What the North London Derby Meant to a True Gooner

1971 – a week in the life of a veteran Gooner

Today’s post was written by dandan back in 2010. Sadly Dandan died in 2014. He became a regular and very popular blogger on the site. He was patient with the new generation of ‘entitled’ supporters who had grown up with the stellar success under Arsene Wenger and always sought to remind them of the rich history of the club and the standards it upholds. He’d seen the good times and the bad times, and through all that his love for the Arsenal remained true and constant.

This post is an account of what is considered by many to be the most important north London derby and dandan’s passion for the club. It’s a really good read, we hope you enjoy it.

Monday 3rd May 1971.  Just one day in a 66 year long life. Five children, 10 grandchildren and a couple of wives ago. A working life, a happy life, a fulfilled life, yet in all that life, that day, that Monday 39 years ago stands out clearly, a milestone, a marker to excitement, expectation, pride and above all friendship, togetherness and achievement.

It began early, after working the morning and fidgeting away an hour of the afternoon it was time. I climbed into my car, picked up my mate, one of four of us that traveled to all Arsenal games together. The other two plus my brother were travelling in the Ford escort that was our real communal football vehicle. Our plan was simple we would meet up inside the ground.

We traveled the back doubles avoiding main roads, but it was soon abundantly clear that something was up; mid afternoon and even the side roads were busy. Eventually at about  4 o’ clock we found a road full of parked cars, with a police no parking cone at the end, quickly we parked the car with it’s front against the cone, jumped out, moved the cone to the back of the car and walked off.

White Hart Lane was where all my family’s loyalties lay, only I was the rebel, a gooner among all those spuds. We were on enemy territory, god and what a sight a queue of people 5 or 6 deep all round the ground and into the distance. We knew immediately, absolutely no chance to get in there by normal means. What to do? We headed for the front of the queue, passing thousands of people, hundreds of coppers. A plan was needed this was serious. Finally the main iron gates into the ground were reached, luckily they were still closed, 50 yards beyond them the turnstiles stood mockingly empty, inviting, waiting for the hordes in the endless queue. A line of police stood turning away anyone trying to join the queue.

Right by the main gate stands the White Hart Pub from which the ground gets its name. It was open, we went in and got a couple of half’s (part of the plan –  couldn’t waste money) and then stood outside casually leaning against the pub wall right by the gates, sipping our beers. At 5.30 the gates are unlocked and pulled open inwards. Immediately the people at the front of the queue, who have waited there overnight, rush forward scattering the line of police. We drop our glasses literally, join the rush, and sprint to the turnstiles, pay our money and we are through and in. We must have been two of the first 50 in the ground, as the man says don’t you love it when a plan comes together.

Not only are we in the ground, but also in the enclosure, people were pouring in. We felt desperate for our mates, knowing they had no chance of getting in as they had intended leaving work a bit later.

Then amazingly there they were, pushing through the crowd to join us, I had reckoned they’d be without my brother, a spud, although he knew this ground like the back of his hand.  In those days there was a press gate in one of the side roads, he was a regular there, a few quid in the attendants hand and he and they were through. 52,000 thousand locked out and we had all made it. They had just abandoned the car in a traffic jam, if it got towed, tough. It wasn’t they found it after the match and drove home.

The game was a blur with chances at either end, gradually we got on top, a 0 – 0 draw would be enough to win the league. Then with 3 minutes to go, Geordie Armstrong centered, Ray Kennedy leaped and headed home. Pandemonium, the stadium muted with tension till then, erupted. White Hart became Red and White Hart, every Spud seemed to disappear under a sea of scarves, hats and frantic, cheering, hugging, jumping Gooners.  The Spurs team went berserk kicking all and sundry the intention seeming to be that we would not field a full team in Saturdays cup final to take their ‘double’ record away. The referee saw what was happening and sensibly blew the whistle early. Where and how all the spuds disappeared to has puzzled me over the years, but the stadium from the moment the goal went in belonged to The Arsenal.

We left deliriously happy, found the car. No ticket, moved the cone and moved off listening to the radio singing and laughing. The normal 1hr journey home took 2 hrs but we never really noticed, what a day, what a night and the cup final still to come just 5 days away.

