BY BEN HARRINGTON / @BenAFC
I have a multitude of things I could write about reflecting on my earliest Arsenal memories. From Mickey Thomas at Anfield and Smudger against Parma to Steve Morrow’s League Cup final winner at Wembley.
Despite those great victories, what I want to share with you is why and how matchdays have become so much more interesting for me. It all began with an away match at Fulham on May 22nd 2011.
For the best part of a decade I used to predominantly go to games on my own due to a dearth of Arsenal supporting friends. It didn’t matter whether it was home or away, I was there when I could be.
However, having failed in my quest to get a ticket for the final day of the 2010/11 season at Craven Cottage using my paltry red membership, I turned to Twitter in the hope of sourcing one. By chance I got a response from a chap called Bill who not only offered me a ticket to the match, but also a ticket for the famous Westminster to Putney pre-Fulham boat trip!
I was a little nervous about doing the boat trip on my lonesome when I got the train up early on Sunday morning from my home town of Crawley, but after waiting around at Westminster pier for what seemed an age I met up with a big group of Gooners who all seemed very friendly.
With my ticket in my back pocket and a beer in my hand I spent the first hour on the boat chatting, getting to know them and being made very welcome into their tight knit group. The first round of Jagerbombs were had just before 11am…little did I know that this drink was their bloodline!
Three to four hours were spent on the boat drinking, singing and even dancing. My early feeling of nerves about the day were long gone and I now felt fully integrated with this great bunch of people.
Once we arrived at Putney Bridge though the general feeling amongst us was angst – would we be allowed in the ground given we were, to put it bluntly, ‘three sheets to the win’? Thankfully we got in with no problems.
My seat was a country mile from the rest of the guys, but they suggested that we all bundled in together so we could continue singing and dancing in earnest throughout the match.
The game itself is mainly a blur due to the earlier indulgences, but this isn’t about the match, this is about the day where I met a great group of people that have all become good friends. People who I now meet up with before virtually every home game and with whom I’ve shared more superb away trips.
The power of Twitter made this day happen and I continue to meet more great people at matches due to this great tool. Who knows if I’d not wanted to go to that particular game seven months ago, my matchday experience might still involve me boringly going to games alone.
May 22nd 2011 - simply the day that changed my football life.