I have often questioned why I am so attached to football; I love art, I love music, I love romance but nothing has me so emotionally wrapped up as The Arsenal. Having studied and worked as a psychotherapist I have shone a light upon the influences of my youth to explain the driving forces which led to Big Raddy becoming the man he is and one of those influences is The Arsenal. Let me explain further ….
Without revealing too much, I was a lost soul as a child, I needed connection and non-judgemental acceptance, searching for it without success but one day, one magical day I was taken to Highbury. It was a time when the Gunners were quite frankly, crap, having won doodly-squat for a couple of decades but that inadequacy tied into the Raddy psyche especially as Spurs (who were equidistant from home) were Champions and regular trophy winners. We – and this is the crux – We – lost at Wembley, we lost again at Wembley – I hated it but again this fitted into my personal narrative. Then something miraculous happened, we won something and I was there to witness it.
28 April 1970. 2nd Leg Fairs Cup Final. Highbury. I am not sure but I recall bunking off school to queue for tickets a couple of weeks prior to the game. I got to the ground early and stood for a couple of hours in the queue before the turnstiles opened on a cold night despite it being the end of April. I was in the North Bank to the right of the goal and about half way up under the roof. There was a mist in the air but Highbury was rocking, I mean really rocking. The singing started an hour before kick-off and rose in volume all evening – I have never seen the place as it was at full-time. It was mental. There was a pitch invasion and I managed to get onto it and danced with strangers for what seemed like ages but probably wasn’t.
Raddy equalises in front of the North Bank
There is much I can’t remember. Where did Frank get given the cup? Was it on the pitch or did they go up to the Stands? Given the pitch invasion, probably not but the photos of the night show Frank being held up on shoulders carrying the Cup so it must have been presented somewhere. I do remember Radford scoring the equaliser with a wonderful soaring header followed immediately by Jon Sammels scoring the winner. The rest was delirium.
I had school the next day and went into assembly as though I had personally won the Cup, I was so proud. And that is the point of my opening paragraphs – I had become a member of a tribe, the Gooner tribe. I was accepted, I was connected, I was more than just me. Those early days of walking from Finsbury Park station to St. Thomas’s Rd into Plimsoll Rd and onto the mighty Avenall Rd; of being amongst thousands of people joined in a single passion were some of the happiest moments of my life.
We won 3-0 44 years ago, can we repeat it tonight?
We all saw how lucky the win in Belgium was – I was almost embarrassed to win like that. Anderlecht were the better team, made more chances, competed strongly in midfield and were dangerous in attack, they just ran out of steam, I have to admit to writing them off pre-game, I will not do the same tonight – Anderlecht, though the weakest team in our group are a good side.
Much is being made of the 17 y.o. Tieleman, who is exactly the type of player AW lusts after – strong, athletic, can play DM. Could he be a summer signing? Andi Najar scored in the first leg, a 21 y-o born in Honduras but raised in the U.S. he has a bright future.
As to our chaps, the squad is getting fatter as players return from injury, Theo is the latest to return but I do not expect him to start tonight. Is Podolski to be our super sub or can he get a start? Tonight would be an opportunity to give Santi a rest
Once again, it would be lovely to see Rosicky get onto the pitch, and Theo is sure to get at least half an hour.
The win at the weekend will give the lads some confidence. Finally they managed to play with the hand break off and with brio – it bodes well. Should we win tonight it would be 4 wins on the bounce which is exciting going into a tough game at Swansea, but let us not take things for granted, Anderlecht have already shown that they have quality, nonetheless this is a game we should win.
As it is a home game there is no culinary account, instead let us glory in the madness of this young chap.
44 years is a long time. Big Raddy has grown from a boy to almost a pensioner, he has moved from living walking distance from Highbury to living 1300 kms from The Emirates but one thing is constant. You can take the man out of The Arsenal but not The Arsenal out of the man!!
Written by Big Raddy