By Bernie Briffa, Essex
It was August 23rd 1975 and an excited 10 year old hadn’t slept a wink the previous night. Why? Because this day, after many months of pleading was to be my first trip to watch my beloved Gunners live.
My uncle who was visiting from Malta was to be my chaperone. He was a Spurs supporter but I figured beggars can’t be choosers if i get to see my heroes live at long last.
We got the tube up from our home in Ilford and when we emerged from Arsenal station the blanket of Red n White and a cacophony of noise hit me. Sporting my silk scarf firmly tied around my wrist i approached an old geezer for my first programme.
Happy that the outlay had only cost me only 5p of my pocket money I pointed towards a rosette which adorned his portable merchandise stall and he pinned it on my chest without saying a word and ushered me away. I was truly in the arms of my new family.
As I walked up the steps of the North Bank my eyes blinking in the sunlight I saw the hallowed turf for the first time. I remember thinking how small the pitch looked compared to off the telly.
We took up our position directly behind the goal. I looked at the giant clock opposite and it read 1.50pm. Yes we were early and boy did the next 70 minutes drag. I kept thinking the clock had stopped altogether.
During the warm up the ball fell behind the goal in between the railings and running track and hurrying to push my arm through the rail I managed to toss the ball back towards our keeper Jimmy Rimmer. I felt embarrassed as it failed to reach him but he winked at me as he scooped the ball up in his hands and everything was all right again in the world.
The opposition today was Stoke City who boasted seasoned England internationals of the calibre of Peter Shilton and Alan Hudson in their ranks. We had a 17 year old centre half making his home debut who eventually become the clubs all-time appearance record holder.
My favourite Arsenal player was Brian Kidd who would go on that season to score the goals which ultimately kept us from being relegated for the first time in our history since moving to Highbury.
The match – well we lost 1-0 to a first half Alan Hudson poke right under my nose which was much the way things went for us in the mid-1970s. I was disappointed, sure I was, but in truth I wasn’t too downhearted cos I knew I had belonged and that my relationship with Arsenal which before now I had only witnessed on The Big Match and read about in the pages of Shoot magazine had been consumated at last.
I never miss a match at the Emirates and my relationship with my team is as strong today as what it was day back in the summer of ’75 when our eyes first met.
Would you like to contribute to this series of articles on the first time you saw Arsenal live? If so, please email your story to Tony.Attwood@aisa.org If at all possible please write the text as a word document and attach it to an email, and give your name as you want it to appear in the article, and your place of residence.
You might also be interested in our book “Making the Arsenal” which tells the story of Arsenal in 1910 through the eyes of a Fleet Street reporter at the time.