I grew up in a football mad family.
My Mum’s family are Tottenham fans but fortunately my Dad’s family are all Arsenal fans and I’ll always be grateful to my dear old Dad for showing me the ‘True Path’…
My Dad could be quite persuasive and Mum ended up a Gooner [she had no choice], her favourite player being Archie Maculay.
One of my earliest memories was of the Arsenal poster Dad hung in my bedroom, I used to lay in bed memorising all the information on it:
Founded 1886, first game at Highbury vs Leicester Fosse in 1913, the record 66 points in 1930-31, still a record at the time, all the honours, FA Cup winners 1930 1936 1950 and of course all the League Championships, it was all there!
As a boy I spent many hours going through Dad’s match programmes, from 1946-47 onwards and asking him questions about all the great names, like how good was Jimmy Logie, Ronnie Rooke, Reg Lewis?
It was as if I was there, watching those players as he retold all the stories about John Charles, Stanley Matthews, Mortenson, Mannion, Finney, Milburn, Lawton, Neil Franklin, Carter, Docherty and his great favourite Len Shackleton. How good were the Wolves of Hancock & Mullens? The Busby Babes etc?
I soaked it all up and loved it, loved every moment of it…
Eventually as part of my ‘right of passage’, I graduated to my first Combination game and after a few of them, my first Division One game. Strangely enough, as for Arsenal in 1913 my game was against Leicester City, with Gordon Banks in goal for The Foxes and an Arsenal team containing the likes of Neill, Addison, Sammels & Armstrong. When we walked away from the game I recall Dad talking about Colin Addison, I think it was 1966-67.
But I never lost my love of watching the Kids, be it the Combination on a Saturday with one ear on my transistor radio listening for reports on the First team or a midweek Southern Junior flood lit Cup tie or FA Youth Cup tie. Then I’d be in the next day telling all my Arsenal mates about some 17 year old unknown I’d seen, like Liam Brady or John Matthews or Wilf Rostron.
Mostly though taking ‘your kids’ to see the kids was the main thing, it prepared them for the 1st team and thus the next generation of Arsenal fans. That ‘right of passage’ I eventually passed onto my own two son’s. Sitting in the West Stand to watch the Stiffs or Youth’s, and they loved it. One of their greatest memories was of meeting reserve team boss George Armstrong in the Arsenal Fish & Chip shop in Blackstock Road and getting a chip off him…
Now all of this is no more, because of Arsene Wenger’s precious pitch. The Grove is a ghost town except for the Arsenal shops while the Stiffs are stuck up in Barnet, all the local youngsters deprived of the chance of seeing a game in our stadium.
I’ve never been to Barnet or Borehamwood and if I was a young Dad again, as I was in the 80′s, and living in Romford as I was then, I doubt very much if I would have dragged my boys all the way up to darkest Hertfordshire.
Without the Reserves to watch it’s possible that they might have found other interests away from the game?
How many other youngster’s whose parents cannot afford the extortionate cost of a Premier League or even a Carling Cup ticket have Arsenal lost?
You only have to see the attendance at an FA Youth Cup tie at The Grove, to see that the potential local fan-base is still there.
Did not a record crowd attend an FA Youth Cup semi-final at The Grove a few years ago!
With reserve fixtures at Barnet about to become a thing of the past, matches will be played behind closed doors. Fans will be deprived of watching the next up and coming stars of our club and the young players will be deprived of playing in front of the fans they deserve to be playing in front of.
Is it really beyond the imagination and wit of the club to have 3 or 4 reserve games at The Grove, with free admission, during the season?
Maybe to capture the Club Level fans of the future…
Written by allezkev