Today I am going to take you on a journey to a very special place in your heart: you are sitting on a packed train surrounded by people you do not know, nobody is smiling at you but regardless of that you feel a sense of well being, a common bond, a kindred spirit. The tube comes to a halt at a familiar stop, the whole train empties and the mass of bodies’ walks slowly up hill, through a poorly lit tunnel with a rounded ceiling for what seems like ever before finally coming to the end where your eyes are shocked by the sudden glare of day light.
It’s hard to focus but as you do you notice the familiar sight of police on horses, and the sound of men crying programmes, you turn LEFT and make your way past colourful stands with people selling scarves, pennants and pictures of old heroes. On your right are the giant gates to the North Bank, the sight takes you back to your boyhood. Just after is a little sweet shop that sells favourites like Aniseed Twist and Cola Cubes.
Tickets, tickets who wants tickets are spoken in loud whispers and always out of police earshot. In front of the small Victorian terraced houses old programmes are meticulously laid out which draw you in and spark a memory of a game gone by, you continue walking, to your left you feel the surge of people arriving from Finsbury Park joining the flow, just after is the Supporters Club, a private world of cheap beer or so I was told.
The Chippy comes into sight followed shortly after by the smell before you turn right into Avenel Road and the familiar, intoxicating blend of horse shit and Hamburgers engulfs you. Men are crying out ‘get ya gooner, get ya gooner’ and pretty girls are shouting ‘up the arse only a pound’. You look up and realise that you are now in a sea of people, the occasional cry of “Come on you Gunners” can be heard which sets your heart racing just that bit faster. The entrance to the Marble Hall is now in sight, the old man in a uniform with a white sash across the front is standing in the doorway with the occasional fresh faced youth player looking around for his guests.
Just after you take your place in the cue to the entrance with all the other people holding little red books, as you get closer the clunk of the cast iron turnstile gets louder and louder before it is your turn to meticulously tear out your match day ticket and enter through the back of the wardrobe and into Nania, ok it isn’t the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe but it was always a magical place to me. You turn left and make your way up the concrete steps with a red hand rail until you pass a cloud of smoke made by men hovering around Ladbrokes, you carry on until you see the entrance to your block, you pass through the arch and without fail the intense excitement hits you, no matter how many times you go through that arch the sense of wonder never recedes, the view of the beautifully groomed pitch and the majesty of art deco stands can never be tired of.
Ladies and Gentlemen you are in the Home of Football.
Written by London.