I had intended to end this post right there, with the championship won and the first leg of the 1971 double secured. But the act of writing it down after all these years, set me to thinking just how immense the events surrounding The Arsenal of the double year and that week in particular were in my life. Enlightening me above all to the importance of friendship and loyalty in a changing world.

First some background, as I said earlier I came from a family of Spuds, my earliest football memories are of being taken to WHL by my father (I saw Stanley Mathews play there, for Stoke I think) and the cup finals on TV. In those far off days the Cup Final was the only game live on TV, although before that you could see short highlights of it on Pathe News at Saturday morning cinema.

We then moved from London to Hertfordshire about a mile from what is now Beckingham Palace the home of David and Posh. So a trip into London for a carless family was an expensive undertaking and not taken often. For this reason as we got older the annual BBC Cup Final broadcast became a big event in our house. My 2 mates from school both Gooners would come along together with a gaggle of friends and family of the Spud variety.

Mum would move back and forth recharging cups and glasses and topping up the buffet she had provided, whilst we huddled around the TV. Then came the 1961 final when Dads dreams came true and Spurs did the double and the family partied long into the night. Us three Gooners of course the butt of every joke going. We were 17 at the time, apprentices or trainees, just able to afford to go to the home games at Highbury by train. Later I got a car and all games became available. But always the Cup Final at my parents home for my mates and I was mandatory.

Fast forward to 1971 double year, my parents have moved to Southampton, as Dads progression through the company required him to relocate. Then a week before Christmas the world changed, whilst travelling the dual carriageway that predated the M3 my dad’s car was hit by a lorry that came through the trees that lined the central reservation, he and his passenger died instantly.

I was devastated, my Dad and great mate gone. But my three Arsenal mates took over and made sure that I was accompanied to every Arsenal game that season and as they moved inexorably towards the double the sadness and realisation of the leg pulling and verbal I was missing with Dad grew.

Came that final week in May, Spurs on the Monday a euphoric, poignant day safely negotiated. Now because we had saved our programme vouchers, we also had our cup final tickets. But as the five days past I realised that I could not go to Wembley leaving my Mum alone down in Southampton, I needed to go and watch it with her. I gave my ticket to my mates and told them to give them to a Arsenal fan outside the ground.

They said nothing until Friday, our snooker night, when we met up they dropped the bombshell, they too had given their tickets away, and the faithful Escort all ballooned and ribboned up was parked outside and  bound for Southampton in the morning.

Needless to say it was a marvelous day tinged with sadness of course, Liverpool were overcome. Willow missed one on  the near post, Charlie lay on his back and waited his adulation, GG claimed a goal he never touched, whilst Eddy the real scorer couldn’t give a monkeys at the time, Frank at the final whistle, told the world we had xxxxxxx done it. Whilst we in the smart bungalow in Southampton watched it all on the big new colour Television that Dad had brought for my mum just 6 months previously.

It helped a lovely lady start to come to terms with her loss, but it taught me the meaning of true friends, enriching my life beyond belief and now all these years later as retirees, we still meet and greet and talk about our Arsenal days.

So I owe the Arsenal a great deal. Remarkably just that one word conjures up memories, of triumphs and disasters, but most of all it reminds me, that a common interest cemented four young men into lifetime friends.

Finally, may I say, as a newcomer, that as I read your posts, I sense that same feeling of comradeship, and respect for each other. Great game football, great club the Arsenal.

Written by dandan R.I.P.

32 Responses to What the North London Derby Meant to a True Gooner

  1. fatgingergooner says:

    Wow.

  2. Chris Davies says:

    Wow, that brought a tear to my eye. What a read. May you rest in peace DanDan, along with your Dad, together again.

  3. kelsey says:

    Rasp as you know I became very friendly with dandan, a true gent and it always sticks in my mind about him telling me about his father’s untimely death.I still miss him as he gave me a lot of support.
    Those of my age and his attended both games.WHL had 50K inside and 50K outside on that Monday night and then to win the Cup Final the following Saturday will always remain the pinnacle of my 65 years of supporting Arsenal and going to Highbury.
    17 years without a domestic trophy though we won the two legged Fairs Cup the year before.
    The younger generation will say Anfield in 89 and the even younger generation have only ever known success under Wenger.

  4. Rasp says:

    Hi Kelsey, yes, and thank you. Dandan was a special guy, tragic he died so young, but he left behind many fond memories and today’s post summed him up for me.

