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Many years ago I read "Fever Pitch" written by Nick Hornby. 
It was supposed to be an autobiogarphical experience of a young Arsenal supporter during the 1970/71 Double winning year. 
Nick Hornby recieved acclaim for the book , but I personally recall thinking that although I enjoyed the read it was not how I felt as a young Arsenal supporter at the time. 
 
My Grandfather on my mothers side had been an Arsenal supporter pre the 1920's and he had lived and brought up his family ; my mother , her two older sisters and an older brother through the 1920's , 30's and second World War in the heart of Arsenal country . "The Angel Islington". 
I myself was born in Holloway Road in the 1950's and lived within the sound of Highbury stadium up until my early 20's.  
'All' of my family were Arsenal supporters , there was no choice , it was inbred , in our blood , in our family and part of where we lived and grew up. Our working class roots were entwined in the area where Red and White prevailed as the only team to support .
 
In the mid 1950's when I was born up until the late 1960's the only team Arsenal supporters really hated lived only a few miles down the road, 'Spurs' and they were on the up and in the ascendancy. 
Outside of Islington Spurs were the loved team of the media.
 
To support Arsenal was not fashionable , they were not playing well and still had the label of boring Arsenal from the 1930's.
 
Now that I am older and in my 50's I have a better understanding of why I had no affiliation to Nick Hornby's book.  
There are numerous reasons : firstly Nick Hornby entered the Arsenal following through his own choice , he had not been brainwashed by previous generations who had seen the Glory days of Arsenal in the 1930's. The surrounding area where he lived was not Highbury , where we lived and breathed Arsenal and would sometimes see our hero's eating Hamburgers in the local Wimpy Bar opposite Finsbury Park, whilst we children waited outside looking at them in awe through the windows.
 
Nick Hornby was not at Highbury during the late 1950's and 1960's when we battled to stay above the relegation zone and had very few moments to rejoice .  
Nick Hornby is no doubt a true Arsenal man , but from my perspective he entered the fan club at an old age.  
More importantly he entered the fan club at a time when Arsenal were on the up. He had not been standing on the terraces as a 4 year old in the late 1950's and in the sixties when we were no more than an average side and for many seasons a poor side. Whilst on the other side of North London our arch enemies were having unprecedented success. 
Losing two League Cup finals in succession was unbearable and Don Rogers broke our hearts when we lost to Swindon. 
Where was Nick Hornby during these cold empty years. 

 
Nick Hornby had no blood ancestry to Arsenal and no bond to Highbury and the surrounding area. He had not tasted the bitter empty years of defeat which ultimately made the future success even sweeter. 
Many fans will not like some of points that I make within these pages.
 
Times are different nowadays . With all the money , media and television coverage it changes the feelings that young supporters have for their club.
 
When you live in a poor working class area and are born and bred within the sound of the stadium it gives you an affiliation with the club that is intrinsic within you and within your instincts. Furthermore if you have a family that is totally immersed in its own history with the club the combination of all these factors cannot be expressed in meer words. It is like trying to explain how love feels. It is as deep and it surrounds you from the day you are born . When my son was born within 6 hours I have photographs of him wearing an Arsenal Hat Scarf and gloves . 

 
Last but not least is the fact that the book which is supposed to be Nick Hornby's autobiography is not altogether factual as regards to his personal history. He has written it from the background of a working class upbringing when in fact his father is fairly wealthy and from a strong middle class background. 
This alone would mean he would not think the same as local working class lads born in Highbury.  
With no dis-respect to Nick Hornby maybe this is the reason I had no affiliation with the book .
 
Nick Hornby could possibly be the first generation of the new breed of supporters.
 
There is no doubt that the big clubs with money are now the most successful clubs . Winning trophies is what most young people want nowadays. Media coverage simply enhances this. 

 
Nick Hornby came to Highburyu at a time when Arsenal were begining to win games and look successful.  
Therefore I have decided to write my account of an Arsenal supporters life.through the eyes of of young boy who knew nothing other than to support a team that was on his door step and in his blood. 
Should anyone ever read this it may not be written gramatically as well as Fever Pitch and no doubt it will not have the same flowing story line or humour , I am also sure it will be rather boring to the non football fan . However I will do my best to make it read as factual as possible and from the heart of a true football fan and Arsenal supporter. 


