26th May 1989 – It’s up for grabs now!!!

May 26, 2017

This is Big Raddy’s story of arguably the Greatest Day in Arsenal’s history.

May 26 1989, a day never to be forgotten in Gooner history, but also a preface to the modern Arsenal. Here is my story of the evening and why I think it changed the face of our fabulous club.

 

The run up to the game is embedded in the history books, but no-one can effectively describe the disbelief and despair that echoed around Highbury following the 2-2 home draw to Wimbledon. We had a 12 point lead over Liverpool at Xmas and had seen it whittled away to being 3 points behind. We had thrown away 5 home points in two games against poor opposition. We had choked. Goodness knows the furore had there been blogs in those days – Samaritans would have been busy!

The drudge home after the Dons game was very long. I gave little hope for our chances at Anfield and didn’t even try to get a ticket, but approaching the game I dug deep, sought some “mental strength,” found some fighting spirit.

It should be noted that the game was on a Friday night…. unheard of in those days and rare now.

My wife, thinking that football was a Saturday sport, had booked us to go to a dinner party at her new Boss´s (let’s call him Rupert) flat in the centre of Hampstead. She worked in the media business, and all the guests were from Saatchi & Saatchi.  I told her that I couldn’t attend unless I could watch the game through dinner, her response was to tell me to call Rupert. And here we come to the huge social change that came about that night, and in my opinion changed the face of football forever.

This was the season of Hillsborough, the reputation of English football fans was at an all-time low. If you liked football you were either violent or ignorant and uncultured. Football was for Yobs. Rupert, being cultured and polite, was delighted to hear from me and said that as a guest of course I could watch the game, but ….. I would have to sit at the table with the sound off and participate in the conversation.

We arrived and were shown into a beautiful dining room with a long table and I was sat at the end with a separate table for my 14″ TV. I felt humiliated and less-than, however my addiction came first and I was satisfied. The host had caterers to do the food and serve the wine allowing him to concentrate on his guests. Needless to say., I was at the opposite end of the table to him, due to his assumption that my passion must mean I was incapable of enriching any intelligent conversation.

Seriously, to those youngsters who read this, football fans were viewed as stupid. There were no University courses in Sports Management, no Soccer Academies etc et

So, the first half comes and goes and I am getting tense. At half time people were very “nice” to me, commiserating as though I had lost a pet. Champagne was flowing around the table, some guests went to the toilet to “powder their nose” and I sat there non-communicative, wishing I could find somewhere dark to be alone.

Second half kicked off. Smudger scores. I jump up shouting; they look at me as though I have escaped from a Psychiatric Unit, BUT and here is the start of the change – they got caught up in my passion. Rupert asked me to turn the TV so he could see it. Questions were asked “Who is the tall bloke who keeps raising his arm?”, Why don’t they shoot more? ( 😉 )”, “Why , when Arsenal play in red & white are they playing in yellow and blue?” Needless to say, I was incapable of speech.

The Mickey T moment. Never ever to be forgotten. It replays in my mind in slow motion (as I am sure it does for you). The whole table went mental. Jumping in the air, hugging, back-slapping and shouting. My main recollection was thinking “Where is my coat, I have to get to Highbury…”. but Rupert and his friends were high on the game. They had really enjoyed watching a half of football. They connected! If Big Raddy  – a less thuggish man you could never meet – was a football fanatic, it couldn’t be just razorblade toting thugs that went to Highbury.

I am ashamed to say that I “liberated” a couple of bottles of bubbly, grabbed the wife, and scedaddled as fast as I could to N5. I was dropped off outside the Gunners Pub carrying the champagne which lasted about 4 minutes.  The Fever Pitch film got it right, there was an enormous street party, a feeling of camaraderie never repeated. The noise was deafening and I stood on the Marble steps until around 3 a.m. Even at that time the Holloway Road was awash with jubilant Gooners , sharing laughter and booze. Fantastic.

