“Anfield 26th May 1989″ – A Gooner Girl’s story of the best day of her life!

 

I have had some super guest writers on my site of late and the common thread has been the passion, particularly from @yorkshiregunner and @MadRuskiGunner, Andy and Anna. I love reading passionate blogs and and the feedback strongly suggests that you do as well. The title of this blog has already told you the subject matter and given the place in the history of our great club of 26th May 1989 you will know the passion and emotion are guaranteed.

Amanda Schiavi, known to those on twitter as @Goonergirl1969 has followed the growth of ‘1nildown2oneup’ and a while back  asked me if she could write something when she felt ready and when she had thought of a subject. My response was instantly affirmative and I told her that the subject was in her twitter profile:

“Arsenal since I’ve been born, best night of my life was Anfield in May 1989 – Love life, most people and all Gooners!”

Amanda with a hugely receptive audience it is over to you……

No one gave him a chance but he did it like the tactical genius he was

Dave, thank you for asking me to write a piece on Anfield ’89.  As I’ve explained I’ve never written a piece before and if I was to ever write about our wonderful football club it would be about that season and that night…

I will just give you a bit of background about myself.  I’m 43 and married with a 9 year old boy and my other family are, of course, Arsenal Football Club.  This love affair has been going on since I’ve been born, thanks to my Dad, who I would say is the biggest Gooner on the planet, having impressed on me the importance of being a red.  Apparently, at the age of 3, I was citing the names of the double team of ’71 in front of friends and family.  When I went to Highbury in those days, I used to sit on my Dad’s lap and I took it all in, from a very early age.

Fast Forward over 35 years and here I am a season ticket holder at the Emirates, after leaving my beloved 2nd home, Highbury. It’s been a roller coaster of a love affair, sometimes I wonder how my life would have turned out, if, during my teenage years, I would have been shopping with friends, instead of travelling up the various motorways heading towards an away ground where the possibility of freezing and losing were always a reality.  I have to be honest if I had my time again, I wouldn’t change a bloody thing.  I feel blessed (maybe not always) to have Arsenal in my life.

Now let’s go on to the reason I am writing about this, the most wonderful day of my life, any true Gooner’s life

Anfield: May 26th 1989….

 

I have to be honest I can’t remember much of the ’88 part of that season, I remember the early part of ’89.  I remember thinking will anyone ever topple Liverpool. Liverpool during the ’80’s were just awesome I used to look up to them in an admiring and respectful way, never in an angry way, which is the way I used to look at UTD in the ’90’s

Champagne Charlie – Mine & Amanda’s 1st Final. A taste of glory to come under Graham

I was 19 at the time, and winning the league was like a dream, a dream that would never happen.  I was brought up in the days of Terry Neil and Don Howe, so when George Graham was brought in, it was like a breath of fresh air, Charlie Nicholas’s winner at Wembley, against Liverpool, in 87′ was my first final, and my first ever experience of watching the Captain of my club walk up the stairs and collect a trophy.  Obviously, we were at the old Wembley and for some reason we had the most amazing tickets, I was on the aisle seat by the stairs where the players walked up and as Charlie Nicholas walked up I gave him my hat and scarf and he took it and wore it as he danced around the pitch, with the rest of the team, celebrating the win.  I was also there against Luton in ’88 but I won’t be discussing that one, for obvious reasons all I will say is we certainly weren’t hailing Caesar that day!

So we come to early spring ’89 and being that I was a season ticket holder I never missed a home game, unless I was literally dying!  The 0-0 at home to Millwall and the 2-2 at home to Charlton started me thinking, again, this wasn’t our year!

During this time Liverpool were winning too and it was a 2 horse race.  I remember travelling back from Highbury, after we played and won against Newcastle, on April 15th, and hearing the most horrific news on the radio that Liverpool, who were playing in a cup match at Hillsborough, their fans had been injured and, at that time, no one understood how or why.  I have never felt so sad at hearing news about football fans in my life, I had grown up with every emotion football can bring, but this was on a different scale, I was devastated.

If I remember correctly we were due to play Liverpool the following Saturday and due to this awful tragedy, the game was cancelled. I remember writing a letter of condolence to Liverpool FC; I was devastated for the 96 and their families, because it could have been any football supporter that suffered this, so obviously this was even closer to my heart.

As many Arsenal supporters will know supporting our club, or any football club, is like a roller coaster of emotions and one of those matches was Derby at home on 13th May.  All I will say is Dean Saunders/ 2 goals and we were all left shell shocked.  On paper we should have walked it.  We didn’t, and I remember feeling so distraught I rang up a London radio station and said that’s it, give it to Liverpool now!  I was so fed up, I remember, I didn’t even go out that night!  I didn’t think it could get any worse until we played Wimbledon on 21st May.  We drew 2-2, for me the game was over give the championship to Liverpool they didn’t even need to beat us to win it, they could have drawn with us or even lost one nil, due to the goal difference, which I have to say, even to this day, my Dad still goes on about goal difference every season. I felt flat,Liverpoo lhad just beaten Everton in the FA Cup final and they were buzzing, the Scousers could feel the double coming on.

