This afternoon's Highbury Memory comes from Robert Berry of Lincoln.
My earliest memory of any interest in football, let alone The Arsenal, was the 1958 televised FA Cup Final between Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United.
I cannot recall much of the game being only six years-old but it did lead to my Dad suggesting I choose a team to support. All credit to him not wishing to influence me with his favourite (Spurs!). To a child, location and family history was not important. The decision was made on pure chance. As luck would have it, looking through the newspaper, Arsenal were at home and their name appeared first on the fixtures list and so a deal was struck between me and the greatest club on earth!
Having chosen The Arsenal (how my Dad must have suffered!) it was then just a matter of time until a visit to Highbury was on the cards. Saturday, March 14, 1959 to be precise with Blackburn Rovers the opposition.
A train from Harold Wood to Liverpool Street, across London on the tube to Kings Cross and on to Arsenal. That tingle of expectation as you alight from the train and walk uphill through the tunnel of the underground station to emerge in daylight with the sound and smell that can only be found at The Arsenal.
Lots of people milling about, street sellers with red and white scarves, rosettes, badges, hot dogs and onions, the hum of people talking, shouting and waving. I bought my first programme and we made our way along to the North Bank entrance and with it my first look inside a real proper football stadium.
The lush green grass, the panorama of faces, the magnificent building with the banks of floodlights along the roof. Today, each and every visit to Highbury still evokes that feeling of something you cannot measure.
This was it. I was there, straining to see my team play for the first time. A roar and out they came, my team resplendent in red and white. The first-half was soon over and The Arsenal were one down.
All I can recall is the atmosphere, the feeling that everyone one around us was willing The Arsenal on. Even the police were Arsenal supporters with a band marching up and down at half-time. The second-half started with words of encouragement shouted. What my Dad was going through did not enter my head.
I just concentrated on The Arsenal. Mid-way through the second-half, our left-winger received the ball on the half-way line. He went off down the left wing, jinking towards goal until he was fouled inside the penalty box. Everybody's arms went up.
"PENALTY". A feeling of butterflies entered my stomach. I could not fully see the resultant spot kick but the noise told me all I needed to know. Len Wills had scored, we had equalised. It was now 'we'. I was not just a young boy, I was part of The Arsenal. The final whistle blew. We had drawn and it is that memory which is rekindled every time I walk out of Arsenal Underground Station and into the magic that is Highbury.
Would you like your 'Highbury Memories' recorded in the programme this historic season?
We'd love to hear of your experiences at Highbury, no matter how long you've supported the team. If you have a story you think is worth telling then write into the Club, keeping your accounts to less than 600 words, at the usual address. You can also e-mail your correspondence to email@example.com. Please mark your letters 'Highbury Memories'. All those who have letters printed will receive an exclusive A4 Highbury print.
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