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Wolves At The Door, Arsenal In My Heart


If you were born in Wolverhampton in the early 1990s local legend Steve Bull was invariably your hero…he just didn’t happen to be mine.  There’s no two ways about it, my father was a dyed-in-the-wool Wolves fan; so much so in fact, that I actually suspect that if my mum had told him she was a West Bromwich Albion fan there’s a good chance I’d never have been conceived.

Anyway, as a result of his obsession when I was growing up, trips with my dad to Molineux were not unusual. My first football memory involves seeing Wolves play Walsall in the First Division, although I think I slept through most of it.

Despite the family connection my walls have never found themselves plastered with pictures of players sporting the gold and black. While I did initially taunt fans who weren’t of the Wolves persuasion (my best friend is a Newcastle fan and I had a teacher who liked Villa) it was only after watching a few Arsenal games that I realised my true love.

The Gunners were the best team in the land at the time as they surged to their second Double in four years and the way they dismantled Chelsea in the FA Cup final of 2002 was the game that sealed my love for “the boys in Red & White, who were f**cking dynamite.”

It may have been ‘only’ Ray Parlour but after his goal and a second by Freddie Ljungberg, our super red-headed Swede , I was hooked on the Gunners. Yes, I was a glory hunter, but I wanted to support a team who won and did it in style. I remember not long after uttering the immortal words, “Dad, can I have an Arsenal shirt?”

It helped that at the start of the new millennium, my aunt had begun seeing someone who everybody referred to as “Cockney Dave” – a lifelong Gooner, who up until 1998 had stood on the North Bank every other Saturday until career reasons saw him move to the Midlands. I raided his VHS selection and began watching everything I could to learn more about the club’s great history. It didn’t take long before I could talk about almost anything Arsenal.

My first trip to watch Arsenal saw us beat Charlton 2-0 in March 2003. I almost wonder whether I should have a commemorative mug saying, "I saw Francis Jeffers score for Arsenal." I genuinely can’t recall him scoring in another game!

Highbury of course, was a very special destination and remains close to my heart long since we’ve made the move to the Emirates. The atmosphere, the walk down Gillespie Road from the Arsenal Tube Station, even the club shop seems to have a lasting effect on me (partially due to the fact I spent hours in it queuing up to get 'Ljungberg 8' printed on my shirt). Even now when I hear the faint strains of "We're the North Bank Highbury!" I’m transported back to that glorious Sunday afternoon when I sat with my dad and uncle watching the spine of a squad which would a season later become ‘Invincibles.’

Despite admitting that a taste for victory was enough to get me interested in Arsenal, there is no doubting my love for the club. I was hugely outnumbered at school by supporters of other clubs – mainly Wolves and United – but I’m still here now writing this despite our trophyless run stretching to six years…

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