or Enfield Town fan (and given the choice I’d ABSOLUTELY be a Barnet or Enfield Town fan over one of them). Technically, my hometown is Enfield. I consider it really, however, to be very much Highbury. In the words of Thierry Henry… “Once you are a Gooner, you will always be a Gooner.”

My next blog has contributions from fans from as far off as the US, Canada, Egypt and Australia! Be there or… you know, don’t.

11 Comments

  1. Sebinho9
    2620 days ago

    This has made me want to find out why my Grandad supports Arsenal. It’s quite difficult to get any detailed info out of him. I suppose being succinct is one of the reasons he has got to 91. I’ll do some digging.
    As for me I support Arsenal because my brother and Granddad do. My big bro says I support Arsenal because he does, and he says he does because his friend at school did. (My other granddad supported Chelsea). My first memories are of the 1993 FA Cup Final. I remember being annoyed because that year our teacher had assigned us all a team so we could do the league table to learn maths. Mine was Sheffield Utd but I knew I was an Arsenal fan, and my friends knew it and so they took the piss for the whole of the final at my mate Shazhad’s birthday party. My next memory is of the Parma final the year after, but that’s very vague. My first time stating to my parents that we were watching the football and not whatever they wanted to watch was the semi-final of the Cup Winners Cup, and I remember going ballistic when we won on pens. The first time I ever cried over Arsenal was the Nayim incident. I was one of 3 Arsenal fans at my whole school and the only one in my year. The crap I got after that goal cemented my pride as an Arsenal fan, made me think everyone else was a wanker and I never looked back.

    Reply

  2. Sebinho9
    2620 days ago

    I clearly mean Sheffield Wednesday. Dyslexic moment there.

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  3. Dollpet
    2620 days ago

    Great article dude! I’ll be sending you mine 2moro/2nite xoxoxox

    Reply

  4. Alan
    2619 days ago

    Bird,

    you’ve already got mine. Blog on!

    Reply

  5. Akshay
    2619 days ago

    I think it was our final season at Highbury, when ESPN here in India had started showing EPL matches on a more regular basis. I had always had an idea of what the EPL was, and knew only a couple of names from the league like ManU and Arsenal. That was the period I had started to get really interested into watching Footie on the telly. Prior to that, it was just FIFA 06 on the Computer and some footie on the streets for me.

    It was also around the same time(2005-06) when Rooney had burst onto the scene and the local papers were hailing him as the next big thing and what not. Reports like those were the reasons why some of my friends had started supporting ManUtd. But I always hated that club. For reasons unknown, I never liked them, and I know Hate is a strong word, but I just couldn’t stand the sight of the Scholes and the Nevilles.

    Somewhere, I always knew that I would eventually turn into a Gooner. I remember watching the final season, with our players in the maroon jerseys(One of THE Best kits) and matches like the first game of the season, (I think Newcastle) , then the matches like the Boro 7-0 thrashing (Va Va Voom!) and the Bernabeu match followed by the most dramatic climax to the league season. That was my first season as a Gooner, and having understood the hatred for Spurs, and the very thought of them Scums finishing above us was dreadful. But as they put it: Cometh the hour, Cometh the Man. Thierry Henry. 4-2. Goodbye kiss to the Highbury pitch. Perfect farewell. I remember seeing the sea of Red, and it was eye blinding. The stands were Full of Red jersey wearing Gooners who were there to witness the last match at their beloved stadium, and how I wished I would have been one of them.

    It was my College vacation and I was at my Mom’s native place(Ahmedabad) when the Champions League final was going to take place.We were at a relative’s place until 11.45 or something and I remember putting on ESPN and seeing John Dykes with the pre game buildup. I bid adieu to all of them, rushed back home, ESPN on the telly, bottle of Coke and a bag of Lays to keep me company, which was going to be the Biggest match I have ever witnessed in all my years as a Gooner. It’s the European final for Christ’s sake, Stade de France, a sea of Yellow on one side of the stadium, with Gooners representing every single one of us from the world over. It was a beautiful sight before the game was about to begin, awe inspiring.

    And then came kick-off. A few minutes in, and Jens charged out and brought down Eto’o, who still managed to score(I think), but the utterly stupid Ref had already blown the whistle. And then came out the red. I was dumbfounded. And Andy Gray was with me! “Come on ref, allow and the goal and let the game continue 11 v 11″ is what he said. But no, he sent Jens off, on came Almunia, and off went Bobby Pires :( , in front of his family and home crowd. The resulting freekick counted or diddly squat, and just about on the stroke of Half time, with the overhead camera zooming in, Sol Campbell headed IN! I screamed in joy, and my Grandpa rushed to the room to check what happened. Kinda difficult to explain the joy of a goal at 1.30 in the morning.

    The second half started, the bag of Lays empty, and I was anxiously looking over with every passing SECOND! And then, it just had to happen. Eto’o equalised, and Belletti netted the winner. Heartbreak. Absolute Heartbreak.

