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Arsenal 2 Swansea 1: About a Boy

MY five and a half year old, quite sensibly, really couldn’t care which match was to be his first. I, however, was more particular. It couldn’t be in August and September because it could feel like summer and that would be just wrong. Mid February until the end of the season was out too because assuming we’re going to be out of the hunt by then, you can easily end up with that melancholic, half drunk atmosphere which I hate. So sometime between October and early February.

But obviously not any game kicking off at some completely non footballistic time – 12pm on a Sunday for example. Or 12.45 on a Saturday. Or 1.30pm on a Sunday. Or 7.45pm on a Friday.

And high profile opposition were out too – they could wait. A win would be nice but otherwise the construct in my head said there should be no distracting, memorable features about the day. It should be an occasion that he would never forget but almost everyone else in attendance easily would.

So Swansea at home it was.

We began with fish and chips at the Chip Inn on the Holloway Road, exactly as we had on the 14th October 1989. It’s barely changed. On that occasion the wide eyed children attending their first game were my brother and I. 28 years and 14 days later, we were accompanying my eldest to his.

From the fish and chips we crossed over the Holloway Road as we had all those years ago and set off along Drayton Park. Back then we had walked until we got to the pub, turned right up the hill and then left down to the family enclosure. The route, of course, was different this time.

I bought a programme for the first time in years. In the club shop he chose a scarf. In my jacket pocket was his cuddly lamb. Lamby rarely leaves the house nowadays but his presence had been pointedly requested. First day nerves.

We had a pre-game pee because nobody wants to be leaving their seat after 36 minutes. That said, 36 minutes into this game an enforced departure from pitch side would have been a blessed relief.

And then we walked in. I saw a very empty, songless stadium six minutes before kick-off. One look at his face told you he saw something very different.

The first half vomited itself up in front of us. Sometimes a game can go really badly. Sometimes it can be really boring. Rarely is it both. But this was bad and boring. Not that he knew.

I promised we’d improve after the break. We didn’t. Then suddenly we scored twice. We played OK from then on. Not one single player really excelled. And we won. The perfect day for the newcomer.

As for the game, had it been any more unmemorable it would have been in danger of becoming notorious for being so. Really, it had been a classic of its genre. The genre being a scrappy win against a struggling side on a Saturday afternoon in October.

It had been perfect for him and perfect for me too.

19 Responses to “Arsenal 2 Swansea 1: About a Boy”

  1. Raspberry Jones says:


  2. slc gunner says:

    And so it begins for ‘Playa Junior. We all survived the boring boring Arsenal years so I think it’s apt that his first experience was about going back to our roots (ok, the old boring boring Arsenal involved long hopeful balls to Alan Smith whereas the new model entails lots of vinny sideways passing). Hope he has many more years as a fan, and hopefully the games will be more Everton-like than Swansea-like.

  3. Aman says:

    That’s lovely mate

  4. PD says:

    Fantastic post Goodplaya. My little lad is 3 so I’m a couple of years away from bringing him to first game. I do worry about bringing him to an ‘empty, songless stadium’ but you’ve allayed my fears ! Kids see the wonder in everything – hopefully your little fella is now hooked for life !

  5. Andrew Stuart says:

    At least we won! I took my son to his first game against Aston Villa the first year we started playing at the Emirates. Try out Piebury Corner before his next game!

  6. MDP says:

    Happy days! I took both my kids (son 7 and daughter 4) to the Emirates to see the Arsenal Legends last year. A 4-2 win against AC Milan legends with a Kanu hat trick and Pires goal. Shame Henry and Bergkamp dropped out but that seemed like a good starting point. At home my son shows an interest in the score and celebrates the goals but can’t sit still long enough to get through a game on the box. I think a Junior Gunners membership is on the cards for Christmas!

    My kids are fifth generation gooners so I feel somewhat duty bound to indoctrinate them in all things Arsenal. My first game was at the age of 5 against West Brom in 1979. It’s all just blur that time for me, standing on the North east corner at Highbury, Alan Sunderland’s big hair, Pat Jennings in goal, Terry Neil in the dugout, peanuuuts, rooooasted peanuts and the London Met band at half time. I just loved the whole ora around Highbury at the time but I had to wait for the George Graham era for things to get exciting. My dad went to every game back then and paid on the turnstiles so I could pick and choose on a Saturday morning if I wanted to go, which I invarably did.

  7. 80's Gooner says:

    My dad took me to my first game it was the League cup replay against Brighton in1979 when I was 11. We got caught up in traffic on the westway then couldn’t find a parking space so missed the start of the game. I remember walking up the Avenell Road & hearing the roar of the crowd as Arsenal scored their first of 4 goals that evening (2 from Vassen / 2 from Stapleton all headers). We bought a ticket off an irish tout & got good seats in the lower East stand. I could not have asked for a better game. November night, under the lights in the classic old stadium watching Chippy pulling all the strings in midfielld

  8. Elvis says:

    I have four kids. Three hate sport and the other is a basketball fan. I am pleased that I have not afflicted them with a lifetime of misery, albeit occasionally punctuated by a great Arsenal team.

    Here we are, first weekend in November, and totally out of contention for the league title yet again. It’s kinder to send kids up chimneys…

  9. PD says:

    To be fair Elvis, we were totally out of contention for the league on 27th August !!!

