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Gazza Ruined My Highbury Debut

BY JOSH EVANS / @GoodOlArsenal

My first visit to Highbury to see the Arsenal play was in May 1996 for Paul Merson's Testimonial. I had been a 'Junior Gunner' member as of 1992, but it took a full three years of pestering my dad, the most casual of Arsenal supporters, to buy tickets to take me to see the team and the stadium in the flesh.

As a 12-year-old, I don't remember much from the day or match itself. The hour long car journey from our home on the Suffolk/Essex border (the town in which Adrian Clarke hails from, I must add) to North London seemed to take an eternity, whilst our view of the game itself from the back of North Bank upper tier felt a little detached.

There is, however, one thing that stands out from my vague memories of the day; Paul Gascoigne, as in the Paul Gascoigne who had broken my heart five years earlier scoring against us in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley (the less said about that, the better), was playing FOR Arsenal. Not only did Gascoigne have the audacity to be playing in OUR famous red and white kit but he also had the cheek to go on and score a hat-trick (a quick bit of research actually indicates that he scored 4?).

While I was delighted to see my heroes in the shape of Seaman, Wright, Adams and Merson, my first genuine visit to Highbury will be forever tarnished because of Paul Gascoigne.

For this reason, I prefer to recall upon my vivid memories of my second visit to Highbury. Saturday 4th October 1997, Arsenal vs Barnsley. This visit was arranged by the local boys football team that I was playing for at the time, with a coach load of us being dropped at Finsbury Park.

Approaching Highbury, the white and red of the East Stand looked more amazing than I could have imagined in the glorious autumnal sunshine. We made our way around the ground to the West Stand entrance and took our seats in the West Stand lower.

I remember being overwhelmed by the rich green perfection of the pitch which was almost within touching distance from our seats. The singing and exchanges between the segregated Arsenal and Barnsley fans in the Clock End to our right intrigued me, and I remember seeing one Barnsley fan being carted out of the ground by two Police officers.

To this day, I can still remember the Arsenal lineup which took to the pitch on the 4th October 1997; the famous back five of Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Bould and Winterburn. A midfield consisting Parlour, Petit, Vieira and Overmars, with Bergkamp (God) and Wright as the strikers. Arsenal were rampant that day, racing into a 3-0 lead by half time thanks to a double from God and one from Parlour, before substitute Platt and Wright capped a 5-0 stroll.

For me, no thanks to whoever in the Arsenal hierarchy thought it would be a good idea to have a former Spurs player playing for Arsenal at a testimonial match, the 4th October 1997 will always be remembered as my first genuine visit to Highbury to see the Arsenal play.

Reader Comments (2)

How could Gazza have broken your heart when you would have been 6/7 years old? What a rubbish and pointless article.

My guess is you're one of these people who read the match report years later and saw some highlights on a Best Of... dvd years after the event, and you've surplanted those memories and convinced they were your original rememberings.

When you went in 1997 I bet you also remember having to queue up for bloody ages to get a pint...

February 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Dave, if you read the article he says he was 12 years old - not 6/7 years old as your pointless comment suggests.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCESC
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