Wined, dined and 89’d… An Arsenal Love Affair.

Another fantastic guest post by @R_GOONER

89 Filmmakers

Having not been invited to the premier last week (but I’m over it) it was a great pleasure to dig deep into my pocket for the 89p to be at the Emirates to watch the Membership screening of the 89 film. (Ed: if you haven’t read it yet, read Dave Seager’s amazing post about the premier here)

It might sound strange – but I really did not know what to expect from the film. Obviously we all know the minute-by-minute story of the game and have relived it many times over the last 28-plus years! I have to admit I wasn’t at the game (as Arsenal only had an allocation of 250,000 tickets) but I naturally remember it so clearly.

It certainly was the most dramatic conclusion to a league season ever. Was it Arsenal‘s greatest achievement? Probably not. I know there’s been ridicule from other clubs’ fans, merely for the fact the film has even come out. But this is not Leicester. This was not our first and last title. It isn’t even the story about a double being completed in our second championship-winning season over half a century ago.

Mickey Thomas goal

Would it have been so dramatic if we scored the 2nd goal after 75 minutes? Michael Thomas had that chance – and it would’ve still meant legendary status for him at our club.

The win ended 18 years without a title… a period that only produced one FA Cup & a League Cup win. If we hadn’t secured the title at Anfield that night we would’ve gone down as the biggest bottlers of all time. Look at Newcastle in the early days of the Premier League: they had one hand on the title. Now their chance of being champions looks as distant as Mike Ashley getting the freedom of the Toon.

The reason I’ve put pen to paper, (is that still a thing?) was as I watched the film my mind wandered back to a simpler time and it got me thinking…

Amy Lawrence & Lee Dixon, in the preamble to the screening, talked about how the world – the footballing world and, of course, Arsenal – has changed since 1989.

It’s not my place, so I won’t go into the World situation here. English Football had gone through its darkest period after Bradford, Heysel and just a few weeks before Hillsborough. The England team that had been in the wilderness for so long was beginning to find its feet, and less than a year later Italia 90 captured the imagination of the nation;  this was cemented when we hosted Euro ’96.

Italia 90 - England

I went to my first game at Highbury in 1975, had a junior season ticket from 1982,  by 1989 I was 21 and Arsenal hadn’t been close to being Champions in my time as a fan.

It’s well documented the twists and turns that culminated that night on Merseyside…..

But I hadn’t given it much thought until I watched the film what Arsenal meant to me then and what it means to me now. When I was 21 it was all about me – no other real worries. On the surface not much has changed: fixtures dictate social arrangements, results make a weekend better, defeats make them worse.

But as life goes on, the general aggravation of life takes more of the emotional energy that at 21 allowed Football to be the be-all and end-all. That doesn’t change the want/need for Arsenal to be successful, or the buzz & fear that the NLD creates. My heart thumping so hard when Fabianski runs from his goal in the last 5 minutes of a Cup Final when we’ve gone 9 years without a trophy…

Fabianski

So much has changed. Social media and dedicated sport channels (on TV and radio) allow so much more debate than ever before. As Gooners, we are so blessed to compare different trophies, different teams and different great managers. We all have our favourites, but in truth in 50 years only a couple of English clubs can say they’ve had as much fun as we have had.

So what has changed for Arsenal? Most are easy comparisons and some things of major importance weren’t even mentioned back in the day.

Let’s start on the big one: the one that may well outlive all of us – The Stadium. If ever I’m driving near the area I’ll often conveniently detour to drive past the Emirates or Highbury. I loved Highbury. It was home and many people bemoan the move.

I think we suffer from a case of wearing rose-tinted glasses. In 1989 it had welcomed that one FA Cup & one League Cup through its doors in 18 years! We were promised the riches by moving and we did so on the back of the amazing glories of the years between 1989-2006. Whether you agree or not the move and its benefits have been skewed by the arrival of the billionaire owners elsewhere.

Highbury holds great memories but we had to move – let’s face it – if we had never moved originally I’d be queuing up in North Woolwich for a ferry to get to home games!

George Graham

Next up: the managers, there seems to be two camps – George or Arsene? Call me a fool, but we have been lucky to have both. The current boss’s stock is devaluing every season that goes on, and yes – he has had many opportunities to leave on a high in recent years: 2014, 2015 and as recently as last May after beating Chelsea.

The last sentence probably marks the second biggest change after the stadium.

The expectations have certainly increased. As you were reading the above, the voice in your head may well have been screaming “ITS ONLY THE FA CUP!” papering over the cracks, mocked by others for celebrating it.

Contrast that to Alan Sunderland being pursued by Steve Walford because we’d just finished 7th in Division One and – heaven forbid – celebrate like Perry Groves jigging in delight after Charlie Nicholas had won us the poxy League Cup in ’87! As I said – expectations are not recognisable to what they were 30/40 years ago.

The playing staff… I’m not even going there.

£ for £ the ’89 team has the edge. Who from now would improve the ’89 team? Answers on a post card (a small one).

Ownership, Directors and Shareholders: 30 years ago the board was just there; you hardly heard from them. Although David Dein pulled the strings, the exposure in the media isn’t comparable to what it would be in this day and age.

The ownership now is questioned (quite rightly) at every turn, every summer and every January. What ever your thoughts on them are, you have to agree they are businessmen first and foremost, whilst Dein, Fiszman, the Hill-Woods etc. were all fans.

So many opinions and the mob rule dictates that if someone disagrees with your point of view they are fair game for abuse. (Maybe disable the comments section below!) but as Arsenal fans we have been blessed…Graham or Wenger? 1989 or 2004? 71 or 98 or 2002?

Wenger

What a choice!

We’ll always want more but we’ve had plenty much more than others! We’ve been there and done it.  Not just put the pressure on.

Football may not be as much as it was over quarter of century ago then again life probably isn’t either. That said: I love my life and I love going to Arsenal.  If I didn’t I wouldn’t go.

There’ll almost certainly never be another Michael Thomas moment but you never know!!!

Unfortunately I definitely won’t be 21 for it.

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One Response to Wined, dined and 89’d… An Arsenal Love Affair.

  1. Victor Thompson November 17, 2017 at 10:29 am #

    Aaaah such memories. When, as you say, Arsenal was run by fans and not entrepreneurs.

    One major difference from those days is that nowadays we have thousands of distant fans of all nationalities and many languages and they all appear to have Arsenal in their blood. I am constantly amazed at the quality of the contributions to Gunners Town from such fans. I would list some of them but I might forget others, so rather than offend those I may have missed, I applaud all of them. I hope it is not patronising to say it but seriously, I am in awe at the quality of their English which of course is their second language.

    To refer back to Highbury, I attended the second last match at Highbury with my son. We were playing Aston Villa and it was a beautiful day. We travelled from Belfast and we arrived early so we were sitting on the steps leading to the famous marble halls and the bust of Herbert Chapman. There was a burger van opposite and we went over to it and I ordered two Hot Dogs. Proper Frankfurters and English mustard and Ketchup. Glorious. I chatted with the lady in the van and she told me it was her last day because Arsenal were moving to the Emirates.

    Well, I gave my son his Frankfurter without mustard as he doesn`t like it and the first three inches of it disappeared into his mouth. I took a similar bite from mine and the mustard instantly kicked in. Young Victor was watching me, so I did not flinch. I couldn`t speak and I stood beside him on a bright sunny day speechless while tears ran down my cheeks.

    I made it over to the steps again and we were sitting when the players bus arrived. I texted a friend back in Belfast and I remember saying- “Rob we are sitting on the steps of Valhalla and the gods are just arriving” Bliss.

    Those are memories I will take with me to the grave.

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