To secure the tickets for trip to Merseyside was a struggle.  Even though we were season ticket holders they were like gold dust.  A miracle happened a player and his father had walked in to my Dad’s office, who at the time was in our first team, my Dad joked and said any chance of any tickets, the next day he was told he had 3, he nearly fainted and I went ballistic, I was actually going to Anfield to watch the final match of the ’89 season.  We also acquired three other tickets through another source at the club; there we were, as if we were winning the golden tickets for Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory!!

This was to a better treat than Chocolate!

I remember I was working in a Solicitors in London and they were not really into football and when I told my boss, that I had to have the day off to go to Liverpool, he said ‘No way,’ it’s too short notice’, and before I resigned and was handed my P45 he said  ‘Go, but I hope you lose’.

Now if anyone reading this knows my Dad, he had it planned like a military operation.  I think it was a 7.30pm kick off so a reasonable time to leave would be about 1pm which would normally be fine, We left at 10.30am as my Dad lives in the ‘what if’ world…Well I have to tell you he was right! We started off by having breakfast in the garden, as it was a gorgeous sunny day and there were six of us travelling up including my brother and my cousin (whom I still go to football with) and we were all so excited. I had never been to Liverpool let alone Anfield before and to dream of possibly seeing Arsenal win the Championship was the dream of all dreams for me.

We took 2 cars and made our journey up the M1 and then onto the M6, where there was heavy traffic, we were lucky, due to my Dad’s military style operation, but later on this was to be a nightmare for Gooners travelling as many arrived late.  We stopped off at a service station just outside Liverpool and food was dire, but nothing could dampen our mood, we were just happy to have the chance to watch this game live.

We arrived at Anfield and we parked in Stanley Park and made our way to the ground.  As we approached the ground, I could feel the atmosphere, it was just surreal, more about that later.  We were approached by a TV company who asked us if we would be interviewed for a news programme in London. There weren’t many Gooners there  at this stage due to the road works.  Anyway, they wanted to take us on to the pitch to be interviewed I was speechless, we were going on the hallowed turf of Anfield, I thought I was going to faint! Unfortunately, the TV researchers changed their mind and we were interviewed outside the stadium with Liverpool supporters in the background.  They wanted our views on the game and the outcome, all I really remember is my Dad ending the interview, saying ‘Kelvin, Live at Anfield, for ITV News.’  We all just laughed hysterically.

FORTRESS ANFIELD

 

I can’t put into words, the excitement I felt, making my way to the ground.  I got to my seat and saw that I was behind the goal, I’ve always sat East Upper at Highbury, and now the Emirates, but never behind the goal. Little did I know how important that goal was going to be.  The players were out warming up and I was just soaking up the atmosphere, and incredible was the word.  So, the game was to begin, out came the players and all 11 had a bouquets of flowers to mark respect for the Hillsborough tragedy.  I was, and until this day, honoured because I got the late great David Rocastle’s (RIP) flowers which a man in front caught and passed them to me.  I always felt blessed that they were Rocky’s flowers.

The greatest season of an Gunner legend and I got his bouquet!

As I am typing this I can still feel the excitement that I felt that evening.  I was happy with the formation that George Graham had put out  and all we could hope for that we didn’t concede first half and we were in with a fighting chance.  The first half came and went, both teams were apprehensive you could see it and feel it, and it was still goal less.  I started to feel more positive I don’t know why, all I know is we had to win by 2 clear goals.  The match kicked off and  you could now sense the attitude was that we had nothing to lose so we had to go for it.  We got an indirect free kick and I think Nigel Winterburn curled it in.  Smudger got the faintest of touches and as it went in we went crazy, I won’t use the word I want to use, I will leave that for later, but needless to say we went barmy!  All I could see were the Liverpool players surrounding the ref and I was pulling my Dad over to show him. Why were they doing this? He wasn’t offside, what the hell was going on?  We later found what their argument was.  Thankfully the ref didn’t listen and awarded us the goal.  I remember thinking one more goal, one more goal.  We were singing our hearts out we wanted that one goal so desperately anyway, I remember Mickey Thomas going through and messing up his shot and I thought that’s it, our last chance had gone!

I remember Steve MacMahon putting one finger up to indicate one minute and I felt sick! sick! sick!  We were so close; we needed one goal, one bloody goal! ONE BLOODY GOAL! Then, Lukic collects the ball, passes it to Dixon, who releases the ball to Smudger, he then passed it forward but it deflects off Stevie Nichol into the path of Mickey Thomas ‘It’s up for grabs now’ said the late Brian Moore I heard afterwards, and then Thomas who surges through buries into the left hand corner of Grobbelar’s goal and the rest is history.

