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

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

  1. Eddie says:

    I am going to skip Breaking Bad tonight and go for Raddy’s post! looking forward to it, very much actually

  2. Still a fantastic read Raddy ………. get goosebumps when I start to watch the video …………….

  3. Off to find Colin Firth …………….. might have to watch Fever Pitch tonight 🙂

  4. mickydidit89 says:

    Ahhhhhhh sigh

    Erik’s immortal post

  5. Zee says:

    Well, I’ll be blowed – you never see a Peaches, and then suddenly 3 of them come along!! 😀

  6. Zee says:

    Peaches,

    I read that Colin Firth is to become an Italian national because he thinks the UK is crap. Charming.

    It was also reported by other big time stars that unlike his screen image he is a moaning, precious tart.

    Terry will be disappointed as he has modelled his wig on Firth’s chest hair – I think that’s what it is?? 🙂

  7. I’m always here for the important stuff Zee – how are you?

    Crazy stuff football …………… I cry every time Micky Thomas scores that goal

  8. Sorry can’t stick around ………….. gardens to sort ……… back later

  9. VP of Oz says:

    brings me to tears
    a time when winning was not a right

  10. Gööner In Exile says:

    On talk of movie stars forgot to mention I numbed into Bill Nighy at Emirates last week coming out of the loos. Did a double take as recognised him thought I needed to say hello but I don’t know why I know your face but I know I know you and would be rude not to say hello. And then realisation it was him and he doesn’t know me from Adam. Thankfully despite copious Guinness intake at KH my brain managed to process all of that before saying anything.

    So that’s another celebrity Gooner to add to the list.

  11. mickydidit89 says:

    Exile

    I too have seen him there once. North Bank end. Club level.

  12. mickydidit89 says:

    Very true VP

  13. […] via 26th May 1989 – It’s up for grabs now!!! — […]

  14. Gööner In Exile says:

    Garden Flowers

    Garden Flowers

    My alliums are starting to flower

  15. Zee says:

    Hi GIE,

    Do I understand that you saw the inestimable Chary at JC’s last match?

    If so, how is he? Why has he not visited AA in about a decade?

    A strong draw to AA, for me, was his tearing Manu and fungus face. in particular, to shreds in his famous rants.

    I really miss some of the long gone princes of AA, and Chary was very much one of them.

    [Chary — short form of Charybdis, from Greek mythology — class!] 😀

  16. GoonerB says:

    Afternoon all. Got to be the best post ever this one. Screwed my day up…should have been working but had to watch the fever pitch clips….best go do some work now.

  17. Zee says:

    GoonerB — you’re fired!

  18. Rasp says:

    Hi all, sorry to be late to the party. A timely and evocative memoir Raddy, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced joy like that before or since (except the obvious 🙄 )

    Watching that clip back, the long pass from Dixon to Smudger was what made it all possible.

    I have no idea what the club does to motivate players for a cup final, but replays of that goal and the Charlie George moment, the goals by Parlour and Freddie should all be played to them.

  19. Gööner In Exile says:

    Zee you never know maybe Chary is posting under another name 😉

    As I’m not a frequent visitor I wasn’t aware he had been away so didn’t ask.

    He seemed in good form and like most of us resigned to our EL fate and trying to understand what crippled the players this season.

    It seems Rasp has a story he can’t divulge I think he is missing a trick as surely he could use the tabloid tricks, of “unnamed source” or create an anonymous twitter page, divulge all and then point us to it, we can then write the story.

    I think I have heard a story about Bould and Ozil having a large falling out involving a water bottle being thrown by the former at the latter, and that perhaps there was some training ground friction after that. That was from Tuesday Club Podcast, Alan Davies announced it and then said if it isn’t true they can sue me, but they won’t because it is true. I’d imagine he would have to be pretty sure of himself to say that?

  20. Herb's Army says:

    For the dramatic ending alone, and all that had gone before with Hillsborough, it was an emotionally charged night.
    No-one gave us a prayer, and I remember reading the morning papers, all carrying George Graham’s stoic resolute conviction that Arsenal would win the title at Anfield.
    Much like with the game tomorrow, all I had was hope, but what a historic day it came to be.
    It was a scary watch, particularly the first-half, they could and probably should have been at least 2-0 up at half-time.
    The second half was much more agreeable, especially after the faintest of headers from ‘Smudger’ put us in the driving seat within ten minutes of the re-start.
    An epic occasion deserves an epic ending. Step forward Micky Thomas and take a bow.
    What his goal lacked in aesthetic artistry was more than made up for by the significance of the whole night.
    The Arsenal were champions and it was a wonderful night to be alive.
    Fantastic nostalgia BR.
    We could do with the same spirit tomorrow at Wembley.

