Arsenal, man and boy…… memoirs of a life-long Gunner

July 21, 2010

We are delighted to publish this fascinating historical insight from our latest writer GunnerN5. The bomb site he played on as a lad is what we now know as Ashburton Grove … yes, the Emirates Stadium; how times have changed.

I was born on Avenell Road as the bombs were dropping on Islington; later we were evacuated to Lemsford near Hatfield in the county of Hertfordshire.

My maternal Grandfather was a coalman and used to deliver around the cobbled streets of Highbury by horse and cart. He lived on Stavordale Road and watched the very first Arsenal game at Highbury.
For my 10th birthday he took me to my first Arsenal game- Nov 22nd 1947 – Arsenal 2 Huddersfield 0 – I was hooked for life.

We were a poor family and my parents could not afford to buy me tickets to the game but that did not stop a determined Arsenal supporter from getting into the ground. Over the walls, I had to negotiate the broken glass bedded into the cement at the top of the walls and often went home with torn pants and got a clip round the ear. Through my Dads legs and under the turnstiles, usually ending up with scuffed knees.

Failing either of these ways in I would wait until half time and when the stewards opened the gates I would dash in and hide in the crowd – the stewards used to give a mock chase but I think they kinda enjoyed letting me go.

I went to every home game, 1st team one week, reserves the next and went to every away cup game that I could afford. We stood as a family under the clock, about 20 of us. My parents both were born in family’s with 9 sons who fathered 46 sons. Of the 64 of us, 60 were fervent Gunners but 4 misguided soul’s went the wrong way up Seven Sisters Road and ended up to be Spurs supporters – I ask ya?

Life’s path took me and my family to Canada, it was a real shock not being able to go to live games but I’ve made up for it by having 3 satellite dishes and the internet – between which I NEVER miss a game, although not always live. Still to this day Arsenal results can make or break my day and as game time approaches I still get goose bumps.

Being a statistical type of person I’ve created masses of data on our history and have recorded on excel spreadsheets every seasons results by year and manager. I also have our history by every team we’ve played in the EPL.

I’ve seen the teams of our past 12 managers going back to George Allison and in this mans view Arsene Wenger is far and away the best.

Unfortunately I’ve not seen a live game at the Emirates although as a kid I did play around that area.

Cheers to all and here’s to another exciting season.

Since GunnerN5 grew up in wartime, we thought it would be interesting to reproduce this passage describing the adaptation of Highbury, taken from…..

Highbury becomes ARP stronghold during World War II

During the Second World War 42 of Arsenal’s 44 professional footballers were drafted into the services. The majority of the administration staff at Highbury followed and even the stadium itself did its bit for the war effort.

Arsenal Stadium, Highbury was transformed into a ARP (Air Raid Precautions) stronghold and Arsenal had to play their wartime home fixtures at White Hart Lane!

Incidentally, manager George Allison did convert the referees room at Highbury into a small flat for a while.

Success continued during the war years with Arsenal winning the South A League in 1940, the London League in 1942, the Football League South and the Football League South Cup Final in 1943.

Arsenal relied heavily on guest players during that six-year period, notably Stan Mortensen and Stanley Matthews.

For all its efforts, Highbury paid the price when it was bombed. The North Bank was completely destroyed and much of the terracing on the South Stand was also damaged. These had to be repaired before Arsenal could return home after the war.