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Friday
Mar092012

What Makes Us Special

BY NATHANIEL BREWER / @nbrewer90

Growing up in Norfolk the chance to attend Arsenal matches was rare, but when I did go it was always treated as a special occasion. My first game was actually an away fixture against the Crazy Gang (Wimbledon) at Selhurst Park on April 1st 2000, after I’d been given a ticket by a lifelong family friend.

Being only ten years old, it is perhaps my formative and most precious memory of the Arsenal. I clearly remember going to a pub beforehand and supping on my Coke while the others drank lager. As we walked to the ground I took in the atmosphere and we soon placed ourselves behind the goal, waiting for the players to emerge.

I’d been an Arsenal fan since 1997, brought into the Gooner fold by older cousins who’d all adopted the team years earlier. It’s something I’ll be eternally grateful for; supporting a club that not only has such a deep, rich and classy history, but is also one of the most forward looking around is a privilege.

Any how, as the game ebbed and flowed I managed to catch a glimpse of the great Arsenal players of the time; Petit, Henry and especially Overmars, a personal favourite.

What was so special about Overmars to me? He perhaps wasn’t the most charismatic character, but scoring a goal in the FA Cup final of 1998, one of my first footballing memories, struck a chord with me. I’ll never forget jumping up and down in my front room. As he left the field at half-time to be replaced by Petit, I felt an instant disappointment although this was overcome by a solid Arsenal showing in which Kanu delivered a superb performance and I got to see Thierry Henry in the flesh for the first time.

Still in the formative months of his Arsenal career the future ‘King of Highbury’ delivered for me with a final minute penalty. The immediate class was obvious, even though as a ten-year-old I wasn’t as observant as I am now.

Henry’s pace, skill and calm was there to see and what followed was seven years of watching the man deliver year on year, whether it be that scorching effort against Manchester United on the turn or running the length of the field and delivering a solo effort against Spurs. His short return to the Emirates now gives the Arsenal the opportunity to observe, love and thank the King all over again, while at the same time guiding and inspiring the youngsters.

Most of all though, after attending that first match and in the subsequent years I have realised that not one player or person makes the Arsenal great.

There has been the great innovation of Herbert Chapman, the dedication of Ken Friar, brilliance of Charlie George and Liam Brady, and latterly the genius of Henry and managerial success of Arsene Wenger. However the collective friendliness, timeless history and class of the club sums up what makes Arsenal special.

The recent 125 Year celebrations summed this up perfectly. As Arsenal moves with the times, it can be a guarantee that the club will continue to pay lip service to its rich history, past glories and legendary players despite the threat posed by billionaire owners and alike. 

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