Anfield ‘89 – Arsenal fans recall the journey to Liverpool 30 years on
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
30 years ago today, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 on the final day of the season to win the First Division title at Anfield thanks to late Michael Thomas goal. Now, five Arsenal fans who were there that night have recalled their memories from the day. Read on for part one as they remember travelling up to Merseyside
When I am asked about the best day of my life and I answer May 26, 1989. The usual response is 'What about the birth of your kids?' Seeing them for the first time was my best moment, but my best day was spent in Liverpool.
Some of the day I remember like yesterday, other bits I still cannot recall 30 years later, such as leaving the ground. I have no recollection whatsoever of leaving Anfield.
As a 12-year-old girl, I travelled to the game with my dad, and brothers Tim and Kevin who were 16 and 17 at the time. There were other Guildford Gooners en route. We were a bunch of people who met on the train on our way to The Arsenal at different times. All walks of life, all different, all thrown together and united by out love for the club.
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In 1989, not many young girls followed their team home and away. I was in a minority, but it never seemed strange to me. It was my job and just what I did. The Arsenal have always been my first love.
1988/89 was my first proper season of following us all over the country. My Mum refused to write any more letters to the school asking for me to be excused at midday for yet another 'dentist' appointment. In the end my teacher would just say 'Good luck in Sheffield tonight'. So my Dad took over this job and wrote 'Joanne won't be in school tomorrow as she has a very important football match to attend'.
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My Dad had an old orange maxi, maximum speed was probably 55mph. We always left early, we still do to this day, so we didn't hit the traffic jams that so many got stuck in.
The journey up there flew by. There was a Scouser in a truck who returned the abuse we gave him each time, and we took it in turns to slowly overtake one another for about 100 miles. Shame we didn't see him after.
After the disappointing results against Derby and Wimbledon it felt like it was all over. We sang 'We'll support you evermore'. The dream was over.But that Friday morning, a warm sunny day, it all changed. I knew we would win.
The day started at noon when I picked up Gary outside Arsenal tube station. We drove back to my manor, Burnt Oak, to pick up Eddie, Dom and Eric. The rest of the lads had taken a mini-bus early in the morning as they were staying in Blackpool for the weekend.
People at the station knew where we were going. Arsenal had huge support in Burnt Oak as many residents had been moved out of North London when the estate was built in the 30s, and waved us off is if we were off to war.
Although Liverpool's record at home was outrageous, I had this feeling we could do it.
The journey was uneventful until we hit the M6. The traffic jam is passed into folklore. It was as if all vehicles were heading to Merseyside.
As we sat there, not moving, I glanced across to the motor next to us. A blue Ford Granada Scorpio. Sitting in the back was a lad known by all of us as he used to organise coaches to away games. Next to him was John Radford, and sitting in the front was Michael Watson who had recently beaten Nigel Benn at Finsbury Park. Also in the car was Michael's manager.
We wound down the window and chatted to our mate about how we could get out of this jam. We pulled into Corley service station, and at that moment I knew we would do it. I had a sign. Radford was in the motor behind and the van in front had Kennedy written across the back.
I spoke to John Radford, he was on his way to Anfield to co-commentate for Capital Gold. We later found it he hadn't made it in time for the radio. We were still none the wiser about how we could beat the jam but then a lorry driver said to follow him.
I have no idea what route we took. We drove past the Kop with windows open and Eddie standing through the sunroof like a tank commander with Ride of the Valkyries blaring out from the stereo. The locals just parted like the Red Sea.
We parked up two streets away from Anfield at 8.05pm. Thankfully the game had been put back 10 minutess so we arrived for kick-off. We were fortunate, unlike many. The Arsenal end was half empty due to the jam.
I have been a season ticket holder for 43 years, but the 1988/89 season will live long in the memory, with the tragic events at Hillsborough and the excitement of watching a George Graham side challenging for the title which we had not won for 18 years.
I stood on the Clock End at the Newcastle game with my friend feeding me back with updates from Hillsborough and was hard to comprehend how this could be happening at a football match. It wasn't until later that evening when we gathered round a TV in a pub near Waterloo Station that the full magnitude struck home.
I had my match ticket and travel club train booked for Liverpool away, however due to the sad events the game had be postponed and put back to the end of the season as Anfield was being used as a memorial for the floral tributes to the 96. It seemed at the time that football was secondary.
Now when the match date for that Friday night in May was announced I made arrangements for my friend, Cabbage and me to drive up to Euston from Bournemouth and catch the travel club train to Anfield. We agreed that I would pick him up outside the Gander and The Green pub in Bournemouth.
However, after Liverpool smashing West Ham at home upon leaving a night club in Bournemouth, I thought our chance of the league title had gone. The next day when I called Cabbage to make final arrangements for Friday, I was astonished to learn he had ripped up his ticket.
Working at a shop fitting company in Bournemouth as a bench joiner, my foreman would not permit me to leave early on the Friday to travel up to the game. The lads in the factory were all egging me on to go and I decided I could not miss this match. As I made my way to the clocking out machine I could hear the deafening wolf whistles and the Match of the Day tune ringing out of the factory.
I got up to Euston and parked under the station car park and boarded the travel club train to Anfield. Whilst I knew this was an impossible task, I just felt I had to be there to show my appreciation to the team for this magnificent season. I also had Arsenal at 10/1 and 16/1 to win the league at the start of the season following a brilliant Makita Cup performance at Wembley.
Two of us as often headed up from south west London to Stevenage as we had done on many northern away games that season. This was different though.
We drove up on the Thursday just 24 hours after listening on the radio to Liverpool beat West Ham, relegating them and almost win the title that night.
The talk Thursday night was that we've had a great season and with our away record you just never knew. Also, playing them off the park earlier in the season despite only drawing was mentioned as two car loads left Stevenage mid-morning, more in hope than expectation.
As the clock ticked away and each mile the traffic got heavier we became more confident. This was before social media, but the advantage of huge tailbacks of Bank Holiday traffic meant the lads could get out the car enjoy the weather and the beers crated in the back of our cars.
We even got chatting to some Scouse lads and as the afternoon flew past realisation set in we may be late. After an illegal and embarrassingly quick manoeuvre down the hard shoulder for a mile we exited in trail of the Scousers who knew a short cut via the Mersey.
It worked a treat and we got there around ten minutes before kick off. There was just the small matter of getting one ticket for one of the lads and as I heard talk of a spare going. We collared it and entered the ground as kick off was delayed by 15 minutes.
The journey was a nightmare as the game was on the Friday before bank holiday.
We left at midday and did not reach Anfield till half- time! We were lucky to do that as funnily enough and looking back, yes, we were confident we would do the impossible.
It was just a feeling nothing more though.