I met Rupert and a number of the fellow guests over the following seasons. All had bought season tickets at Highbury and were as knowledgeable and connected to the Arsenal as any Gooner. Football had become the Cocaine of the Masses!

This is what the Guardian write of the game and the social effect….

“Many cite the match as a pivotal turning point in English football. Writing in The Guardian, Jason Cowley notes how instead of rioting, as had occurred at Heysel with fatal consequences, Liverpool fans stayed on after the game and applauded Arsenal “as if they understood that we were at the start of something new; that there would be no returning to the ways of old”. Cowley describes the match as “the night football was reborn” and that the event “repaired the reputation of football”.

The match is not only seen as the starting point of a renaissance in English football, but also the moment where people started to see the untapped commercial potential of live football on television.”

“Good Old Arsenal We are proud to say that name”

Big Raddy’s story.


Arsenal’s Glorious FA Cup History

May 24, 2017

Well here we go it’s the 136th edition of the oldest football competition in the world and our record 20th FA Cup Final. It’s our 2nd against Chelsea; in the 2002 final we ended up victorious, winning 2-0 with goals by Ray Parlour in the 70th minute and Freddie Ljungberg in the 80th.

Let’s take a walk back in time:

1927 Cardiff v Arsenal

1927 was the first time we appeared in the FA Cup Final and we ended up losing 0-1 to Cardiff City – Arsenal went into their first Final as slight underdogs against the Bluebirds who had reached the final only two years earlier. Despite having Charlie Buchan to bolster the ranks the Gunners could not break down Cardiff and Hughie Ferguson scored the winner. His effort slipped under Arsenal goalkeeper Dan Lewis’ body and the cup left England for the only time in its long history. This was the first FA Cup final to be broadcast live on BBC radio, having future Arsenal manager and experienced journalist George Allison at the microphone.

1930 Arsenal v Huddersfield

1930 was the first time we won the famous trophy the attendance at Wembley was 92,488 and our team consisted of – Charlie Preedy, Tom Parker (captain), Eddie Hapgood, Alf Baker, Bill Seddon, Bob John, Joe Hulme, David Jack, Jack Lambert, Alex James, Cliff Bastin.
Goalscorers: James (16), Lambert (88).

For their second final Arsenal were pitted against Herbert Chapman’s former team. Arsenal’s first goal had been planned on the team bus on the way to the game, Alex James taking a quick free-kick to Cliff Bastin who returned the ball to the unmarked linchpin to slot home. In the dying minutes a long through-ball found Jack Lambert who shrugged off the Huddersfield defenders to secure the game and Arsenal’s first major silverware. Both teams were led onto the pitch side-by-side for the first time in honour of Herbert Chapman.

Now some FA Cup statistics:

Final appearances (3 or more):

5 – Ray Parlour, Pat Rice, David Seaman

4 – Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp, Ashley Cole, Joe Hulme, Martin Keown, Freddie Ljungberg, David O’Leary, Patrick Vieira

3 – Cliff Bastin, Liam Brady, Lee Dixon, Eddie Hapgood, Thierry Henry, Pat Jennings, Bob John, Lauren, Sammy Nelson, Tom Parker, Robert Pires, David Price, Graham Rix, Frank Stapleton, Alan Sunderland, Sylvain Wiltord, Willie Young

Winner’s appearances (2 or more):

4 – Ray Parlour, David Seaman.

3 – Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp, Ashley Cole, Martin Keown, Lauren, Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira.

2 – Cliff Bastin, Santi Cazorla, Lee Dixon, Edu, Lukasz Fabianski, Eddie Hapgood, Thierry Henry, Joe Hulme, Alex James, Laurent Koscielny, David O’Leary, Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil, Robert Pires, Aaron Ramsey, Pat Rice, Gilberto Silva, Jack Wilshere, Sylvain Wiltord, Nigel Winterburn

Enjoy the game.

