A lasting legacy

By GoonerGirl (BB)

Supporting Arsenal through the good and the bad

When I last wrote for The Gooner, my dad was very ill in hospital. My article, ‘When the going gets tough’, was published on 11 April, and sadly, by the end of April, the going got even tougher as my father passed away. Writing my tribute for his funeral, I only managed to pen three paragraphs before Dad’s love of Arsenal made an appearance, and, on reading it to the assembled congregation, it was a passage that made me smile through my immense sadness.

Anfield 89 – The highlight of many an Arsenal fan’s life

Dad’s love affair with Arsenal was everywhere in my childhood, and will remain with me forever, through the good and the bad (not too much bad, please!). From mimicking Morecambe and Wise’s Aaaaaarsenal catchphrase, to having Sports Report blaring from the radio every Saturday afternoon and Match of the Day being essential TV viewing, whatever Arsenal were doing, Dad knew about it, and so did the rest of our family as a result.

Given that my father was a Norfolk man born and bred, people naturally assumed that he was always a Canaries fan, but Dad’s heart belonged to Arsenal. Born in 1927, he would have been heavily influenced by the success Arsenal enjoyed in the 1930s (five league titles and two FA Cups), and I suspect that is where his passion for The Arsenal began.

Dad frequently told us about how he had been a pretty decent footballer as a youngster (well all the best dads are, aren’t they?) and how he had wanted to pursue it professionally. Norwich apparently offered him a trial, but he only had eyes for Arsenal. He tried and failed to get a foot in the door at Highbury, but his love for the Gunners never deserted him, and given that he was lucky enough to grow up during Arsenal’s most trophy-laden decade, watching greats like Cliff Bastin and Alex James plying their trade in the red and white, it is no surprise that he stuck with the Gunners.

Dad would talk wistfully of the '70-'71 League and Cup double and the classic 1979 FA Cup win, back in the days when men were men and footballers were tough, uncompromising and far more honest than their modern day equivalents, but some things remain as true today as they were then. Dad spoke glowingly about players like Liam Brady and Charlie George, the stars of their time, and, for myself, I have been equally in awe of Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry.

When I was growing up, Arsenal were very much George Graham’s team, and it was our famous back-four and ‘One nil to the Arsenal’ that dominated the Gooner landscape. Dad had huge respect for Graham’s reputation as a disciplinarian, perhaps echoing his own methods of parenting, and watching football in those formative years gave me the impression that it was actually very difficult to score against Arsenal – oh what we would all give for those days to return! I was texting fellow Gooners on the final Sunday of the Premier League season, and pleading that we wouldn’t concede any more goals after West Brom had gone 2-1 up. How times change eh?

1989 and THAT game against Liverpool was the moment when I realised just how much Arsenal meant to my dad. The agony and ecstasy of that famous night at Anfield had him in raptures long after the final whistle. It was quite possibly the highlight of his life as an Arsenal supporter, and, to be honest, if you never experienced another night quite like that, you could die happy knowing that you had been part of such an incredible experience.

Sadly Dad never took me to Highbury; when I was a child, he didn’t think it was really the right environment for his youngest daughter, and so that job eventually fell to my mum, after profuse nagging, as Dad’s dementia kicked in some 19+ years ago, and he began living in a bygone era (albeit one where Arsenal were probably winning everything). Prior to that, Dad had taken me and my brother to watch the Gunners play a pre-season friendly against Aylesbury United, and his sheer delight at meeting George ‘Geordie’ Armstrong was palpable. It was at that moment that I realised just what a historically special club Arsenal are, and how the old guard have shaped the club over the years, a feeling that continues to this day with Pat Rice’s retirement being marked with such affection recently.

Dad’s lengthy illness meant I never really knew his views on Wenger, the French revolution, the two doubles, the Invincibles, moving to the new stadium, the superstars who have worn our shirt, and all the players we would rather had not signed on the dotted line during Arsène’s tenure. I think Dad would have been very sceptical, and arguably vehemently against the huge foreign invasion into English football (he never went abroad his whole life), and, although we wouldn’t necessarily have agreed on that, I know he would have been in total agreement with me that money really has become the root of all evil in modern football.

