One of our writers, Johanne Edginton wanted to share her interrupted journey as an Arsenal fan.
Many would argue I have no right to call myself an Arsenal fan, let alone a Gooner. After all until August 2014 I’d never seen Arsenal play at The Emirates Stadium. I can’t even remember the date I saw my first live match or which team Arsenal played – only that it was at Highbury in January 1991. The year Tony Adams, and the rest of the Arsenal team wore that infamous yellow kit.
Arsenal was, and still is, the family team. As I was growing up it would’ve been rude to break with tradition. Having said that my two younger brothers were both Liverpool fans during their heyday in the mid- to late-seventies; although one of them eventually came back to the fold when he moved to North London. As a child I remember avidly collecting stickers for Panini Albums and later cutting out newspaper articles on Malcolm Macdonald and Charlie Nicholas. Next thing I knew puberty kicked in and football suddenly held little interest for me.
Fast forward back to the early nineties. Those were the days you could turn up on match day and buy tickets at the box office. I attended my first game with a friend’s brother; we jostled with the crowd on the terraces in the Clock End and I started to learn the obligatory chants. Thereafter I regularly attended games until the terraces were replaced and Highbury metamorphosed into an all-seater stadium and I found myself in the middle of the North Bank. How I missed the invisibility of being a lone female in the crowd!
In the North,
In the North,
In the North,
In the North Bank, Highbury
A few years down the line, in the late nineties, I found myself becoming a regular visitor to Highbury again. This time, however, my fortunes had changed. Not only did I manage to watch a few matches from a Corporate Box instead of the North Bank, I also knew someone who was able to wangle passes to the players bar afterwards! I met many of my heroes of the time including David Seaman, Ian Wright, Tony Adams, Lee Dixon and Paul Merson. It’s been roughly 14 years since I last saw Arsenal play at Highbury – and now I’m back at the “which team and when” question – but I do remember it being one of the few games I watched accompanied by my brother.
In the millennial year of 2000 I moved abroad for a short period and in 2002 gave birth to a daughter. Arsenal and my interest in football were again relegated to the back seat. The past few years, however, have seen the proverbial phoenix rise from the ashes. Niamh is a now a proud Junior Gunner and in March 2014 attended the Junior Gunners’ 30th birthday party screening of the Chelsea game at the Emirates Stadium. Not the best first introduction to Arsenal – I just hope the trauma doesn’t last too long!
Then suddenly, in April 2014 I found myself asking the question “where do I go from here?” with the initial answer turning out to be “not The Emirates”. Instead, in July 2014 I headed Stateside to watch Arsenal play against the New York Red Bulls for what was originally touted as Thierry Henry’s Exhibition Match. The day before the match we found out they were playing for the New York Cup which turned out to be a crystal vase rather than a cup. I’d already seen the New York Red Bulls play at Red Bull Arena earlier in the season and was looked forward to seeing Arsenal take RBNY; particularly as Thierry Henry is their captain and this is possibly his last season playing for them. Coincidentally, my brother who turned from Liverpool to Arsenal happens to live less than 10 miles from their stadium. Despite our 1-0 loss it was a fantastic trip and I made Arsenal friends from both sides of the pond who I keep in regular touch with.
Since arriving back in the UK I’ve seen Arsenal play against Monaco in the Emirates Cup, Manchester City for the Community Shield, the Champions League qualifier against Beşiktaş as well as Tottenham Hotspur in the North London Derby. I hope to make at least one trip to The Emirates each month this current season. I also took my daughter to her first Members’ Day (the two previous attempts at attending Festive Members’ Days had ended in disaster due to bad weather) and she’s now the proud owner of a kids football personally handed to her by Olivier Giroud. If you’ve never been to a Members’ Day it’s well worth attending – particularly as it’s free – whether you have kids or not!
A final thought on my interrupted journey with Arsenal: New York may have been a long way to travel to see Arsenal play for the first time in nearly 14 years but I finally feel as if I’m one step closer to coming home.
PS If you’re wondering why I have so much difficulty remembering my first and last games, here’s the answer: when I moved abroad I left my much valued match day programmes, many of which were signed, with my brother for safekeeping. He then proceeded to leave them behind when he moved to New Jersey and they are irrevocably lost forever!