Islington, the home of Arsenal in the late 1960’s. Heroes and Villains part 4.

 

Drayton Park Road on matchday (the mad mile)

Welcome to the GunnersoreArse blog. Being blogged 918.74 kilometers (in a straight line) from the Emirates Stadium.

Cropped hair, Mohair suits, Sta Press trousers, Ben Shermans, trilbeys and Doc Martens was the style. The Rolling Stones, the Who, the Small Faces, the Kinks, Desmond Dekker  and Tamla Motown was the music and Islington was split between four gangs. Highbury, Holloway, Angel and Essex Road, and then you had the youngsters, the Little Highbury, Little Holloway, Little Angel and little Essex Road. This is where I fitted in, one of the little ones. And then at the bottom end of Caledonian Road you had Nash Court and York Way Court Estates both with their own little gangs. In 1969 I was 15 years old , a member of the Little Holloway and inter gang fights were the norm in Islington and sometimes branched out to Somers Town.

I lived in Sonning Street, in between Caledonian Road and Holloway Road. A twenty minute walk from Highbury Stadium. Five streets of dilapidated terraced houses due for slum clearance, Bride Street, Barbara Street, Sonning Street, Oldershaw Road and Leslie Street, sandwiched between Roman Way and Westbourne Road, where little gangs and rivalries regularly had showdowns and one-on-ones. Now it is a housing estate called the Vulcan Estate, the local planners must have been Trekkies, “Live Long and Prosper”.

This is a quote from British History online:

The other large scheme involved clearing a decayed area between Bride Street and George’s Road, where housing problems had been made worse by families displaced from Barnsbury seeking cheap private accommodation; the area was compared unfavourably with the worst city ghettoes in the U.S.A. 

In the 1970s the housing between Roman Way and Westbourne Road was replaced by two-storied houses and open spaces, with some roads closed to traffic, and old houses retained on the outskirts were gradually rehabilitated.

The majority of the members of the Islington gangs were also Arsenal supporters but on the Northbank local rivalries were forgotten and we were united in our support of the club and fought side by side. Our local rivalries were restricted to the occasional street fight, pub fight or more regularly, the major battles were pre-arranged and fought between two gangs on Highbury Fields. Johnny H was the leader of the Highbury and was viewed as the unquestionable leader of the Northbank. Despite being from a different gang I looked up to him on the Northbank and took every opportunity to be beside him when it kicked off at a match. I remember some great fights at Stamford Bridge, White Hart Lane and Upton Park.

Travelling to away games was all part of the excitement but I have some bad memories of getting a kicking on occasion. I remember once at Wolverhampton about 20 of the Northbank got separated from the main group, we were walking back to the train station when something like 100 Wolves supporters walked around a corner and started to chase us. Another bloke and I decided to take another route and ended up in a dead end street. About 10 Wolves supporters followed us and we got well battered, I still bare a scar above my left eye from that one. After a game at Stamford Bridge we stormed a pub full of Chelsea Shed boys in the Fulham Road. That was one hell of a battle and went on for at least 30 minutes. However, I ended up in hospital on that occasion, hit from behind with a bottle. I still bare a scar on the back of my neck from that one.

As a small group of delinquents in my area, some friends and I used to steal cars and see who could get to 100 mph along Drayton Park Road before the sharp bend into Gillespie Road and past the Arsenal tube station. We called it the Mad Mile and we mainly stole Mini Coopers, Cortina GT’s and the occasional Jag Mk 2. There was a house on that corner with a small front wall, that wall got destroyed a few times when one of us braked too late to take the bend. I was taught how to steal a car and how to drive by an older mate of mine when I was aged 13. I sat on a wall in Westbourne Road and he went through the basics of clutch, gears, brakes etc and then we went off and stole a Mini. I drove it along Holloway Road at 80 mph, screeching in second gear because I couldn’t change-up to third. But I got better and could often get to a ton before the bend on Drayton Park Road.