As witnessed at Eastlands on May 13th, it seems that the mighty dollar can buy more in football than just players, stadiums and merchandise, but what you will never be able to purchase is history and class, two things Arsenal have always had in abundance. Dad, like most fans of his generation, was a bit of a traditionalist, and in many ways that is perhaps why Arsenal were such a big draw for him. Our club has a reputation for doing things ‘properly’, the Arsenal way, and from the old Marble Halls and the late, great Herbert Chapman through to the Invincibles, there is and will always be something very special about Arsenal.

Your parents influence so many things about you as a person, and I am sure many fellow Gooners reading this will have joined the Arsenal family after being indoctrinated by their blood family from a young age. My dad leaves a wonderful legacy, not least that he passed his love of Arsenal onto his family. Some might argue that this is a double-edged sword; certainly the life of a Gooner is one of copious ups and downs and much malaise in-between, but my silver membership will always be a badge of honour for me.

There are many things in life you can choose, but for me my football team wasn’t one of them. With Dad gone, supporting Arsenal actually makes me feel closer to him, and since he is now in a place where he has a bit of influence, I have already been requesting that the Gods smile kindly on N5 - well it worked against West Brom (sort of!). Now we just need a decade of titles, triumphs, amazing football and clean sheets – I wish!

Follow me on Twitter@bethyb1886.

30th May 2012 09:00:00


Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

Shropshire Lad  11:35am 30th May 2012

Uplifting on a blog whose contributors are so often self opinionated and self promoting. Well played. Enjoyable read on a sunny summers day! - Post No. 25433

Ron  11:52am 30th May 2012

What a lovely article. Its so true how Dad s influence your choice of team. Sorry for your loss. The 1989 night was something very special, especially for those of us who were lucky to be there. As with your Dad, its the best result ever for me. None of the latter day achievements even get close and as for the 71 double team, they were true warriors. If Wenger genuinely knew anything about Arsenal culture (as he professes to know), he wouldnt ever allow an Arsenal team to wilt in the face of an opponent or 'bottle' big games as has become his and his teams trademark in recent years. Its not the lack of trophies that galls me, its what hes allowing Arsenal teams to become known for that concerns me greatly. Your comments about your Dad suggest to me he would have felt pretty much the saem way. - Post No. 25434

Anon E Mus  12:01pm 30th May 2012

Hey, very poignant. Lots of love. - Post No. 25435

ollyarsenal  12:27pm 30th May 2012

nice read,my mother died in march 1989 when i was 11 and i can honestly tell ya that the high i got from anfield in may really helped get by in them difficult days! - Post No. 25437

Brigham  12:32pm 30th May 2012

Nice article daughters are definately 'Daddy's girls', my youngest daughter certainly is. My Dad was a Lancastrian and a Blackpool fan, but he took me to Arsenal when I was 9, it was an evening game and we beat Wolves 3-1. I cannot remember the scorers that day, but the excitment I felt that evening was never forgotten and I could not wait to get back to Highbury again. Alas, that was to be longer than I thought as we moved out of London to Kent and Dad never took me again due to his work. I had to wait several years until my next Highbury venture, 1973 and I seem to remember it was a loss against Liverpool, two or three nil. My love for all things Arsenal will never diminish, nor will the love for my late Dad and his beloved Blackpool. I was gutted when they were relegated and also when they missed out in the play offs. - Post No. 25439

Tony Evans  12:32pm 30th May 2012

Very sorry to hear that your father passed away. My father was a Pompey man and my love for Arsenal came via my mum who was always keen for me to support Arsenal as a tribute to her brother who was killed in WW2 and was a huge fan of the club during the 30s. I am sure your dad would not have approved of the powder-puff team Wenger has assembled now (not many older Gooners like me are) and let's hope we see a return to the hard to beat mentality that we had in spades before Wenger lost the plot with regards to the art of defending. - Post No. 25440

win AFC  13:10pm 30th May 2012


danalovAFCXI  13:14pm 30th May 2012

My dad also passed from Vascular Dementia a very lengthy and horrible illness in the end their was nothing left of the man who I knew as a child, his death was a blessed relief for him and the rest of the family. Ironically when he was well he was a Spuds fan and my mother was a Gooner I took to supporting Arsenal just to annoy my dad even becoming a mascot oneday to finish the job. I have the greatest respect for my dad as he still took me to Highbury often which must have caused him great pain inside. So in a way Football bonded us together in albeit as a by partite thing. I am sorry for your loss. - Post No. 25443