CHAPTER ONE
 

 
It is difficult to know where to begin this story . I suppose that before I start you need to understand a little of the background of the author and his family.
 
However I do not want to turn this story into an autobiography of myself . I want this to be a football story which also has blended into it the feelings of the football fan.
 
My Grandfather from my Mothers side had been born in Islington and had fought in the First World War. When I was born in 1954 he was no longer alive and therefore I have no knowlerge about him other than a few things that my Mother told me.
 
My Mother was born in Upper Street , The Angel Islington in 1933. She was the youngest of Four children.
 
Her brother Peter who was three years older and two sisters Miriam and Gladys who were 7 and 9 years older .
 
They lived in a council Flat a few hundred yards from Islington town hall. Aunt Glady's who was the second oldest of the four children still lived in the flat with her children ; my cousins , Theresa ( named after my mother ) and Graham up until the 1980's.
 
I remember visiting her with my parents around twice a month when I was a young boy.
 
The Flat was on the first floor and during the Second World War I believe that they had anti-aircraft guns on the roof. My mother would tell me stories of when she was a little girl and being scared of the noise from the bombing., for some unknown reason niether she or her brother and sisters were evacuated from London.
 
I can remember the flat well and it is hard now to imagine that my mother lived there from the time she was born.
 
The main door of the flat led into a small hallway which was always dark and depressive. To the right was the bathroom whilst strait ahead was the bedroom which my Grandparents had slept in and which was then used by my cousin Teresa. To the left was the lounge. There were two more bedrooms and the kitchen that fed off from the lounge.
 
Even as a child in the 1960's the flat felt old and from a bygone era.
 
My cousin Theresa used to complain that she could hear breathing in her bedroom at night and would wake up because someone was talking to her . Her mother eventually swapped bedrooms with her to pacify her , but after a few months my Aunty Gladys woke up and could hear somebody breathing in her ear and then talking to her. She made a quick exit from the and nobody ever went into it again.
 

 
As I get older I miss not ever having had a relationship with my Grandfather and wish I had spent more time with my Grandmother or Uncle asking more questions about the times he lived in and how he felt about things at the time.
 
I have only 3 stories that I can recall regarding my Grandfather and his support of the Arsenal which I can write about .
 
The first is when he heard about Arsenal coming to North London.
 
When Woolwich Arsenal said goodbye to their South East home at the Manor Ground on Saturday 26th April 1913 they were not exactly flying high. That season they had only won 2 games in all first class competitions. But their destination and new home was to be Highbury.
 
My Grandfather was excited at the prospect of having a local team to support and immediately decided to be an Arsenal Fan.
 
Tottenham Hotspurs was too far away for him to get to their games, furthermore there was a definite destinction or barrier between those people born in Tottenham and those born in Islington. Arsenal coming to Highbury was fantastic news and exciting for the local populace of Islington .
However Tottenham fans were not very happy of the arrival and the rivalry between the two clubs was immediate.
 

 
Due to the First World War the Football League came to a stop in 1915 . It reconveined in 1919.
 
The Football association decided that they would increase the number of teams in the First Division from 20 to 22.
 
My Grandfather was cock a hoop when Arsenal were one of the teams chosen to be promoted to the first Division especially as Spurs who had come 20th in the First Division in 1915 were automatically demoted to the second division.
Arsenal being elected to the First Division had been a great surprise
 
In 1915 Arsenal had only achieved 5th place in the Second Division and therefore they were not expected to be chosen as one of the extra clubs to join the First division.
 
Derby and Preston had finished in First and Second place and were therefore elected to the First Division without debate. Barnsley had finished third ,Wolves Fourth and both felt they should recieve automatic election . 
Spurs on the otherhand having come 20th ( bottom ) in the First Division, for some reason felt they should simply stay in the First Division and ignore the fact that they were automatically relegated.
 
My Grandfather believed in those who lived by the sword died by it. In the 1914 / 15 season there were lots of rumours regarding match fixing and players betting on the results of their games . On one occasion it was actually proven in court. He had no doubt in his mind that Arsenal had decided to play by the same rules in order to get themselves into the First Division.
 
The 1914/15 season ended with Spurs bottom in 20th place 
Chelsea 19th 
Manchester United 18th 
At the time there were lots of rumours regarding the bottom clubs and allegations of players match fixing and betting on matches.
 
