In The Away End: Arsenal v Leeds, 1977

From The Gooner, issue 114, September 2001:

I got my love of Arsenal from my dad, a lifelong supporter himself. My younger brother was also brought up correctly, but my sister, two years older than me, decided she had to be different. As soon as I was into football in a big way she looked around for another club to support and chose Leeds. I think Leeds beating Arsenal in the 1972 Cup Final probably clinched it – how better to annoy your brother than support the team that his lot have just lost to?

At the time, Leeds were enjoying the era of Revie, Bremner, Giles, Hunter and the rest, while we were fading after the glory of the 1971 double. For the rest of the 1970s, Arsenal v Leeds became the fixture of the season as far as we concerned, though we only managed to see one such encounter in the flesh.

For geographical reasons visits to Highbury in those days were like Darren Anderton appearances: one or two a year, and you were lucky if the result was worth it. Back then my dad normally planned trips to Highbury so far in advance that if seat numbers were allocated consecutively we’d have been pretty sure of getting 1, 2 and 3.

However, on this occasion he decided that we would turn up on the day and see what was available. Big mistake. We arrived in good time, but the streets were thronged and the queue for the North Bank went past the corner of Avenell Road. But having made the 150 mile journey, we weren’t going to leave unsatisfied. It soon became clear that there was no chance of getting into the North Bank, the queue for the home section of the Clock End was just as bad, and getting three seats together would be impossible. There was only one option left.

So it was we ended up in the away supporters corner, crammed among 5,000 Yorkshiremen who had just spent five hours drinking their way down the M1. The atmosphere was rather intimidating, and my Arsenal scarf remained firmly pushed into my pocket.

Being only aged 12 and 10, my sister and I then had the problem of how to see anything from our position at the top of the terrace. Dad spent most of the game heroically hoisting us up in turn so we could watch a bit of the match, while the one who was left at ground level had to make do with occasional glimpses of green as those around us surged one way then the other.

I don’t honestly remember much about the game itself, except not being able to celebrate when Malcolm MacDonald scored, and the way we got pushed down the terrace whenever a corner was taken at the clock end. Perhaps fortunately under the circumstances Leeds scored too, so the Yorkshire contingent were happy enough and any hooligan danger was tempered. Relative peace also reigned in our house, and we made sure to book tickets in advance after that.

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