Arsenal literary icon Nick Hornby: I never worried about Tony Adams and Paul Merson being snapped up by Real Madrid and Barcelona back then

PUBLISHED: 17:52 16 November 2017 | UPDATED: 18:13 16 November 2017

Nick Hornby at the premier of 89 The Film

Nick Hornby at the premier of 89 The Film


The much-loved Arsenal literary icon Nick Hornby has been speaking with the Islington Gazette ahead of the North London derby.

The Class of 89. Credit 89 The Fiilm The Class of 89. Credit 89 The Fiilm

Passionate long-term season ticket holder Hornby – who has watched the Gunners in 12 Cup Finals – is the author of a number of best-selling books including A Long Way Down, How to Be Good, High Fidelity, and About a Boy, all written after his seminal memoir Fever Pitch.

Hornby is also a successful screenwriter with a number of his books being adapted for films, television and the stage.

The music-lover has also had published the superb 31 Songs – a collection of 26 essays on tunes which resonate with him, including a piece on Bruce Sprinsteen’s Thunder Road.

But it is perhaps Arsenal Football Club which still holds his attention more than most passions in his life, drawing him back to his beloved Highbury, then the Emirates, every other week.

Nick Hornby at the premier of 89 The Film Nick Hornby at the premier of 89 The Film

Having penned the immortal lines “I fell in love with football as i was later to fall in love with women – suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically, giving no thought to the pain or disruption it would bring”, it was no wonder Hornby was present at the premier of 89 The Film at the Odeon Holloway, where he talked all things Arsenal.

When asked if the 89 side was a ‘Remembrance Of Things Past’ and things lost he replied: “Yes, I that connection fans had with the team that will never come back again.

“Because professional sport has changed so much.

“You know whoever you’re watching you know they’re basically on loan and they could be gone by the end of the year.

Fever Pitch the book Fever Pitch the book

“But I never really worried about that with all due respect to the players back then.

“I never really worried about the likes of Tony Adams and Paul Merson going to Real Madrid or Barcelona back then.

“That was because they were Arsenal players. They felt like ours.

“And so to pull off something like that in those circumstances – nothing will ever mean as much again in football.”

Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch - the film Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch - the film

Not even beating Spurs?

For a man who once wrote ‘Spurs fans had a smug air of ersatz sophistication’ and ‘Arsenal have played the space-age version of the football Spurs aspired to’ does Arsenal mean as much to him these days?

Standing on the red carpet, in the maelstrom of a world premier, Hornby thought for a moment before replying: “I never miss a game. My kids go with me. But it’s hard to feel as much about modern professional football I think.”

As both camps gear up for another round of their bitter rivalry on Saturday, with many again questioning whether the balance of power in North London has shifted, with the majority of fans unhappy with the current regime, Hornby turned to happier memories.

Lee Dixon has been working on 89 The Film out on DVD and cinemas later this month Lee Dixon has been working on 89 The Film out on DVD and cinemas later this month

For the days when Arsenal were kings of London – and England – and the club and fanbase was united on and off the pitch under ‘Glorious George’ Graham and his class of 89.

Hornby – who appears in the stunning documentary chronicling that tumultuous season – said of the never-to-be-forgotten victory over the mighty Liverpool at Anfield on May, 26, 1989: “It never gets old does it?

“I think it’s wonderful that Amy [Lawrence] has put this together.

“It’s a wonderful subject for a documentary. I made a short interview for the film and I was talking to Lee Dixon about it and everyone has their own memories about it.

A selection of Nick Hornby's bestsellers A selection of Nick Hornby's bestsellers

“Given how many times we’ve seen that goal I think it’s amazing to see it put in context.”

For every Gooner Michael Thomas’ last-gasp goal against Liverpool to win the league at fortress Anfield is simply the most gripping finish to a league season there has ever been.

As Lee Dixon told this correspondent: ‘You can stuff Manchester City’s finish against QPR.”

The sage Hornby agrees.

Arsenal literary legend Nick Hornby with Layth Yousif as Lee Dixon looks on Arsenal literary legend Nick Hornby with Layth Yousif as Lee Dixon looks on

“People talk about Manchester City against QPR – but didn’t QPR go down that year?

“So Manchester City were at home to a team that was going down.

“It was an amazing moment but it was relief as much as anything for them – it was something they should have done. They should have won 4-0 or 5-0.

“It’s different from going to places that are a fortress.

“But it was a news story when Arsenal won at Anfield.

“They never lost at home. To go there and win by more than one goal I don’t think you can compare the two.”

That immortal win over Liverpool was simply magical. As is every victory over Arsenal’s noisy neighbours from N17 for Gooners everywhere.

But whatever the result on Saturday Arsenal will always be Hornby’s team, for better or worse, forever.

As he wrote in Fever Pitch: “Loyalty, at least in football terms, was not a moral choice like bravery or kindness. It was more like a wart or a hump, something you were stuck with.”

89 The Film is out now.

Nick Hornby is the author of many books including the seminal Fever Pitch.

Latest Islington Sports News

Yesterday, 18:27

An unbeaten half-century from James Harris saw visitors Middlesex complete an outstanding recovery to beat Leicestershire by one wicket in a marvellously tense finish to their Specsavers Division Two county championship match at the Fischer County Ground, Grace Road.

Yesterday, 17:28

Belgium and Tunisia have met on three previous occasions in all competitions, with a win apiece and a draw. The encounters have been tight affairs, with victories decided by one-goal margins, but today’s match didn’t follow the same trend.

Yesterday, 12:00

Gareth Southgate’s promising young England side look ready to make a mark on the world stage and help atone for the disappointments of recent tournaments.

The temperature nudged the mercury towards nearly 30c as the man sat down on a bench, sited between Grace Road’s evocative pavilion and the sight screen.

Middlesex ended day three of their County Championship match at Grace Road on 82-3, 299 runs adrift with only seven wickets remaining.

Fri, 17:00

A day before the fun day, Highgate will take on Finchley at Shepherds Cot in the Middlesex County League Premier Division

Fri, 16:33

Brazil and Costa Rica were winless in their opening matches at the World Cup and were both hoping for their first victory of the tournament at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

Middlesex bowled Leicestershire out for 186 in their second innings on a baking hot afternoon at Grace Road, to leave the visitors facing a challenging target of 381 to win.


Fostering older teenagers means giving them the skills for life as an adult. Here, a supportive lodgings carer with Islington Council and young adult who has left care share their stories

Newsletter Sign Up

Islington Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read sport

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now