Highbury Miscellany

As detailed a history of the Gunners as you could ever read…Smith has created a fitting tribute to a stage that has produced live drama for nearly a century – Hampstead and Highgate Express

Highbury’s Greatest

So who do you think is Arsenal’s greatest player – that is someone who has played for Arsenal at Arsenal Stadium? For me there is only one choice. Many would probably disagree with me, but that the great think about opinion.

Like Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail – who selected his top five Premier League Players of all-time in late 2017 – the player is my choice because he revolutionised the way Arsenal played and were seen. After his arrival, ‘Boring, Boring Arsenal’ was an ironic chant. My choice is not Thierry Henry.

What? No, I’m not going to tell you here. Read the book!

I will tell you what I believe was Highbury’s Greatest Night. Here’s the copy from the book which is from the ‘Landmark Games’ chapter. This chapter covers defining Arsenal 29 games and includes headline topics such as ‘Greatest Save’, “All-Foreign Gunners’, and “Highbury’s Favourite Goal’. You can see a list of the games in the Contents List (see sidebar for link).

Arsenal Win the European Fairs Cup

28 April 1970: Arsenal 3 Anderlecht 0

This was the night Highbury erupted. These were the most amazing scenes ever at Highbury as Arsenal won the European Fairs Cup to end a frustrating spell of 17 years without a trophy. The celebrations continued for 25 minutes after the game as fans and players alike celebrated on what was Highbury’s greatest night.

Having lost 1–3 in Brussels in the first leg Arsenal needed at least a 2–0 win to secure the trophy on the away-goals rule. The Belgian side were destroyed by the Man of the Match, George Armstrong, who never stopped running and continued to create chances for the team.

The first goal was important and it came on 25 minutes when, following a cleared corner, Eddie Kelly took a pass from McLintock, transferred the ball from his left to his right foot and then hit a long-range effort high into the net. The visitors remained dangerous and when Nordahl’s shot hit the post it was a timely warning. With less than 20 minutes remaining and time ticking away, Graham slipped the ball wide on the left to the advancing McNab who crossed the ball deep into the penalty area. Racing in with arms spread either side of him, John Radford met the ball high above the defence and powered it down into the net. Radford then set off on his trademark air-punching run as he and Charlie George led the celebrations in front of the North Bank.

Almost from the restart, with the stadium still buzzing, Arsenal won the ball in midfield; Charlie George held it deep on the left before delivering the pass of the night. Sweeping the ball 50 yards or so across the pitch, he found Jon Sammels racing forward on the right, taking the ball and drilling it past Trappeniers. Three-nil, two goals in a minute and the Belgian side didn’t know what had hit them as the Highbury faithful willed the big clock round to 9.15 p.m.

The final whistle sparked unprecedented scenes of joy as supporters released years of pent-up frustration. Sadly for one supporter it was simply too much: 52-year-old Harry Tilbury collapsed and died of a heart attack during the game.

Pathe Hits

The first non-football game on record to be played at Highbury was baseball! On 17 May 1918, the US Army beat the US Navy 7-6 in a tri-team Anglo-American baseball tournament under the auspices of the London Baseball Association. The US Navy and Canadian Army sides used Highbury as their wartime base for these encounters.<
This is British Pathe footage from the encounter.

In 1921 there was a charity rugby match between England and Australia. England won 5-4 in front of a full house (also reported as a crown over 12,000). A short British Pathe video of the encounter is shown below.

Here is a British Pathe video showing Arsenal training in 1937.

Arsenal v Aston Villa 1934:

Some terrific views of the original Highbury configuration in a 1919 encounter with Newcastle United. Note as the camera pans around that the view is from the Highbury Hill side of the stadium, perhaps from one of the gardens, and before the West Stand was built. A couple of Bobbies patrol the space to ensure no one goes where they shouldn’t!

Arsenal v Spartak Moscow in 1954. A crowd of 66,000 under floodlights.