I guess it must have been sometime in 1947 that I first visited Highbury although what the occasion was I can`t remember, sixty three years is a long time.
My first memory however is still very vivid in my mind, April 3rd 1948 versus Sunderland (I think). The reason I remember the date is it was the day my young mother passed away in the north of England and we were called to the central office at Arsenal with a message to get home immediately. It was the one and only time I entered the `marble halls` of Highbury.
Although I played all my schoolboy representative football around Manchester ,and I did trial with Fulham at the end of my naval service, my heart was always at Highbury where my uncle lived and I eventually went to live there myself.
Standing room only for the likes of me, capacity (illegal) 72,000, no substitutes and when the crowd swayed it was frightening, but what an atmosphere.
It was said that when Stanley Mathews played against us they`d jamb in another 10,000.
Had there been a `cold war` at the time we would have won it hands down as Moscow Dynamo`s were to find out with a score line of 7-0 and the first match under lights (somebody must have turned the lights out at their end).
George Swindon, Wally Barnes and Laurie Scott were the kind of trustworthy defence that would be envied today. Joe Mercer ran the show as captain aided by Denis and Leslie Compton, Don Roper, Jimmy Logie, Reg Lewis and Archie McCauly.
As the song says “Ah! yes, I remember it well”.
Editor’s note – Hope this is of interest Jack, I have just looked up the match on April 3 1948, and it was actually against Blackburn Rovers. Arsenal won 2-0 with a declared crowd of 48,000 (a number of Arsenal home games that season were declared just as thousands, rather than as an exact number).
I was nought at the time (having been born in June 1947) and to celebrate my first year on the planet Arsenal won the league that year ending the season with an 8-0 win over Grimsby Town.