It’s the 26th May Gooners, a day to celebrate

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 five 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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89 Responses to It’s the 26th May Gooners, a day to celebrate

  1. Rasp says:

    Morning all, blind squirrel here 😕 Fantastic tale Raddy and what nuts you had to even ask to watch the game in such company, but to convert your host to a gooner was exceptional!

    I guess 26th May is probably our finest single moment although going a whole season unbeaten has to be our greatest achievement.

    We really do need to win the Champion’s league, Benzema looks like he’s going to be available (dare I say William Carvalho as well?) and Czech in goal might just be all it will take for AW to retire a happy man.

  2. mickydidit89 says:

    The 92nd minute

    I will never forget that moment. Never.

  3. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    What wonderful memories. Thank you Rasp.

  4. mickydidit89 says:

    Also, my biggest ever Arsenal FFS moment came shortly before the “charging through the midfield, it’s up for grabs now”, and that was when John Lukic rolled the ball out to Lee Dixon.

    I was screaming “hoof it” 🙂

  5. mickydidit89 says:

    Here we go lads

  6. arnie says:

    wow wow wow! thank you Raddy, thank you Rasp, thank you Peaches. 🙂

    tra la la la la la

  7. mickydidit89 says:

    Were there ever two longer seconds in your life than after Thomas broke through and was in on goal?

  8. mickydidit89 says:

    Chas
    I’ve decided I need you
    Ooo er
    Can you make a vine of the “charging through the midfield” moment that I can download onto my desk top?

  9. mickydidit89 says:

    Shitballs
    I promised myself I’d work hard today, and now we have Raddy’s 26th May epic, and I cannot concentrate
    Thanks a lot Big 🙂

  10. Big Raddy says:

    Micky. I take full responsibility. Sorry for the inconvenience.

    That night at Highbury is possibly the best fun (on my own!) I have ever had and will always, always be with me.

  11. arnie says:

    “the best fun (on my own!)”. 🙂

  12. arnie says:

    Dalglish was a sight to watch. 😆 wow Michael Thomas. 🙂

  13. arnie says:

    why should we be surprised the Scouser pundits hate us so much! 🙂

    pure class! 😆

  14. chas says:

    Majestically fabulous, BR. Thank you very much.

    My hair still stands on end watching that clip.

  15. mickydidit89 says:

    “My hair still stands on end watching that clip”

    Just not very high

  16. chas says:

    Not as high as yours, admittedly.

  17. chas says:

    Anyhow, I was talking about the hair on the back of my neck.

  18. mickydidit89 says:

    Hey Chas
    Just had a nasty thought
    Judging by photo of thou on beach, I reckon you are about 10mm’s away from being a skinhead
    Sorry, just thinking aloud

  19. Rasp says:

    Talking of those 2 seconds that made history, I recall Bendtner being in a similar position in a CL knockout game (I think it may have been against Bayern) when he had the chance to put us through but fluffed his lines – maybe someone can remind me which game it was?

  20. mickydidit89 says:

    Crikey, what happens when the hairs on Ant’s back stand on end
    Time for an XXL shirt

  21. chas says:

    The ‘1 minute man’.
    Haha, imagine being called that for the rest of your life.

  22. mickydidit89 says:

    Oh god, what if it happened while topless on a beach
    He’d look an irritable porcupine
    Yikes

  23. mickydidit89 says:

    Ha ha ha
    One Minute
    That worked out well Steve

  24. mickydidit89 says:

    Boy that’s good to watch
    By far and away the finest Arsenal goal of all time

  25. chas says:

    It was Barcelona, Rasp.

  26. chas says:

    Barcelona and Arsenal at the Nou Camp on Tuesday March 8 2011

    56 min: RED CARD! Van Persie’s gone and got a second booking. Stupid, stupid dismissal. He ran clear onto a through ball, the whistle blew for offside – and he fired off a shot. Apparently that’s timewasting – and apparently timewasting is a bookable offence.

    87 min: Oh Nicklas! Bendtner has the chance to punish Barca for their profligacy and he fluffs it. Nasri’s long ball from the right, Bendtner gets between Busquets and Abidal; he’s clear in the area if he can just shoot before Valdes smothers it. He can’t, obviously. What a goof.

  27. chas says:

    Hey, I already look like an irritable porcupine.