GunnerN5

 


Everton: Player Ratings

May 22, 2017

A sunny day, the end of the PL season, JC last game (?), a fine win yet one mingled with regret and disappointment

Given that we played 80 minutes with 10 men against a strong Everton team and a bent referee it was a fine victory. Had we not been cheated out of a point at Everton away, it would have meant much more but in the end we were the 5th best team in the PL. Thursday nights and lots of Sunday games await.

Player ratings.

Cech. Magnificent … Again. He has been superb the last few games. Had little chance with a well -taken penalty. Cut out the ball early from crosses, made an acrobatic save from a Lukaku header and his distribution was faultless.     9

Holding.  In a constantly changing back line he played well, made the odd error of judgement. Continues to improve and must have won a place in the Cup Final    7

Koscielny. Stupid and rash challenge which deserved the red card. Out of the CF.   5

Gabriel. Until his injury the Brazilian was outstanding. Looked a nasty injury. Got a yellow card for his pains when he was in front of the man and got the ball.    8

Monreal.  Was it a penalty? I couldn’t tell. Other than that he played well with his usual energy. After Kos ‘s red card Nacho was understandably more defensive   7

Bellerin. Finally getting his speed back. Non-stop work up and down his wing. Scored a tap in but was there to do so. Better.    8

Ramsey.  Started slowly with inaccurate and poor choice of passes. Improved second half and scored an absolute peach.    7

Xhaka. Terrific. Is becoming the player AW hoped for. No more stupid tackles, even Oliver could find a reason to give him a card.    9

Ozil. Once again in good form. Worked tirelessly, as usual created some chances. Hopefully not his last game at THOF     8

Sanchez.  Typical Alexis game. Non-stop workmate, dangerous on the ball, hugely frustrating in his timing and choice of pass, scored. Brilliant player and I love to watch him. Hopefully not his last game at THOF.    8

Welbeck.  Worked hard. Missed an absolute sitter and should have scored at least two of his chances.      7

Subs:

BFG. Great to see our Club Captain. Fitted in seamlessly.    7

Coq. 30 minutes & but didn’t embarrass himself    6

Iwobi. Seemed to be everywhere on the pitch in his cameo.    7

Mr Wenger. On a difficult afternoon he got his tactics spot on.    8

Referee:  Michael Oliver. Dreadful. Lost control to the point that a quiet Emirates resounded with “you don’t know what you’re doing”.      2

written by Big Raddy


Everton. A Chance to say Goodbye?

May 21, 2017

Will this be the final time Alexis and Mesut grace Islington’s most sacred turf? Hope not , but if it is let’s win this afternoon with the style and brio they have both brought to the Arsenal.

Unknown.jpeg

Everton are a good team and Koeman has done well to keep them in the mix until the last month or so, they will finish in 7th at least 14 points ahead of 8th. With a much smaller budget than the Top 6 it would be fair to say, they have comfortably won League 2 of the PL. Whether they can push on is doubtful without massive investment.

Everton will be no push-overs, they are good all over the pitch and AFC will have to play well to secure the points. This being the case I do not think AW will rest his best players ahead of Wembley.

My Team:

Cech

Holding     Mustafi    Monreal

Bellerin   Ramsey   Xhaka     Gibbs

Ozil      Sanchez

Welbeck

Such a pity Ox is injured as he adds a better attacking punch than Bellerin but Hector is a wonderful replacement and gives the immature Holding fine back-up. Ramsey wasn’t as crocked as I feared, Kos is still a doubt, the rest pick themselves. Apart from upfront where despite the gulf in the goal stats I still prefer Welbeck to the FFP. Why? Movement. Versus Boro we looked so much better when Iwobi and Welbz came on as subs.

Thinking Iwobi, AW has to find a place in the first team for this young fellow, the man is just terrific and probably the man to take Sanchez’ or Ozil’s shirt when they leave.