 

The moment. He knows, we know, the Liverpool players  know. The title is going to N5

I can’t even begin to tell you how it felt he scores and we are 2-0 up in the 90 minute.  Now I will use that word, we went BALLISTIC; people were hugging, screaming, crying and kissing!! Yes I got kissed, I have no idea by who, all I know is I remember Nick Hornby saying it was better than Sex and Orgasms I couldn’t possibly comment, all I know is that I will never experience that feeling again. I remember Hayes trying to stop Thomas doing a forward roll and they fell on the floor, right in front of me, I actually think I went onto another planet I couldn’t digest what had happened.

The final whistle goes and the rest is history, even typing this today I still feel that buzz, the buzz of winning the Championship at Anfield, the home of the mighty Liverpool.  The most incredible experience for a Gooner ever!!!

So, we are presented with the trophy, and I have to be honest I can’t remember much, it was like I was punch drunk, all over the place, I had a few tears I remember that.

With the trophy on the pitch!

 

The Liverpool end emptied quickly, and I just remember a few fans left with a flag saying something about the 96 that had died.  I remember that and it’s etched into my memory.  We made our way out to the car park and all I could see were Gooners every where, hugging, jumping and singing and my Dad kissed an Everton fan, who happened to be a Policewoman, she was, just slightly happy, not that my Dad had kissed her, but because we had won, for obvious reasons.

We made our way back stopping at the services again, we bumped into GG’s Son and Daughter and we ended up chatting to them and singing….We hit the M25 at some unearthly hour and we were alongside the coach with the team in it, I can’t describe the feeling, all I remember is seeing Nigel Winterburn going mad!  They waved we waved and the night that was to live for forever in Arsenal and football folklore was over was over.

I don’t remember anything after, except the next day going to Highbury and having a party with everyone, as it was a Saturday.  Then the parade, from which I got some great pictures of the boys with the cup.

In my living room I have the picture of Mickey Thomas striking the ball that scored the wining goal.

 

“It’s up for grabs now!”

All I can say is, What ever happens in the future of our club that night, will always be the most incredible ever!  For me, it was the most exciting ending to a football season I’ve ever known.

When I meet new people, depending on their age, when they say they support Arsenal, my first question always is, “Do you know about May 26th 1989?” If they say yes they’re a proper Goner if they say no, then for me, they’re not.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my experience, one that I am oh so grateful for.

Thanks so much  Amanda for sharing your wonderful story and experience – It’s been emotional. I was on the North Bank when Saunders scored twice and Shilton made save after save in the home defeat to Derby. Like the characters in the Feverpitch film, you Amanda and the whole of the media thought after 18 years waiting and being so close, we had thrown it away. How wrong we were. I am sure there is a lesson in there somewhere  for when things look bleak.

For those who are in the mood for more this video will allow you to relive it all over again……..

 

Until next time thanks for reading.

Like what you read? Agree/disagree? Leave a comment below or follow me or comment on this blog on Twitter – http://twitter.com/goonerdave66

38 thoughts on ““Anfield 26th May 1989″ – A Gooner Girl’s story of the best day of her life!

  1. Pingback: Arsenal News
  2. This was absolutely brilliant. I am really sorry I wasn’t an Arsenal fan yet back then as when people talk about THAT day it has this aura of magic. I am still hoping for my “Anfield 89″ moment one fine day. Great job Amanda! Thank you for sharing, all the details gave an amazing feel of the atmosphere and emotion.

  3. Congratulations Amanda on your first blog, you have let the words pour right out of your heart! A brilliant read.

    I had only just had my 4th birthday 4 days before THAT Anfield night, so only saw this game many years later…you are so lucky to have witnessed, whats in my opinion, the greatest single moment in this club’s history.

    Good luck in writing further pieces in the future, its an amazing feeling putting your feelings towards the club down in words.

  4. What a great blog, you should write more!

    As I’m someone who was only born in ’88’ and only ever heard about this from my Gooner dad or saw it on countless videos/DVDs/espn classic
    It gave me goosebumps thinking about it!

