Arsenal hit New York this week for their keenly-anticipated match against the Red Bulls. But this actually isn't the club's first trip to the Big Apple...
When it was announced in March that Arsenal would visit the United States this summer, the news was greeted with huge enthusiasm on the other side of the Atlantic.
Having seen the Gunners travel to Asia for three consecutive years, the newly-mobilised fanbase in the United States had been wondering when they would get the chance to see their idols up close. Now they had their answer.
Arsenal, it had been thought, had only played once before in the United States - against Independiente in Miami in August 1989, with David Rocastle scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory. However, the same player had actually been part of a Gunners team that had visited the Big Apple three years earlier to play a low-key friendly against the New York Express.
The game, which also featured future stars such as Tony Adams, Michael Thomas and Paul Merson, took place at the Nassau Coliseum on January 24, 1986 in front of 8,000 fans.
But the experience came as something as a surprise for the Gunners, with the match played indoors on a synthetic pitch and featuring innovations such as roll-on substitutions and changing-up. In the end, the team - led by the then reserve-team manager Terry Burton - slipped to a 7-5 defeat.
However, the result would not mar what had been a memorable trip for Burton and his talented young squad.
"This offer came in for us to go and Don Howe, who was the manager at the time, said, 'Look, there’s a game in New York' and off we went," Burton recalls. "Obviously, we were delighted; it was the middle of our season, there was not much else to look forward to, and suddenly we’re off to New York. It was my first visit. Some of the players there went on to really become household names.
"It was just a real good experience, one of those times that makes being involved in football pretty special"
"It was pretty special for us to go. But we weren’t there long. I think it was a four-day trip or something. We trained the day before, then played the game. I think we had one day, the day after, and then we were off. It was a pretty short trip because it really was coming over, playing football and going home, which was unfortunate because we’d have all loved to have stayed a bit longer.
"But I can sort of remember it was cold, and the steam was coming up from the grills from the subway. Those little impressions of it still stick with me, that atmosphere of New York. It’s always special there - but the first visit was excellent.
"[Former Arsenal physio] Gary Lewin and I went out for a drink after the game. We were outside of New York City at that stage, but we went off and had a few beers to celebrate that we were in New York. It was just a real good experience, one of those times that makes being involved in football pretty special.”
With thanks to David Kilpatrick and ArsenalAmerica.com
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