  28. chas says:

    Fever Pitch ending.
    (I can’t find the full 10 minute version including the last two games before)

  29. chas says:

    Radio

  30. mickydidit89 says:

    “shouldn’t of even turned the tv on”
    Rasp? 🙂

  31. Rasp says:

    Thanks chas, of course it was Barca. Mind you TH14 did miss two 1 on 1’s in the CL final I suppose.

  32. chas says:

    George, Dicko, Mickey, Dein, Smith…….

  33. mickydidit89 says:

    Yeah why not, it’s the 26th, why celebrate when we can focus on epic Arsenal fluffed chances 🙂

  34. chas says:

    It looks like Merse has been on the piss already. 🙂

  35. Rasp says:

    Just adding to the enormity of Micky Thomas’s cool finish Micky 😆

  36. Rasp says:

    Look at Rocastle in that picture, what an amazing bloke.

  37. mickydidit89 says:

    Rasp
    It’s called adding balance 🙂

  38. mickydidit89 says:

    How many out and out Gunners were in that side at Anfield?
    Amazing, and sad that those days are over
    Thomas, Davis, Rocky, Adams, Merse
    O’Leary?

  39. Rasp says:

    When did Merson replace that missing tooth?

  40. mickydidit89 says:

    By Spider, I mean a lot of Irish lads grew up following The Arsenal

  41. mickydidit89 says:

    must dash

  42. Rasp says:

    I’m pleased we’re wearing the yellow and blue away kit for the cup final – its always been good for us.

  43. The Cockie Monster says:

    Sorry Micky….Merse is a Chav lover !……he`s even down on Chav TV as a celebrity supporter !.

  44. mickydidit89 says:

    Fat Bastard

  45. chas says:

    I love the way Winterburn just ignores Michael Thomas and runs off to celebrate with the fans. 🙂

  46. chas says:

  47. TERRY MANCINI HAIR TRANSPLANT says:

    Nice Raddy

    Yes, i have often wondered about the sociological and psychological ramifications of that night.

    So Mr Mcmahon. how do you feel knowing that your one minute gesture played a significant part in the fairytale that led to the rejuvenation of English football? Like a bloody twat you say?. Your friends lost respect and your wife started an affair with Ian Rush’s nose? Take solace Steve. Rush’s nose has put many a mans appendage to shame.

    What about you Mr Aldridge? Your act of fair play at the final whistle sealed your fate as a low ranking villain. Not Bond class, more like the bloke who sold heroin on Brookside. Whats that you say? No one talks to John Aldridge like that? Your about to don black gloves and give me a smack? Surely you mean sell me some smack don’t you John? I would be careful if I was you John. You might find Jimmy Corkill has set you up with the bizzies, reducing you to a morbid fear of dropping the soap

    Yes Mr Dalgliesh. Dalgliesh just stands there does he? You were always the fun of the party wern’t you Kenny. Your career must have really taken off that day. Accountants from all over the country inviting you to parties so they can look good. Well, lets be honest Dalgliesh, 26th May made no difference really. Accountants were salivating the moment they saw you.

    Great day.

  48. GunnerN5 says:

    Very uplifting post and subject Raddy.

    Looks like fans everywhere love Alexis………………..

    ………………………………………………………………………………….

    Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez has won the PFA Fans’ Player of the Season award in his first season in England.

    The Chilean scored 16 goals and provided eight assists in his maiden Premier League campaign, helping the Gunners to a third-place finish. He also assured Arsenal’s place in Saturday’s FA Cup final with two strikes against Reading in April’s semi-final.

    Sanchez was one of 10 players nominated for the award and triumphed over Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero in a public poll that received over 200,000 votes.

  49. Eddie says:

    life stinks and especially my life. Days like 26th May 1989 are just another proof of my bad luck – I have not started supporting the Arsenal until 1990 😦 And today every flipping comment is like adding salt to an injury. Thanks, mates

  50. Big Raddy says:

    Eddie. Poor you

    You have ust seen 4 PL titles, 6 FA Cup wins, 1 League Cup, 1 Euro Cup winners, two Doubles, The Invincibles, TH14, DB10 etc etc

    It’s been really tough for you

  51. GunnerN5 says:

    Oh dear Raddy, how very sad for Eddie…….
    Her life seems to have gone to the dogs!!

