A very happy 26th May Gooners

1989. I was at my peak. A season ticket holder on The North Bank, and I hadn’t missed a home game. Two more left at Highbury to Derby and Wimbledon, and we can wrap it up. We blew it, then watched in horror on the Tuesday as Liverpool put five past West Ham, leaving us having to win by two clear goals at Anfield.

“I remember I was at the Football Writers’ dinner when Liverpool played West Ham,” recalls Smith. “They kept scoring, two, three, four… and we kept saying, ‘How many have we got to beat them by now?’”

Michael Thomas was equally confused. “Then George came over, messing around, punching me in the arm, saying, ‘Two-nil? Not a problem!’”

Over the past four years we’ve had great posts celebrating this anniversary, we have two bloggers – MickyDidIt89 and 26may1989 – that remind us every day that when it was up for grabs, the Arsenal team of 1989 grabbed it.

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.

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92 Responses to A very happy 26th May Gooners

  1. arnie says:

    Brilliant, superb, absolutely brilliant. Thank you Raddy, thank you Micky. Superb warm glow. tra la la la. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Happy 26th May everyone. 🙂

  2. arnie says:

    oh, and lest I forget, FIRST and SECOND! 😛

  3. mog says:

    good old days it only seems like yesterday. not 25 years ago

  4. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Fantastic BR, I woke up this morning knowing that there was something special about today, but couldn’t put my finger on it.

    Now, of course, everything is clear. It’s the anniversary of “that” game.

    Is it really over twenty-five years? How time flies!

  5. 26may1989 says:

    I will never, ever tire of reminding myself of that night, it is quite simply beyond compare. For the Arsenal fan, it was the moment of emergence from the shadows in which we had hidden for so long, and did it by overcoming the prevailing force in English football, Liverpool. For English football, it really was a staging post towards something I (being a 19-year old then) had never known: football being accepted in society as something more than an excuse for violence. Even the Ruperts began to get it.

    Raddy, love your write-up. I wasn’t in London then, so wasn’t part of the Highbury celebrations, but took it upon myself to make the streets of Leeds feel the joy of Arsenal rejuvenation. I wasn’t entirely successful but did I care?

    Happy 26th, one and all!

  6. Norfolk Gooner says:

    You beat me Arnie, and so did mog. Fourth will have to do.

    Now as it’s a non-football day and it’s not raining, I’m off to cut the grass.

  7. Rasp says:

    Excellent Raddy, an experience that could have been a disaster for you turned into a triumph …. you single handedly started the gentrification of football 😛

    I suppose the last minute goal by Aguero must have similar significance to city fans but in reality, there was more of a level playing field in those days.

    We may never surpass the ecstasy of that game …. unless the last thing AW does for us in 3 years time will be to lift the CL trophy after a last minute winning goal against Barcelona by Theo Walcott ………

  8. Shard says:

    Brilliant Raddy, It is one of those stories that just kept me hooked, Partly that might be down to the game itself. I obviously did not see it. My first experience of it came from reading the book fever pitch, and while Nick Hornby is a great writer and that is a brilliant book, I don’t think I completely understood the significance of 26th May 1989, what with all the input I was getting from that book about the life of a football fan in England, Arsenal in particular.

    I have since seen the footage (The Steve MacMahon ‘giving the finger’ is funny) and loved the movie depiction of Fever Pitch. I don’t think anything will come close to that kind of drama again. The fact that the wider world started to recognise that football holds something beyond violence and thuggery because of an Arsenal victory also makes me feel happy, irrational as that might be. You of course were in the forefront of that, so well done to you. An Arsenal missionary 🙂

    Here’s to hoping the Arsenal give us many more magical moments of joy that we can share, whether in front of the real marble halls, or virtual ones.

  9. GunnerN5 says:

    Great story Raddy, you brought the whole experience back to life, thank you.

    I was in Canada by then and was out playing darts that day, unfortunately there was no TV coverage but it was on my mind all the time. My mates on the Darts team were mostly English and were also football fans, Chelsea, Ipswich, Wolves. Man U, & Man C as I remember so they could understand my distraction.

