Thursday, September 15

Wonderful Wonderful

By @buxtongooner

It’s been a difficult start to the season after a tortuous summer. In my darker Arsenal moments, I tend to think back to happier times – the minor miracle of the George Graham era, my first real taste of glory, and the sumptuous nature of some of the trophies won under Arsene Wenger.

One memory jars into my brain like no other. When everything went right against the odds – the mood amongst the supporters, the backs against the wall belief, and of course, the result.

 Let me take you back to an evening in Copenhagen, on the fourth of May 1994. The Cup Winners Cup Final between Arsenal and Parma. The Italians - clear favourites with Zola, Asprilla and Brolin at the sharp end, and us, missing our talisman Ian Wright through suspension, and the Dane John Jensen absent through injury on his homecoming.

I was with my brother-in-law, a postman called Pete, a solicitor called Chunky and a bloke called Terry. Terry had had a heart attack a few months earlier, an operation, was permanently red in the face and could barely walk twenty feet without a sit down. An odd bunch, but a cracking bunch.

I awoke on the day of the game in a dodgy hotel near Central Station with the Mother of all hangovers after a skin-full of Carlsberg and some viscous black liqueur at a tiny little pub called The Windsor Bar. Everything there was a quarter of the price, so needless to say we had settled in. Same again, please.

From lunchtime onwards, the pedestrian main street through the city began filling up with Gooners, until about four or five o’clock, when it was heaving with red and white. Few Parma fans were to be seen, the ones that were seemed to enjoy the banter and shuffled on, but there was a definite mood of positivity, joyousness and a carelessness about it all. These were the days when the team was on the wane, weren’t expected to win every game, and most of us went to football purely because we liked going to football.

 So. A bit of ‘Irish Rover’ at a karaoke bar, as you do, and it was off to The Parken.

The hangover was still chronic. As the tackles flew in around our box my head banged. I remember Brolin heading over and then hitting the inside of the post, and I had my head in my hands. As Smudger lashed it in, I jumped up and screamed, and prayed then that it would be over, but there was still another seventy minutes still to go. I slipped back into my seat and watched through people’s legs and the gap in my hands, head raging. It was agony, they were all over us, but the famous back four at the zenith of their powers, with Seaman behind them, hung on.

As ‘One-nil to The Arsenal’ rang out, I remember being hugged by the Danish policewoman that had stood next to me in the aisle during the game.

‘You feel better now?’



 The celebration afterwards leapt from bar to bar to bar to nightclub, where we met and talked to John Jensen like he was an old mate of ours and he bought us all a pint. ‘Faxe’, naturally.

My memory of the trip is sketchy to say the least. I was a different animal back then, but I remember how it felt. I believed then that no victory would ever taste as sweet, and up to now it hasn’t - not even come close. If you were there, you were there, and you’ll know what I mean.

I moved away from London some six years back, gave up my season ticket, but still get to the majority of away games. I’ve bumped into a few of the faces from back then and we give each other a knowing look and a smile. It was special.

Old Terry passed away a few years after, but I’ll never forget the look on his face at the final whistle. 


Rest in peace, squire.

The following year, we were all at it again in Paris, and five years after that we went back to Copenhagen, different final, different opponents and a wholly different mood. But that’s another story for another time.


Post a Comment

< Ottawa Wedding Empanada Recipe