We are an Arsenal family on Merseyside

From Jim Johnson :

Hi Myles,

I had a similar experience to the one that Paul Jeffrey described, only mine happened in the North Bank stand at Highbury v Portsmouth in the Invincibles season.

I remember so much from that day, the dodgy penalty, nicking a point, Harry being furious.

But mostly I remember the long excited trip down from Merseyside (where I have lived all my life) with my then seven-year-old son, bursting with excitement at going to see his beloved Arsenal for the first time.

Not being season ticket holders but acquiring the tickets from a friends work colleague who couldn’t make the game, we visited the club shop, had our picture taken with the FA cup, and spent thirty excited minutes prior to kick off soaking up the atmosphere.

As the players came out my boy could barely contain himself, much to the chagrin of the person in front of him who turned round and bellowed “sit down!” to a seven year old child.

In any other situation I would have most certainly taken this bloke to one side and remind him in my best Birkenhead that he had no right to speak to my child in that way, and if he had a problem he was to speak to me. Instead I whispered to him something about how this was his first time at the ground and he was over excited.

Turning to my son however, all I could see was a seven year old in his beloved red and white, who had his chips well and truly pissed on by someone who had taken the decision that because we weren’t the normal occupants of those seats (and with scouse accents no less) that we were fair game for the hair dryer from someone who felt he had more right than us to be there.

I’ve sent you emails before explaining my relationship with the Arsenal, which stretches back to my late father choosing them as his team in the 1930’s, despite being Wirral born and bred.

Maybe he was the original glory hunter?

When dad died, very suddenly from viral pneumonia in February 1979, for me aged seven and my 13- year-old brother, the Arsenal became something more than a football club. It was a link to dad and his stories of Alex James, Ted Drake and of Joe Mercer travelling down from his home in Ellesmere Port, just a few miles from our own, to captain the Gunners to the 1950 FA Cup Final.

I can name all the Cup-winning teams, can recount the humiliation of having to go to school on Monday following a 6-1 thrashing at Goodison Park in 1985, and how I ran down our road screaming “we won the league” when Mickey scored.

My mum even tells a story of the 79 cup final when his old work colleagues tracked her down to say how they were all in the local pub, Everton and Liverpool fans to a man, cheering them on in his name.

At school I was simply known as ‘Arsenal’ to any teacher who couldn’t remember my name. Or ‘little Arsenal’ if they recognised my brother in me, but couldn’t remember his name.

So superstitious would we be, that neither me or our kid would ever bet on the Gunners even if they were a sure thing, and both once admitted that if we had the choice between them winning and us not being there, to us seeing them lose in person, we’d take not being there every time.

Besides, we could always watch the highlights and we wouldn’t have developed such a love for the graphic radio descriptions of the late great Peter Jones and Bryon Butler if we hadn’t been so remote from the object of our dreams.

I know that none of this is rational, but it is one of many versions that defines a football fan and the love affair with the club.

Whether it is for good reason or bad, my eldest son will never have that, and I’m pleased for him. He doesn’t remember the incident on his first day at Highbury and he has had some others since, but his interest has dwindled.

A football ground like any other institution needs to be a broad enough church for people to worship in a variety of ways, free of the control of the corporate bully boys who just want to extract you from your hard earned cash.

As you so rightly say, the best way to show dissatisfaction is to not turn up.

Well, I didn’t turn up that often in the first place, but when we lost 8-2 last season I recounted the 6-1 humiliation at Goodison and the signs are all there. Overpaid has-beens and never-gonna-be’s take a toll on the emotions.

I don’t even bother to check the BBC for the scores at the moment and I hope that fella who bawled out my lad is happy now amongst the apathetic and the alienated.