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Saturday
Nov052011

The Class of 1980

BY GARY DAVIES

I don’t remember much from my first Arsenal game. I remember the opposition (West Brom) and I remember the score (1-1). Oh, and I remember turning to my Dad - who had taken me to my first ever game at Highbury (and certainly his!) as a birthday treat just after my 10th birthday – when we were one nil down, to say it would be nice if we could equalise so that my first visit wasn’t to see a defeat.

That’s all I remember from the game itself. I’ve since found out that it was on 26th April 1980, and that Frank Stapleton scored that equaliser. I’ve re-bought, via eBay, the programme that my Dad bought me on that day and which had gone missing, and I’ve discovered that I watched a young Bryan Robson play that day.

What I really want to write about though happened after the match. This game was exactly two weeks before our third successive FA Cup Final against West Ham on 10th May. Due to timing there was some sort of ticket sale or allocation happening immediately after the game, which meant that the club shop in Avenell Road was shut. This was particularly disappointing because my Dad had promised to buy me my first proper Arsenal shirt, and I had my heart set on the one worn in the 1979 FA Cup final - the all yellow one with blue trim.

I remember standing near the shop, watching the hordes of supporters queuing for their cup final tickets, when my Dad beckoned a nearby steward and began explaining how we had come all the way from the South Coast (it seemed a long way then!) and was there any way we could get hold of that shirt? Before we knew it we were being led around to the shop’s rear entrance, where we were looked after by the shop staff who were only too happy to present me with the object of my desire. I went away happy and remember wearing the shirt with pride on the car journey home. 

While I’m sure this turn of events could have happened at any club up and down the country, there was nothing stopping that steward from turning us away. In my mind his willingness to help and his understanding of my Dad’s request typifies the class which I have always associated with Arsenal. It is a class which remains to this very day and makes the club stand out in an era of such blatant disrespect from other clubs.

As a nice postscript to this story, my parents recently bought me that same replica shirt for my 41st birthday. I wore it a couple of weeks ago when I took my two daughters to their first Arsenal game (the 2-1 win against Sunderland) – I hope it’s the first of many for them.

So thanks to that steward, and thanks Dad – you officially started a never-ending love affair that’s as strong 31 years later as it was then.  

Forever a Gooner.

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