I hate the end of the season. I need the weekly injection of football in my life. What happens in the close season? Gossip, speculation and fantasising (and in my case a long sun-filled holiday in Italy). Thankfully, unlike our noisy neighbours, we have another week to enjoy.

Will it be Weds or Thurs evenings? Quite honestly, I don’t really care. As an armchair fan I do not get the thrill of seeing Messi, Ronaldo, Cavani, Dybala etc in the flesh. If it is to be Thursdays I will have the enjoyment of seeing teams I know nothing about, safe in the knowledge that Arsenal have a good chance of winning well and seeing loads of goals.

But that is for another day, today is all about beating Everton. It can be done and I will be sending positive waves all the way to North London alongside shouting at my television in support of my team.

For the final time this season a win at THOF is possible. Can we do it? Of course.

Let it be So ….

COYRRG


JC’s Farewell Game?

May 18, 2017

Many of you AA bloggers past and present have met our old man’s best mate, JC, when meeting up for a beer before an Emirates match. Since giving up his season ticket a couple of years back, his attendance has been more sporadic for a number of reasons. He hasn’t been much in the second half of this season at all.

The reason for this post is that he’s coming to the final game of this season against Everton on Sunday. We suspect it could be his last time up the Arsenal, though he may still surprise us next year.

Ant has compiled a photo book to commemorate the occasion. It includes some quotes from AA bloggers and some familiar faces from here also. Here’s the link if you fancy a butcher’s……….

https://www.bonusprint.co.uk/view-online-photo-book/0bcdb920-853e-4fd5-848f-7780f30d1de6

My nephew Matt (older brother Jon’s lad) has contacted Arsenal and explained the situation. As a consequence, the Club sent JC a signed letter from Arsene Wenger and signed player photo which thrilled the old boy. They’ve also promised a stadium announcement. Not sure if this is for before the game or at half time.

Biography

John Alfred Mr Churchill was born on the 1st July 1925. Often’s been the time when he’s said that he’s not slept much the previous night due to guilty feelings over the stress and worry he caused his parents as a young lad. On one particular occasion, he hitched a ride in a lorry from London all the way up to Liverpool in the hope of blagging his way on to a ship. The police stopped his escape plan and sent him back to London after informing his parents he was safe and sound.

As a schoolboy, he played on the hallowed Highbury turf during an Islington schools final. His tale from this momentous occasion was that he played left wing, scored a goal but finished on the losing side, the score being 1-0. The punchline to this story is that he scored an own goal from a corner!

His desire to sail the seven seas led him to lie about his age and gain access to a seaworthy position in the Merchant Navy in the early 1940s during the Second World War. He became a gunner, learning how to fire the on-board defensive guns. His time with the Merchant Navy saw him through to the end of the conflict and left him with some shrapnel in his leg which still gives him some problems (when he remembers it’s still there)!

After the war JC joined the Civil Service and met my old man and they developed a lifelong friendship from there onwards. When clearing out my Dad’s house we found diary entries about their relationship from way back (fifties, I think), such as ‘JC says he’ll give up smoking if the cost of them goes up anymore’. As a matter of record he gave up about 3 years ago after many failed attempts. One time he tried to convince us that his doctor had advised him to start smoking again because he’d become such a bag of nerves!

My Dad used to have two seats in Block Z of the West Stand Highbury and JC was on his regular list of colleagues and friends he’d invite along to watch a game. The seat alongside my Dad’s two became available in the early 90s. JC was informed, bought the season ticket and thereafter, a regular feature of Saturdays, was JC turning up in his Volvo estate to ferry them both towards Islington.

Back to more recent times, JC’s love of going to the football is less in the actual game itself, but more in all of the familiar faces he sees at home games. He often approaches stewards and policemen/policewomen, touches their lapel and when they look down, brings his hand up to clonk them on the nose. Many of the stewards don’t get caught more than once but they all seem to enjoy the interaction as much as he does.