My cousin Richie had somehow become a part of the Angel gang, despite living in the same street as me in Holloway. One night he was walking home alone on Liverpool Road when I was with a few of the Holloway boys. They cornered Richie and gave him a right beating, I stood there and watched. Later that week, Richie and a few of his mates caught me on my own behind Chapel Street Market and I got it in return. Then on a Saturday we would stand side by side on the Northbank. There was a game against Everton at Highbury on one occasion when a group of blokes right at the back of the terracing started to sing Everton songs and shouting abuse. It turned out they were West Ham just there for a fight. There was only about 20 or 30 of them but the battle to get them off the Northbank took ages because of where they were and we were having to fight going up hill. We got them off eventually but the police had waded in and I was carried off by three coppers, down the east side of the Northbank, around the edge of the pitch and underneath the East Stands and chucked out onto Avenell Road from a small side door.

I’m not condoning football hooliganism but ask you to just think about what we had at the time. I lived with my parents in a house that was due for slum clearance, split into two, there were my parents, me, my brother and sister upstairs, my aunt, uncle and their two kids downstairs. We all shared the same toilet and had no bathroom and everyone had access to everyone elses living space. The local lads used to hang about at the bottom of the street, playing football and annoying the neighbours. On the corner of the street was a brothel run by Jamaicans and just over the road on the corner of Westbourne Road and Sheringham Road was a night club called the ‘Golden Star’, a reggae/blues club where most of the local Jamaican gangsters gathered. It was a tough area and you had to be tough to survive.

Most of us didn’t bother going to school and spent our days bunking off and hanging about in a cafe on Liverpool Road playing pin ball and listening to the Who on the dukebox. So life at the time consisted of stealing cars and petty crime, local gang fights and fights at football matches at the weekend, hanging about in a cafe all day long and of course girls. Highbury Fields was a favourite place for a bunk up but personally, I preferred the hallway in Morgan Mansions on Palmer Place, at the bottom end of Mackenzie Road. It was private and quiet and there was no chance of a few boys from another gang discovering you and giving you a kicking.

Hooliganism was bad publicity for the club but at the time we didn’t see it like that, we were shedding blood for the Arsenal. Going out at the weekend and fighting for the honour of our club, to some extent the football took second place. I know that when we walked down Holloway Road as a group or some High Street up north for an away game we frightened the hell out of the locals, but somehow it didn’t seem like that. Don’t get me wrong, we were there for the football as well, Bertie Mee was the manager,the team consisted of John Radford, Frank McClintock, Peter Storey, Ray Kennedy , George Graham, Geordie Armstrong and Bob Wilson. I’d yet to see them win a trophy but in 1970 that was to come with our Fairs Cup victory over Anderlecht. We’d lost 3-1 in the away leg and it looked doubtful that we would manage three or more goals in the game at Highbury. What a fucking night, we won 3-0. It was great to be on the Northbank that night. I got to visit most grounds in England during that time but by the time I was 17 I’d grown out of it and moved on to bigger and better things. It was a short period of my life where personal status was more important than the consequences. And as Roger Daltrey sang, ” I’m just talkin’ bout my  g-g-generation”.

Right, time for a glass of wine and some spicy chorizo…… hope you enjoyed your visit. Until the next time.

à bientôt

GunnersoreArse, “People try to put us d-d-down, just because we g-g-get around” Every Sunday on the dot at 9am GMT.

3 down, 35 to go….. who knows what will happen?

Welcome to the GunnersoreArse blog. Being blogged 918.74 kilometers (in a straight line) from the Emirates Stadium.

Gooners the world over are today experiencing a multitude of different feelings. There will be those who forever think the sun shines out of Arsène Wengers arse  and he can do no wrong, to those who at this moment think he has lost the plot and needs to be put away in an asylum for the mentally deranged. In between, are those who swing between the two extremes, sometimes their glass is half-full, sometimes half-empty. That’s millions of Arsenal fans, ordinary people like you and I, experiencing illogical mood swings and symptoms of anxiety, negativity and irrational feelings. Being a supporter of any football team causes these experiences, but it often seems that supporting the Arsenal is worse, doesn’t it?

