Monday, 23 May 2011

Arsenal - Highbury

14th January 2006

Arsenal 7-0 Middlesbrough

Season 2005/2006 was Arsenal’s last at Highbury, and I was extremely keen to see a game there before the place was demolished.  The ground had always struck me, when watching matches on TV, as having a relatively narrow pitch with the crowd almost on the touchlines all around the ground.  The perfect set-up, indeed to generate atmosphere.

As Middlesbrough were due to visit in January of that final season, I called my Boro supporting Cousin once more and he duly obliged with tickets, although I think he was slightly wary of me coming along to watch his club again, given the pasting they had taken from Newcastle last time.  There is no such thing as “a Jonah”, I scoffed.

Having flown down from Edinburgh for the day, I met up at a city centre pub with Cousin and his Son, who was utterly unrecognisable from the wee boy who had come with us to the Riverside four years earlier; testosterone having kicked-in big style.  

Entering Highbury to take our rather cramped seats in the Clock End, I was taken aback at just how dilapidated the place was.  The Old Lady clearly had been deprived of all but the most superficial maintenance for some time.  

In the run-up to kick-off the Highbury ball-boys fired t-shirts into the crowd from plastic compressed air cannon-type things; Gifts from the Great to the Proles.  That was to be the last act of generosity to be seen that afternoon as Arsenal, much to Cousin’s embarrassment and dismay, simply ran over the top of an admittedly youthful Boro side.  

That the visitors’ held out for 20 minutes was, with hindsight, a remarkable achievement.  But once Thierry HENRY, then Philipe SENDEROS two minutes later had the Gunners 2-0 ahead, it became a case of damage limitation for Boro.  By the 30th minute it was three (HENRY, again), and by half-time four (Robert PIRES).

Robert Pires curls in number four.

The second-half was just more of the same, with Cousin spending most of the 45 minutes with his head in his hands.  GILBERTO headed a fifth on 59 minutes, before HENRY completed a hat-trick (concurrently equalling Cliff Basten’s club record of 150 league goals), 9 minutes later.  

There were still 10 minutes remaining when Cousin decided he had seen enough, and we were striding briskly towards the Arsenal tube station when we heard a roar from the crowd loud enough for us to be sure the score had not just become 6-1.

Much of the Piccadilly and Northern lines seemed in chaos so, after a frenetic real-life version of The London Game, I said Farwell and Thanks to Cousin and his Son, wishing him and his club well.  I have not, you will perhaps not be surprised to learn, been invited along to any more Boro matches.

Panorama of Arsenal's Highbury Stadium.

1 comment:

  1. would arsenal swap stadias back i wonder
    in surethey are making more cash onviously

    i was there for the liverpool game a few weeks ago in the FA cup

    thank God for Liverpool fans or it would have been utterly desolate

    great game too but arsenal fans just arent interested i guess. they cheerwd there 2 goals for a couple of minteds then whistles for the last few mins .not much else

    wouldnt fancy that every home game