RocktheCasbah introducing myself. It's been a long and winding road to get to this point, but I'll start at the very beginning. Which, for me were Saturday afternoons listening to my uncle and my grandad berate me for my affection for the Super Hoops of west London - why them? My best mate from primary school supported them.
Luckily for me, a move to different secondary schools separated us and with my uncle keeping up the pressure, if you can't beat them join them... And so, following QPR being hammered by Manchester United in an FA Cup Replay, I did. Before you judge me too harshly for that, my actual best mate Luke did something similar at the same time, but he chose Everton. This was January 1989.
So the 26th May that year wasn't "mine" to enjoy in the same way it was my uncle's, or my granddad's, or any of the several thousand Gooners present at Anfield. Nonetheless, enjoy it I did.
1991 was obviously a big year for Arsenal, cantering to the title despite the two point deduction and a very good Liverpool side. It was also a big year for me as I got to visit Highbury for the first time just four months on from Tony Adams lifting the First Division trophy.
The first sighting of the East Stand will stay with me forever. We stood in the corner of the North Bank, the sun shone and Arsenal scored 4 in the first half hour.
Days later, we signed the great love of my Arsenal supporting life, Ian Wright Wright Wright!!!
For some reason, we got a bit shit after that first season of Wright, though still managing three trophies and as I was finishing my A-Levels (badly) we signed Dennis fucking Bergkamp.
Despite my badly finished A Levels, I squeaked into Uni at Leeds and therefore had the misfortune to be 200 miles away whilst Arsène Wenger brought home two doubles.
The climax of the 2002 season would prove too much for me and the girl I had stayed in Leeds beyond my allotted four years to be with. Six weeks after the joy of Old Trafford (actually, I went back to London for the last two games of that season), she finished with me (I realised far too late, I'd been asking for it) and three months after that, after watching Arsenal batter Leeds 4-1 at Elland Rd, my mate Harry drove us both back down the M1.
That Leeds got to end our title defence the following May was personally devastating to me, though we got our own back in a big way one year later. I managed a few games in that year, mostly cup games with a couple of League fixtures thrown in. I was at the nerve shredding Champions League fixtures against Dinamo Kyiv when Ashley Cole scored in the last minute to keep us alive. I had, of course, by then also discovered the "other place".
Which was actually pretty good to me tbf, I got money for the writing Jonathan & Jinn encouraged me to do, which then encouraged further musings elsewhere. I also made a few friends, one of whom was kind enough to invite me to his wedding a few years back and we still get to games whenever we can - hello James! I think we'll be friends for life.
The Emirates era, whilst not as overtly successful as the last ten years at Highbury, has enabled me to get to many more games than I would have at Highbury and encouraged, I think, a different relationship with the club.
It's also enabled me to get my cousins Josh & James involved - in fact Josh and I are going to the Newcastle game on Tuesday. My uncle, so keen to indoctrinate me 30+ years ago, has had quite a relaxed attitude to actual match attendance. But I'm happy to play big brother to them, and am able to do so with two silver memberships at home (my partner Jo also holds one).
We were all so lucky to watch the 2014 Cup Final together, with my grandad and see Arsenal, after 9 finally get their hands on another trophy. Grandad died in Feb 17, just three months before we beat Chelsea to win our 14th.