BY CHAD LEE
I used to live in Islington, going to both primary and secondary school in the area, but eventually due to a number of circumstances I moved to Dublin and have since made a life in the Irish capital.
On the occasions I have returned to London I have always made a detour to Highbury and when the Emirates was being built I used to love driving past it. It was a pretty awesome sight, especially from the Holloway Road end.
When my brother somehow got his hands on a season ticket I knew I wouldn’t have to try too hard to get in and made an early request to watch the Manchester United match in the first season at the new arena.
It’s amazing, that pre-match excitement never really leaves you no matter your age. A friend who sits in the seat next to my brother arrived early and I was desperate to leave even though it was two hours before kick-off and we were only around the corner.
When we did set off it was down the Blackstock Road, past Highbury Fields School before turning the corner to see the sparkling stadium in its full glory; people were even milling around like they had done in the promotional pictures. There were other pleasant surprises like the big ARSENAL sign. No one had told me about that and I thought it looked absolute class.
As we got closer it felt like I was visiting a stadium for the first time. I’d grown up knowing Ashburton Grove as a rubbish tip and here in front of me was the best stadium in Europe. The stadium was still in its grey phase so that was slightly disappointing but I still had the chills. We took our front row seats and waited.
I don't remember too much of the match. United took the lead and with seats near the away supporters you could see what smug bunch their fans were. If we had lost it would have been the first loss in our brand new stadium. Of all the teams not to lose to first, United were second only to Spurs.
Brilliantly the arrogance of the opposition fans made it all the better when we equalised. They went utterly silent. I’ve no idea what they sounded like when Henry headed in the winner in injury-time because all around me went ballistic. Two seats down one fan jumped over the barrier and was promptly escorted out. I think we all felt like jumping over the barrier!
Needless to say with such a late goal, we won the game. And didn’t we let the United fans know it. All in all it was a fine day and a great introduction to the new stadium for an old fan.