    When I got home later that evening I still did not know the result (life in the colony’s s) so I called home, I woke my parents up – I’d forgotten about the 5 hour time difference, but as soon as my Dad picked up the phone the result was obvious. In the end I had a superb celebration over the phone with my Dad – perfect.

  10. What a night. It was my sons 13th birthday. We celebrated with the team in the changing rooms after the game, and then in the Liverpool boardroom.

    Still not sure which is my greatest night .
    1. Fairs Cup Final.
    2. Whl 71
    3.Anfield 89
    4. Liverpool for the double 71.

    I know it sounds unbelievable, but each of these amazing victories was celebrated with the team.

    I hate that it looks as if I’m boasting. I’m not that type. But this all true.

  11. Vinay says:

    I was just 8 years then and i did not have clue who were Arsenal then but the significance of this day will never be forgotten. For me this day means fever pitch, the book the movie and me as Paul, yes i keep telling everyone who knows me that watch the movie and you will understand what am i and what Arsenal means to me,

    Beating that pool team at anfield in a game of such enormous proportion was amazing. Michael Thomas, its up for grabs now, a moment stoned in our history and for good measure as well. Imagine an ending like that in today’s world, the gooner world would have gone mental and exploded, i may have just died in sheer happiness.

  12. Big Raddy says:

    I had forgotten writing that post and enjoyed re-reading it. Thank you Rasp/Peaches.

    25 years ago!!!!!

    Hope I get another 25 years supporting by far the greatest football team the world has ever seen.

  13. sam kagai says:

    Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.

  14. stevepalmer1 says:

    What a blinding read this post was, brought back memories. Many can remember exactly what they were doing on that night, dinner parties, some celebrating with the players many celebrating with their families, others with friends. Myself 25 years ago i just cant remember, i remember watching the game and i remember being overjoyed, where i celebrated and who with or even where i was eludes me.

    From a very early age i followed Arsenals games, remembering dates has never been my forte, I love the Arsenal winning, not just cups but all the games, Europe, Domestic, friendlies, Emirates cups.

    Most supporters dwell on our past results, where i look for future results, i see past results as history, and although that is just as important as as our future wins, i still think next years team is more important than this years.

    Nine year wait has been very painful for all of us, but you and i have been patient, never a season has gone by where we have not been up there challenging. Yes we have had disappointments, we have had bad press and we have had our Manager and Players ridiculed, but as supporters we have all stood firm.

    This FA cup is now in the past much the same as the Liverpool game, we can remember fondly, but next season is now more important.

    Great Post Big Raddy, i wish my memory was as sharp as yours, must be getting old.

  15. Big Raddy says:

    Steve. I have an old man’s memory. Yesterday is a blank but the past becomes sharper with each passing year

  16. GunnerN5 says:

    Am I the only AAer who is concerned that so far there has been no announcement of Arsene signing a new contract?

    Maybe I’m just paranoid!

  17. stevepalmer1 says:

    Nothing to be concerned about N5, He said he would be here next season and he has never let us down yet, take that as gospel mate.

  18. GunnerN5 says:

    https://www.facebook.com/torontogunners

    This is a link to a site created by Nilaye Thakrar one of the stalwart Canadian Arsenal supporters at The Mad Hatter.

  19. GunnerN5 says:

    I agree Steve he is always a man of his word but I won’t be content until I see the announcement of Arsenal.com

  20. evonne says:

    Fantastic Raddy! I almost feel the atmosphere , oh how i wish I was a Gooner then. But I wasn’t, I lived in Highgate and supported a team 1000miles away, plain stupid.
    But never mind, there are good guys like you that can tell me all about it. thank you dear

  21. jnyc says:

    Thank you so much for the history Raddy. I want you to know, that when I became an Arsenal supporter, I began to get the feeling that I was one in a previous life. How else could Ii explain how I was drawn to them so surely? Stories like yours are perfect, because I can envision it like a movie.

    I hope we all have great stories to reminisce about after next season, I believe we will.

  22. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Evonne, Plain Stupid? Why ever did they call a football club Plain Stupid? Is it a Polish thing? 😀

  23. Norfolk Gooner says:

    I’m sure everybody knows the Arsenal line-up but….

    Lukic
    Dixon Winterburn
    O’Leary Adams Bould
    Thomas Rocastle Richardson
    Smith Merson

    subs, Groves and Hayes.