The particular case proven in court was between Liverpool and Manchester United which United won 2-0.
 
If United had lost they would have ended in 19th place below Chelsea.  
There is no proof ( or suggestion here ) that Spurs or Chelsea or their players were involved in any wrongdoing , however when deciding which teams should be elected or demoted there was no doubt that the allegations of wrong doings must have influenced the decisions being made at the time.
 
Sir Henry Norris who had taken Arsenal over in 1910 was determined that his investment in the club should not be at risk . He used all of his influence to persuade the Chairmen of the league that when the AGM was convened they should elect Arsenal as one of the clubs to the First Division. 
Sir Henry Norris was a close friend to the President of the league ; John Mckenna the owner of Liverpool and there is no doubt that the two worked together to help the final decision.
 
At the AGM to decide the 2 teams to be promoted from the Second Division and the 2 additional teams to join the First Division it was immediatly agreed that Derby and Preston who had finished up First and Second in the Second Division should be promoted.
 
Chelsea 19th place ( second from bottom) in the First Division were then given the third spot.
 
The fourth place was therefore Barnsleys by all rights as they had finished in Third place in the Second Division.
 
However 6 clubs fought for the final placing.  
Spurs who ended up bottom of Division One.  
Wolves who ended up Fourth in Division Two. 
Arsenal Who ended up Fifth in Division Two. 
Nottingham Forest , Birmingham and Hull who all had no rights to ask for the election whatsoever.
 

 
Before the Final votes were cast for the last spot in Division One the President of the League and Liverpool owner John Mckenna gave an unexpected speech recommending Arsenal should be chosen by the other Chairmen.

The votes went as follows
 
Hull 1 vote
 
Birmingham 2 votes
 
Forest 3 votes
 
Wolves 4 votes.
 
Barnsley 5 votes.
 
Spurs 8 votes .
 
Arsenal 18 votes .
 

 
Arsenal had obtained the most votes and were into the First Division ahead of Spurs who were devestated.
 
If Spurs had known that the Arsenal and Liverpool Chairman had agreed a pre arranged strategy to get Arsenal voted in they may have been able to persuade the Chairmen of the other clubs to vote for them. 
However in reality having ended up at the bottm of the First division they must have known they had no real chance of being successfully voted into Division One.
 
Spurs were left bitter from the experience and the rivalry between the two North London clubs was from that day going to become more intense than ever before.
 

 
My Grandfather at hearing the results was overjoyed that Arsenal were now to play in the First Division , especially as Spurs had been demoted to the Second Division.
 

 
The next season Spurs were in devastating form and got promoted back to the First Division. My Grandfather felt that this was probably because the Spurs players were more motivated than previously and that any thoughts of inducements with the local bookies was secondary to getting back into the First division.
 
Arsenal on the other hand, once elected to the First Division went from strength to strength and have stayed in the top league to this day , being the longest surviving club in the First Division now known as the Premiership.
 

 
In addition to extending the First Division to 22 teams the association also introduced other changes at the same time.
 
They decided that the seasons home and away games between each pair of clubs should be played on successive football days. However this fixture method only lasted a few seasons .
 
This method of fixture did not last for long as they felt it was harmful to the game because opponents developed "differences" during the first game which would return in the next match on the following Saturday. It was decided that the seven days between the two games with the same sides did not give the players long enough to forget their "differences".  
My uncle Peter ( who is no longer with us ) told me that he's father , my Grandad thought that this was probably the right decision. 
However he later said that some of the games lacked a little spice that had previously been in some of the games.  
 
My Uncle ; Peter Hale was born in Islington the 1930's, a real Arsenal supporter all his life. He was the third child and the only boy of 4 children. My mother being the youngest. They lived in a council flat, which is still there and only 500 yards from Islington Town Hall.  

 
My mother told me that during the second world war they had anti aircraft guns on the roof of the block of flats that they lived in. 

 
Uncle Peter was only about five foot nine inches , slim with stocky shoulders. His eyes were vibrant , smiling , always alive and thinking. Although not thin , similar to my Mother he had a prominent pointed nose.  
Uncle Peter and his wife Diane had two children . They lived in a small house just off of St Pauls road , Islington .  

 
Their first child was a girl , Diane and their second was a boy "Stephen". He was never going to be anything other than an Arsenal boy. 

