In the long footballing break now ahead of us it might be interesting for AA regulars and visitors to share memorable stories from their Arsenal supporting lives.
This tale dates back to the 2001/02 season. At the time I was a season ticket holder in the Upper East Stand at Highbury.
By dint of hard work, good luck and pulling in favours a group of seven of us had managed over the years to get adjacent seats in the same row (near the back, about half way between the centre circle and the Clock End goal).
From this vantage point we had enjoyed many ups and downs, but the glories of the 1997/98 season – when we clinched our second league and cup double – were still fairly fresh in our memories and the mood was generally positive.
Naturally, as season ticket holders, you get to know the regulars who sit nearby. They were an entertaining cast of characters, most memorable among them probably being the man we called Celeb. He was the living personification of the dissolute ‘Gary Bloke’ from the Celeb strip cartoon by the brilliant illustrator Alex.
Gary Bloke wears dark glasses whatever the time of day or night and always looks like he’s just come from a star-studded all-nighter.
It was always amusing to watch Celeb arrive late for every game, long blonde hair brushed back, impenetrable shades in place, wearing garish suit and shiny winkle-pickers and responding to greetings with a grimace that said “still hung over, hope the singing’s not too loud today.”
The camaraderie was always good in our neck of the Arsenal wood… except for one person.
Every story needs not just heroes, it needs villains as well. And our villain was a supporter in his 50s who sat a few rows in front of us.
Throughout every game he would regale the crowd at length with his opinions about the players, the manager and the direction of the club. That’s fair enough, except for three things: one, his opinions were rubbish: always negative, however well we were doing; two, they were always delivered at the volume of an RAF jet fighter breaking the sound barrier; and three, their tone was always of the “you muppets don’t know what you’re talking about, let me put you right…” variety. We called him Cabbie because he reminded us of those know-all London taxi operators who rant at you from the moment you step in their cab until the moment you get out 10 minutes later and 30 quid worse off. (That’s probably a bit unfair on most cab drivers. Sorry chaps).
Most of us reacted to Cabbie’s constant barrage of ill-informed, arrogant negativity with a roll of the eyes or muttered complaints to one another. But one of our group, Rickie, really began to hate it.
Rickie was not averse to a bit of in-game shouting himself, and as a Head of Year in an all boys school he could bellow with the best: “Winterburn, put that cigarette out. See me after school… Adams, ADAMS! What are you doing with Morrow? Put him down! No not like that…”
But Rickie was a respectable and well-mannered fellow and his shouted offerings were of the encouraging, supportive kind, with only a very rare rocket for a bit of bad play from the boys in red and white.
As the weeks went by in the 2001/2 season, Cabbie developed a particular disliking for Freddie Ljungberg. It was the season when Ljungberg became Red Fred and had a brilliant song all of his own: “We love you Freddie, because you’ve got red hair…” Arsenal fans really did love him… except for Cabbie.
Cabbie would harangue Freddie all game long. Worse, he was incapable of pronouncing Freddie’s surname, so we were treated to lots of “Lungborg, you’re bloody rubbish… Lungborg, go back to Sweden… Lungborg, my 12 year old daughter’s better than you…”
Attentive readers will know that 2001/02 is the year when we went on to win a second league and cup double under Arsene Wenger, with a certain red-headed Swede firing the goals that helped us clinch the title in the league run-in.
It must have been just around the start of that run-in when Rickie finally flipped. Perhaps he’d had a tough time with the lower fifth that week or perhaps he just couldn’t bear to hear the word “Lungborg” blasted at maximum decibels one more time, but when Cabbie began another stream of invective aimed at Freddie, Rickie jumped to his feet.
Directing himself at Cabbie he yelled at full schoolteacher-wrangling-an-unruly-class volume: “WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP. JUST FOR ONCE KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT OR IF YOU HAVE TO OPEN IT, HOW ABOUT SAYING SOMETHING POSITIVE?
“WE’RE ALL ABSOLUTELY SICK OF YOUR ENDLESS COMPLAINING. JUST GIVE IT A REST. AND BY THE WAY, IT’S LJUNGBERG, NOT LUNGBORG, YOU F—–G MORON.”
For a few seconds there was a stunned silence. Then a large slice of the Upper East stand burst into applause for Rickie.
Cabbie’s face went puce, he spluttered and frothed but no words came out. He sat back down and uttered nary a squeak for the rest of the game. Or indeed for any game thereafter.
Looking back many years on, I sometimes feel the tiniest bit sorry for Cabbie. After all, everyone’s entitled to their opinion and if you can’t shout at a football match then when can you?
But his relentless tide of stupidity and negativity was getting out of hand and needed to be called out. The only surprise was that it was refined Rickie who was the one to do it.
Not a big story. Just an everyday tale of the terraces, but one that for some reason has stuck fondly in my memory.
Excellent post Rocky, I love that story.
At Highbury I sat in the East Upper and there was a guy that sat a couple of rows in front of me and he was a referee. Everyone around us knew he was a ref and that it wouldn’t take long for him to start shouting abuse at the ref of the day. His language was appalling except when he brought his young son to games, then he was very well behaved much to amusement of us all.
When we moved to The Emirates I had seats in the West Upper and although I couldn’t see him he was obviously nearby as I could still hear him berating the ref.