For the more positive amongst us, these emotions are not such a big problem you may think, but I bet their resolve is sometimes sorely tested. The start to this season will be seen by them as a necessary learning curve, new team members and injuries meaning that Wenger has had to experiment with formation and tactics and in the process we have been good enough not to suffer a heavy defeat, achieving two draws and a win in the Premier League and a hard-fought win in the Champions League. Others of a more negative persuasion will be pointing the finger at the manager and shouting, “why did he do that?”, or, “can’t you see we lack a centre-forward and a defensive midfielder” or even, “It’s time for him to go”.

Others will be thinking it can only get better and others will be thinking we’ve got no chance of winning the PL and we’ll be lucky to get fourth place. One fan will see a match from one viewpoint and alternatively, another will have a totally different perspective of the same match, one positive and one negative. The outcome of the match is the underlying cause of such feelings but ultimately it is the individual person who puts the experience into his or her pigeon hole marked Negative feelings or Positive feelings or Let’s wait and see.

I’m trying to calmly analyse the situation, trying to stay positive. Stand back and count to ten before reacting should be the philosophy. Sometimes negativity can’t be avoided, your immediate response to an emotional situation bursts forth, uncontrolled. I have heard this is often the case on twitter, fans having critical and negative responses during an ongoing match. It’s like an argument between husband and wife, in the heat of the moment things are said which will later be regretted. I’m sure most of us have done it. The issue is, does it really matter?

Let’s try to get it into some kind of perspective. Firstly, we go through this vast range of different emotions every season, whether it’s a good season or a bad one. Last season can generally be viewed as a good season, we won the FA Cup, our first trophy in nine years. Alternatively, others will say we lost out on winning the double because of the lack of depth in the team due to not spending to strengthen the team. Two valid responses and quite normal in my eyes. This season has just started and already there are questions being asked of the team and the manager, but you could argue it has started better than last season. Two games won and a loss last season and we were on 6 points and in 4th place after three games, this season two draws and a win with 5 points and 7th place but crucially, not having lost a game. But what does that mean for the rest of the season, it means diddly squat. We can’t predict anything from it.

Many excuses and reasons can be put forward as to why this and why that, but ultimately, as fans we can only sit back, accept the decisions made at the club, by the manager and try to understand the form of the team and individual players. We are going to come up against some stubborn sides from the lower end of the table this season, Crystal Palace and Leicester have already proved that, but then again, we were easily outplayed by Everton in April but this time we got a gutsy 2-2. In the transition period waiting for new players to acclimatize and waiting for established players to come back from injury, we have discovered a new-found level of mental toughness. Wenger has often spoken of it but we have rarely seen it, until now. Last season, being two nil down away to Everton saw a collapse of spirit and humiliation, this season the boys fought valiantly to come from behind to get a point.

So at the moment, in amongst all the different emotions I’m likely to suffer during this season, I’m definitely looking at a half-full glass and I would urge other Gooners to do the same. If you need to be persuaded then just look at Man United and the woes they experienced last season and are experiencing now. I will not always be travelling on the bus of positivity but I know at times I will be there, rationally saying to myself  that things will improve. This is one of those moments. But after the next game I may well be questioning my mental fortitude, it’s the inevitable consequence of supporting a football team, but as Wenger would say, let’s take one game at a time.

Right, time for a glass of wine and some spicy chorizo…. hope you enjoyed your visit. Until the next time.

à bientôt

GunnersoreArse, emotional and unpredictable. Characteristically human by being changeable and fickle.  Sometimes confused but seeking to be rational and reasoned but also knowing that life needs passion and desire. Trying to find the perfect balance to support the Arsenal. The Sunday supplement will be published during the international break, next Sunday morning at 9am GMT. 

 

 

 

To be quite frank Frank, just sing us a song you ol’ gooner crooner! A tale of Heroes & Villains part 2.

Welcome to the GunnersoreArse Blog, being blogged 918.74 kilometers (in a straight line) from the Emirates Stadium.