As I said before, our custom used to be to walk over the South Bridge to the ground, largely because my old man needed to be pushed in a wheelchair to get him to his seat. Passing the burger van on the corner of Aubert Park and Drayton Park, JC often stopped to shout out ‘Buy one, get one free’ or some such nonsense. The boisterous chap behind the counter developed quite an affection for JC after a time, always addressing him as “Colonel” and making cracks about Douglas Bader and other non-PC type jokes.

JC’s Ninetieth Birthday

Much of the above is lifted directly from a post I wrote asking bloggers to kindly send cards to honour JC’s 90th birthday.

I’d like to re-iterate a massive ‘Thank You’ to everyone who participated at that time. Mr Churchill loved receiving the cards and I sent him a copy of the original post with all of your kind comments attached. It has definitely been one of my personal highlights of blogging on here.

 Rasp even managed to find a pop-up Emirates Stadium.

GN5 wrote a paragraph about growing up near Highbury and being an Islington boy which was much appreciated by JC as another local lad.

He even received a card from some Junior Gunners…..

Thanks for reading and let’s hope we manage a win for JC on Sunday. (Whenever we used to pick him up he’d ask if we had remembered our black ties as we’d need them when we lost!)

Written by chas    


Another Victory.

May 17, 2017

Are we going to talk football? Why not?

Strange game last night. First half a meandering dull affair enlivened only by speculation as to why the Emirates was a quarter empty.

Ozil playing beautifully but Giroud the opposite. Sanchez scoring two but losing the ball way too often. Gibbs having his best game for a few seasons.

Unknown-1.jpeg

Referee, once again, crap. Two clear penalties declined, too many yellows for AFC whilst that thug, Cattermole escapes having crunched Ozil, Ramsey and Sanchez.

Ramsey. Finally finding some form following a run of games without injury. Sadly, it looked season ending damage for the Welsh Wizard. Hope not.

Defence. Another clean sheet but Cech exposed way too often, if Sunderland were not so poor in attack, we could have been in trouble. We miss Koscielny as Monreal is too concentrated upon attack. Mustafi improving as the season progresses and will be very good next season. Loved the no-look Monreal back pass to Cech, top entertainment.

Cech showed why he still has a few more years at the top. Faultless. I love his urgent distribution to get the team on the front foot.

We looked so much better with Welbeck and Iwobi on the pitch. More pace, more incisive, more problems for a tiring S’land defence.

Holding. Who didn’t love his run upfield? The man looks a future star and a huge bargain. Who said AFC can no longer scout talent from the lower leagues?

All in all, we played OK with some sublime work from Ozil and Xhaka. The headlines go to Sanchez but goals apart ( 😀 ) I thought he had a poor game. My MotM was definitely Ozil.

We had to win to keep our run going and put pressure on L’pool, we did. Just need to win the next two games and the season will look much better than a couple of months ago.

written by Big Raddy


Down to the Wire.

May 16, 2017

The Hammers cowardly capitulation at the hands of Liverpool has put a slight dampener on tonight’s challenge, but as Micky rightly points out, the Fat Lady has yet to sing.

I have never experienced the depression of relegation with Arsenal, neither have you. We have no idea what it must be like to feel like Sunderland fans and probably never will, for that we must be thankful. We must also be thankful that we do not live in Sunderland 🙂

Unknown.jpeg

We are on a fine run of wins, starting to play with a degree of confidence and have an almost fully-fit squad. A win tonight should be possible.

My Team:

Cech

Mustafi    Koscielny    Holding

Ox   Ramsey    Xhaka    Monreal

Ozil    Sanchez

Welbeck

In my opinion, this is our strongest team when playing at home (perhaps Santi for Ramsey) . It will be fascinating to see how AW (if he stays) will fit Iwobi and the new signings into this team.

Should we win our last two games we will finish with 75 points, loads more than we finished with last season yet be lower in the table. What does this signify? Much to discuss through the summer .

Can we win and win well? Of course we can.

Let it be So

COYRRG