    The only non English player was O’Leary

    and dear old GG as manager.

  24. No chas, no videos ……………… I’ll be back 😉

  25. Big Raddy says:

    Norfolk. Hope you have found a solution for your sight problems

  26. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Thanks Peaches, That brought it all back!!

  27. GunnerN5 says:

    Memories are made of this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Norfolk Gooner says:

    BR, Three expert opinions now, one says cataracts, two say not. New specs and some eye drops have improved the situation somewhat, but I’m limiting my time in front of VDUs and spending more time looking at the real world outside.

  29. evonne says:

    Norfolk – behave!! Ypu can call me stupid , but NEVER team that I support

    I want it to be august, second part of it

  30. chas says:

    Wow, just back from camping in a sauna and three days’ fine posts plus comments all in one go. Very enjoyable.

    I’m thinking Saturday’s “The Stoning of Dougal” is in fact an allegory for DidIt’s late teenage years and no dogs were harmed in the making of this story. Despite Micky’s attempts to turn us into a team of Orcs, I don’t think Arsene will go for it.

    I enjoyed Sunday’s B is for bloody funny, especially the Old Toilet stories and Thomas Flint’s biographical description. The latter could very well apply to me. So many people I see always talk Arsenal first to me even before offering to buy me a beer.

    Love today’s post on this special day. I’d forgotten your story from the first time I read it, BR. A failing memory can have some upsides because everything seems new, even when it’s second or third time around. I watched the game in a bedroom on a small portable telly. I think it may have only been black and white.

    Until those dying moments I assumed it was going to be an heroic failure for The Arsenal but still remember the feeling of utter joy and ecstasy when the second goal went in. I managed to put a stripe on the bedroom wall with my shoe from celebrating.

  31. chas says:

    Btw, photos of my ‘camping trip’ can be seen on http://www.inflatable.hottubs.co.uk/aswedishwelcome

  32. Big Raddy says:

    Never liked Van Nistelroy and clearly neither did Keown 😀

  33. chas says:

    Arsenal running ‘as live’ tweets of the game in 1989.

    https://twitter.com/Arsenal

  34. evonne says:

    no chas, the camp link doesn’t work

  35. evonne says:

    spurs have yet another new manager 🙂

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  54. GOONERKAM says:

    Great story BIG RADDY.
    HAPPY MAY 26TH EVERYONE

  55. GOONERKAM says:

    What’s this CHAS. no climax??

  56. neamman says:

    My story isn’t so interesting but I was in Canada and still essentially getting no UK football news except a day or two later at best and then only scores with no real details. No TV, no internet. But I had been alerted by my family back home so had got some UK papers which really set things up for me. I was working with two Liverpool fans who were scoffing at our chances. After work I rang the UK so was able to get all the details as we are 5 hours behind you guys.
    Next day at work I got in early draped an Arsenal shirt over one of the Pool supporters desk and waited until they arrived!!
    About a month later a local Brit speciality shop was selling VHS tapes of the game and I finally got to see it!!

  57. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Raddy

    I had absolutely no idea you were so weak and caved in to the demands of a woman on such a massive Arsenal night.

    Frankly typical of you 60’s styley “Ooo, we’re all equal” claptrap.

    Having said that, great story. Damn, what a night.

    I know there was ’71 in our case and what that Double meant and the WHL connection, and then as Rasp said there was the last minute City win, but still for drama, Anfield ’89 must win.

    Last game of the season, and you had the only two who could win the title playing each other. Throw in the away side needing to win by two, then of course the timing of the Mickey goal.

    The one moment in my Arsenal supporting years when I shouted louder at a particular Arsenal error was then.

    There can only be seconds left to play, and we need a goal. Lukic has the ball. He ROLLS it out to Dixon!

    “LUKIC YOU FACKING IDIOT, FACKING HOOF IT, YOU FACKING…..”

    🙂

  58. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Saw GN5’s comment about the AW contract.

    When does the current one expire?

  59. chas says:

    Right, off to slip a few lengths in.

  60. MickyDidIt89 says:

    That explains that very nicely. Thanks Chas.

    Now…THAT spare tent. Anything you’d like to share while we’re alone. You know, amongst Bezzies and all that.