Rocky RIP  13:38pm 30th May 2012

Sorry to hear about your Dad. You write very touchingly and it's good to read something where supporting a football club is so much more than purely and simply about winning trophies. Ofcourse we all hanker for them, but it's such a soulless attitude that modern fans think that is literally all that matters. (Yes you Hampshire Gooner.) You have proved that it's about people and kinship and bonds between fans and clubs. Supporting a team used to be about so much more than simply 3 points or silverware. The evils of money have changed the landscape, but we cannot let what's important be eroded. By the way, did you mention in a previous article about seeing a father with a little girl running behind struggling to keep up outside the ground? If so, you said it reminded you of you with your Dad. (Apologies if I've got the wrong author, which I may done. The author also lost her Dad recently and spoke proudly of him.) I only mention it because I took my daughter to that game mentioned in the article and she was struggling to keep up with me at one point. ie. there's a strong chance it was me and my littel girl you were mentioning. - Post No. 25446

Mike  13:47pm 30th May 2012

I know exactly how you feel - Post No. 25447

steve gorac  13:48pm 30th May 2012

what a beautiful piece. and what an incredibly strong person you are. hats off to you - and may your father rest in peace. - Post No. 25448

Sir Henry  13:52pm 30th May 2012

A very heartfelt read and a good one too! But I’m not sure that in 1979 men were men and footballers were tough though. Didn’t your Dad ever tell you about a CB called Willie Young? :-) - Post No. 25449

ScotchEggsRule  14:44pm 30th May 2012

Nicely written BB. - Post No. 25451

Bard  14:50pm 30th May 2012

My love for Arsenal came down through my father. I have fond memories standing of standing at the clock end on a sat afternoon. He always went on about Arsenal doing things the right way. Then as now I never understood what it meant. I presume it used to mean doing things honourably but I don't see that as part of the ethos now. Like a lot of football comment myth and reality are a long way apart. The club now is a different beast. I understand the roamance and the sense of belonging but the players see it differently,itks mostly money, money and more money. Good luck to them its a short career. The current demise at Arsenal has to do with the board and Wenger. The worry for me is loyalty can only be stretched so far. To my mind 2012/13 will be a defining season. More of the same and the club may get more than they bargained for. - Post No. 25452

Peter Wain  14:50pm 30th May 2012

This is very like the relationship I had with both my parents. Both ardent Arsenal fans would go any where to watch a game- any game reserves youth or first team. I am not sure that it mattered which team they watched only that it had to be Arsenal. Again both of my parents died before Wenger so I have no idea what they would have made of him or his stlye of play. My father always said that the best player he ever saw was Alex James and as he saw both Pele and Best at their peak I always envied him that experience. Also he watched the three league titles in the 1930s so again he was very fortunate. Thanks for this is was a great read and brought back many memories. - Post No. 25453

Bukkie, Lagos Nigeria  15:16pm 30th May 2012

Very touching. "Fanship" should be more about shared history, experiences, common passions and traditions. It helps Kinship, brings honour and bonding all woven together on the stream of time.I love Arsenal - Post No. 25454

maguiresbridge gooner  15:52pm 30th May 2012

We've all supported arsenal through good and bad some more than others the older generation (like your dad)would have had their share of bad as well and no matter how we moan we always will.We might not have had much to celebrate over the last seven or eight years but what we will always have is a club steeped in history all the way back to the marble halls and as you quite rightly say a history that is earned the right way not bought. - Post No. 25455

Mick Appleton  15:55pm 30th May 2012

I watched the game in 89 with my dad, I didn't even try to get a ticket, I wanted to be with the man who introduced me to the first real love of my life. He passed away in 2004 but I still miss him every day and especially when I watch us play and I often think I'll call dad about that and then remember he's gone. So glad he took me to the right club as despite several down periods in my 50 years as a fan I still love them as they are a great club who I hope will rediscover their bond with the fans so that we can go forward together. - Post No. 25456

gunner_ace  16:40pm 30th May 2012

A touching article. I never had a dad growing up but luckily I had a bezza mate called Luigi (yes really) who introducted me to the red n white drug. - Post No. 25457

