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My Highbury windows

Pre-game, Arsenal v Stoke, 2nd February 2013.

For once I wasn’t timing it down to the minute: departing home on my bicycle at 2.15pm, knowing it would take 36 minutes from front door to one of the lampposts right by the stadium and five more minutes to my seat. Instead, it was the Piccadilly Line from town and so time had to be left for things to go wrong but they didn’t and at 2:20pm I was already outside Arsenal station. I thought first about swinging left towards Avenell Road but really it was the old West Stand that for me held greater resonance.

Two weird looking flats occupy the gap in the terraces (housing not football) where I first entered the West lower for Arsenal v Man City on 14th October 1989. The roofs are in harmony with those round them, the fronts not. Further up the road the old West Upper entrance retains its resplendent deep red. I ventured to peer into the apparently gated community and as I did the gate opened for a resident on their way out. And so I made my way in.

And for ten minutes I stood at one end of the old pitch, a wind mildly howling an appropriate soundtrack to the swirling of the memories. Hundreds of inscrutable windows staring out towards the grass but in my mind almost an advent calendar of growing-up watching Arsenal, an experience that was rarely in the same seat twice.

There was a window for that City game that I’d gone to with the brother I still sit next to and the father no longer around.

There was a window for every season. One high in the East lower for the 3-0 win over Liverpool that Benji’s family took me to in December of the following year. One back in the West lower but right up against the North Bank this time for Ian Wright finally breaking the Spurs resistance on a cold Sunday late in 1991, one for Sheffield Wednesday in front of the mural, one almost at pitch level for that famous win over PSG on a barmy April night 15 months later, one just behind where I was now standing for that dreadful 1-1 in February with Leicester that was to be George Graham’s last ever game, one way over the other side in the East Lower paddock just six months later for day one of the Dennis Bergkamp era.

One back in the North Bank for Patrick Vieira’s fantastic first for Arsenal v Derby a year later, one for the woeful 0-0 draw with Port Vale in 97-98 that was a world away from what was to come months later, one back home in the West Lower for Kanu v Villa and final day disappointment in 98-99, and next to it Kanu again and his shimmy v Deportivo in 99-00. One in the West Lower paddock for routine victory over Bradford in the season that followed and one for that day exactly 11 years ago when against Southampton on 2nd February, we failed to win in the league for the last time that season.

One in the North lower for defeat to Sunderland in the League Cup on the night Robert Pires returned, so very many for events of the following season: in the North Upper with Richard when the stand swayed as Henry destroyed Liverpool, in the West Upper when people looked at each other in wonderment as he annihilated Leeds. Thierry Henry was behind a lot of my Highbury windows.

One for that one last hurrah of the Invincibles, the 49th game v Villa, arguably the purest of that team’s performances. And one last window in the North Lower for the same opposition in April 2005 to see Abou Diaby steer in my final Highbury goal.

And by the time I’d been through all those windows it was time to depart our old stadium for the new, where one snippet of team news was the return to the side of the very same Abou Diaby, the only one of the current playing staff to have graced that old place in the red and white.

11 Responses to “My Highbury windows”

  1. Jay says:

    sweet.

  2. Zubby says:

    one of our faithful fan in NIGERIA IN D PERSON OF ICHIE CHUKWUJEKWU OKOROAFOR DIED LAST FRIDAY.

  3. BobGedolf says:

    I’d be well pissed off having paid all that money and having randomers walking in…willy nilly!

  4. West Upper says:

    Its really nice to see the old art deco facades of the stands preserved – the ‘marble halls’ also survived the renovation. A good move doing this yesterday – at least it partially compensated for having to watch the cloggers for 90 minutes afterwards.

  5. JamesM says:

    Pedantic but Rosicky played at Highbury for Sparta Prague!

  6. Goodplaya says:

    @jamesm Have added a bit to that last sentence to take account of what you say!

  7. Tom says:

    Fantastic stuff goodplaya. Thank you.

  8. PD says:

    What a disgrace Stoke are :
    - the players (time-wasting from the very first minute, hoofing the ball 80 yards at every opportunity & Shawcross putting in another disgraceful, potentially career-threatening tackle – should be a 6-game ban at an absolute minimum)
    - the manager (watching his team clog us at every opportunity & then whinging whenever we tackle them back, haranguing the 4th official from 1st minute to last & then having the incredible nerve to criticise our player’s behavious afterwards. The man is a disgrace to the game & should be thoroughly ashamed of himself)
    - the fans. (booing & singing songs about Ramsey. Scum)

    Monreal looked ok. Was really happy with big Per near the end, stood strong when Stoke were lumping it in with bodies around him.

    Was good to see us finally win a game by one goal without any real jitters at the end.

  9. arsenalKL says:

    Glad you are back Goodplaya, thought we had lost you to the naysayers. Excellent post.

  10. slc gunner says:

    great blog. would love to go back there some day. great that the old facade has been preserved.

    assuming that there is not a post-game blog coming: nothing much to say except that shawcross is a very lucky man. a disgraceful tackle that deserved a red. laughable to listen to pulis then try to suggest that the goal should have been disallowed. the current offside rule has been around for years now, and this was one of the clearest cases of not interfering with play.

  11. [...] BEFORE Saturday’s game I found myself with time to spare and took a walk down memory lane and wrote about the experience under the heading My Highbury Windows. [...]

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