This article first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of World Gaming magazine.
Terry is an English football expert. An excellent player himself in his youth he is now one of Asia’s top football gurus. World Gaming magazine recently cornered Terry in Manila where he now lives and here he recounts his love affair with the ‘Gunners’.
World famous club Arsenal was formed in 1886 and has been a source of pleasure for millions of fans over the years. It has also delivered its fair share of pain for diehard fans, but that is football. Embrace the good times when you can because the bad are just around the corner.
Arsenal is the love of my life; once you’ve chosen your team it’s a bit like marriage – for better or for worse. I started supporting Arsenal in the late ’60s when I was a young boy. This choice was a major bone of contention in our family as my Dad had West Ham blood running through his veins. But I had made my choice and a ‘Gunner’ I will be until the day I die.
Sometimes it’s hard to stand by your team when they have had a woeful day and Arsenal has had plenty! But like the great manager Bill Shankly once said, “football is not a matter of life or death, it’s far more important!”
The first manager I remember was Bertie Mee who, despite having only minimal coaching experience, led the club to Wembley in the League Cup Final of 1968. Unfortunately we were then beaten by third division Swindon and at this young age I took a humbling lesson in humiliation.
The following season was fantastic as we achieved the mythical double. The league was clinched with a 1-0 win at home against Spurs (the ‘old enemy’), which was followed by the victory against Liverpool in the FA Cup – the highlight was an extra time winner by Charlie George. Happy days!
Inevitably the good times came to an end and Arsenal had to endure years of mid-table mediocrity. It wasn’t until Don Howe and Terry Neel came on the scene that finally we resurrected our success. We reached FA Cup finals in three consecutive seasons, from 1978 to 1980. We lost in to Ipswich in 1978, beat Manchester United in 1979 and crashed back down to earth in 1980 when we lost to West Ham, and then lost the UEFA Cup Winners Cup final to Valencia on penalties.
The era of George Graham (from 1986 to 1995) put a collective smile of the faces of Arsenal fans. The Gunners took home six major trophies in eight years including the elusive League Championship and the 1992-93 season was monumental when Arsenal made history by becoming the first club ever to win the FA Cup and League Cup double.
Transition and turbulence followed from 1995 to 1997 when Bruce Rioch became the manager. His claim to fame was the signing of Dennis Bergkamp, a footballing genius. Rioch was inexplicably sacked after he fell out with the board of directors and Frenchman Arsène Wenger succeeded him. At the time we were uncertain of what Wenger had to offer the club, but this move turned out to kick off some of the happiest days of my life.
Wenger signed the majestic Patrick Vieira and even though we finished third in the league in the 1997-1998 season better days were just around the corner. There was real optimism that we were on the verge of something special. The introduction of Henry, Pirès and Ljungberg made us a world class side and it was a pleasure to get up in the morning. We won the unprecedented double for the second time but even brighter days were ahead.
The 2003-2004 season heralded what may now be viewed as one of the greatest from any football club in the history of the game. What a year! Arsenal went through the season unbeaten in 38 games. This kind of success is every supporter’s dream and I treasured it sincerely knowing it would probably never happen again.
In recent times, the vat has run dry and even though we remain near the top of the Premiership ladder and get to play in Europe, we have been in the shadow of Manchester United and Chelsea. We have also been crippled with injury and can only hope that van Persie and Fabregas can get back onto the field and lead the team to a revival in the second part of this current season.
The one thing that I truly believe is that Arsenal is still the best EPL team to watch and hopefully we will find our rightful place again on top of world football where the ‘Gunners’ belong.