This article is a continuation from my last post, so perhaps to understand the context, it may be best to read that first here:

http://wp.me/p4FeF9-8g

In the mid 70’s, Arsenal had declined somewhat from the glory days of the early 70’s. The lowest point being a 17th place position in the league in 1975/76. Most of the double winning team of 1970/71 were moving to other teams and Bertie Mee had been replaced by Terry Neill as manager, Charlie George had gone, Ray Kennedy had gone to Liverpool and made a very successful change from Striker to Midfielder. George Graham had buggered off to Man Utd in 1972 and Frank McClintock had moved across London to Queens Park Rangers, increasing his weekly wage by nearly 100%, does that ring any bells relating to more recent Arsenal player moves? For fuck sake, I was earning more than he was from ticket touting, selling stolen goods and little schemes with Dennis the menace. However, a footballer earning £250 a week in the 70’s was no where near  the millions they now earn in the 21st century. Retirement funds could not be assured, so many players had to look for other options to earn money for their retirement from football and many went into the pub trade.

And that is exactly what Frank McClintock did, just before he left Arsenal for QPR in 1975, he’d gone into business with Harry H, a con man involved in the Islington criminal underworld and together they bought the Sutton Arms in Caledonian Road. Frank wasn’t new to this culture, he’d been going to pubs and after hours drinking clubs in Islington for quite a few years beforehand, getting to know many local villains.

Franks pub had regular well known faces as customers such as George and John Reilly, the Flanagans, Frank Warren the boxing promoter, and occasionally  the young Terry Adams and his brothers would be there, yet to start their violent take over from the Reillys. But sadly, Reggie Dudley and Bob Maynard, two of the most likeable and genuine Islington rogues you could ever meet, were in custody awaiting trial and would eventually be sentenced to life for two murders they didn’t commit. Everyone who was anyone in Islington knew they were innocent.

My ticket touting mate Eddy’s dad, Teddy K, was a regular at the Sutton, with some of his mates. He was a classy and very good burglar and safe breaker. Teddy and his partner Vincent, had a superb system, they only targeted high end properties in Maida Vale, Hampstead, St Johns Wood and other exclusive areas in London. Mainly flats in mansion blocks, they used to tap up concierges, security guards, cleaners and gardeners when at pubs and after hours drinkers to find out when residents would be on holiday or away from their apartments for substantial periods. Then with their Ford Transit, they’d load up two bicycles, then dressed in workers overalls, flat caps and carrying rucksacks, at something like 3am, drive to within a mile of the property, park the van, get the bikes out and cycle to the mansion block. They looked like any other workers coming off the night shift or just going to work. They even had packed lunches in their rucksacks just in case the ‘billies’ stopped them. They concentrated on safes, cash and jewellery, nothing else was touched….. then they’d leave on their bikes, rucksacks full of ill-gotten gains (and their uneaten packed lunches), and cycle back to the van. They were so good they were never caught. Never ever got a criminal conviction. Despite what they were doing, they had to be admired.

Teddy offered me and Eddy an apprenticeship but having gone on a job with them one night we decided it wasn’t our thing, we were happy to keep on ticket touting and selling stolen high class clothing which we used to get from a gang of lorry highjackers, who targetted mainly clothing transporters. Every month we’d visit a lock-up in York Way and choose the best of the most recent heist and because Eddy’s dad was a well known face, we had an arrangement of sale or return. By this time in the 70’s, although we still got some of our football tickets from Fat Stan Flashman at his office in Kings Cross, we were also buying player allocations from Frank, Liam Brady and Eddie Kelly and a couple of other players. Another Arsenal player had also bought a pub, the Spanish Patriot, just behind Chapel Street Market and had let a couple of villains open a after hours drinker upstairs. That was a regular Sunday afternoon haunt after Frank had kicked everyone out of the Sutton.

I’d eased off going to Arsenal games, practically never going to away games except for a few Cup games. Eddy and I still did our thing after selling all our tickets at home games, paying a few quid at the turnstile and getting seats in the East Stand. But other things seemed more important and the Gunners weren’t winning many things, well actually, they weren’t winning anything. For instance, in 1976/77, we had Malcom Mcdonald up front, scoring 24 goals in the league, but we ended up finishing 8th. Above us were Ipswich, WBA, Newcastle and Aston Villa. I’d gone to a 5th round FA Cup away game at Middlesborough that season and they beat us 4-1. Not the most exciting times to be a Gooner, but on the bright side, the Spuds were relegated that year.