Dan h  16:46pm 30th May 2012

Very nicely written & condolences to you & your family.I like many became an Arsenal fan because of my father.It's an article that brings back a memory of growing up that still brings a smile to my face regarding Arsenal.The 1979 cup final watching with my older brother & Dad he decided with a few minutes left he was off to have a quick shave as would be going out!He left the room at 2-0 within a couple of minutes 2-2.I as the younger brother was told 'you had better tell Dad'he asked if i was joking then swore & cut himself shaving!He came running back in the front room to see Sunderland score the winner & went mental.He himself died after a long illness just after we won the league in 1991 like your Dad he wouldn't like how modern football has become so money driven.Take care & he would be proud of such a well written tribute. - Post No. 25458

Judge Fred  16:54pm 30th May 2012

Nice article. My father took me to Highbury for my 6th birthday in 1971 (that was what I wanted, apparently) People come and go - all that we have left are the values that they have taught us and some precious memories if we are lucky. We have been an Arsenal family since 1945 and will be a lot longer through my children. For us, Arsenal is something you are born into, not something you become. - Post No. 25459

Ronster  18:29pm 30th May 2012

Refreshing piece.Thank God it wasn't ''Walcott charging through the midfield.......!'' - Post No. 25461

Rowan  18:32pm 30th May 2012

Lovely read, great stuff. - Post No. 25462

Chrisy boy  19:11pm 30th May 2012

Nice article gooner girl,, very sorry to here you lost your father. And yes we are different from other clubs we do have class which money cannot buy. On behalf of the Arsenal family I would like to wish you all the best for the future. Your dad is up in gooner heaven talking with my grandad about Arsenal x - Post No. 25464

ppp  19:12pm 30th May 2012

Really great article that I was absorbed by all the way through. Thanks! :) - Post No. 25465

mad max  19:21pm 30th May 2012

very touching story gooner girl,my mum is currently being ravaged with vascular dementia,hard to watch someone you love slowly falling apart.similary my late father took me to the arsenal for the first time back in the 60,s,it never leave,s you that first magical time, being a gooner is a way of life but for me something sinister has happened to this once great club,the move to the new souless stadium was the start of our decline, we were fooled into believing it would bring world class players to us,and competing with the likes of man u and chelski which we were already doing in my opinion.there,s not enough arsenal men inside the club and to many accountants including the mad frenchman.anyway thanks for a grea blog gg may your gooner dad r.i.p x - Post No. 25466

fozzy's mate  19:44pm 30th May 2012

GG - nice bit of nostalgia like your dad my dad and also the one of my brothers who is no longer a season ticket holder but in the 80s and 90s went with me home and away including that amazing night in 89 despises todays football. This brother says we may aswell sign our players and contracts including a performance based move to Man City. Unlike sky want us to believe football wasn't invented with the premier league. When eulogising over the citeh title victory they forgot Anfield and the fact that the top 2 slugged it out on the final day. My only complaint is that Arsenal has also lost some of its class as we slowly become an American corporation. But despite one of my brothers leaving the family business, my other brother, father in law and brother in law are still season ticket holders. We should all remember the fans are the club. - Post No. 25467

Mandy Dodd  23:25pm 30th May 2012

An inspiring article. Guess Arsenal comes to us in many ways, in supporting Arsenal, I went against most,of the family, but funny what a mistakenly bought shirt can do for a kid. Very sorry for your loss - Post No. 25469

Mark Rice  23:36pm 30th May 2012

Great post ... I never knew my father so in a way Arsenal is my family! can't wait to take my two boys when there old enough ... - Post No. 25470

Preston Gooner  23:38pm 30th May 2012

Sorry to read of your loss BB. It must be a comfort to have good memories of your Dad through a shared passion. Keep the faith, the good times will return, and I'm sure your Dad will be watching down and loving it as much as we will. Oddly, my Dad's love of Arsenal comes from me rather than the other way round. I had to force him to take me to games when I was a kid (he wasn't a fan of any club). Now he's an Arsenal nut. I took him for his first (and probably only) visit to the Grove in March for his 80th birthday, and he was like a little kid again. He must have felt like I did on my first visit to Highbury back in 1973. - Post No. 25471