  10. MDP says:

    Following a game where we had Coquelin at the centre of our defence and Xhaka as our defensive midfielder I think it’s easy to predict the top 6 as things stand based on those two areas of the pitch. City, United, Chelsea and Spurs all have recognisable defensive midfielders – Fernandinho, Matic, Kante and Dier/Wanayama respectively. Spurs probably have the strongest defence but City and United do a fairly decent job. Chelsea are up for debate at times but the back three was very effective last season. So that’s your top 4 by a country mile. That leaves Liverpool and Arsenal fighting for 5th and 6th at best because of their weakness’s in those areas. With Alexis getting more grumpy by the game and Ozil being Ozil, I hate to think where we’ll be come May. Fix those two areas and things could looks so different. Apologies for visiting old ground but I couldn’t resist after that team selection!

  11. PD says:

    Not only is the football no longer interesting, Arsene himself no longer feels like the man he used to be. His rant yesterday against refs & Sterling was frankly disgraceful, at the level of a scumbag like Mourinho. Come on Arsene, uou’re better than that.

  12. slc gunner says:

    Agree PD. he should just let it go. I don’t know if it was a penalty or not, there was certainly contact, but I didn’t think Sterling did anything that deserved the criticism. He did what others would do in the same position – which is to try to get between the defender and the ball. Nothing more, nothing less. The 3rd goal was offside, but not by a country mile. The comparisons to last year are ridiculous where I didn’t think there was offside on either of the two goals.
    That aside, I thought we did alright even if City were clearly better. I hate Liverpool-like debacles – this was different and I felt we had a go. There was even a plan with pressing high up the pitch aimed at preventing City getting into a rhythm. It worked at times. Ozil was very disappointing again, but I thought the rest of the team did alright. I didn’t have any major complaints about the system, even with Coquelin in the back 3. I can see why Iwobi was included – to add a little bit more when we are defending. But I think it’s time to leave out Ozil and not Lacazette. Ozil is great against the Evertons (of this sesason), but fails to show up against the bigger teams.
    At this stage, a betting man would agree with MDP – 5th/6th seems most likely. Given recent history, I’m not sure if I’m that bothered. I would prefer to see us have a go and win the Europa League – it’s something different.
    Onto Spurs – a chance to restore some pride.

  13. PD says:

    Given there seems to be a few of us of a certain vintage on here I imagine this interview with George Graham will bring a smile to a few faces….it did to me anyway…

  14. Elvis says:

    Enjoyable article. Nostalgia hour. The dissing of George Graham’s reign as Arsenal manager is strange. The club and media doth protest too much methinks. Six trophies in nine years is an impressive return.

    And, for all the great goals we’ve marvelled at under Wenger’s tenure, I do really, really love (and sorely miss) a mean, disciplined, tight defence.

  15. Charlie says:

    Beautiful, best thing I’ve read in a long time

  16. slc gunner says:

    Interesting how we forget about the 94 cup winners cup. We won that night with Morrow and Selley in the starting 11. Incredible achievement given how limited those two were in pure footballing ability. Also his strategy of 5 at the back at Anfield when we needed two goals was very clever. Lulled Liverpool into a false sense of security. He accomplished a lot in his ~10 years.

  17. MDP says:

    A great article! I love that era at Arsenal more than ever right now. That generation of youth players from Adams and Keown to Thomas, Merson and Rocastle were phenomonal and all of them had that missing ingredient that we deperately need now. My wife’s already ordered my copy of 89 ready for Christmas.

    I’m sure many of us grew up hearing the ‘boring boring Arsenal’ thing especially from Spurs fans who put themselves on some kind of fantasy pedestal in terms of football quality that stemmed from something that happened years before they were born and was short lived. It was wonderful shoving Wenger’s early brand of football down their throats in the late 90′s and early 00′s. I think the Graham era got rightly overshadowed but for me it was such an enjoyable period with so much to be admired. It’s fantastic reminiscing now!

  18. PD says:

    I’ve never really been able to enjoy derby games v the Totts. I’ve always found the atmosphere in & around the ground too angry/nervous & also there’s the fact that even though (for most of my life) we’ve been much better than them, you know on the day strange things can happen. The aftermath of the games when we win is obviously amazing but the 90 minutes themselves I struggle with.
    Last season we went to their shithole & for the first time ever I had no hope. I knew they were better than us. Unquestionably. We needed a miracle & we didn’t get one. Unless you count that they only scored 2 despite absolutely murdering us a minor miracle in itself. And now on Saturday I can’t see that anything has changed – except they’re coming to our place this time & I’m still hoping for a miracle. I’m dreading it. I’m trying hard but I can’t see anything other than their young, vibrant team coming to the Emirates & doing a job on us. I desperately hope I’m wrong obviously but….
    Did I mention I’m dreading it ??

  19. MDP says:

    Agree with a lot of that PD. I managed to avoid watching this game home and away last season but will be watching this one. We simply need a win for a multitude of reasons but at a quick glance we haven’t beaten them since 2014. I’d also like to see us put a dent in their title hopes and stretch the gap between them and City. It’s so sad it’s come to this, wanting a win just so they disappear into their caves for a few months…

    They have a manager and a team who know how to exploit our weakness’s so we have to be at our best to avoid a thumping. I was however pleased to see Kos, Mert and Holding in training pics so hope we can put out a stronger defence than against City. I think this game has Mertesacker all over it. He just seems the kind of character we need much like in the cup final back in May.

    Lacazette should be the first name on the team sheet today. I’d probably add Alexis and Ozil to that but they massively worry me. Alexis looks angrier by the game and gives away possession. If Ozil’s having one of those many games he has then Wenger needs to haul him off sooner rather than later. On their day, this trio can tear anyone apart so I think Wenger will probably opt for it. I just have this nagging feeling that Jack, Iwobi and Welbeck (if fit) might be better choices for a North London Derby. It worked to a fashion without Alexis and Ozil against Chelsea. Alexis would be a great sub to bring on in any case.

    Please, please, please have one of your good days Arsenal!

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