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Tuesday
Oct252011

An unexpected visit

BY RICHARD BETHELL / @RICHGOONER1886

My first visit to Highbury was not to watch a game, but on a trip to London with my Mum and Dad in the summer of 1993. I begged and begged for them to go a few stops up the Piccadilly line from Covent Garden so I could take a look around the stadium I’d for so long dreamed about.

Thankfully, they eventually succumbed to my moaning and agreed to take me. When we arrived at the tube stop the thing that struck me was how every underground station in London looked more or less the same. Not this one though. This one was Arsenalised. I could feel my stomach doing knots.

We got to street level and then.....houses. Rows and rows of houses. Where was the ground? After asking a few people we turned a corner onto Avenell Road and there it was in all its Art Deco glory, the East Stand. Approaching the stadium I remember thinking how quiet it was, how small the stadium looked from the outside and how close people lived to this place!

We went to the Gunners Shop and Mum bought me a navy blue (I know) Arsenal jumper. I recall looking through the gaps in the gates to the Clock End car park, trying to catch a glimpse of one of the players, or George Graham maybe. I walked casually into the main entrance of the East Stand and found myself face to face with Herbert Chapman, women busy working in the office to my left paid no attention to this wide eyed 14 year old as he looked around the famous marble hall.

On leaving we passed the ongoing building work on the North Bank. Seeing a gap in the fence my Dad told me to go in. Without a moment’s thought I did (imagine trying to do that now with security/health and safety!). Again no one seemed to bat an eye lid as I walked tentatively towards the lushest green grass I had ever seen. I was on the pitch by the corner flag thinking about the goals that I had seen on TV at this end of the ground, of the players that I worshipped. On my way out my Dad took a photo of me perched on a wall between the East Stand and North bank, the West Stand shimmering in the background.

Each time I visit the Grove now I always go and see Highbury. On one occasion (when we played Burnley in 2010) I was again able to get onto the pitch down by the East Stand and North Bank although I was somewhat sad at what changes there were and how much I missed the old ground, now that glass and steel had replaced the beautiful turf.

We have our new home now, but for me you can never beat Highbury for its class, its intimacy, its history and for the memories that it gave me personally, especially on that first visit.

Reader Comments (2)

Good article really reminds me of just how much Highbury is missed. Such a great ground always good to be have someone remind you of your own memories of what for many of us willl be our real home. Hopefully the new generation will have memories just as good of the Emirates. For those of us old enough Highbury will always be home.

October 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarry from Ireland

Good article .Highbury was my home for 40+ years .I have some many great memories from my first game standing under the West Upper till the final great day when TH14 scored a hatrick !!

October 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMadGooner51
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