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Arsenal fans rally for charitable cause to leave loyal John Clubb humbled after losing his much-loved mum

PUBLISHED: 18:00 29 June 2018 | UPDATED: 18:00 29 June 2018

John Clubb's mum Iris on a tour of Highbury

John Clubb's mum Iris on a tour of Highbury

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Arsenal fans have rallied round to leave loyal John Clubb ‘humbled’ after the loss of his much-loved mother, Iris. Read on for his moving tribute to her.

John Clubb with his much-loved mum Iris and sister DebbieJohn Clubb with his much-loved mum Iris and sister Debbie

Mum was 76 on May 1 this year and passed away 24 days later from pulmonary fibrosis at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich.

She was born into a working class area in South East London around Bermondsey.

I became a fan because my grandfather on my dad’s side used to watch The Arsenal in the 1930s as a young man. He used to regale me with tales of those great sides – but I was also a fan because we were close friends with Maureen Vaessen and her son Paul, the former Arsenal player.

Paul wasn’t a blood relative but our two families were very close.

John Clubb's much-loved mum IrisJohn Clubb's much-loved mum Iris

When he sadly passed away – and before he died too – I know mum was a great support to Maureen in her time of grief.

I suppose you could say Arsenal really came into her life when I started going to Highbury as a kid.

She knew if family events and arrangements were on a matchday that I wouldn’t be going because she knew how important The Arsenal was to me.

I always went home and away – still do even now to a certain extent – but I remember we played Manchester United at Old Trafford during the 1994-95 season.

The East Stand. Highbury. North London. PAThe East Stand. Highbury. North London. PA

I didn’t want to go as my nan – my dad’s mum – had died that morning. I felt it would be disrespectful if I went to the game – but mum knew how much it meant to me so she told me to go as that’s what nan would have wanted. We lost 3-0 but that’s how much she knew how much the club meant to me, and always understood.

She knew whether I would be in a good or bad mood depending on the outcome of a match.

When Chelsea got promoted to the old Division One in 1984 and we played them on the first day of the season at Highbury I really wanted to go – but it was one of the rare times mum didn’t want me to.

Back then hooliganism was still about and everyone knew Chelsea would take thousands to the Clock End.

The gates of the North Bank, locked for the very last time, after the Wigan Athletic game in May 2006. PAThe gates of the North Bank, locked for the very last time, after the Wigan Athletic game in May 2006. PA

Well, I was determined to go. And I did.

But I didn’t admit that to her for about 20 years afterwards. Eventually I confessed to her. She looked at me and told me she knew I’d gone all along.

Mum loved to laugh – and boy did we laugh a lot together.

That was the beautiful thing about mum, she had a wonderfully happy disposition which naturally endeared her to people – if you met her you liked her, you liked her a lot.

Freddie Ljungberg of Arsenal fires in his shot past Wes Brown of Manchester United that set Sylvain Wiltord up to score to win the Premier League in 2002. PAFreddie Ljungberg of Arsenal fires in his shot past Wes Brown of Manchester United that set Sylvain Wiltord up to score to win the Premier League in 2002. PA

If mum wasn’t laughing she was smiling and if she wasn’t smiling then you knew you were in trouble because her glass was always way past half full so it didn’t take much for her smile to appear.

Mum was also a real life ‘agony aunt’ – if you had a problem you went to her and in one way or another she would help you solve it.

I can safely say that there isn’t one person in the immediate family who hasn’t benefitted from her wisdom at one time or another.

She would always watch The Arsenal on the telly and always knew the results.

Freddie Ljungberg celebrates the strike by Sylvain Wiltord that won Arsenal the Premier League at Old Trafford against Manchester United in 2002. PAFreddie Ljungberg celebrates the strike by Sylvain Wiltord that won Arsenal the Premier League at Old Trafford against Manchester United in 2002. PA

She didn’t go to many games but I did take her to Highbury for Tony Adams’ first testimonial in 1994 against CrystalPalace.

For some reason there weren’t many people there, which is ironic considering how much of a legend he was – and is.