  5. LBG says:

    A worthy memorial to a true Gunners man and undoubtedly just as importantly a fine human being.
    Despite the sadness, a “top of the shop” post.
    Thanks.

  6. LB says:

    I am moved as much today by reading his wonderful post as I was the day it was first published.

    So vivid and so moving — brilliant.

    Ohhhhh I almost forgot and we won………………

  7. No apologies from me for reposting today’s excellent story from dandan. He was a great man and we loved having him on the blog, he told a good story too. His words were always filled with warmth.

    North London Derby’s stir up even greater emotions if you have spuds in your family ……… keep your Gooners close I always say.

  8. Graham March says:

    What a fantastic emotional read which encapsulates the Arsenal family spirit.
    This particular blog should be placed in the Arsenal dressing room to remind the players what it takes to be a true gooner.

  9. kelsey says:

    “A true goner” haha 😉

  10. RA says:

    What a shock and an emotional time it was when DanDan’s son told us on here that his dad had died.

    DD wrote some stirling Posts on Arsenal Arsenal insightful, articulate and without any posturing while brooking no nonsense.

    Excellent stuff

    How the years flash past!!

    Rest in Peace, DD, you were a one off.

  11. VCC says:

    Wonderful post guys.

    dandan, a true Gent and True Gooner. I remember my early days on AA reading his posts.

    A sad but uplifting read from dandan. God bless.

  12. GoonerB says:

    Thank-you dandan. Nothing else to say except Wow.

    89 was my first taste of the gunners doing something very special Kelsey so that remains a very special moment to me. Then to have the years 1997 to 2005 was exceptional.

  13. fred1266 says:

    No Celtic sue sorry

  14. fred1266 says:

    Germany team nice

  15. fred1266 says:

    Group F
    Arsenal
    Frankfurt
    Standard Leige
    Vitoria

    Boom

  16. RockyLives says:

    Peaches, what an inspired idea to reprint dear old Dandan’s Post.

    When I first came across AA, his presence on the Blog was one of the aspects that made it so appealing. His Posts were always well written and entertaining but even more so I remember his comments.

    Whenever things looked like they were getting overheated dandan would often pop up with some words of wisdom and perspective and settle things down.

    That account of the events of 1971, including the moving story of deciding to forego his Wembley ticket, brought a tear to my eye now just as it did when I first read it.

    I was 11 in 1971 so although I remember being incredibly excited and going crazy watching the Cup Final on the telly, it is some of our later highlights that stick more firmly in my brain (and heart) – occasions where I was old enough to appreciate the significance of what was happening and, like dandan, to enjoy it with my Arsenal mates.

    I was at the Cup Final vs Man Utd in 1979 (taken by a ManU supporting friend). That dramatic finish will live for ever in the memory.

    I was also at Wembley for the ’87 League Cup win over Liverpool… Ian Rush’s last game for them, they’d never lost when ‘Rushie’ scored. Well, guess what, he scored and they lost, thanks to Champagne Charlie Nicholas.

    Sadly I had to watch the events at Anfield on May 26th 1989 on the TV in Hull (although I did run up and down the street after Micky got the winner, much to the bemusement of the Hullites).

    I’ve been lucky enough to be at several other Cup Final wins and league-clinching games (Tony Adams scoring on the last day of the season in 1998 anyone?), but the occasion that takes the biscuit for me was going to Old Trafford with a bunch of mates when we clinched the league on their ground in 2002. We had to pick up our tout tickets from a dodgy set-up in a little red brick house near the ground, surrounded by Mancs. We knew we would not be in the away supporters’ section so were a bit worried about how things might pan out with the ManU supporters around us if we scored but, lo and behold, when we got into Old Trafford our seats were completely adjacent to the Arsenal away section. Rather like dandan’s disappearing Spuds in 1971, it seemed like all the ManU season ticket holders with seats near the travelling fans had seen the writing on the wall and given their tickets to the touts and there were Gooners all around us, both in the away section and outside it.
    You all know what happened next. Suffice to say we drank and partied well into the night (at one point ending up in a hotel bar with all the TV crew and pundits including Smudger Smith who was being disappointingly professional and not overly keen to join in our celebrations. Looking back I can’t say I blame him as we were six sheets to the wind by that point…).