Multiply your story by a million. I am sick of all the negativity that players are getting of late. Laca Guendouzi and even Willock are getting. Do supporters think they go out to have an off game? These are men not robots so help don’t hinder
More rollicking Rocky magic!
Highbury sometime in the ’60’s I was there with my wife at the clock end watching a very dull game (can’t remember who we were playing) when the ball came off the pitch & struck me square on the forehead and went back into play. I couldn’t have headed it better if I’d tried and got some great applause. Next day one of the Sundays reported that the best bit of football all match was from a clock end supporter who bravely headed the ball back into play. My moment of glory.
I’ve had the same experiences as Peaches & Rocky with supporter abuse of players. One guy in particular had it in for Jon Sammels who to be fair could be a might frustrating and (like Rocky’s Cabbie) pronounced his name incorrectly as Samuels.
Another moment from my old days in the Upper East was the occasion when Martin Keown’s mum and dad were sitting directly in front of us.
From memory I think we were playing Chelsea and it must have been a cup game because their supporters had the whole of the Clock End.
At some point Keown managed to wind up the Chav fans with some typically robust play, which led to them singing a non-stop chant of “Keown, he’s got a monkey’s head…” for at least 10 minutes.
I felt sorry for Mr and Mrs K sitting right in front of us (even though most Arsenal fans were chuckling).
I couldn’t hear what the couple were saying to each other, but I fantasised that Mrs K might turn to her hubby and say something like: “Well he kind of does have a monkey’s head, doesn’t he? I always said he takes after your side of the family…”
And of course in the North East…..a “monkey’s heed!”
Used to work with colleague who taught him in his Oxford school. Not very complimentary about his “language” skills.
Mind you think his language skill will always be remembered by Van Nistelrooy. God bless you Martin.
Brilliant post Rocky. Had me chuckling all the way through.
I am sure that Mr and Mrs Keown were well aware of the simian qualities evident in the apple of their eye. I would like to think that they knew he was a tough chap and weren’t bothered at all about any opposition fan abuse.
I used to play with a central defender who was a real unit and a naturally tough chap, and he would frequently wipe out opposition players, while mostly getting the ball to be fair, and leave them in a crumpled heap. Cue much squaring up and pushing and shoving from the opposition teammates of the latest crumpled heap on the ground.
Our culpable defenders mum would often attend games and be watching this and would shout “stop being so mean and leave him alone”.
One time an opposition manager shouted back at her:
“you can’t shout at my players when your son has just taken one of ours out and injured him”
she turned to him and said “I was shouting at my son”.
I would like to think that Mr and Mrs Keown were well aware that their Martin could handle himself perfectly well, and perhaps were even a tad more concerned for his opponents than they were for him.
A nickname we often used for Keown was “the rash”, but we also had another one that we used which I preferred which was “the film star”, obviously on account of his Hollywood A list looks. Whenever he won a tackle and took out the opposition player we would all shout “go on the film star”.
Just googled football players nicknames and found this link if you wish to indulge.
Great story Rocky. We’ve all had Cabbie’s sitting near us at some point.
We had the misfortune to be sitting near a bloke in the Emirates who was around 100 years old and had a dislike of most Arsenal players, in particular Thierry Henry! ‘Henry YOU COWARD!’ was his favourite.
He died a few years back so we haven’t heard his whining for a while but his spirit lives on…
Keown has a fuse. A friend tells a story that the reason he got transferred by Arsenal first time was due to disagreement with George Graham over wages. Keown had GG up against the wall in a strangle hold before he was sent to Aston Villa.
But I have heard from others that met him in social occasions that he is very polite and friendly.
I also heard that story about Keown grabbing GG by the throat.
I think if big Martin grabbed you, you’d stay grabbed.
Top post Rocky…………………………….AllezKev is a cabbie! ………………………was it you Kev? hahaha
Me and my son still giggle about a fan who was a few rows in front of us………………………..he was topless and built like Hercules and he kept shouting………………”Slash him Nasri !”………………….no one said a word due to the size of him, me and my son were in stitches!……………………….wasn`t you Redders was it ? hahaha
great read 🙂 Thanks RL
@Peaches and @Rasp – I ll send out some posts soo 🙂
I can’t help but think that picture is a caricature of an older Mike Steeden (hope I haven’t offended you, Mike 😁)
Great stories, my favourite being SR’s… how great to have read about it next day in the paper – did you keep it?! Just one other thing i want to say to you… on me head son!! 😃
Thank you all for your wonderful stories.
I do not go often to games but remember one against villa when we were 2 0 down at half time and the villa supporters were jumping up and down and making a noise.
We then scored 3 goals and for the rest of the game the fans around us were pointing at the villa fans singing “you’ve all gone quiet over there’.
I think banter is great. Insults are not.
That’s why comeback wins are so good. It’s great when the opposition fans get a bit ahead of themselves and end up getting a smack in the face from karma.
That win against Villa – was it when Davor Šuker scored one of the goals direct from a free kick inside the penalty area? If so, I was there too. But I may be thinking of a different game against Villa.
Le Coq Monster, it’s good to see you back on here posting with your normal humorous anecdotes, however, from my brief recollection of yours truly it has struck me that maybe you had a certain resemblance to a certain Mr Gary Bloke. Are you able to confirm or deny this Le Coq?
We have a New Post …………….
No, I do not think it was that game