This is, unashamedly, for Arsenal fans of a certain age. If you are not a Gooner do not read on, this is not for you.
My earliest recollection of going to watch Arsenal was when my dad took me to Highbury, for my birthday, more years ago than I care to admit to. After that, it soon became a weekly ritual and in the long week, from Sunday to Friday, leading up to the game on Saturday, I spent countless hours scouring as many newspapers as possible to glean even the smallest article about my beloved team.As Saturday came closer, the pent-up excitement and sheer exuberance was almost too much to bear.
Then Friday evening was spent getting my Arsenal shirt, scarf and bobble hat ready for the off, neatly folding and re-folding to ensure they were pristine, until my Mum yelled for me to turn the light out and go to sleep!
Saturday morning dawned, I leapt out of bed and hurtled into the shower and distantly heard other family members shouting at me “it’s only 4 a.m.”. Oh no! So, back to my room once more, squirming with the need to be quiet and patient, willing the hours to fly by. To pass the time, I got down my carefully stored box of Arsenal programmes, and equally carefully read thru my lovingly collected programmes, with the teams printed on the back cover.
Then, at last, the moment arrived! Everyone was up for a hurried breakfast; then I tore down to the shops to buy three papers, it had to be three papers or Arsenal might not win. Sports pages read, chores done, we were off.
Down to the tube station, tickets obtained, the journey had begun. Arriving at Arsenal (a tube station named after my club … Bliss); the fans surged off the train, and, with my dad’s arm wrapped protectively around me, we were squeezed into the long and slightly spooky passenger tunnel, until we emerged out of the exit onto Gillespie Road, like a human sausage. Not long now. Up Highbury Hill to the West Stand turnstiles, click, click we are in. Then, I am throwing myself up the stairs to grab my seat opposite the East Stand where the teams would eventually emerge, like a human snake.
The teams are out, the big hand on the Clock in the South Stand is ticking inexorably towards 3 p.m., the crowds’ singing is growing louder until, in a huge crescendo, the hand reaches the 3; the referee blows his whistle and the game is on.
Such joy, such ecstasy! I didn’t know it then, but no orgasm in later life would ever match that moment.
After the game, with hands, nose and feet frozen, it’s off to get a hot cup of reviving Bovril, before beginning the journey home. Did you see that tackle? I’m sure he was offside! I think Rocky Rocastle is brilliant, I want to play like him. My poor dad had to put up with my prattle all the way home. Home at last, exhausted, in time for the Grandstand sports report.
That ritual was repeated week in and week out, with the substitution of Beer for Bovril as I grew older. 🙂
Happy memories, indeed, but what is Sky’s connection?
Well nowadays, because of Sky’s schedules, the ritual of a Saturday 3 p.m. kickoff is almost a thing of the past. There is Saturday and Sunday lunch time kick offs; Saturday and Sunday evening Kickoffs and so everything has changed!
There is though an upside to this. As a passionate Gooner I love the fact that I can see, not just the home games, but also many away games, frequently shown on TV. Many Arsenal fans in Africa, America, the Philipines and all over the world can see the games and enjoy them too.
One final massive benefit is that it has led me, indirectly, to a great website, here at Avenell Road, where I can chat about all things Arsenal, with so many good friends and fellow Gooners, and share with them moments of serendipity and humour.
That is worth losing my Saturday ritual for.
Now, where are the morning papers with their rubbish but fascinating transfer rumours!
Written by Red Arse