My first Arsenal match

AISA member Gary Stewart shares his memories.

The first time I went to see the Arsenal, I was 12 years of age and lived in Northern Ireland. My dad knew I was Arsenal crazy and when I awoke on Christmas morning,1977, I found my dad had arranged for us to get the boat and coach to London to see the Arsenal. This was such a big thing as we were working class and didn’t have much . . . and my dad did this for me!

We got the ferry on Thursday afternoon 2nd of February 1978, from Larne to Stranraer, then boarded the coach for an all-night journey to London. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep a wink and remember we stopped at an all-night service station on the M1. My dad wanted me to eat something but I was far too excited! He did get me a couple of sausages which I pretended to eat and then threw under the table!!

We continued our journey to London where our journey ended at Victoria coach station. We then got into a black taxi to Finsbury park where my mum’s cousin and family lived. (My dad was shocked at how dear it was but then again we did see quite a bit of London 2 or 3 times.)

I spent Friday with my mum’s cousin’s sons, who showed me where Highbury was. We went ice skating at the Sobell centre and had a great day before going back to the house where I went unconscious at about 6 o’clock until Saturday morning at 7.

The big day of my first Arsenal game had arrived and I was beside myself with excitement. I wanted to go to the ground at 10am, but obviously, that was too early. As the morning went on there were games getting called off throughout Division One and especially in London! I was frantic, having travelled all this way to watch my beloved Arsenal. There was a very real chance of postponement.

It wasn’t till almost half-past-one before we knew the pitch inspection was positive. I was hysterical that I was now going to see my heroes!

Although defeated, the experience of seeing Arsenal for the first time will live with me forever.

We got into the ground about two-fifteen, and took our seats in the corner just right of the Clock End. I was amazed at how many people were in the ground and the noise coming from around me. I was overawed seeing my Arsenal take the pitch, especially my fellow countrymen Rice, Jennings, Nelson, O’Leary and my favourite player Brady! We played them off the park that day but couldn’t put the ball in the net. Unfortunately, Malcolm MacDonald for the first time in his life(!) came back to help the defence and ended up scoring an own goal! \

Although defeated, the experience of seeing Arsenal for the first time will live with me forever. Since then, I’ve been numerous times and we have always won.

I hope this brings back memories of your first Arsenal game.

Do you have a memory of your first game, or a match that was special to you? Let us know at [email protected]

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