    I remember watching Thierry, sitting there dejectedly on the final whistle, and watching Ronaldinho and Co. lift the trophy. Never have I felt so sad and depressed for even the Indian Cricket team, let alone a football team! But I guess that’s the magic of Arsenal FC. I cried that night while going to sleep.

    Then, We entered the Emirates, and from then on it has been a wave of emotions, the past 4 years. From our first home game against Villa, to Henry’s superb goal against Boro at the Riverside, to his departure to Barca, to the Super trio of Hleb-Flamster-Cesc sooo nearly winning the League for us, to the AMAZING win at the San Siro(Cesc went straight into Wenger’s arms with teary eyes, and Jens, who was a sub, celebrated with equal passion :) ) to the RoadRunner Theo run at Anfield, which left FIVE Liverpool players Flat on their arses, to us comming so near, yet so far again this season.

    It’s been amazing being a Gooner, and I have cherished Every single moment of it. For all the stick I have got from my friends (some of ‘em Manutd glory hunters), I have always held the head high, and Believed season after season, that Glory shall be ours.

    The same goes for the coming season, this time, we open our account on the other side of Merseyside, and I hear you say another 6-1? (4 for Chamakh, 1 for Cesc and Arsha each). Hell to the yea!

    Victoria Concordia Crescit. Forever.

    Ps: My best friend is a die hard Gooner too, and the best moment was the Arsenal Manutd match I think 2 yrs ago, when Gallas equalized in the 92nd minute. We were watching the match with our Manutd supporting friend (Chintan), and I swear, the amount of Fuck offs uttered at that moment when Billy put in that ball have hardly been matched as yet. :D Chintan’s face said it all!

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  6. Tricia
    2619 days ago

    Loved it. It’s always fun to know how fellow Gooners became well, a Gooner.

    I remember the AC Milan match. I rushed home from school and caught the last bit of the match. Just in time to see Cesc’s goal. After the match I sat on the couch and cried tears of joy. My roommate came home a couple minutes after that and asked me if I was okay. All I could respond was “We won.” She looked at me like I was an absolute nutter, gave me a hug and walked away. It was such a glorious moment in my football life.

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  7. Yogesh
    2619 days ago

    What a wonderful blog.

    I dont remember when i became a gooner, i.e, the exact date or something. But i know i became one sometime in ’97 when i first saw Bergkamp weave his magic on for the Gunners! I was 13 then and watching EPL in India wasnt all that easy back then. But that moment i would never forget. It wasnt some goal which i saw. All i saw was an amazing pass from him to someone and then the first touch on the return pass he got. I used to play footie back then and i was amazed that one could pass between 3 or 4 players!

    I know for a fact that Dennis Nicolaas Bergkamp will be my most favorite Football as well as Arsenal player forever!And thanks Siany for making me remember that moment and rant about it boring all. :-)

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  8. Das
    2618 days ago

    Yo Siany,
    great blog, and thanks for the mention – the final game at Highbury was very special!
    Writing this from Palm Desert (next door to Palm Springs) while my gang is getting ready for our trek into the sizzling heat of Joshua Tree National Park.

    Hasta la vista……

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    • sianyr
      2616 days ago

      @Das It was brilliant wasn’t it! Have fun in the heat out there guys!

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  9. White Ox
    2616 days ago

    Don’t you dare ever think for a second that having Arsenal thrust upon you will make your story a lesser one because that blog post was just brilliant. Why?

    - The 5-3 Charlton game was the first game you ever saw live? So. Very. Jealous. I try real hard not to do jealousy either, what a match and 2 peaches of goals for Pats!

    - “come on, Highbury’s Highbury for God’s sake!” *sigh* One small little regret (I try hard not to have them either) is I shall never see a game at Highbury. So true.

    - The 2006 CL final. Kick off in Australia was 4:45am and I took the rest of the week off work to smash an all-nighter with my Liverpool mate to take it in. As a match; what a spectacle. The despair of Jen’s red. Then Sol’s goal. For 40 magical minutes there was hope against hope we would be kings of Europe. I choose to remember that these days, the final whistle was utter heartbreak.

    I could go on, but that would be all garbage football talk. The fact that your Grandad Billy was at the same game as his future wife Cathie wihtout possibly knowing what the future would hold? It’s the romance of those type of stories that make this your best post yet. I’m a sucker for those co-incidence/fate thingies. Better go find myself a tissue.

    Great work “Siany Baby”. Outstanding.

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    • sianyr
      2616 days ago

      @WhiteOx Thanks, I really wasn’t that impressed with this blog myself! Think it deserved more, but if you enjoyed them I’m glad! Yes, we were lucky to get to such a brilliant game first. My second was Sparta Prague 4-2 and third was Blackburn Rovers 3-1… scores gradually diminishing. But then we had the 7-0s of 2003 so all was good again! Thanks for commenting.

      Reply

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