  17. RockyLives says:

    Germany, Belgium and Portugal… three good potential trips 🙂

  18. Great story Rocky 😁

  19. fred1266 says:

    Great read peaches, thanks flow sharing

  20. Mike M says:

    Morning all. Brilliant post. Thanks Peaches. I became an Arsenal fan that Saturday in May of 1971. I had no clue what had happened the previous Monday but as I sat down to watch the FA Cup final just over 2 weeks from my 7th birthday, I remember thinking that my penchant for Chelsea (probably because of their catchy “blue is the colour song of the previous year) was waning and I wanted Arsenal to win (plus my sister was a Liverpool fan !!). After watching Charlie George I was sure of it and when we fell behind, I cried(and she made fun of me !!) Then we equalized and I felt a lot better. When Charlie won it my love for all things red and white/ yellow and blue was born and still dominates much of my life today. Having grown up watching games in the late 70’s and early 80’s I can say without a doubt if I hadn’t named my son Liam it probably would’ve been Charlie (his departure to Derby somewhat tarnished the image).
    I think I was on this site during the Dandan days but couldn’t swear to it. Anyway thanks for the memories !!

  21. Sue says:

    Really feel for Luis Enrique.. just lost his 9 yr old daughter to bone cancer…. how on earth would you ever get over that? I just can’t even begin to imagine what he & his loved ones are going through… absolutely heartbreaking… on top of reading this article… feel like crying!

  22. RockyLives says:

    Very sad Sue.

  23. RA says:

    Mike,

    If you were around during the DanDan days, that might be why, when you showed up recently, I thought I had seen your writing style before.

    Everyone has a distinctive way of expressing themselves, which is recognisable to other bloggers because of the relevant erudition or even whimsey. 😳

    I suspect it is that characteristic of each of us, which enables others to feel familiar and comfortable with the prose that becomes the staple background of this blog.

  24. kelsey says:

    So there is no misunderstanding when I wrote “A true goner” haha 😉 I was refering to Graham March’s post where he said a true goner (then changed it to gooner) .

  25. fred1266 says:

    Yea so very sad,

  26. kelsey says:

    RA,
    I keep saying hello to you but if you keep on ignoring me I will be delighted 😉

  27. AKINZO says:

    I read late Dandan’s post since morning, wanted to say how much I enjoyed it but found out my ideas had deserted me. It’s an evergreen and flawless.
    I was particularly emotional as I’d come so close to death in the past few years. The post was particularly reflexive for me as the battle to survive continues.
    I hope the Arsenal would be victorious in the latest NLD to honour his memory.
    it would be hard, especially after the defeat to Liverpool last week. Thankfully, many members of the squad know the importance of the game to the Gooners family but the game would also be seeing some greenhorns.
    We were triumphant last year and the match if my memory still serves me well, is perhaps our best performance of the season. We were particularly so dominant and it’s same approach that I expect we adopt on Sunday. our players were so confident and it’s filled me with pride so much so, the pains of my debilitating diabetes vanished for a week.
    If the trio of Laca, Aubameyang and Pepe are unleashed at the Spuds defence, I see them causing a lot of discomfort with their pace. An early would also proved crucial.
    Common Gooners

  28. Mike M says:

    @RA – Thanks (I think!! – ha ha !!). I used to go by Fab 4. Actually in those days I was obviously a little younger but I was probably a little edgier also. Thankfully time has mellowed !!!! To be fair to AA, it also helps when the group is as cordial and well versed as his group is. Some of the other sites (incl. that of Mr Mangan) got into stuff that was both irrelevant to Arsenal and incendiary and after a time of back and forth, I didn’t want to waste my time.
    @AKINZO – sorry to hear about your difficulties. Hope things work out for you.

  29. Aaron says:

    That is what great writing is all about. Felt like I was there as one of his friends trying to get into that game.

    Would enjoy reading something from GN5 about that day or others who have not posted about it. Don’t know if he wrote anything that far back, but it would be a great perspective for me personally.

    Was 8 when that game was played, but not a fan until 74-75.
    We have some true fans on this site, and I appreciate their measured responses, as they know that winning was not always part of the Arsenal’s tradition.

    Will lift one for Dandan and his father after Sunday’s game; either way.

  30. Rasp says:

    Morning all …

    … New post …

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