In the words of Rodney P I've "been a Gunner since '79!" My first real Arsenal memory was jumping around the living room as Alan Sunderland ran, arms waving, swearing his perm off in the Wembley sunshine. The excitement was too much for a young boy. I was aware of Arsenal. I knew the players from my Panini book but that moment the ball sailed over Bailey and was tapped home changed my life.
That was it. I was a Gunner. No turning back now. Cheap replica kit from the market was purchased for my birthday & I was Sunderland or Stapleton in the back garden every afternoon. The ball would be lofted towards the shed. Shed would play it back to a running 'Stapleton' who would bury it and bring the cup home. They were alway cup games against Liverpool or Spurs. Never a goal that secures 4th place against Stoke or Newcastle. Never. Always the cup.
There are so many memories of the FA Cup. The pain of West Ham, that stooping header, Willie Young's assault. Then nothing. The early & mid 80s were difficult for a young boy. Nothing. Then the 90s turned up. '91 we don't count as apparently it's lucky for spurs when the year ends in 1. Look out for them in 7 years then.
1993. 4 trips to Wembley. Beating them in the semi. Milk cup win and then 2 dull, but not for us, FA Cup finals against Wednesday on Saturday and Thursday. We were "'Shoutin' for the Gunners!" On the Friday I bumped into Andy Linigan in the Arsenal tube station and said something stupid like, "Your nose looks sore. I was there last night."
In 1998 we were 'Hot Stuff' before we moved to our (nearly) yearly pilgrimage to Wales. They were fantastic trips. The FA Cup mixtape for the car was essential. Liverpool was forgettable apart from our friend telling a mouthy scouse child sitting in the Arsenal end to "Remember where you are sonny!"
I remember being huddled under the canopy outside Cardiff Starbucks playing Arsenal Top Trumps with @eastlower, his brother and the mate from above. It was raining. We were cold and a bit moany. A drenched Southampton fan walked past. Stopped and said, "This is the best day ever!" After 9 years I now know how he feels.
One of our best days was the 'only Ray Parlour' victory over that lot. After the game we parted ways and I drove back to London with just @eastlower's brother. I got home and @lovelymrs started to quiz me about him. Does he have a girlfriend? Where is he working? Question after question was greeted with 'I dunno!'
"But you were in the car with him for hours. What did you talk about?"
"Nothing" I replied, "We pretended to be Tim Westwood for most of it!"
So it's 9 years since we thrashed Man U on penalties and I can't wait. I hope the club realise how much we love this. The area is buzzing. The locals are talking about it. Have you got a ticket? Where are you watching it? Friends of mine of other teams wishing me good/bad luck. There are yellow ribbons on cars. It's a shame there isn't a cup final song. It's brilliant.
So tomorrow morning guess what will be the first thing you think about? We will win and on Sunday morning a while new generation will be playing that ball off the shed to volley home as Ramsey or Özil or Jack. I know I will....
It's Feverpitch who can hit 'em....oooh what a great goal.....(lies on back in the North London sunshine!)