Wednesday, April 7

Confessions of a Gooner Girl

We aren’t all Gooners by birth and plenty are late starters like I was. Turn to the last page of the Arsenal v Barcelona match programme and you’ll find a fellow Gooner confessing he used to be a Forest supporter.

So, was The Arsenal your first true love? Or did another team take your fancy before you gave allegiance to
By far the greatest team the World has ever seen?

Here’s My Story

My Grandad, an old man in the early ‘70s, a Mancunian and Man U season ticket holder all his life, on a very rare visit to see his family and grandchildren living hundreds of miles away.

They were special times and the story he told me more than once was about the Busby Babes and the terrible fate they met on that Munich flight. He looked sad telling it but he’d brighten up when he told me how Matt Busby built the team back up again.

When his face lit up I could see the young man he once was, and the passion he felt for his team.

I adored my Grandad and decided that when I grew up I’d be a Man U supporter like him.

But looking back it was my first step to becoming a Gooner.

A Taste of the Terraces

Sweet sixteen and I went to a local derby game with my first boy friend. It started off great. He gave me a team scarf to wear and played the protective boyfriend to the hilt. Mr Smooth Guy. Hah.

But it was a disaster when our side won and the fans went crazy with excitement. I got squashed against a bar on the terraces, fell down and got trampled on. God, I was scared. I swore I’d never go to another football game in my life. Mr Smooth Guy didn’t last long either!

The big city lights beckoned so I moved to Islington and stayed in North London for the next five years.

Figures like Charlie George, O’Leary and Keegan dominated the sports headlines and on match days I often travelled along the Piccadilly line on trains full of Gooners.

My Grandad was long gone and football stayed on the edge of my radar. I lived in a football free zone and I’d never even heard of Gooners.

So near and yet so far…

The Biggest Step of All

My other half has the same passion for The Arsenal as my Grandad did all those years ago for Man U.

Since I was a little girl I’d had a soft spot in my heart for Manu U but in our house the name was met with scorn and we had a few big fights about it. Was it worth fighting over?

Not to me it wasn’t.

Then he joined a Supporters Club and started going to games. He did ask me to go with him and he really wanted me to go. But I still had this phobia about football crowds and in my heart it felt disloyal to Grandad to think about going. So I didn’t.

Football dominates our house. Always has done.

Every football widow will recognise this moment. The radio is on in the background and we’re talking about something and suddenly the commentator’s voice gets all excited and high pitched and you get a hand in your face telling you to be quiet while the other hand is turning the radio up FULL BLAST!

‘YES! PENALTY!’ he shouts, punching the air and the whole neighbourhood hears it. And I have a pain in my ear. And there he is jumping around and all I want to know is ‘What time can we eat?’

‘Cos meal times revolve around football too. Did I get fed up? Ummmm, to be honest yes. But I was out numbered three to one so no point in going on about it!

A couple of years later he asked me again and this time I said yes.

I got a warm welcome on the supporters coach but the first time I went to Highbury was a real eye opener. More men than I‘d ever seen together in one place, the noise, the language and the rumble of testosterone.

But we had a good day out and a win on the field. The guys on the top deck said I’d bought them luck and adopted me as their lucky mascot.

The excitement on the North Bank was infectious and I kept going to the
games whenever the supporters club had spare tickets. I learnt about the history of the club and gradually came to love Highbury and The Arsenal. I was starting to understand the passion in the play and in the hearts of the fans.

I often thought of Grandad when I took my place on The North Bank. By then Man U had been sold to the Americans and I wondered what he would have made of that. I kind of felt that if he was watching over me he would have been proud to see at least one member of his family enjoying the beautiful game the way he used to.

I felt I had his blessing and I gave my loyalty to Arsenal 100%. I put my name down for a season ticket. I was now The Arsenal.

Girl Gooner

The first season where I was able to go to every home game and loads of away games was the 2005/2006 season. We travelled to watch the team play Ajax, Juventus and Villa Real on their quest to win the Champions League. I got completely caught up in the spirit of the fight and who wouldn’t? Watching players like Ljungberg, Henry and Pires give everything they had to get to the final was inspirational.

We made the trip to Paris full of hope. Me and the other half, old timer Pete, his son John, our friend Dave and a few others.

Scandal of the day! The assistant referee was replaced because he posed in a Barcelona shirt before the game.

We walked around Paris and sat outside the cafes in the sun and toasted our chances. We dreamed of a win and a glorious trip home.

Alas, it was not to be. With Jens sent off in the 18th minute it all went wrong. Pires was playing his last game with us and I felt sorry for him when he got taken off so Almunia could come on to take Jens place. Sol scored first and gave us hope but they got two in and the final score was 2-1 to them. On the long coach and ferry journey back I saw grown men with wet eyes.

I felt proud of each and every one of those players though. They’d given every bit of their skill and every ounce of their strength and could be proud despite the defeat. (Umm, perhaps not Lehmann that day though.)

And that’s when I realised I wasn’t just a supporter anymore. They may not win every time but they are always the best. Arsene Wenger may not be perfect but in my eyes he’s the closest thing there is to a God of football.

Definition of a fan - short for fanatic, a person with an intense, occasionally overwhelming liking and enthusiasm for something.

Definition of a Gooner - we live it "The Arsenal"

If it hadn’t been for Grandad all those years ago painting vivid pictures with his football stories I might never have bothered. He was a gentle quiet man yet I can picture him and Uncle Norman bawling their lungs out on the terraces.

Just like I’m a fairly normal sort most of the time but when the whistle goes my bawdy side comes out and I’m just one more screaming Gooner.

I got there in the end! And so here I am a

Fully Fledged Girl Gooner

by Ann Patey


ms.arsenal said...

i love this. i'm a gunner girl too and this is exactly what i feel about arsenal thank you for sharing your story!

Gooner_girl said...

i like it as a gooner girl too :D

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