Football is not a matter of life or death, it is more important than that

Highbury

My field of dreams...

The old song goes “there’s no place like home” and my home always has been and always will be Highbury. Okay so I do fully understand why we had to move to Ashburton Grove, I can see the benefits, I can even see the beauty of the place, and the awe in which others hold it, but it never will be home, it never will be Highbury. Highbury was a place of wonder, of magic, class, it was somewhere that no matter who you were, which team you either played for, or supported, it was a special experience to come to Highbury.

Arsenal’s home from 1913 to 2006, 93 years of memories, of history and of achievement. Yes the old place also saw massive disappointment, great tragedy, tears and heartbreak, but all of those are forgotten due to the overwhelming dominance of success. And what makes Highbury so special was that for me, my greatest memory is not the football, not the hero’s I saw and loved, but the building itself. I can still close my eyes and walk around the old place, and see every detail.

I was lucky enough to play at Highbury more than once, I have been on the tours, walked in and around the place before “security” was ever put in place, I have been into the Directors box, the Board room, the managers office, the changing room, the showers, on the pitch, in the dugout, I have walked into and through the Marble halls, as just a fan of the Arsenal I have seen it all and maybe even a bit more than most.

As a fan I started my time at Highbury on the North Bank, years later moved to the Clock End, but for various reasons have watched Arsenal from just about every separate section of the old ground. Even today if you asked me I would always say that watching football is best done from the terraces, the surges, the noise, the banter, the unity, one voice, it is and always will be the best and truest way to support your team. And for me there was no where quite like the North Bank Highbury. It is a bit like your “first love syndrome”, it will always hold a special place in your affections.

When I was very young, I came over to England for a holiday, and the only place I wanted to see was Highbury, I remember getting to Highbury & Islington tube station, and walking from there. I will never forget turning a corner and seeing my first glimpse of the East Stand. The excitement, the buzz, and the sense of being in my sort of spiritual home swept over me, now all the years later, as I type this I can remember it still so clearly, it has just stuck deeply inside me. I remember the sunshine, the fact that everyone one I saw seemed to be smiling, and friendly. I remember thinking I could not wait for two days later when there would actually be a game on.   

One ever lasting memory of Highbury was being inside the place when it was empty, sitting in the lower East looking out at the pitch, the stands, the terraces, the place had this aura, and for me it was almost better when it was empty, when it was just me, the surrounds, the memories. I once sat there for over three hours, it was my special place, a sort of utopia, a place to reflect and to think, to dream and create my future aspirations. I love Highbury.

 

© 2008 Paul Kavanagh. All rights reserved.