I remember she loved being at Highbury and the grandeur of the stadium. She was in awe of that grand old ground and the beauty of the East Stand.

I also took her to Martin Keown’s testimonial a few days after we won the league with the Invincibles side.

England captain David Beckham at Euro 2004, a few days after smiling at John Clubb's much-loved mum Iris before Martin Keown's testimonail at Highbury. PAEngland captain David Beckham at Euro 2004, a few days after smiling at John Clubb's much-loved mum Iris before Martin Keown's testimonail at Highbury. PA

She almost got knocked down my David Beckham.

We were walking along Avenell Road before the game when a car came past us and nearly hit her. It wasn’t going too fast but we looked inside the car only to see David Beckham driving it.

He acknowledged her and gave her a smile.

Mum turned to me with a cheeky grin and said: ‘David Beckham just smiled at me. If only I was 30 years younger.’

John Clubb's tweet in honour of his mum Iris. CREDIT @john_clubb TwitterJohn Clubb's tweet in honour of his mum Iris. CREDIT @john_clubb Twitter

She was also obsessed with Freddie Ljungberg.

Not particularly for his football though. ‘He’s a good-looking lad‘, she’d say with one of her smiles.

Before we sadly moved from Highbury to the Emirates I look her on a tour of the ground.

When we got into the Arsenal changing rooms she sat down where Freddie Ljungberg’s shirt was and made me laugh when she said: ‘To think, I’ve sat where that gorgeous Freddie has parked his bum’.

Fans watch Foo Fighters perform My Hero on The Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset in 2017. PAFans watch Foo Fighters perform My Hero on The Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset in 2017. PA

So many people would say to me mum was the ‘smiliest’, happiest, most selfless person they’d ever met.

We went through some tough times but she was always the centre point of our family. She concentrated on other people’s problems more than her own.

She would do whatever she could to help anyone.

Mum was still thinking of others even when she wasn’t in a good state.

I take great comfort that her last message to me was her telling me that she loved me – and she was of a generation which didn’t say that very often.

I felt numb at the hospital after she’d passed away because she was so important to the family.

No-one – and I mean no-one had a bad word to say about her. Which was testament to what a lovely person she was.

If you met her, you loved her – it was as simple as that.

I suppose it’s fitting in a way that the last piece of Arsenal news she ever found out about was Unai Emery being the new manager.

She used to say about Arsene Wenger towards the end of his time at the club: ‘Doesn’t he look old? He doesn’t look well.

‘Why doesn’t he just jack it in? He doesn’t need the hassle.’

When the Manchester City game comes around I will certainly be looking up to the heavens before kick-off at the Emirates in her honour.

One last memory.

One of her favourite songs was “My Hero” by the Foo Fighters.

I saw them the other week at the London Stadium and they sang it. It was an emotional moment but whenever I hear that song I think of mum.

A short while before she died I visited her in hospital. She didn’t look well.

She said to me: ‘John, why would I want to live in this world and be like this?’

She was proud of part I played in OpAa [a highly-acclaimed photographic exhibition with pictures of Arsenal fans].

She was proud that we raised money for charity on the back of it.

We’re having a bit of an OpAa fundraiser at Piebury Corner on Holloway Road on Friday, July 13.

We’ll be selling flogging various bits and bobs and have a bucket or two for donations of loose change to hopefully raise a few quid for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust.

It makes me proud and humbled the ‘Arsenal family’ has rallied round already.

My niece is doing a run on Sunday, July 15 to raise money for the charity, and through the generosity of Arsenal fans and others she’s already raised more than £1,500.

I know mum would be happy that we’ve managed to raise a bit for charity.

Night-night mum, god bless and have the sweetest of dreams.

We’ll love and miss you always, but will feel your presence and guidance in everything we do.

John Clubb.

Follow the Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust on Twitter @PFTrust.

If you would like to sponsor John’s niece Clare in the Fun Colour Rush in Peterborough on Sunday, July 15 visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/clarethompson85

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