  61. MickyDidIt89 says:

    You’re disgusting 🙂

  62. Big Raddy says:

    About this time 25 years ago I was waking up with a raging hangover and desperate to go into work to brag

  63. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Raddy

    I have mixed feelings about Chas. On the one hand, he contributes a lot to the site with his clips and bits, but then he let’s both the site, as well as himself, down with his constant stream of muck.

    I don’t envy the site superiors having to monitor his sort.

  64. evonne says:

    congratulations Raddy! I have no idea what I was doing 25 years ago 😦

  65. TERRY MANCINI HAIR TRANSPLANT says:

    Filth, yes. pure unadulterated filth

    One thing I cannot abide chas is when people attempt to disguise there frenzy by invoking euphemisms to an activity that brings back memories of sadistic PE teachers, forgotten trunks, and Y Fronts.

    I am busy polishing my sword, but when I return I demand an explanation

    Great post by the way Raddy.

  66. Big Raddy says:

    evonne. Selective memory

  67. evonne says:

    yep Raddy I cannot remember names or faces of new acquaintances, but any new addition to our squad becomes a household name without any problems whatsoever

    Let’s hope we will have a couple more -ski’s or -sny’s, or even -o’s by August

  68. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Ah, May 27th, 1989. I remember events clearly up until about mid afternoon.

    Was living in Notting Hill. Pub for opening time. Met a fellow Gooner for the first time (who remains a friend to this day). Couple of beers. Back to his for a replay on the vid. Back over to mine. Blackout 🙂

  69. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Evonne

    I prefer the -er’s for workrate, strength and discipline and the -a’s for flair 🙂

  70. evonne says:

    aha, the -o’s and -a’s are good because of their childhood – they play with bare feet. There is a book explaining the importance of feet in sports. Some of the best sportsmen and women ever prefer to be bare feet

    Wenger should confiscate all the boots, especially the odd coloured ones. Ok, there might be some stink to start with, but there is bound to be improvement in flair

  71. Rasp says:

    Morning all, I’ve solved all of our problems. We re-sign Fabregas (to play in the Arteta role when called for) and a new pacey right back who sees defending as his first duty and then a new 2nd choice GK and all our problems are solved.

    We won’t buy a striker but Sanogo will start finding the back of the net and will be our plan B (4:4:2 option) striker …. simples 😛

  72. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Back to the drawing board I’m afraid Rasp.

    We’re definitely signing a striker, and Cesc in the right position is worth 15 goals a season, and and and, Arteta will be replaced by a whoppa

    Sorry to get your day off to a bad start 🙂

  73. Rasp says:

    Aha Micky, that may be your preferred scenario – but which is the most likely bearing in mind AW’s penchant for quality midfielders?

  74. Rasp says:

    The only other position I can see us trying to fill is a pacey trickster for the left wing = Di Maria?

  75. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Evonne

    Agree on the odd boots. At Wembley, when two down, I did think to myself that poncing about in those poofy slippers did send out all the wrong messages

  76. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Good morning, alternatively we buy Fabregas, for the £25 million stated in the buy back clause, and sell him on for £75 million to Athletico Madrid and take Diego Costa as a make-weight in the deal.

  77. Rasp says:

    Spare a thought for poor Fabregas (no irony intended) we allow him to leave to pursue his boyhood dream and then their team falls apart, he gets the blame and they want to sell him off.

    We can’t allow him to go to manure, but also can’t blame him if we don’t welcome him back. With Fab’s goals, Theo’s goals, Ramsey’s goals and Giroud’s goals would we really need to buy a striker?

  78. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Micky, “Poncing about in poofy slippers” priceless! 😀 I think we should revert to the old leather boots with ankle supports and steel toe caps. Hammer a few nails in to keep the studs in place and smother them in dubbin. Oh! and lashings of Brylcream!

  79. Rasp says:

    Morning NG, Athletico couldn’t find £75m, they are traditionally a selling club.

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  81. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Norfolk

    Now, you are on the ball this morning, although I’d rather move Cesc on to PSG who’d let us have Cavani who is better than Costa Coffee.

    By the way, how did the safari suit go down in the jungles of Brunei or Borneo. A smash hit I’m sure.

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