Memory Lane: Highbury and the alphabet

WTTGT Writer: Dean “bring back the alphabet” Scott

Everyone remembers their first game. It’s like your first kiss; mine was Emma Challon from Bracknell. It happened on a bunk-bed somewhere in Slough and it was… magical. It’s like buying your first car; mine was £150, a yellow mark 3, 2 litre Ford Cortina, registration number WOY 416M. Every time I drove over 30MPH the car seat would collapse and I would end up driving whilst looking at the car’s ceiling… imagine it! Golden moments!

I digress. My first game was Saturday, August 24th 1974, versus Manchester City. I was 7-years-old. I remember being so excited as I had been on to my dad to take me since I could speak. My memories are not of great goals as I can’t remember any of the four that went in the back of their net. I can’t remember any of the City players. I never cared enough about them to remember their names; it was and always has been about Arsenal players for me.

My memories are of moments that have stayed with me. I remember thinking that I was going to watch the great Bob Wilson in goal, but it was in fact Jimmy Rimmer who always reminded me of Rigby from Rising Damp. Terry Mancini was another, a player at best that was average. I always thought he should run a fruit stall because I know I would buy my oranges from him, and if he was to tell me that there were no pips in, then I’d believe him.

We also had Alan Ball who by all accounts was once really good, but during those days with Arsenal, we managed to drive him down to our level of averageness fairly quickly. John Matthews was another player on show. He had a moustache like Errol Flynn in his pomp, though I reckon Errol was a better player. Having said this, I have no proof of this as I never saw Errol play.

However, they weren’t all “average” as I so often proclaim. Amongst these shirt fillers was the first king of Highbury, Charlie George, who by the way was the legend I picked to show me around Ashburton on my 40th birthday. Also playing were the best full-back combo around, Rice and McNab… those poor lads had to play in same defence as Jeff Blockley! If only he lived up to his name… Blockley belongs in such esteemed centre-back company as Cygan, Pat Howard, Stepanovs… ‘nuff said? 

It didn’t matter though as good or bad posters of these red and white heroes were going up on my bedroom wall along with Richie Powling and Brian Kidd. If you played for Arsenal you got on my wall!

So, my Dad paid the nominal fee to get in and the 10p for the programme, and here was the theatre of broken dreams. Halfway through the first-half a streaker ran on and stopped the game, a vision of nakedness running across the hallowed Highbury turf… magnificent! It did, though, confuse me. I asked my dad if this happens every game to which answered quickly and to the point, “No son!” I hasten to admin that the next few games I went to, I left slightly disappointed that there was no streaker.

Despite this, my best memory was still ahead of me. During the first-half I noticed the alphabet alongside the pitch, white letters on a black background. Dad said: “Wait ‘til half-time,” which I did. Magic and mystery happened! Scores from other games were given out through this static alphabet. It was a golden moment! The crowd got involved cheering and booing whatever number appeared by whatever letter. It was solid gold, priceless entertainment, which I still miss today.

I haven’t even mentioned the marching band before kick-off… No Elvis, but I loved it nevertheless.

Thank you 1974/75 season, my first game.

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2 Responses to Memory Lane: Highbury and the alphabet

  1. arjay@cwgsy.net December 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    Laughed a lot and enjoyed reading about your early days watching our heroes.
    I go back to May 1941 when we played Preston North End in a replay of the wartime Cup Final.
    We lost 2-1 but no matter. I had seen Hapgood, Drake, Bastin and Compton in action and that was goodenough for me.
    I well recall the total good nature of the crowd ………if only we could say the same today.

  2. Lewis December 14, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    great article pal.

    king of highbury-what a legend! I'm only 21 but I bumped into him when i was up town with my kid brother and dad about 5 years ago. He told my brother to tie his laces and walked past. My Dad and i looked at each other and went “that's Charlie George!”

    “Oi Oi Charlie!” Shouts my Dad, and gave us all a wave as he went off to wherever he was going. And my brother, who is so uninterested in football couldn't tell you who Arshavin was in a line up with basketball players, said who was that? honestly, wasted!

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