Feature

'It was a monumental task... but we did it!'

Arsenal 1989

Season ticket holder Alex Brooker is a journalist and TV presenter - and as a contributor to the Arsenal Magazine, he was tasked with looking back on that night at Anfield in 1989.

I first started really getting into football, and more importantly Arsenal, when I was about nine, so that was 1993. At that time we’d just won the League Cup and FA Cup double, yet despite winning the league only two years earlier the big thing people still talked about was still that night at Anfield in 1989.

At the time I didn’t really understand all the nuances of football like an adult does, but I understood that to learn more about this team I’d attached myself to the best thing to do was watch my stepdad Keith’s season review of the 1988/89 season on VHS. VHS!

At the time I knew we’d won the league on the last day of the season, with the last kick of the game, but I never really knew the gravitas of that team’s achievement. I’m now 33 and have been brought up as an Arsenal fan with tales of that incredible season but I’m writing this the day after going to the premiere of the film 89, and the whole event has truly resonated with me.

The film features interviews with members of the squad from that memorable night
at Anfield along with behind-the-scenes footage of how they managed to achieve

the unthinkable. People often talk now about how Manchester City’s victory against QPR with that goal from Agueeeeeeeeeeroooooo was the greatest end to a league season ever. Those people absolutely do not understand football and are far too interested in their Sky subscription to know otherwise.

To go to Anfield needing to win 2-0, against a Liverpool team who had dominated English football for the best part of 20years, was a monumental task. Almost insurmountable.

But as we know it wasn’t. Hearing from the likes of Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Merson, Steve Bould, Tony Adams and of course the last-gasp hero Michael Thomas really put the night into context.

George Graham talked about a plan, the players talked about how much they believed in this plan and they almost made it sound like the result itself was inevitable. Except it absolutely wasn’t. In the aftermath of Hillsborough (which was always referenced
in such a beautiful way in the film) it was like the whole world were willing Liverpool to clinch yet another title.

We had other plans, however, and I don’t want to give away spoilers (we won), but the film showed me new angles and thoughts on Michael Thomas’s goal I had never seen and didn’t know.

The reason I loved the film so much wasn’t just because of its happy and delirious ending – it’s because it reiterated to me how much I’m proud to support this football team.

I know football was different back then, but long before dieticians, Opta stats, a 60,000-seater stadium and the Sky TV money, there was a football club that was proud and that night fought against all the odds.

Too often now I find myself moaning about not just Arsenal but football in general, and probably voice those complaints on social media. There was no Twitter then, no Arsenal Fan TV, just fans full of hope of winning a first title in 18 years against the odds.

I cannot comprehend how I’d react if that happened to us now. I did my nut when we last won the league in 2004. I lost the plot when we won the FA Cup in 2014 to end that nine-year wait for a trophy. But to win the league with virtually the last kick of the game, on the last day of the season is almost incomprehensible.

What I loved about 89 is that the film didn’t only tell the story from the players’ point of view but also from the fans’ too: the delayed trip up to Liverpool on the M6, the trepidation and of course the elation at the final whistle.

In the pub after the screening I spoke to a fan who went to Anfield that night and had some of his photos used in the film. He had no idea when he took those photos of the coach trip and the evening itself that 28 years later they would hold so much significance. While talking to him it was almost like I was nine years old again, hearing about the Arsenal for the first time. I loved hearing a first-hand account of what it was like to be an Arsenal fan for that game and in particular the party after.

As you can tell I’m being very effusive, possibly too romantic about the film and that achievement on May 26, 1989.

But the reason I am is because it helped me realise once again what a wonderful club, with such a rich history, we support. That achievement is one of the first things I knew about Arsenal but I feel like only last night I fully understood it. I truly hope the current first team get the opportunity to see it and feel the same.

12:05

May 26, 1989: Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal

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