  52. Gööner In Exile says:

    Bloody marvellous Raddy!!!

    Belated Happy 26th May AAers.

    I was only 12 that night, I’ve been a very lucky Arsenal supporter, from the age of 10 I’d seen us win trophies and for the most part been at the right end of the table. The LeagueCup win in 87 and the league title in 89 are probably still my favourite victories, we were underdogs in both games. I guess that’s how I think of Arsenal, as underdogs, it’s why I struggle with the fans/supporters who seem to feel we should always be challenging for trophies, those two wins were not expected they were joyous occasions made more enjoyable by knocking the Scousers off their perch.

  53. chas says:

    Hope they land in your garden, P.

  54. chas says:

  55. mickydidit89 says:

    Theooooo

  56. mickydidit89 says:

    That’s a creepy pussy

  57. chas says:

  58. chas says:

  59. mickydidit89 says:

    Interested to know more about catnip botanically, I looked it up

    “Catnip causes them to roll around on the floor and paw at invisible birds flying in their vicinity”

    Made me think of Raddy

  60. chas says:

    #wearyellowatWembley

  61. chas says:

  62. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    6.44 Is that a leopard or a cheetah? Either way the chap is in deep trouble

  63. Big Raddy says:

    Rather try the cough medicine than catnip 🙂

  64. chas says:

    I think cheetah.

  65. chas says:

    The ‘pawing at invisible birds’ made me think of fear and loathing.

  66. mickydidit89 says:

    Eddie, Eddie, Ediie wake up

    Have you seen these fellas

    http://www.honeyflow.com/

  67. mickydidit89 says:

    ha ha ha
    On tour with Big. Dear God!!!

  68. Big Raddy says:

    Didit. How did you come to be doing honey flow research?

    Fear & Loathing. Now there’s a book. Made me look differently at my attorney …..

  69. chas says:

    ‘my attorney’ 🙂

  70. chas says:

    Wow, that honey porn is the bomb!

  71. mickydidit89 says:

    Raddy
    Friends here the other day told me about them. I’ve read loads of books about bees, and have been given some old hives, but never got around to doing anything about it.

  72. Big Raddy says:

    Bees are vicious bastards. Some say they are friendlier than the wasp but if that is the case why would they commit suicide to sting you? Answer me that??

  73. Big Raddy says:

    chas. I have that pic and the Flintstone one on my desktop 🙂

  74. Big Raddy says:

    Looks like FIFA officials might be in the doodoo

  75. mickydidit89 says:

    Raddy
    Perhaps they are simply aggressive towards you. Could be the “unusual” aroma emanating from the deadly pollen embedded into the fabric of your robe

  76. mickydidit89 says:

    Raddy
    When you say you have “that pic AND the flintstone one”, which is THAT pic. The bloke above in yellow?

  77. RA says:

    The major difference betwixt a bee sting and a wasp sting for the ‘stingee’ is that a wasp can sting several times with maximum damage to the victim, and then he goes off has a cup of tea and comes back to finish you off.

    Whereas the bee only gets one go, and it is not so much that he commits Sue Eecide but when the victim brushes him off, the shape of the sting means it remains in the flesh, and the brush off only separates the rest of the thorax from the sting.

    The Wormer will confirm this. You brute!

    [Anyone disagreeing or nit picking can go sting their own ass.] 🙂

  78. Eddie says:

    don’t even mention bees to me, Raddy is right, vicious ungrateful bastards. They have no notion of gratitude. I look after them, at a great cost and time expense and they sting me every chance they get. I spent almost all weekend tending to them and have lumps on my body to prove it.

    micky – that vid cannot be true. They cap honey when most of the water evaporated and therefore if you had liquid flowing straight to jars it would be full of water. Secondly, if there was open honey source there would be robbing – other colonies would attack at try to steal. The natives would defend and there would be thousands of dead bees in the jar. Nice idea, but no way probable.

  79. Rasp says:

    Morning all, an early …….

    …. New post ………

  80. mickydidit89 says:

    Well,, that’s that then.
    Can’t mention bees, and the hives don’t work

    Oh well, morning Eddie and RA.

    Good news. We get GB’s match report which WILL conclude that a front line with Theooooooo is better than one with Ollie. Feathers will fly 🙂

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