  21. Big Raddy says:

    As I was reading the post it all came flooding back to me. Perhaps the best nights of many great AFC nights, though winning the Fairs Cup and Cup Winners in Cph were magic as well.

    So much has happened since then – new wife, new family, new country, new job, new friends but Arsenal is for Life.

  22. Gööner In Exile says:

    I’m sure every one has heard my story of being an excited 13 year old smashing the lounge lamp in my celebratory leap following Mickey’s goal.

    What a team that was, young talented and hungry, half homegrown.

    Peaches and I were discussing that one of the things missing from the current Arsenal side are the academy graduates. What has happened to the academy that it is no longer producing talent, and when it is produced why isn’t it getting a first team chance, take Akpom, would you rather have him or Theo on the bench, I know Afobe struggled with injuries but again him or Perez? I’m not sure if this is because AW doesn’t trust them, or because the board would rather buy in squad players and say that we are at least spending money? I used to enjoy League Cup games because we got to see the likes of Lansbury, Wilshere, Bartley learning their trade, now it is a Reserve team game played at half pace without the desire to prove themselves.

  23. Eddie says:

    brilliant, brilliant, brilliant post
    thank you Raddy, you lucky man, it must have been some night to remember 🙂

    why has it changed football?

    I was in my forties and my mother still kept on asking me not to mention to her friends that I go to football games. I didn’t, I was sort of ashamed I am not a proper lady. That was then 🙂

  24. chas mobile says:

    Brilliant footballing post, BR.

    Each time I read it, I feel a little emotional.

    It’s almost like an allegory for the struggle of the working class proletariat.

    Beautiful.

  25. Big Raddy says:

    Thank you chas. And you have heightened the poetic nature of the site with that Marxist Communist Manifesto malarkey.

    I wouldn’t know an allegory from a bar of soap.

  26. GoonerB says:

    I concur with Raddy Chas. I am not sure that words like allegory and proletariat are commonly used among the working class. I think it outs you as at least middle class but I have a hunch for something more. Thinking along the lines of “secret millionaire” I am now thinking “secret aristocrat”….what say you brother of the revolution 🙂

  27. GoonerB says:

    Quick question….are we allowed to reclaim Chambers now the league has finished? Could be an option for tomorrow with our CD crisis.

    A couple of outlets reporting that Ospina will play ahead of Cech tomorrow. I really can’t believe that will happen, but if it does our managers sanity would have to be seriously questioned.

  28. Gööner In Exile says:

    GB I’d guess he is up tied?

  29. Gööner In Exile says:

    As for Ospina over Cech?

    He has continued the Cup keeper before so don’t see it as a surprise.

    Could do without another one of these anyway:

  30. Gööner In Exile says:

    “I have no medals at home from anything. You come to my home, you will be surprised, there is no trophy, no medal, nothing. I always give them out.

    There is always a guy at the club who did not get a medal – a member of staff – so I have given it to him.

    So you are always a medal short and you will always find someone who takes it.”

    Arsene Wenger

  31. chas says:

  32. chas says:

  33. Zee says:

    This was a bit unkind of the Lord Chas.

    — “It’s almost like an allegory for the struggle of the working class proletariat.
    Beautiful.”

    I suffer from allegories whenever I mow the lawn, and altho it is true I struggle to get the bloody thing working, I never kick it in the proletariats – beautiful it ain’t! 🙂

  34. Eddie says:

    never mind your magniloquence, what about footy today? not much of chance, have we?

    chavs say it is great time to play Arsenal now. doh…

  35. Eddie says:

    great vid of the Copenhagen fans. Raddy – how come they are all while males??

  36. Who’s up, what time shall I put up the PM??????

  37. chas says:

    Whack it up, sis.

  38. mickydidit89 says:

    FA CUP FINAL Day and we’re in it 🙂

    Morning all

    Up outside for 90 mins last night, as we had the most extraordinary lighning display I’ve ever seen. Non stop light
    https://twitter.com/search?q=thunder+lightning&ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Esearch

  39. Ok, I’ll do it now ……. then I’m gonna have a swim 😁😁😁

  40. mickydidit89 says:

    ha ha ha, oh classic comments on the yester 🙂

    Chas
    Proper lefties are brexiteers, comrade 🙂

  41. Eddie says:

    I love thundrstorms. In Poland they are increadible. Not sure what makes the difference but I have never seen a thunderstorm in UK as I see them every year in Warsaw. Scary but ever so beautiful

  42. mickydidit89 says:

    Eddie
    Always a chance. Defenders are for wimps is my mantra for today.

  43. Ok, here it is, the last PM of the season.

    Enjoy your day everyone and stay safe all those going to Wembley

    We have a New Post …………………….

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