After a stress filled and frantic half hour, I finally got through to Ticketbastard to book my tickets for the Champions League Final (doesn't that sound wonderful!!). I spent 25 minutes trying to juggle my mobile phone, the landline phone and the keyboard of my laptop, trying to hit the sequence of buttons on the phone to constantly try and redial, while at the same time attempting to get a booking on their web site using three different browsers on the computer.
I have to tell you, "big respek" to all those season-ticketless Gooners who go through this anxiety attack for every home game, as I was a Ticketbastard virgin until this morning and I swear that much more of all the stress this morning and I would've been guaranteed a stroke (and that's with me being supposedly guaranteed to get tickets with my successful registration, heaven knows what it must be like with the fear the tickets will be long gone by the time you actually get through to make a booking!)
In the end I gave up with the computer, as even when I got through to the booking page, it just would not accept my membership details. So I was then left juggling the two phones and the BT landline wasn't even getting past the BT "try again later" message.
In fact the only reason I am not still sweating over making a booking is that mercifully I received a text from a very kind friend to advise me that he'd got through on a different phone number!
So filled with the boundless joy of knowing my tickets are being sent special delivery (although in truth I will now be fretting until the moment I actually have them in my hand, as the lady issued an ominous warning that there can be no duplicates issued!), I thought I would "treat" you all to my "Highbury Memories" piece which I wrote a couple of weeks back but didn't want to send out until it had appeared in the latest issue of The Gooner
Very best of luck to all those still trying for their tickets to the Stade De Paris, hope to see you all there
Like many long standing Gooners, I've had extremely mixed feelings ever since the plans for our new stadium were announced. For those of us who've been attending Highbury for so many years, it's hard to imagine that we will ever share quite the same emotional attachment with our new Home of Football.
No doubt after a glorious season, or two and as I begin to build a bank of entirely new memories at the grandiose gaffe at the bottom of Aubert Park, I will soon get over it. Yet as The Clock ticks down towards the ever impending demise of a place which has played such an incredibly influential role for much of my 44 years, as the setting for such a large proportion of my most magical experiences on this mortal coil, I may have come to accept the reality of the situation (the much needed extra capacity), but not without suffering some extremely painful sentimental trauma.
As we approach that emotional last match, every time I exit the West Upper and share a comment, or merely a smile with many of the stewards, I am ever more acutely aware of this homely feeling that I have at Highbury. I can't help but wonder whether it’ll ever be quite the same, as I fear that faceless anonymity amidst 60,000 fans, as just another punter with none of the habitual familiarity.
Doubtless everyone who's Highbury memories are associated with a now departed friend or family member, is experiencing a similar emotional trepidation about the impending move and the fact that it will involve ditching many of their most precious recollections of their loved ones.
Almost every time I clunk my way through the ancient West Upper turnstiles, I’m reminded how my old man used to sneak me in, shuffling between his legs, hidden by the ample folds of his winter overcoat. The fact that I've never seen it mentioned elsewhere makes me wonder if I imagined it, but there's a door to the left of the stairway as you enter the West Upper and I’ve some decidedly misty memories of steam and smoke filled restaurant, where we'd all squeeze in on a damp winter's night for a pre-match snack before a midweek game. I seem to recall my old man was on first name terms with the matronly manageress, no doubt doing his best, along with everyone else, to schmooze his way on to a table, in good time to be served and gobble down some grub before KO.
Digging further back into my decrepit grey matter, I can recall a time when I was deemed far too delicate to stand for 90 minutes, amidst the sardines squeezed into the West Lower. If I’m not mistaken, back in the day, along with a rosette and a rattle (whatever became of these old-fashioned accoutrements?), it was quite common for a youngster's match day kit to include a small box to stand on, so they'd have some chance of seeing the action in between the heads of the adults around them.
I can't remember whether it was just the once, or several times, but I distinctly recall being picked up and passed over the heads of the lower tier throng, to sit with the St. Johns Ambulancemen in front of the hoardings. I remember feeling very special, being able almost to reach out and touch the heroes whose faces were familiar to me from my "Soccer Stars" stickers, the collecting and swapping of which was just about the most popular playground obsession of the era (I still have a complete collection in my 3'6" album from 1968/9 - I wonder what the likes of Ian Ure would've made of the modern game?).
These days, if they can afford the extortionate prices, many celebrity Gooners sit in the Exec. However this exclusive section of the West Upper was originally entitled ‘The 100 Club’. As an impressionable child, naturally my favourite uncle was the one who had two such prestigious pitches at the Arsenal. However while the old man might not have been loaded, he was a silver-tongued devil who could somehow wheedle his way into absolutely anywhere.
Judging by the vast array of indistinguishable autographs I have on my matchday programmes from that era, he must’ve wangled us in there on many occasions. Dad had this amazing ability to sidle up to absolutely anyone and become bosom buddies within the blink of an eye. Don’t ask me why, but of all the signatures I collected, the only famous face which stuck in my mind was the somewhat pockmarked phizog of DJ Pete Murray?
Back then, with my Jewish background, it would’ve been much easier to become a Spurs fan. The old man often alternated between either end of the Seven Sisters Road and in those days I would’ve endured a lot less stick from family and friends if I hadn’t opted for “boring, boring Arsenal”. Perhaps as a full-back myself from a very early age, my instinctive affinity with the Arsenal related to my appreciation of the defensive arts? Then again, aged only 9, the instance when we gave Ray Kennedy a lift back to his parents hotel from WHL on that magical night in ’71, doubtless this assisted in cementing my affiliation to the Arsenal.
Yet I’d hate to think of myself as a mere glory-hunter and I’m almost certain my attachment begun earlier than that, as even to a young child, there was some special aura about Highbury’s palatial art-deco edifice, that just wasn’t present at WHL, or any other football ground for that matter. It’s a feeling of history and tradition which fills the senses and has had many a player stating that they’ve decided to sign for the club from the first second they’ve stepped into the famous Marble Halls.
On the other hand, I might be an Arsenal fan merely because there were padded seats in the West Upper. It’s a tricky business deciding at what age a child is old enough to enjoy an entire match, without losing concentration and needing some additional distraction. It’s mad to think that I might’ve enjoyed more than three decades of delicious Highbury delights, merely due to the fact that my bony little bum couldn’t sit for 90 minutes on the nasty wooden seats at WHL?
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