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Thursday
Jan262012

A Case of Mistaken Identity

BY MICHAEL KIDMAN / @Skid_64

I called for my then brother-in-law, Carl, and both of us decked out in our Arsenal shirts made the 30 minute walk to the ground - a walk we had made hundreds of times before, but this time it felt different. No one outside of Highbury gave us a chance, but we believed, and the reason we believed was because we were The Arsenal.

When we got to the ground we had to wait a while and we couldn’t believe our luck that when the coach arrived, it stopped right in front of us. The doors opened, and we had front row seats all the way to Anfield!

As we set off in a convoy, the Police held the traffic back in Holloway Road and I remember people stopping and waving us off!

Approaching Liverpool we heard that the kick-off had been delayed because thousands of Gooners were stuck on the motorway. I remember thinking, “those cheating Scousers are going to start the game with no Arsenal fans in the ground.”

Nearing Anfield, we were told to stay on the coach. Stay on the coach? The bloody game had already started! As the coach stopped, all you could hear was “Georgie Graham’s Red & White Army, Georgie Graham’s Red & White Army, Georgie Graham’s Red & White Army.”

We piled off the coach and got into the ground just as Bouldy had his header cleared off the line. I couldn’t believe how many Gooners were in the ground. I thought there was only going to be a couple of hundred given the traffic, but it was packed. Carl and I managed to get a great view, pretty close to the back, but right in the corner near the Liverpool fans.

As soon as the second half started, we stepped it up a gear and when Winterburn crossed the ball for Smudger and the ball hit the back of the net we went mad – only for our celebrations to be cut short by the sight of Liverpool’s players complaining to the referee. We weren’t sure if they were claiming handball or that the ball had gone in directly, but I was sure they were going to disallow it – it was Liverpool for Christ’s sake! We erupted again as soon as the ref saw sense and pointed to the halfway line. I know we rode our luck a bit, but we were one goal away from making history!

I knew the game was nearly over, but what with the late start, I wasn’t sure how long there was to go and I couldn’t see a bleeding clock anywhere. Then we took it up a notch. What people thought was impossible, we made possible. 

When the long ball by Dixon was flicked on by Smudger and fell kindly for Mickey, I was sure it was actually Rocky charging through on goal. I so wanted it to be him, as he was my favourite player. In that split second the whole of Anfield seemed to fall silent. It was like watching it in slow-motion and then suddenly he chipped the ball over Grobbelaar. From my position sideways to the action I couldn’t tell if the ball was going in or wide. Then I swear out of 50,000 people in the ground, the only noise I could hear was that beautiful noise of the ball hitting the back of the net.

Well, we went up like never before. Somehow a gap appeared and Carl came out of nowhere and jumped in my arms. It seemed an eternity until the final whistle blew, and we even had to put up with another Liverpool chance, but when the whistle did go it was amazing, and to be honest, the next hour or so is a little blurry. 

I’m pretty sure that when Tony picked up the trophy he walked to the Kop first and they applauded him, which was a classy thing for them to do. 

I do remember walking back to the coach and everyone singing “We won the league on Merseyside, We won the league on Merseyside, We won the league on Merseyside, We won the league on Merseyside…”

As we headed down the motorway, every time we passed a coach, fans would be waving at each other and I’m sure the singing got louder! Carl and I started singing “Georgie Graham’s Red & White Army” to the back of our coach and after what seemed an age; we stopped, only then to be booed by the back seat!

When we got back to Highbury, a fair few people were still partying. I remember someone running down Avenell Road with an early edition of The Mirror which had a big picture of Tony holding the trophy. We tried to get something to eat but the chippy was packed. Someone said they could get us into a club but to be honest, I was knackered and just wanted to get home. 

I was 25 at the time and am shortly to be 48, and along with the birth of my son, it was the greatest day of my life.


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