The Long Good Invincible Friday

Renowned Arsenal author Darren Berry recalls one of the most momentous matches in the club's long and illustrious history

The Long Good Invincible Friday

The Long Good Invincible Friday: King Henry slots home to make it 4-2 vs Liverpool on Good Friday, April 9, 2004. CREDIT: OFFSIDE

The Long Good Invincible Friday

As football supporters, we experience many different emotions throughout the football season.

On Good Friday, April 9, 2004, we experienced them all in the space of 90 minutes.

For weeks, it had seemed a case of “when” we would be crowned Premiership champions. “If”, had barely come into the equation for a while now, even if we were too scared to say it aloud.

At half time in this game, I sat in the Clock End contemplating what had until now seemed unthinkable.

Here’s how that historic day went down for me, taken from my book – IS YOURS GOLD? THE ARSENAL INVINCIBLES 20th ANNIVERSARY……

“This was the day that I knew we were going to win the league.I’ve spoken recently about the belief growing the longer the season went on, as well as the natural human urge to play it down. Well, on this day we were treated to the full rollercoaster ride that is the life of the football supporter in the space of ninety minutes.

Less than a week ago, there had been the possibility of a treble on the cards.

(Not that many of us were thinking along those lines. That natural human urge was already working overtime trying to suppress thoughts of going the entire season unbeaten as it was!)

Come half-time on this Good Friday afternoon, we were out of the FA Cup and Champions League, 2-1 down at home to Liverpool and facing a worst-case scenario of seeing what had seemed an almost unassailable lead a week ago reduced to a single point, albeit with a game in hand.

Chelsea had beaten Tottenham the previous weekend while we were otherwise engaged in the FA Cup, leaving us looking over our shoulders more nervously than we had for months. If things stayed the same here and Chelsea won their game at home to ‘Boro the following day, then…. well, the squeak from our backsides would be deafening.

Instead, however, the following forty-five minutes - in my opinion – catapulted this team to immortality. I don’t think it’s over the top to suggest that this match  defined the Invincibles.

True champions find a way to triumph in the face of adversity.

As I’ve already said, the Invincibles not only played some of the best football I have witnessed in my lifetime, but they epitomised the term “mental strength”. They refused to be beaten. Literally.

Liverpool took the lead after just five minutes through Sami Hypia, after poor defending of a corner from us. The nerves were really kicking in now and you could really feel the sense of unease around Highbury. Pires put Henry in for the equaliser just after the half-hour mark, and you could honestly feel the relief around the stadium. Even watching the highlights back some twenty years later, you can feel it.

We were playing well too. This was now the most crucial match of our season. The relief then began to lead to belief. Big mistake. I’d let my guard down and convinced myself we were going to win this game and we were going to win the league. At 1-1. Idiot.

Sometimes you feel more nervous at 1-1 than at 1-0 down. This wasn’t one of those times.

When Michael Owen put the visitors ahead for the second time just three minutes from the break, though, it felt as if it would be one of those days.

One of those weeks, come to think of it. One of those weeks, in one of those months, in what was about to turn out to be one of those seasons.

I’d spent so long trying not to get carried away with the idea of going the entire season undefeated and / or winning the league that I had somehow, without realising it, managed to convince myself that it wasn’t going to happen….but, had I somehow thought this current situation into existence?

It wouldn’t be long before I would have to start questioning whether this collapse was actually all my fault.

Damn you, human nature, and damn my stupid human brain.

This may all sound dramatic, but it’s what was going through my mind sitting there in the Clock End at half-time, it felt like the end of the world was imminent.

This is why we all love football.

This is why we all love The Arsenal.

I don’t think there’s any sport in the world or any other club in the world that can make you feel so low that the highs are so dangerously high they feel as if they may kill you one day.

Maybe there is, but who cares anyway?

We didn’t have to wait long for the scores to be level again, as Pires capitalised on great work from Freddie.

2-2. Relief. Again.

This was slightly different to the first goal, though. I can’t quite explain it, but it felt as the relief and the belief hit at exactly the same moment.

A minute later came the moment that, for me and many others, Arsenal won the Premiership title, 2003-04.

One of my most memorable moments as an Arsenal supporter, and the runaway winner of Goal of the Invincible Season in my Twitter poll, with 55% of the votes.

It was only fitting that moment came courtesy of Thierry Henry.

After receiving the ball from Gilberto just inside the Liverpool half, Henry weaved his way through the Liverpool defence, leaving Jamie Carragher bamboozled (two bamboozlings in two games!) and flat on his backside in the process, and slotted home to put us in front for the first time in this match.

The explosion of noise inside Highbury was just incredible. I remember the exact moment the ball hit the net vividly to this day.

Relief didn’t even come into it. This was nothing but complete euphoria. The rush of adrenaline that only football can provide.

When Henry bundled home to complete his hat-trick, our reaction was much more than relief, or even belief, this time. This was the moment that, for the first time, we just knew we were going to win the league.

Nothing or nobody was going to stop us now. Not even ourselves.

A 12 o’clock kick-off on a Bank Holiday weekend meant that there was plenty of time to get “well oiled.” The sense of relief that had been tempered by the euphoria resurfaced as a few pints were sank in the Drayton Arms. I remember speaking to a few Liverpool fans, who were in good spirits despite the result.Hey, there’s no shame in being beaten by the Invincible-Champions-elect, right?

As it turned out, Chelsea drew with ‘Boro the following day, meaning we had actually increased our lead to six points ahead of our second game in three days, away at Newcastle, with Chelsea travelling to Villa on the same day.

All that worrying at half-time for nothing!”

What a ride that was!

If you want to relive this, and many other Invincible memories of my own and of Arsenal fans that were there, Is Yours Gold? The Arsenal Invincibles 20th Anniversary is available now through Legends Publishing, and you can get 20% off for a limited time.

Simply place your order using the code GOLD20 at checkout.

The book also includes a foreword by Ray Parlour & a FREE, EXCLUSIVE GOLD TROPHY BADGE while stocks last.





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