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By George!


The first match I ever saw was the 1971 Cup Final. I was only seven-years-old and ended up watching it in a neighbour's house over our back wall. At the time I didn’t have a team, although as an Irish lad I was a bit interested in Steve Heighway who was on the wing for Liverpool against Arsenal that day.

That was until I saw this God with long hair scoring a thumper, celebrating on his back on the Wembley turf and holding his arms out waiting to be held aloft for his subjects to admire him. That was my introduction to Charlie George!

I ran straight home after the game, got the crayons out and drew thousands of pictures of him. That year I got meningitis and my hospital room ended up having drawings of him littered all over the place...they even got mixed up with my patient charts. Charlie helped me through that illness and he and the rest of the team always helped me get to sleep; I used to recount their names instead of counting sheep. It never failed.  

My first match at Highbury was in 1979. I was on a school trip from Dublin but managed to catch the Gunners match with Wolves. Unfortunately, John Richards wrecked my buzz scoring for the Midlands side and leading them to their first win against Arsenal in fifteen years. I spent the rest of the trip moping around the Tower of London and Madame Tussauds and only some adolescent groping on the train back to Holyhead cheered me up.

Highbury though gripped me. It’s all the usual stuff people recall about their first game, the smells of hotdogs, burgers and horses, but I also vividly remember these two proper Londoners beside me, who sat chatting about everything while the match was on; the wife, Harold Wilson, the miners, work...everything, but the football.

They took it in turns every five minutes (precisely) to turn away and shout "Come on the Arsenal,” but that was the moment I realised that, just like going to Mass on a Sunday in Ireland, watching football is a religious experience.

The arrival of Brady, Stapleton, O'Leary and Devine (let's not forget him, his bird was Miss Ireland and utterly unforgettable!) gave me a direct Irish-Arsenal connection and one that felt like an act of divine intervention.

My love for the club goes on to this day; pure and without question. I just laugh at the keyboard warriors with their vitriol. They don't get it. Most never saw Charlie George or Chippy (Brady of course) and many won’t even have experienced Charlie Nicholas (who I watched for a while when I worked in London and we, well, basically, lost all the time).

I’m coming to London and the Emirates on Decemeber 10, especially for the Everton match with my sons Stephen (14) and Hary (12). They get it.


Reader Comments (2)

Nice post.enjoyed reading the article.

October 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterabhi

Lovely article. Wonderful nostalgia, common sense present (keyboard warriors!) and exciting future (your boys)!

October 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimon
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