 
Stephen was born around 1956-58 and was younger than me.
 
Uncle Peter was a London Black Taxi driver. A cockney chap with a warm smile . When I was younger he surprised me with how much he knew. I remember when I was taking my O'Levels ( nowadays there called GCSE's ) and I began talking to him about history and what I was studying . Uncle Peter knew everything that I was talking about and began teaching me about the subject. He had not had the same education that we regard nowadays as our right . However during the periods he was waiting for the next fare; having read the daily newspaper Uncle Peter would read books on history , geography and general knowledge.  

 
In the 1960's and 70's to become a London Black cabbie was not easy . You would have to take a test called the knowledge. It mainly consisted of knowing London and the routes around town . It was exceptionally difficult to pass . Regretfully with the introduction of mini-cabs the pressure on Black taxis has increased over the past 20 years and the test is not quite as difficult as it used to be. 

 
I think it is accepted that the London Black Cab drivers were quite clever chaps . 

 
Uncle Peter was always supportive of Arsenal , he would have he's moans about the players and the managers , but ultimately he was always positive. During the 50's and 60's there was not a lot to cheer about , but he would always say to me "you wait and see , well be there again". To be honest we were never a close family and we did not see each other very much . In fact we never went to a football match together which is such a shame . I suppose he was working to bring up his family whilst my mother and father were doing the same , also as my father was a foreigner there may have been differences in our social circles.  

 
Uncle Peter managed a local football team which his son Stephen ( my cousin ) played for. It is odd that he never asked me or my brother to play for him . 
I recall one evening playing in a friendly under floodlights against his team. My brother who is nearly 4 years younger than me was given the chance to play in midfield for us , he was only 10 years of age at the time whilst I was 13 .  

 
Before the game Uncle Peter spoke to me saying how good a player his son was and that there was a scout at the game looking at him. He was so excited ! He's eyes were glowing and he could not stop talking. When I think back to it I suppose that I was a little jealous. I played midfield at the time and was quite fast . Stephen was a right winger , fast and tricky, but lightweight. I swapped positions telling my brother to play in midfield whilst I played left full back so that I could mark Stephen. I was going to show my Uncle Peter who was the better player and that I was the best player on the pitch.  

 
We beat Uncle Peters side convincingly and rather than playing my normal game and showing that I had some skills I spent the entire 90 minutes stopping Stephen from playing which included a couple of rather nasty challenges simply to prove I was the stronger of the two of us. Surprisingly my brother had an outstanding match and was approached by a scout from West Ham after the game . 

 
Stephen and I were never close and this event did not help towards warming our relationship. As for my Uncle after the game he was so upset with me and asked what I was playing at. I recall smiling and thinking now you know who the better player really is. I look back at that evening and feel so much guilt because I upset my uncle . Rather than see the hurt in his eyes all I could feel was the elation in having won and thinking that I had shown them all who was the best. I suppose that in all honesty it was simply the natural youthful male ego and the need to lock horns and show who was the dominant and strongest male.
 
How ironic that it was my brother who was the youngest player on the park and was obviously seen as the best player 
by somone who had a knowledge of the game and no personal bias towards one player or another. 

 
After that evening it was never spoken about . Over the years we would see Uncle Peter off and on and he and I would always talk about football . He would mainly talk about Arsenal and the teams of the past . We would discuss the current team and how they were doing . He was always positive and even before they Won the Fairs Cup in 1970 and then the League and Cup Double of 1970/71 he would continously say how they would soon be back on top and winning trophies. He's eyes were vibrant , smiling .
 
Uncle Peter died in the 1980's ; a tumor on the brain .
 
A few years before his death he and my mother had an awful argument . I cannot recall what is what over but i am sure it was simply a squabble between brother and sister that was probably not that important and had got a little emotinal. However it resulted with me defending my mother and some harsh words being used my me . I recall him threatening me and I in turn being a hot headed teenager returning the threat . Although it never became violent I was verbally extremely aggressive in my behaviour . How it got to that stage was rather stupid and down to my young hot headedness.
 
It was the last time as a family we spoke to Uncle Peter.
 
I miss my uncle and wish I could have said sorry to him.
 
For many years after his death if I heard a Black Taxis horn I instinctively used to look over thinking it was my Uncle about to give me a wave. 
 


Chapter 2 of my personal history about more info in 1971...