BY ROB BATEMAN / @Orbinho
My earliest memory is the 1971 FA Cup final when I rejoiced in Arsenal’s success amidst a sea of tearful Liverpool-supporting aunts in our front room. My first live game was Arsenal v Manchester United in January 1973, the last time I ate a steak and kidney pie and the opportunity to watch Bobby Charlton in his swansong season. My son was there at Highbury with us in my eight-month pregnant partner’s womb on the day we completed the ‘invincible’ season, kicking at every huge roar during the game and in the post-match celebrations. And my first game with my son was the 1-2 debacle against Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final.
So many memories of my life have been tied into Arsenal, both good and bad. I missed my nephew’s christening to watch us eke out a 1-0 win over Derby in May 1999, claiming I had to work and I refused to stay in hospital on a drip after a minor operation, to attend a League Cup match against Coventry in 1997. Obsession barely covered my feelings about Arsenal for a long time.
Things changed for me when we moved from Highbury. My life had changed when confronted by fatherhood - lack of money, weekend work commitments etc. meant leaving Highbury felt like the end of an era. I’ve been to just three games at the Emirates although the fact I can see all games at work, both home and away, means I haven’t missed the experience of attending live games as much as I thought I would. As a man who works in football statistics [for Opta], people consider me an obsessive already and I probably still am. But what I consider to be my last truly obsessive moment came in the 2005-06 season.