So this was the culture at Franks pub, local villains and occasionally a famous celebrity.  Being regulars, he often used to ask me and Eddy to help behind the bar if it got really busy, which was often the case at weekends. He only ever employed young women, because if he had barmen they would leave after a few days because of intimidation and threats from the customers. You had to be very, very careful. Rounds would be enormous, where the person ordering would also say, “Get so-and -so and his mates a round over there”, and when you looked there would be 10 or more geezers plus the 15 or more he’d just ordered for, then just as you thought the round was finished, some other faces would walk into the pub and the person ordering the round would start again. I would often get verbal and Chris Flanagan was an example, he used to call me ‘Crimbo’ and if I gave a wrong drink or made a gaff, he’d shout at me, ‘”Oi Crimbo, what the fuck is this you little fucking cunt, I’ll come round there and give you a fucking dig. Sort it out”! And at the same time you’d have John Reilly waiting to be served and giving you dirty looks as if to say, “If you don’t serve me soon you wanker you’re gonna end up in a fucking shallow grave”.  You had to understand that it was just part of the scene and the banter and the verbal was generally just a wind up, but Eddy and I had to be on our toes with a quick witty reply that didn’t wind them up too much. They were much more polite to the young bar girls, so you can understand why Frank was reluctant to employ barmen.

Sunday afternoons were probably the best for atmosphere, Frank would get a band and a singer in and he’d regularly get up on stage and sing as well. He was quite a crooner was Frank, giving excellent renditions of Sinatra classics. People loved the man. He was my hero when he was playing and it was a privilege to have known him in his private life. They were good times, I had money in my pocket, I didn’t have to work too hard and some of the charactors I knew were awesome. But in 1977 I started to think about getting out, I was seeing too many people get heavy prison sentences. So I moved to the South Coast and got some honest employment in an attempt to distance myself from that culture. However, on a few visits back to Islington I couldn’t help but get involved in a couple of things and eventually it all went tits up, and on Friday 13th April 1979, at the Inner London Crown Court, I had to give some pleasure to Her Majesty. As a consequence I had to watch the 1979  and 1980 FA Cup finals on an ancient TV in a grey room with a load of blokes dressed exactly the same, in blue and white striped shirts, cheap jeans and slippers. The 1980 final was the worst, not just because we lost, but because many of the other inmates were West Ham supporters and at the end of the match there was a massive fucking fight in the TV room, and as a result, I lost 7 days remission. I didn’t see day light again until Friday 19th September 1980. But on the positive side, I did find out that I had a talent for drawing and got an ‘A’ Level in Art and had also started a degree in Sociology, discovering along the way that I was quite good at this academic malarky. It was a ‘life changing’ moment. Well, it  nearly was ……..but not quite!!

Right, time for a glass of wine and some spicy chorizo…… Hope you enjoyed your visit. Until the next time.

à bientôt

Extra, Extra, read all about it! GunnersoreArse exclusive – local villain gives pleasure to the Queen in a back street drinking club. Every Sunday morning at 9am. Get your copy here!

 

A drama of Fabreg-esque proportions: Betrayal and revenge.

Welcome to the GunnersoreArse blog. Being blogged 918.74 kilometers (in straight line) from the Emirates Stadium.

It’s interesting that on the day Fabregas joined Chelsea, I published on my blog a piece about loyalty and betrayal, total coincidence I’m afraid.

So did the prodigal son betray the Father or did the Father reject the son? On the internet, it has caused a debate of epic proportions amongst Arsenal fans. There couldn’t have been a better scenario for those who want Wenger out and from what I’ve read, the situation has even tested the most loyal of Wenger supporters. Cesc was our darling, when he left for Barcelona, despite the circumstances, he was given a fond farewell. His extra-marital affair with the Catalans was accepted and forgiven, it was in his DNA everyone believed. His chorizo was definately Spanish. But nearly everyone was agreed, if he wanted to return to the Emirates, that wouldn’t be a problem, we would welcome him back.

