If the world is a stage then Highbury has been the theatre of great sporting drama that has promoted one of English football's greatest institutions - Arsenal Football Club.

It is a sporting arena that for 93-years has provided the platform for some of the greatest players in the world to put on breathtaking performances; a stadium that is steeped in history and nostalgia. It is the home of greatness and former 'double' winning captain FRANK McLINTOCK, one of the most passionate players to ever wear the famous shirt, talks to Colin Benson about Highbury's final hour.

Frank, along with some of Arsenal's greatest players, will take the field for the very last time this afternoon and I asked him how he thought he was going to feel when he took those final steps.

"I think there will definitely be a touch of sadness about it because it is a marvellous Club with a great heritage. It was steeped in history when I joined, and there's obviously an even greater history to reflect upon now.

"And when you have had success at a club and won the European Fairs Cup and the 'double' it is very sad to see it all finishing; you wish you could just extend it. But it can't be done and you know it is the right thing to do, for Arsenal to develop as a club, so you have to get your professional head on and realise nothing ever stays the same.

"I first played here for Leicester City," reflects Frank, "and although I don't remember the actual game I remember what a great impression the stadium left on me.

"The dressing rooms and the whole situation at Arsenal was very, very top class. It was like stepping into a big classy hotel or restaurant and as a youngster from a working class upbringing in Glasgow I had hardly ever been in either.

"It was amazing really, the Marble Halls, then the marble all through the floors to the visitors' dressing room and onto the home dressing room. Later on I found that the boot-room was also done and the bathrooms, it was just top-class. And that was 35 years ago and it had been like that for 30 or more years before I went as well.

"So when you consider how far ahead they were compared to almost every other club, Arsenal certainly were distinctively different from the rest."

Was this proud setting intimidating to players from clubs like Leicester?

"Well it wasn't intimidating to me, I thought it was great. Possibly you can imagine some people being in awe of it all but I used to love big crowds and you got them here. We would get to the ground 90 minutes before kick-off and there would be some 50,000 outside the ground at that time. It was heaving and the atmosphere was incredible. It was a wonderful experience coming to a top class ground with all the facilities Arsenal had.

"When Arsenal wanted me I couldn't wait to sign, the history behind them and Billy Wright as well, for although it didn't work out for him, he was still a magical name.

"As soon as I walked in the door I felt a greater responsibility. At Leicester not a great deal was expected of you so the pressure is not on you at all. But you don't realise that until you go to a big club and then you get used to it and when you leave it again it surprises you once more.

"I was very lucky to meet some of the great names from the past who were working here when I first arrived, people like George Male, a lovely man, and Jimmy Logie.

"Alec Forbes was the first guy I met and I stayed around his house with Ian Ure the night before I played against Nottingham Forest. They regaled me with stories about Arsenal and how good they would eventually become and that I would make a big difference.

"I went home that night and never slept a wink and I had a terrible game. I gave the ball away to Johnny Barnwell, who had just left Arsenal to play for Forest, and he played well and I played rubbish and we got beat 3-0.

"It wasn't until I became captain that I ventured into the offices at Highbury," reveals Frank. "But it was not the done thing at all, it was almost like upstairs and downstairs; it was like asking for more porridge when  you did that!

"You'd go into the office almost apologetically and you could hear the quiet ticking of the clocks. At first it seemed like no-one acknowledged your presence then the staff would gradually raise their eyebrows up from the desk and look at you. They never sort of told you off for coming in but they never made you feel particularly welcome. It was a bit strange.

"It was very staid and you know I think that distance was kept deliberately. Football was very different then.

"Bob Wall was seen as a bit of an authoritarian personality but he was always really kind to me and he put me down as the best ever buy Arsenal had made in 20 years, which I thought was a tremendous compliment. It probably wasn't right but he put it in his book.

"He was always very friendly to me but there were demarcation lines between directors, management and staff, and there was a little bit of distance between everybody.

"Bob Wall's office was always much bigger than anybody else's. It was about three times the size of Bertie Mee's, which was decent enough down on ground level.

"But Bob's was like a Boardroom all beautiful dark oak panelling; a massive leather topped desk and beautiful carpet. It was a bit like going into a bank in a way.

"Bob was one of the top people in football at the time but it was inhibiting when you went in for negotiations - the surroundings did affect you. You felt as though, rightly or wrongly, you were out of your depth a little bit. It was like being a 17 year-old and having to go down to the bank and negotiate a loan."

Frank remembers other Highbury areas with more affection: "There was the halfway-house where we worked out problems and would have a few beers to celebrate after a game. Nobody ever told us beer wasn't good for us so it didn't really affect us.

"In the dressing room I always had the third peg along from the bathroom - I don't know how it came about that way but Bill McCulloch was right next to me.

"My best memory of Highbury, and definitely the one that will always stay with me, was when I went out at half-time of the Fairs Cup Final against Anderlecht and waved to the North Bank and gestured to them to get behind us.

"The decibels went up and they raised the ceiling. I think they liked me doing that but I felt a bit embarrassed.

"We weren't so spontaneous to the crowd in those days but it worked really well and in the second-half they helped us win that game against a great side - it was absolutely phenomenal." 

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source
4 May 2006