Kevin  0:05am 31st May 2012

What a great article, about a great football supporter of a great team. My Uncle first took me to Highbury in 1956 and from that day I only supported one team THE ARSENAL.The greatest game I went with my Uncle was when we beat Manchester United with a goal from Alan Sunderland in the last minute sheer joy. My best night ever supporting the Gunners was when we won the Fairs Cup at Highbury, what joy after 17 years without success the only time I every went on the pitch. I am sure your dad will be looking at you when we next win a trophy and telling you to keep the faith with all that is THE ARSENAL. - Post No. 25472

QuartzGooner  0:30am 31st May 2012

Sorry for your loss, thanks for your article. - Post No. 25473

Joe S.  2:30am 31st May 2012

Wonderful stuff Gooner Girl. Your Dad would be proud. I also have indoctrinated most of my family to the Gooner legacy so that they judge my moods on a Sunday morming on whether or not Arsenal won and are willing to share in my disappointments or elation. - Post No. 25476

Khalid from Baku  9:32am 31st May 2012

Very geniune, honest and sensitive article. Thank you and up the gunners - Post No. 25477

Moda  10:21am 31st May 2012

Thanks for the gr8 memories... - Post No. 25478

GaryFootscrayAustralia  13:56pm 31st May 2012

This is brilliant. If The Gooner Survey had run a poll for Article Of The Year you'd be right up there. Bravo. - Post No. 25479

Fozzy  23:04pm 31st May 2012

Dear GoonerGirl, This is simply the best Online Gooner piece ever. I am so proud of you for painting so many vivid pictures with words. Trying to smile through the tears following the death of a loved one is very hard, but you have achieved. I will always remain in your debt because it was you, who despite still coming to terms with your loss, kept me up to date with repeated texts from the West Brom game as I was too nervous to emerge from behind the sofa until it was all over. There's a spare seat next to me at the back of Block 103 whenever you want. Well done everybody who have offered comments as you have all shown real class. - Post No. 25484

ESSEXGOONER  23:14pm 31st May 2012


Danny  1:31am 1st Jun 2012

i a sorry , i am sobbing here at this article. lets get tings straight, thi is a world of arabs,yanks and a stubborn frenchman, stuffing his pocketsa with money. good luck to chelesa and city or the united . they want to win at all cost. Our club want to kmilk the fans with past glorys and are motivated to win third place my ass. - Post No. 25486

parousia  11:00am 1st Jun 2012

Lovely read, and it made me quite emotional as it made think of my late father who died at 56 in 1999. He was a West Ham fan all his life but took me to Highbury when I was eight in 1978. We had always gone to see Leyton Orient (my brothers team), but once we took our seats in the west stand I immediately fell in love with the place. It is a love that I feel to this day and the present situation pains me greatly. Although my dad wasnt an Arsenal fan in quite the same way as me he always cheered them on and know that he too would be shaking his head at the present malaise. We are all be proud to love a team of wonderful tradition and class, and it with this knowledge that we know that we are better than what we have become. Arsenal are surely too big and too good to be second rate, and all those who cling to our failures and call them success then in the words of Bunk Moreland in The Wire...'It makes me sick m*****-f***** how far we done fell'. - Post No. 25493

goonercolesyboy  12:23pm 1st Jun 2012

Top post...I was living in America the night we won the league in 89 and my dad phoned me to tell me the news, my wife, who is American, wondered what all the commotion was about! So sorry for your loss... - Post No. 25502

Adrian Wagenaar  12:39pm 1st Jun 2012

Lovely article and from the heart. I had a pretty fiery relationship with my Father and then thankfully I grew up! The one thing that always kept us together was the hours we spent debating our beloved Arsenal. - Post No. 25504

kc  12:39pm 1st Jun 2012

Thanks for that. I wish there were more like-minded Gooners that value doing things the right way rather than just winning trophies. - Post No. 25505