But now, has he truly betrayed us? He once said something like, “I will never play for another Premier League team”. But now he has gone back on his word and started an affair  with Maureen………. that slut who runs a whorehouse for a Russian gangster in the backwoods of SW6. This infidelity is really testing the Gooners fondness for Fabregas. We will never know the whole truth, but from recent reports it would seem that Wenger rejected the chance to buy him back. But did Cesc then go to Maureen out of some form of revenge?  Or was it his only other option? Was it a stab in the back because his Father rejected him? He had other offers apparently, “I considered all the other offers very carefully and I firmly believe that Chelsea is the best choice,”  We can assume they were from Man United, Man City and maybe Liverpool, possibly a couple of larger european clubs as well. In the eyes of the fans, would any of those have been better? But ultimately he chose Maureen, the bitchy one who has been the most vehement critic against Cescs’ adoptive Father. The  crazy one who at every opportunity makes snide remarks about Wenger. Will Maureen now poison Cescs’ mind against his Father, will he be saying things like, “Wenger rejected you but I took you into my bed, I have faith in you, not Arsene, he’s a loser”.

Fabregas has now gone on to say he has something to prove in the Premier League. What could we read into that? Does he mean he would like to prove himself in a PL winning team, or is it more sinister? is it a threat against his Father Arsene Wenger. Does Cesc mean to stab him in the back in an act of footballing vengeance for rejecting him? I wonder if he really thought  Arséne would accept him back with open arms, saying that all is forgiven?

The most pain is obviously being felt by Arsenal fans, the feelings of betrayal by Fabregas and the anger against Wenger for not getting him back will continue well into the new season. What reactions can we expect when Fabregas first comes back to the Emirates in the blue shirt of Chelsea? Will he be welcomed home because we have fond memories of him in the Red and White or will the daggers be out? Visiting Chelsea fans are obviously going to taunt the home support and add fuel to the fire. Most Arsenal fans are now wishing and hoping that Cesc doesn’t repeat his Arsenal form at Chelsea, hoping that Maureens tactics will not suit him.

What is going through Cescs’ head at the moment we can only summise, is he thinking, “that son of a bitch Wenger, always told me he would welcome me home but when it came down to it, he went back on his word!”  What is going through Arsénes head, “I told him not to leave us in the first place so now he can go fuck himself!” Who knows, the mind has some strange ways of reacting to situations of betrayal. What we can be sure of, these thoughts are definately going through the minds of Arsenal supporters because it’s being blasted all over twitter and the blogosphere. This situation is not over by a long shot. The debate will continue to rage into next season and beyond. If Chelsea manage to win the league next season with Cescs’ help, just pipping the Gunners to first place, perhaps with a few goals or decisive passes by Fabregas against us, who knows what the reaction will be towards Wenger for not buying him back.

From my perspective, I hope it doesn’t pan out like that, I sincerely hope we win the league of course, but I would hope also that Cesc does well at Chelsea. It’s football, players have a choice where they play and who knows what incentives Chelsea offered him, perhaps far too much for Arsenal to compete. And furthermore, Wenger had the balance of the current team to consider. However, for many fans Arséne has now put himself clearly between the cross-hairs, failure to bring in the required reinforcements needed for next season and the backlash over the Cesc situation could be substantial and nasty. And furthermore, over the last two days there have been rumours that Santi wants to go back to Spain. If he leaves and the opportunity to get Cesc back was rejected by Wenger, the fallout could be huge. Personally, I think Cesc has made a huge mistake by going to Chelsea, I don’t think Maureen will be able to get Cescs chorizo cooking! I don’t think Cesc will be able to find Maureens ‘G’ spot! It won’t be long before a seperation is on the cards and the bitch will be throwing him out of the house and Fabregas will have to find another lover.

