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Wishing On A (Shooting) Star

BY RICHEY ESTCOURT / @Interior_Lulu_

I was 20 years old in 1997, and hadn't been going to that many Arsenal games in the previous few seasons, as I was only earning pin money from lousy jobs, if at all. By the summer of 1997, I'd settled into a job in an insurance office, which was incredibly boring, but a regular payday at least.

As I was working in London anyway, I took myself to Highbury for the first time in three years to see Arsene Wenger's new-look team play their first home game of the season against Coventry City.

It wasn't a spectacular game. Arsenal had yet to find the right balance of players in the team, and a few of the new players hadn't yet established themselves in the squad. The centre-half we'd signed (Emmanuel Petit) was being tested in midfield, with Gilles Grimandi filling in at centre-half.

The 2-0 victory was decently won, but in all fairness, Coventry weren't a match even for an Arsenal team in second gear. Their squad consisted of seasoned journeymen and long-standing professionals who had spent years playing against less talented players than Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira.

In many ways, it marked out a threshold between the 'old' Arsenal, and the 'new'. It was the beginning of the end of household names like Ian Wright (despite his two goals on the night) and David Platt, and their replacements had come from Wenger's old networks in France.

My most vivid memory of the night however, was outside Highbury Stadium after the match, in the queue for Arsenal tube station. I don't know why, but I looked up at the sky (what was visible of it in the urban lighting), and I saw a shooting star fly straight over Highbury Stadium. I don't think anyone else saw it, and I'm pretty sure I didn't imagine it. In all likelihood it was just a piece of space-debris meeting its fiery end, but I felt a slight superstition when I saw its trajectory directly over the stadium, from the North Bank to the Clock End.

Just as I was pondering whether or not this was 'a sign', I heard a fellow 'supporter' grumbling to his mates behind me. "If Wenger buys one more foreigner, that's it for me.  I'm going down to the Dons in future.  You don't win nothing with bloody foreigners!"

At the end of the season, when I was stood in the same spot watching the team parade their double trophies on an open-topped bus, I thought about that shooting star, and wondered if that guy did go to the Dons after all...

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