FA Cup week. A week that often invokes feelings of nostalgia for my own generation and beyond. Thoughts inevitably turn to a time when the FA Cup was as important to clubs as it still is for most of us. Now that the easy third round opposition is out of the way, and as we prepare to play Coventry City on a Friday night(!), it feels a bit like another nail in the coffin of the worlds oldest and greatest club competition. Still, as much as the modern game has made clubs prioritise, from those chasing perceived bigger honours to those fighting to avoid relegation or simply maintain mid-table mediocrity, the FA Cup will never lose its appeal to many of us.
“The Magic of the FA Cup” was never just some sappy old cliché, it was an actual thing. FA Cup final day was just that – a whole day – and magic was the only way that comes close to describing it.
I have very vague memories of our FA Cup triumph in ’79, I was only five, but I can still just about remember Islington being red and white (and yellow and blue) that day, with flags hanging from windows seemingly everywhere.
I also have, unfortunately, slightly less vague memories of our loss to West Ham the following season.
We’ll leave that one out though, one man’s magic and all that…
Nostalgia isn’t just limited to the FA Cup these days, as it seems each trophyless season at the Emirates seemingly brings with it a yearning for the good old days at Highbury for many long standing Arsenal supporters.
With rising ticket prices and the way the game as we used to know it is changing from top to bottom, this yearning is only natural.
There is no way to explain the way it felt walking through those turnstiles at the age of twelve with my Junior Gunners membership card, paying £1.50 then standing in the North Bank, or in front of the seated away fans in the JG enclosure.
Simply holding that membership card in my hand is a feeling that is still so vivid to me now.
We all know the game isn’t the same as it was back then, but nothing is, is it?
I’d certainly love to be twelve again!
I see the games they play on the Xbox these days and can’t help thinking they are missing out by not having the pleasure of playing Wacky Waiters on the Commodore Vic 20.
Anyway, this rambling is going somewhere, as for the Coventry game this coming Friday (as I write it’s this coming Friday, as you read it will be last Friday – you know the drill by now…) my wife and I are lucky enough to be taking two of our kids to their first ever football match, and the fact that it is an FA Cup game makes that even more special as far as I’m concerned.
So, rather than second guess how it will all feel to them by comparing it to how I felt going to football all those years ago, I thought I would get them to tell us about it themselves.
I was curious as to how kids view going to the Emirates, and how it compares to what I felt as a kid at Highbury.
Is it that different to them?
Children are surely more bloody complicated now than when we were young!
If almost every kid above a certain age has a mobile phone these days maybe they would prefer a nice comfy seat to standing up for ninety minutes plus. Pfft…they don’t know they’re born do they?
I took my eldest daughter, Lauren, who is now twelve, to her first game at the Emirates at the age of seven, and she doesn’t have nightmares over losing 2-0 at home to Aston Villa, so I’m happy a home cup tie with Coventry won’t be scarring anyone for life anyway….
I know how difficult it is for most families to do this with the cost of going to football these days (including mine, I’m not bloody made of money – it’s not happening again this season), and I really hope something can be done to ensure kids still get to experience this at an age when their innocence makes the whole going to a football match all the more “magic”, I really do. The issue of ticket prices is a huge one at the moment, and anyone doing what they can to do something about this, I am behind 100%.
While this, and the transfer window continues to dominate our daily discussions among other things on social media, my kids are telling anyone that will listen how much they can’t wait to go to their first game on Friday night.
I’m not conducting some sort of social experiment for the ages, I’m not writing this with The Greatest Love of All playing in the background, it is what it is.
Some may see this as typical self-indulgent blogger rubbish, but hopefully some can also relate to it.
Plus, to be brutally honest, I couldn’t think of anything else to write about this week, so I’ll get the kids to do it for me….
Here is what they had to say about their experience of their first ever football match…
Harry – Aged 9
On Friday me and my family went to see an FA Cup match at the Emirates. Before we went to the stadium we went to Piebury Corner for dinner. Once we had finished our pie we went to the stadium and had a drink, meanwhile we were looking at the TV screens to see who was playing for the Arsenal team and for Coventry.
But there was one thing that I loved best it was seeing the Arsenal stadium lit up because at night they have lights at the front of the stadium and my feelings then became so much more excited.
I think I should have bet because I said it would be 4-0!
I also met someone there who I talked to.
Leah – Aged 11
To start off with we went to Piebury Corner, when I got there I was full of excitement! Everybody was roaring with laughter.
4-0 to Arsenal…it was nearly 5-0 come on!
The experience was one that I will never forget.
It was a really good first game for Harry and I winning 4-0.
I started off a chant shouting “RED ARMY! RED ARMY!” then after that I started another one singing “OOH TO OOH TO BE OOH TO BE A GOONER!” Everybody shouted “GOONER!” with me!
It was really fun.
Even though I don’t like football much, I still really enjoyed going to the game. Best of all, all my favourite players were playing!
Everybody started singing “Super Nicky Bendtner” and I was really confused because I never heard it before, usually I hear “Super Jack”!
Our seats were amazing! When we scored, Darren picked me up and we shouted “RED ARMY!” continuously! Then we were singing “WE’RE THE CLOCK END, HIGHBURY!”
There it is then.
That’s two kids first experience of a football match.
The magic of the FA Cup.
Sometimes it’s great to be able to go to a football match and see it for what it is, without all the drama that goes with it.
A great day (or night) out, with a bit of magic thrown in the mix for good measure.
How refreshing to leave behind Wenger Out, Arsene Knows Best, Bendtner and Giroud are rubbish, “I’m a better fan than you”, and all that malarkey, and witness the pure unadulterated excitement of going to watch The Arsenal.
Because at the end of the day, that’s what it is all about.
And pies, apparently…..
Islington born and bred, Arsenal through and through. Supported the Gunners for all of my 46 years (so far!) through thick and thin.
Clickbait: Life as a Modern Football Fan – released 2019
Currently working on my next book – Over Land and Sea (and Lockdown), Arsenal 20/21 – A Diary of a Season – due for release Summer 2021.
I will back the club I have in my blood to the hilt and I don’t care what you think about that. UTA.
AGAINST MODERN FOOTBALL.