Absolutely chuffed to be joined by the legendary KeithTheGooner for this instalment of Your Arsenal. Eternally cheerful, Keith is one of my favourite Arsenal tweeters, and when I first started this blog he gave me tremendous encouragement and support. Along with Daryl Booth he gave us the iconic “Arsewars” series, and watch for his sitcom “We Could be Heroes” coming soon to a TV near you.
My family are originally from Woolwich and Plumstead and as such they are split 50/50 between Charlton and Arsenal. My uncle saw an opportunity to recruit me to the Arsenal side of the family and quickly took me to Highbury before the other side of the family divide took me to The Valley. Lucky escape. I was THIS close to being @KeithTheAddick.
Earliest Arsenal memory?
Approaching Highbury stadium. I was awestruck. My uncle had taken me to a couple of Welling United games (come on you Wings!) to test the water and see if my attention span could last 90 minutes. I remember annoying him with 1000 questions at the Welling UTD game, asking about the offside trap (normal) how many substitutes each team was allowed (again, normal) what the players had for dinner (bit weird) and if the players were required to wear their kits 7 days a week (creepy.) He took me to see The Arsenal in the FA Cup on Saturday 25th January, 1986, but more about that in the next question. I just remember being blown away by the sheer size of Highbury compared to Park View Road (The Wing’s ground) and the buzz in the air. There were people everywhere wearing the famous red and white scarf tucking into burgers and singing songs in the street. There were grown men swearing. Swearing! Everyone was in good spirits and in my mind, they all knew each other and I was the newest member of the family. As we went through the turnstiles into the East Stand, I remember the smell of cigar smoke, beer and burgers and as we climbed the stairs to the East Upper, I was blown away that a stadium could need stairs. There were clearly going to be a LOT more people here than at Park View Road. Walking up the stairs to see the famous Highbury pitch was a life defining moment for me. I’d arrived. It was exactly like the scene in Fever Pitch when the young Nick Hornby first glimpsed the pitch. I remember being so excited, but even at the age of seven, I was trying to stay cool and act like I’d been a season ticket holder for the past eight years so that my new family wouldn’t suspect that the new midget wasn’t brand new. This was it. I knew there and then that I’d be coming back to Highbury many times over the course of my life.
The 4th round of the FA Cup on Saturday 25th January, 1986 at home to Rotherham United. We won 5-1 with a brace from Ian Allinson and a goal a piece from Stewart Robson, Graham Rix and my first Arsenal hero, Charlie Nicholas. As far as I was concerned, The Arsenal would win every game as easily as the 5-1 that day. I’ve never forgiven my uncle for making me think that.
Favourite player (all time)?
Such a difficult question. I think I’ll answer it by doing the “man thing” and making a list, in no particular order of the Arsenal heroes that I have had over the years.
If I had to narrow it down to a top three, it would have to be Tony Adams (the first player’s name I ever had on the back of my shirt), Ian Wright and Thierry Henry. I would have to give the title to Thierry though. Wrighty was an absolute legend and one of the most exciting players I have ever seen. Tony’s love for the club and his heart is unrivalled, but I have never seen a player do the things that I saw Thierry Henry do. There was a period while he was with us that he was truly the greatest player in the world. To see him return for a short while this season was a fantastic buzz for sentimental reasons.
Favourite player (current)?
I’m excited about a couple of our younger players, in particular Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere. The prospect of these two linking up over the next few years in the famous red and white is mouth watering. RVP is an obvious choice for the goals that he is scoring and the leadership that he seems to be giving the team right now. I’m not entirely sure I’ve got a favourite right now, but I just stopped to think if I bought a new home shirt today then whose name would I get on the back and the answer was Jack Wilshere. I guess that makes him my favourite right now.
As Gooners, we are spoiled for choice aren’t we? The magic of Anfield ’89 is surely the greatest sporting moment of all time and I remember going mental watching that on TV, but only being 11 years old, I was too young to go down to Highbury, crack open a tin of Red Stripe and dance with that annoying teacher with the curly hair outside the stadium. Winning the league at Shite Hart Lane and Old Trafford were of course massive high points, as were the cup doubles in ’93. Being at the Littlewoods Cup Final in 1987 was unbelievable, as was beating Barcelona last year at home and the 5-2 against that lot with white shirts with the logo of a chicken trying to balance on a beach ball. All time high? I’m going to say it was The Invincibles. Being in Upper Street on the Sunday that we paraded the trophies was incredible. I think there was something like 200,000 Gooners all partying in the streets singing, “WE ARE UNBEATABLE” and the world knew it. We were BY FAR THE GREATEST TEAM, THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN and didn’t we know it. Wearing any clothing with the famous cannon on it was extra sweet that year because nobody could touch us. What an achievement.
Again we are spoiled for choice! The lowest I have ever felt leaving a football match was against the scum last season. 2-0 up and then self destructing and losing 3-2. It hurt. A lot. I know that we have lost bigger games and suffered greater humiliation (Wrexham anyone?) but in my heart, this was the lowest moment I have felt in my Gooner career. I think that’s why it was so sweet to be 2-0 down to them and then come back and BEAT THE SCUM 5-2 this year!
Sign any 3 players?
I’m rubbish at this. I would describe myself as an Arsenal fan more than a football fan. The Arsenal to me is so much more than the first team playing games, although that is at the heart of everything. It’s about being with your mates and your family, the banter, the drama, the places you travel to, the identity of being part of something much larger than your own being. I watch Match of The Day and currently have Norwich v Wigan on in the background (Smudger commentating) but I’m not really paying attention. If we could sign any three players in the world, I guess I would go for the obvious answer and say Lionel Messi, if only to keep Chamakh and Park on their toes. Ozil looked decent in the last World Cup so sign him up. The last of the three players I would sign would be Cesc Fabregas. If I’m honest, we never should have let him go. He was still peaking and is yet to peak. But he was a better player than anyone we have had in the past 7 or so years and I really think that he is one of the best players in the world. With a bit of luck, Jack and The Ox will come good and Cesc will be calling them up to ask for tips in the not too distant future!
Sack any 3 players?
Arshavin, Chamakh, Denilson. Yep, I’m keeping Squilacci and Almunia around. They really aren’t as bad as people make out and are convenient scapegoats. I’m not advocating playing them in an Arsenal shirt ever again mind you!
Highbury or the Emirates?
Life goes on, things change and nothing stays the same. We needed to move to The Emirates and it is a beautiful stadium. The way that the club has “Arsenalised” the stadium has to be commended. Having said that, Highbury was my home and was beautiful in an entirely different way. Even now, walking past The East Stand I can’t help but marvel at the building, looking up at the window I used to see Wrighty hanging out of after games, the sound that you could hear from inside if you were running late for Kick Off and the sheer volume of memories. It’s Highbury for me.
Thanks a million Keith. You can follow Keith on twitter @KeithTheGooner.