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Supporting The Arsenal isn’t what it used to be for old school Gooners

PUBLISHED: 13:35 18 July 2017 | UPDATED: 08:46 19 July 2017

OpAa 2017: An Arsenal matchday booze-up. Picture: Lee Goodwright/OpAa

OpAa 2017: An Arsenal matchday booze-up. Picture: Lee Goodwright/OpAa

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An annual Arsenal photo exhibition transported old-school Gooners back to life before the Emirates. The Gazette caught up with organiser John Clubb, and features some of the best photos from years gone by.

OpAa 2017: Organisers outside Piebury Corner in Holloway Road on Friday. From left: Paul Campbell, Stephen Conroy, John Hilditch, Dan McCarthy and John Clubb. Picture: Polly HancockOpAa 2017: Organisers outside Piebury Corner in Holloway Road on Friday. From left: Paul Campbell, Stephen Conroy, John Hilditch, Dan McCarthy and John Clubb. Picture: Polly Hancock

Supporting The Arsenal isn’t what it used to be.

The world class Emirates Stadium, built in 2006, came at a cost to old school Gooners.

Like fans of other clubs, they have footed the bill for modernisation with rocketing ticket prices. But the cost is more than just financial.

Compared with the Highbury days, their matchday experience will never be the same again.

OpAa 2017: Arsenal parading the League Cup around Highbury Stadium in 1987. Picture: Lee Goodwright/OpAaOpAa 2017: Arsenal parading the League Cup around Highbury Stadium in 1987. Picture: Lee Goodwright/OpAa

That sense of loss, and longing, is what the Operation Arsenal Art (OpAa) team wanted to capture with its fourth annual exhibition on Friday night.

Held at Piebury Corner, a matchday hangout in Holloway Road, the fan-submitted photos were largely from the pre-mobile phone (and therefore pre-Emirates) era.

John Clubb, one of the OpAa organisers, said: “We have a following of fans in their 30s, 40s and 50s so the pictures had a touch of nostalgia. It was a celebration of old school Arsenal.

“I’m from the generation where Highbury was home. People would define themselves as a Clock Ender or North Banker. The new Emirates Stadium is lovely, but it doesn’t feel special.

OpAa 2017: Highbury Stadium in the early 2000s. Picture: Lee Goodwright/OpAaOpAa 2017: Highbury Stadium in the early 2000s. Picture: Lee Goodwright/OpAa

“In terms of the general football experience, some elements are better nowadays, but from a personal perspective I look back to when you would ring up your mates on a Saturday morning and ask: ‘You going to The Arsenal today?’ There was no booking tickets. You’d turn up. For one game there might have been four of you, but there could be 15 at the next.

“My first season ticket was in 1984. That cost me £85 [equivalent of £250 today, according to the Bank of England inflation calculator]. Today, I pay £1,200 at the Emirates.

“Within the ground, that creates a different type of fan. There are lots of tourists, and the Emirates often has a bad atmosphere. It’s become sanitised, and in some ways that’s not exactly a bad thing. But following The Arsenal has changed.”

He added: “A lot of us aren’t into this Arsenal Fan TV [the YouTube channel famous for interviewing angry supporters outside the ground] wannabe celebrity stuff. People can do what they like, but there seems to be a hell of a lot of fans using the club to further their own agenda.”

OpAa 2017: Mark Higgins with Ian Wright in Copenhagen in 1994. Picture: Mark Higgins/OpAaOpAa 2017: Mark Higgins with Ian Wright in Copenhagen in 1994. Picture: Mark Higgins/OpAa

The exhibition at the famous Gooners pie shop in Holloway Road, attended by about 100 fans, raised £600 for the Willow Foundation and Emily Ash Trust.


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