Derby Gooner  13:48pm 1st Jun 2012

GoonerGirl (BB), thank you for your delightful contribution, I must say it all got a bit misty for me well before the end, but hey that was probably hay-fever! My dad introduced me to the Arsenal in the late 60’s and like your dad had the good fortune to experience the great Arsenal teams of the 30’s. Even though they meant nothing to me at the time, he would wax lyrical about David Jack, Bastin, et al, especially during the dark days when any form of success seemed to be so far away. Your article contained so many common reference points for me – the 1971 double and the win at WHL…he was memorably heard to say ‘up Revie!’ at the final whistle, which was as uncouth as he would allow himself to venture. How times change. However, without doubt Anfield ’89 was the high-point. Dad and I were a complete bag of nerves before, during and up to the final whistle…at which point we fell to the floor in an unashamed man-hug of delight. Dad was 74 in 1989, but fit, wiry and tough, so I wasn’t too worried, but my mum took a dim view of the hooligans cavorting like idiots. Talk about a dam-burst of dreams - all those years supporting a team that seemed to be going no-where, and then to be champions in such a fantastic and dramatic manner. My dad died in 2003, and today would have been his 97th birthday…I can imagine him now crying out for a Male, Hapgood, Copping and Roberts to shore up the colander that now seems to masquerade as our defence. He absolutely loved a late 1-0 win. We argued about it all the time – I remember saying ‘life’s too short for boring football’ and he would scoff and say it’s all about winning. On reflection that’s what I miss the most – the ability to argue and debate with him over something which crosses generations. Having a love of the Arsenal meant we had a common bond which forged us into mates as well as parent / child. He supported the Arsenal through thick and thin, and died in 2003 without seeing the invincibles – he would have been so very proud, as I have been to pass on the knowledge to the next generation of gooners, but now I take my late father’s stance and they are more tolerant of the current team’s apparent failings. Without doubt GoonerGirl (BB) you and your family have been through the mill coping with your dad’s illness. I wish you every good fortune and sincere condolences. Maybe in some feasting hall somewhere the Arsenal greats that your dad and mine supported and idolised have shuffled up and made space for the Norfolk boy recently arrived. Come on you Gunners! - Post No. 25511

CK Gooner  14:06pm 1st Jun 2012

Without doubt one of THE best articles ever to appear in either the fanzine or the website, at the moment we're probably all a little overly concerned about potential new signings and whether or not RvP will stay but your article shows perfectly the great things about our club, and let's be honest it is OUR club, always has been and always will be, long after RvP and anyone else decides to leave / stay / whatever! Players come and go but we remain! The quote associated with Rocky Rocastle sums it up best, "Remember who you are, what you are and who you represent"! Brilliant Article, Take Care!! - Post No. 25512

Nick  14:18pm 1st Jun 2012

Excellent read, struck many chords, rip to your dad and best wishes to you - Post No. 25513

JM - LONDON  21:36pm 1st Jun 2012

Brilliant!. My Dads from Scotland and first saw the Arsenal when he came to London looking for work in 1958. Odd thing was that he would watch Arsenal one week and Spurs the next (back in the days when one was home, the other was away). The 71 double winning team seemed to have cemented the Arsenal as his team though, he first took me in 1978 (3-0 against Citeh as I recall, Sammy Nelson on the wing!). These days I still get him there 10 times a season or so, Oh and he still loves Willy Young to this day, must be a Scottish thing!! - Post No. 25526

Fabrice  10:20am 2nd Jun 2012

Such a wonderful article, If supporting Arsenal makes you feel closer to your dad then that is not a loss, As long as that connection is there, your father will always be by your side. How wonderful is it to share the love of a club with your family especially with your dad, Im french and never knew those success Arsenal had in the past, my father was very much a fan of Wenger since his early days in Monaco so that support followed through to Arsenal when he joined. Arsenal are surely special with its history and tradition and through the years after 1996 I sometimes wish I supported this club earlier but I guess in the end of the day as long as you support your club through good and bad times, nothing else matters. - Post No. 25537

GoonerGirl (BB)  10:36am 5th Jun 2012

Thank you to everyone for your kind comments, so proud that my article touched so many of you. It's been a tough time, but I loved writing the article and the reaction to it has been amazing. Really enjoyed reading all your personal stories about your families and The Arsenal: they go to prove the point that the history of our club is what makes it so special. Keep the faith one and all & thank you again. - Post No. 25601

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

23rd February 2018

It Is Actually Getting Worse

Online Ed: Arsenal’s largely unmotivated players defeated at home