I go back to my last post about fan loyalty, I don’t think we can expect players to have the same passionate loyalty to a club as we do. Money and circumstances play a big role in a players career. Cesc has said, “They (Chelsea) have an amazing squad of players and an incredible manager. I am fully committed to this team and I can’t wait to start playing,”  We probably heard him say similar about the Arsenal and Wenger. He probably said it about Barca. I wonder if in the future, if Barcelona decide they want him back in Spain, would we then hear Fabregas saying once again, “Barca are in my blood, they are in my DNA and I want to go back home”. Players can be as fickle as the fans. It’s no different from infidelity and love affairs, you leave your spouse for someone else and a few months later your wife says to you, “I forgive you, I’ll have you back, please come home” and you do, you return. But for how long, because when your mistress phones you a couple of months after and says, “I love you, I want you, you’re the best lover I’ve ever had”……. you leave your wife again and return to your mistress. It’s human nature and the only difference for football players is they are not being offered sex and love, they are being offered millions of pounds.

 

Right, time for a glass of wine and some chorizo….. hope you enjoyed your visit. Until the next time.

à bientôt

Don’t forget, GunnersoreArse still goes out over the blogoshere every Sunday morning at 9am GMT. I had a slight blip this week, posting on Thursday….. but I’ve spoken with my psychiatrist and she has put me on some new medication, so I’m back to normal now.

 

For better or for worse…. till death do us part!

Welcome to the GunnersoreArse blog. Being blogged 918.74 kilometers (in a straight line) from the Emirates Stadium.

Loyalty and staying with the same partner for life….. till death do us part! Or in this instance….. staying loyal to, and supporting the same football team for life, which when analysed, throws up all the same experiences, emotions, disappointments and joys similar to a marriage. Some people can devote their whole life to one person, for better or for worse, unfortunately I’ve not been very good at it, hence three failed marriages. But when it comes to the Arsenal……..   I’ve devoted my life to her, plus quite a substantial amount of money and emotional investment, see, just like a marriage! So how do we do it? What makes us able to stay faithful to the Arsenal for life but not always stay faithful to a partner? Can the simple word ‘Loyalty’ really convey what it means?

I took my marriage vows with the Arsenal when 8 years old and I’ve never been unfaithful to her, never once have I dipped my chorizo into another teams sauce, not yellow mustard vinaigrette, not white béchamel or creamy blue cheese. Arsenal to me is what Red thai curry is to white thai rice, what Bolognese is to spagetti, what mint sauce is to lamb, what chili is to con carni……in other words, a perfect marriage. For 52 years and hopefully for a good few more, it will only be death that eventually separates me from the Gunners and I finally go to St Peters Italian Deli in the sky. In comparison, the longest I’ve stayed with one partner is 14 years and during that time I have to admit, occasionally I dipped my spicy chorizo into a bit of tasty french mayonnaise, a well seasoned tzatziki a la grecque, a piquant chinese oyster sauce, plus, on a regular basis I got my chorizo nicely warmed in some deliciously comforting and fulfilling Lancashire Hotpot. And if you are reading this Lisa from Southport, “I still think of you!”

Some of you will call me weak, and yes, I agree, on occasion I have preferred to look for some nice sun dried tomatoes in virgin olive oil rather than eat luke warm tinned tomatoes at home. But with the Arsenal, I’ve been much stronger in my resiliation to stay faithful and loyal.

So the question is, could I be unfaithful to my Arsenal? Would it be possible on occasion to share my spicy sausage with some Tottenham kosher potato tart , a Chelsea currant bun, Cardiff Welsh rarebit or some Norwich roast mutton dressed as lamb and cheat on my Gunners? No of course not, it would be unthinkable, it would be akin to being offered perfectly cooked Smoked Duck Breasts with a Ginger butter sauce and saying, “I’d rather have some spam with ketchup.” Or being invited to dine at a three star Michelin restaurant but turning it down and going to a hot dog stand on Tottenham High Road.

