Fresh Arsenal writer, Steve Wallbridge shares his personal history as an Arsenal fan below. We’d love to hear yours so leave them in the comment section!
I was born in to an Arsenal supporting family, so the notion that you make your own choices in life does not apply to this situation. What if I wanted to support Tottenham? Not an option. Dad would have had me up for adoption before I could say the words ‘White Hart Lane.’
My parents first took me to watch Arsenal when I was four or five years old, however the first game I can really remember (my memory is appalling) is a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Barcelona at Wembley.
I was around 7 years old then and the one, blurry image I can properly recall from that game is the amber lights on the scoreboard reminding me that Arsenal were getting hammered. Still, despite the score line, it’s not a bad first game to remember.
I watched our famous back four, along with Dennis Bergkamp and Marc Overmars, line up against the likes of Figo, Kluivert and Rivaldo. For many people, the first game they will remember is a cold, wet loss away to Leeds, or something as similarly dreary, so I’m content.
I was lucky enough to grow up during Arsenal’s golden years, with Arsène Wenger at the peak of his powers and the team playing football the Premier League had never seen before.
Two league doubles and an invincible season confirmed that I was growing up in a truly historic period in Arsenal football club’s history and as I entered my mid-teens, I had no reason to believe the trophies would dry up.
Little did I know, the next 9 years were destined to be a desperate struggle to cling on to the hope that we could one day return to the heights of the early 2000’s. As the years rolled by following the 2005 FA Cup final, the jokes at Arsenal’s expense became more intense.
The new stadium was built and as a result, the club suffered financially for years to come. In the long term, of course, those financially restricted years will feel like a small price to pay when the big picture fully unfolds. But, at the time, it was hard being an Arsenal fan.
We stopped competing, we stopped signing top class players and the top class players we did have began to start walking away from the club.
It’s a funny thing, just how emotionally attached you can become to a football club, and to a non-supporter, the fact that you can be truly heartbroken at the departure of a player must be a completely alien concept.
I was 14 years old when Thierry Henry left Arsenal and at that point, the closest I had come to heartbreak was accidently overwriting my saved Pokémon game on my Gameboy Colour a few years earlier. (I trained my Charizard to level 60, he was like family and suddenly, he was gone).
Many players followed suit in the years to come and the demise of Arsenal continued. My love for Arsenal has never wavered, but it’s a strange feeling to develop in to adulthood and realise the team you looked up to as a youngster are no more.
When you’re young, football players are your heroes and when those heroes are called Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires, it’s quite a come down when they are replaced with Chamakh, Bendtner and Denilson. It’s not all doom and gloom, however.
Match day memories also extend further than what happens on the pitch. My family and I used to sit in the West Stand at Highbury, near the clock end, and to this day there is an on-going joke amongst us that stemmed from our days at Highbury.
On a few occasions we had the pleasure of sitting a couple of rows behind two older ladies who had come along to enjoy the match. By the way they were dressed, you could easily have assumed that they were both grandparents who were maybe more at home studying a Mary Berry cookbook and baking cakes than cheering on a football team with a bunch of rowdy fans.
They didn’t really join in with the classic chants such as, “we’re the North bank,” “we love you Freddie,” and so on, they had their own agenda. These two, delicate looking old ladies would stand up every time the opposition got the ball and shout ferociously, “HIT HIM, GO ON HIT HIM,” while shaking their fists in the air.
It’s more of a ‘you had to be there’ type of joke, but it has gifted our family with many laughs over the years, and I’m sure there will be many more. There is of course one more lady in the crowd that has provided me with many laughs over the years. I’m sure you will have heard of her, every one knows the Highbury screamer.
Whether or not Arsenal are winning or losing, It’s what the club does beyond the pitch that ultimately matters more. I have had plenty of fantastic days out watching Arsenal, win, lose or draw. When I was younger, the day was spent on my dad’s shoulders, watching the waves of red shirts walking towards the stadium and falling asleep on the train home. Now, it’s a few cold pints with dad, watch the game, cheer, and then have a few more cold ones on the train home.
Arsenal have given me a catalogue of great memories and I’m sure there will be plenty more to come. No matter how many times Arsenal throw me through the emotional ringer, I’ll always be forever grateful that I was born in to an Gooner family, after all, lilywhite isn’t my colour.
I’ve shared a few of my Arsenal memories with you, what are yours? Comment below or join the conversation with us on Twitter @Fresh_Arsenal