Sunday, 11 December 2011
It's Who We Are. We Are The Arsenal
The Arsenal. 125 years and it's been my honour and privilege to share 32 of mine with you. I flirted with them during the 1978 cup final but it was the cup run of 1979 that reeled me in. As the ball rolled across the line from Sunderland's boot there was no turning back. That team in yellow and blue were the only one for me.
Imagine my surprise when, on my birthday, I opened a red and white top, shorts & socks. They didn't wear these on the telly. However I was soon Brady floating a ball off the shed (Sunderland) and blasting the ball into a home made goal while screaming "STAPLETON!" We went unbeaten in the back garden that season.
It's something non believers don't understand, can't understand. The Arsenal. It gets right into you. It's special. It becomes part of your very fabric. Monday at school you needed to be ready to gloat or defend. Good training for working life. A poor weekend makes the start of the week a challenge. You know you are going to get it and you need to be ready. Conversely if the rivals fail, as they often do, you rehearse your banter. It needs to be spot on. Your mates expect no less.
It shapes who you are. It represents you. It's the pictures cut from Shoot on a schoolboy's bedroom wall. It's sending off for merchandise from the little club shop under the Clock End. It's queuing up Gillespie Road for hours for cup final tickets. It's peanuts 20 pence a bag. It's having your breath taken away on your first visit to the stadium. It's hiding in a burger bar in Finsbury Park with your girlfriend as Man U fans rampage. It's Wembley. It's driving to Paris with the best of friends. It's being allowed to drive to Paris by an understanding wife left holding a week old baby. It's meeting Thierry Henry in the street. It's a stone with our names on it outside the new ground. It's missing the old Highbury.
It's friendships. It's talking to strangers on the strength of a cannon on my coat. It's Feverpitch. It's crying when it was up for grabs now. It's passion. It's hate. It's support. It's moaning. It's thinking we could do better. It's realising we can't. It's worship. It's frustrating. It's relief. It's wonderful. It's sitting with my wife and son. It's the hug when we score. It's everything. It's what we do. It's wondering what people who don't follow football do. It's stressing about new signings. It's putting the fixtures in your diary. It's avoiding stuff to keep those dates free. It's grief at losing a number 7, one of us, one of our own. It's chatting on Twitter. It's chasing a stream. It's the Arsecast. It's The Tuesday Club. It's Eastlower. It's the blogs, the Gooner. It's just who we are.
It's winning 1-0 with a magnificent goal. What a way to win a game in front of so many legends. We weren't at our best but the enormous build up probably didn't help. Having said that we were by far the best team and on another day would have won by half time. Each attack ended with frustration and we needed a bit of brilliance to unlock Everton. Song turned the key with a sublime ball to RVP who opened the door by volleying it across the goal and in at the far post. 125 years of fans and players haven't seen many better!
It's the debates, the arguments. It's picking your favourite player ever. It's picking your favourite goal, your most important goal. Your favourite celebration. Your best win. It's why we support, encourage, applaud, moan, criticise and boo. It's something non believers won't understand. Long after we are gone memories will fade. Memories will alter but one thing they will never forget. We will always be The Arsenal.