I am proud to be a Gooner, my Greek Keftethes swell with pride when I tell people that the Arsenal are my team. My spicy chili sauce gets spicier when we win a game, but sometimes I’ve had to accept eating cold pizza that’s been left in the fridge for a day or two longer than it should have been.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to sample some of the best culinary delights possible, with a dash of international influence and creativity. Hollandse Nieuwe Haring, Bûche Chocolat gourmande a la Française, Irish beef in Guinness, Swedish Meatballs, Romford Pie and Mash and of course, Spanish Tapas. But on other occasions, I’ve had a plate of unsavory overcooked sludge plonked in front of me which you wouldn’t even give to your dog……. but I’ve eaten it! My analogy here is the Arsenal, not women, well, if I’m truly honest…….. Damn, I’ve been a slut sometimes! But my point is, if your wife served you a load of trollop on a plate on a regular basis, you’d start to think, “Is she the right one for me?” and “maybe I should go out and find some Steak Diane or Crêpes Suzette”. Whereas the Arsenal serve up some unappetizing fodder on a regular basis but we go back for second and third helpings and over the last few years, that would be ‘fourth’ helpings as well. This is to me the essence of fan loyalty and faithfulness, no matter what’s on the menu, you’ll eat what ever is dished up. Never thinking that there might be some ‘Cordon bleu’ somewhere down the Fulham Road in a restaurant where they change their chef as regularly as they change the table napkins.

Psycologically I’m basically a loyal person, for instance, I’m very loyal to friends and family, and also to certain commercial products, Nivea, Gauloises tobacco, Spanish chorizo, Pataks curry pastes, Heinz baked beans, pastis 51 and Durex, though nothing puts me off my meal more than having to wrap my chorizo in clingfilm! I’m also extremely loyal to the Arsenal and this begs the question, where does loyalty come from? What are the psychologically complex factors which define us as loyal followers of just one football team. Psychologists have studied the complex and opaque neurological processes which add to the psychological make up of a loyal fan. They have also spent quite some time analysing the psychology of infidelity and adultery. But it’s as complicated as the recipe and ingredients for a Marseille Boullabaisse. I may have a go at preparing it for you on another occasion.

Is it easier to commit adultery with another woman than to be unfaithful to your football team? Are the prohibited Nouvelle Cuisine menus of infidelity easier to digest than the taboo of dipping your chorizo into a cold blue piece of stringy pidgeon standing on a soggy meatball? Is loyalty to the Arsenal more powerful within us than the ability to stay loyal to a spouse?

In fact, does it ever cross our minds that we could stray from the righteous path of only  supporting the Gunners? Whereas the temptation of a juicier meal away from home may  intrude upon us from time to time, and we can sometimes give in to it. Do we sometimes look at another teams attractiveness, sexiness and charms, being overcome by lust and temptation for some forbidden fresh fruit cocktail? Would we actually take that fateful step into another teams restaurant and consume a three course ‘a la carte’ meal with all the trimmings just because we have an urge rising in our Moulinex mixers to whip up and serve some Crème Anglaise?

I think I can catagorically say no for all or at least, for most football fans on those questions. For us, fidelity to a football club is sacred, it would be sacrilage to even contemplate having an affair with another team. We would be a Prune and Port Fool. Our loyalty means we will happily accept the occassional crap dinner, knowing that there will also be times when we can savour the taste of the authentic and appetizing delicacies of well cooked football, prepared by a gourmet Chef de cuisine, tempting our tastebuds and teasing us with the delights which are to follow and if we’re lucky, ‘Silver Service’.

You may think this has all been a load of Falafel and Chocolate Profiteroles,  and you’re thinking perhaps whilst I’ve been typing it I’ve chucked far too much Côtes du Provence rosé down my neck. This may be true, but writing it has been like slipping my tongue into a Rum Cream Trifle and eating Cherries marinated in Maraschino liqueur……….  Yummy.

I, Northbank, do take you, Arsenal FC, to be my Football Team, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part. And hereto I pledge my faithfulness.

Right, time for a glass of wine and some chorizo (perhaps dipped into a creamy prawn sauce)….. hope you enjoyed your visit. Until the next time.

à bientôt………… et bon appétit 🙂

And don’t forget….. GunnersoreArse is always a blogging good read, every Sunday morning at 9am GMT.  Tune in and join in! But occasionally, I may be unpredictable…. and when the fancy takes me, I’ll scratch my GunnersoreArse on another day.