By Brian Marsh
I wasn’t there. I had the offer of a ticket from my pal Colin but because the game had been rearranged to the Friday night of the Whitsun bank holiday weekend, I couldn’t go.
The reason was that I had promised to take my long-suffering wife and two daughters on holiday to the Isle of Wight, to stay with friends for a week. It was the first proper break we had taken as a family since the girls were born, five years earlier. I just didn’t have the heart to disappoint them.
What made things worse was that, on the previous Saturday evening I had got drunk with a friend who managed to persuade me to take his boat down there with us. I had no trailer or roof-rack, so it was tied down over the roof of our little blue Escort. The car looked like a tortoise.
I listened to the game as best I could on the car radio. The match was on Radio 2 (this was before Five-live) which was fine until the M3 started to drop over the other side of the South Downs, when the reception just faded away. I switched over to my walkman, holding it as high as I could out of the driver’s window in a vain hope of picking up a better signal.
We parked on the quay at Portsmouth ferry terminal about 10 minutes before the end of the match. Being a holiday weekend, the dockside was packed with cars carrying families to the island. I remember it was a still and balmy evening, quiet. I was outside, leaning against the side of the car, listening to the radio through the open window. The signal here was much stronger, and I remember feeling a little bit guilty about having the car radio on so loud.
The minutes ticked by and the game moved into injury time. The commentators were nearly drowned out by the sound of the Scousers and their premature celebrations; but then that magic moment arrived – I heard them describing Thomas slipping the ball into the net, and all hell broke loose.
The peace of the dockside was shattered as I began beating on the upturned hull of the boat - it made a superb drum – then started running rings around the car, screaming and waving my arms in the air. This went on for 10 seconds or so (it seemed like hours to me). Then I stopped and looked around me at hundreds of pairs of curious eyes, all staring at me, with a mixture of pity, bemusement and downright disgust. A grown man?
When the final whistle went, the celebration started all over again and ended with me on my knees in the middle of the car park. Sheer joy.
I wish I had been able to go to Anfield for that game; but my antics that evening on Portsmouth quayside have gone down in family folklore. It’s one of my fondest and most vivid memories of following the Arsenal.
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