BY NICK GATT / @djnickgatt
It was Thursday 20th May 1993. I was 15-years-old and my day at school seemed like it had lasted longer than a full screening of War And Peace.
Now five days previous to this, I had been at Wembley watching my beloved Arsenal in the FA Cup Final against Sheffield Wednesday.
I remember being gutted when I had bought my ticket, because although it was cheap, it had the words RESTRICTED VIEW emblazoned across it in massive letters. What did this actually mean I thought? I had visions of sitting behind a 7 foot giant with an afro the size of Scotland, but despite my fears, I was going to Wembley and that was good enough for me.
I went to meet my good school pal Ross at Woodford train station, where we were bundled into the back of a transit van, with his uncle Roy and a load of his mates. A few cans of beer later, and with me now nursing a severely bruised arse, we approached the famous Twin Towers and slid open the side door of the van as the traffic slowed us to a crawl.
It’s fair to say we were singing our hearts out on that journey, but the one song being hollered from the van which has remained etched in my memory made reference to our League Cup triumph only a few weeks before.
“One-Nil-Down…Two-One-Up…We Fu**ed Wednesday's Double Up…La La La La La La…La La La La La La.”
Not exactly Rogers and Hammerstein I admit, but in all my years in red and white, I don't think I've ever enjoyed singing any song, as much as I did singing that song, in that van, at that moment.
After finally making it to my seat, all my fears subsided as all the 'RESTRICTED VIEW' turned out to be, was a big steel post that blinded me from one of the corner flags. No giant afro, I was on to a winner.
It wasn't a great game by any means, an Ian Wright goal was cancelled out by a David Hirst equaliser and the game fizzled into full time, which obviously meant a replay.
Cut to five days later…and Ross and I are finally finishing our last lesson of the school day. Immediately we’re getting changed into our uniforms which consisted of red JVC home shirts, ridiculously large flags worn like capes and dodgy DIY red and white face paint. We then jumped straight onto the tube bound for Wembley, where we are met with many a strange look, as well a few good luck wishes along the way. Who says London is full of moody tossers eh?
Now this time I actually managed to get a ticket which didn't say RESTRICTED VIEW on it, although the view actually wasn't that great at all and the poxy ticket cost me double the price I’d spent on the one before. Because of an accident on the M1, the game was delayed by half an hour and just to make the wait seem even longer, it was also raining. Eventually, after the longest day in the world, the game finally kicked off.
Although it was better than the first game, it was no end-to-end thriller either. Ian Wright ran onto a through ball to give us the lead (again) in the first half and Wednesday equalised when the neanderthal Chris 'Pelanty' Waddle scored via a Lee Dixon deflection.
With the game deep into extra time, and with Wednesday all over us, I was longing for the final whistle, confident that with Spunky in goal, penalties would be a doddle. Then suddenly we broke upfield and managed to win a corner which gave us the territorial cushion we needed.
Merse struck his corner into the middle of the box and Andy Linighan (who had been playing with a broken nose) soared high above Mark Bright (who was the one that had elbowed him in the face) to head the ball through the arms of Chris Woods, and despite some numpty defender trying to clear it, into the net.
At this point, me and the stranger sitting to my left, who I had not spoken a word to the whole game, jumped out of our seats in hysteria and begin to hug each other as if we were brothers. It was a truly magical moment that transcended all notions of typical human behaviour in a way that only football can.
Andy Linighan had, “Won The Cup For Arsenal!” Who could believe it? First Steve Morrow and now this!
The players marched up the steps o collect their medals and Tony Adams lifted the cup to a deafening roar and I was filled with unbridled joy. What a night.
After the parade by the players, it was time to go and meet Ross and the boys and me and the stranger to my left headed off down the aisle towards the exit. It was then that I noticed that the back of the strangers black suede jacket now featured a red and white face paint 'Che Guevara' style imprint of my face from our earlier embrace.
I remember hoping that I made it out of the ground without him noticing and I always wondered if he threw the jacket away because he was never going to wear it again. At the same time I always hoped that he kept it as a souvenir of one the greatest nights in his life, because like me he was a Gooner…and The Arsenal was his life.