    Great read well written

  5. Every lifelong Gooner will have their Anfield 89 moment, of that I am sure. That’s the kind of team we support

  6. Nice blog it brought a smile to face, and when reality hit it disappeared just as quick.We have to dig into our archives and memoirs, history etc. to make us feel good about our team. This is said.It’s amazing how we played to a draw yesterday and we are already talking like we are back on track or won a cup. We have become so average it’s sickening.Then there are people complaining that our wingers can’t cross. For f^&K sakes we have no wingers. Wenger said it himself :”You know we transform all the wingers into central strikers. I decided that during our tour of Asia, when I tried to play him in that position against Man City, I liked what he did and I put that in the back of my mind. Talking about Gervinho and how is that on turning out?
    “Walcott did very well today and was one of our best players.
    “People forget he was injured and has just come back. We know that he is a great player.”
    And when asked of his desire to play as a striker, Wenger quipped:
    “Well, a winger is a striker. Not for you? Giroud has Walcott and Podolski with him. We scored two goals. We had more chances and played with three offensive midfielders as well.
    Still wonder why our wingers can’t cross?? IF the F^&king manager doesn’t understand their role what do you expect!! And we wonder why this blog is full of suggested formations on where to play players and team selections! It pisses me off that some people on here is brighter than our manager. Then there is the question of buying more players what the f&*K!!! come on guys the names being branded around would not even want to be associated with Arsenal right now. Just think how many players has snub us in the past three years alone. Please Gunner fans do not stoop to this low PLEASE!! PLEASE!!! PLEASE!!! Just listen to yourselves We don’t really have anything to talk about but the same crap day in and day out. I wish someone can lock me in room alone with Stan Kroenke. I will grab him by his balls and squeeze so hard,He will never ever want to hear about soccer again. That goes for Wenger, Hillwood and Gazidis These guys make me sick, look what we have become this is beyond a joke we are not even average any more. I for one will not put up with this mediocrity, we are better than this. GUNNER FOREVER!!!

    1. Oh dear! It amazes me sometimes how trolls such as yourself actually have the time to come to an Arsenal site and make such a negative comment. Just enjoy the writing and memories of a classic piece of Arsenal history or just do not come to the site! Simples! Also well done Amanda!

  7. Well done @Goonergirl1969 for your first piece, you did good. As an ex-serviceman, I worked in the RAF and was often away flying around the world so found it very difficult getting to games. This was just one of those games where I was working and had to try and catch bits on the radio (could have been called the wireless in those days).

    I can remember that at half-time I was beginning to think “this is not going to be our day”. After we scored, work was beginning to take a back seat but of course with only a few minutes to go I was asked to go out to an aircraft. Thinking that we were not going to score now, I slowly walked out, dragging my feet, snapping at anyone who tried to talk to me, utterly gutted that we had come so close and had thrown it all away in the previous games, games that we should have won.

    You can imagine that when I came in and someone said “Have you seen the score, Pat?” Well, what can I say. Suffice it to say, that I knocked over about 3 cups of coffee, kissed blokes that I wasn’t THAT keen on anyway and laughed, screamed and yelled so much that people were beginning to fear for my sanity. I was beginning to fear for my sanity.

    Eventually had to settle for the highlights later but what a night.

    Thanks for the memories once again @Goonergirl1969 A marvelous night for all Gooners and especially for you (you lucky sod).

  8. It was and, still is the greatest Arsenal day of my life. To have been able to get tickets and be at Anfield that day was fantastic, but the best is knowing that my wonderful daughter Amanda could write (with my help, of course) such a wonderful blog about our beloved Arsenal.
    That is when we had a team that wanted to WIN things!!

    1. Dad, you started off all positive then went negative, now there’s a surprise!! Anyway, I wouldn’t have wanted to share it with anyone else, that was our day, our special day, that we will remember for the rest of our lives.

      1. Aaahhhh!! x Thanks both. I may have to write again myself soon. Had so many top guests of late

  9. Great blog Amanda. I watched it on Tv with my Dad as a 9year old. It was the night I became a lifelong Arsenal fan :)

  10. mand that was truly a great blog,with such excitment i remember watching the game at home that night and as soon as that goal went in my brother and I were off up to highbury, we only got as far as islington as the streets and pubs were full of gooners singing and hugging we joined in to, what makes this even more special is that my husband’s birthday is that day and it is something I will never forget especially as he is a SPUD !! hope you write a few more you go girl

    1. Larraine, thank you honey, glad you enjoyed and the bit about your hubby made me laugh. Although being there was magical, I can only imagine how amazing it would have been to have been at Highbury that night.

  11. I’ve read about this day a few times now, most notably “Fever Pitch” and now this. Every time I get chills.
    I’ve been following for 7 seasons now from San Francisco and Shanghai. Yep, I am the curse that is keeping them from winning any silverware. I’m in London currently and have been to every home match since arriving, probably my fault their performance has dipped in the last month.

    But seriously, I really don’t believe all of that superstitious hogwash and I’ve seen some absolutely spectacular matches. Indeed, Reading just a week or so ago?

    At any rate, wonderful piece. Great telling of an great day of a great club. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Amanda the lovely thing about this story is that there are bits of it that we can all relate too. Some of it sent shivers up my spine.
    It was certainly a great night – I have to say I never thought we would do it – had a bit of Kelvin negativity about me back then!
    Another great day was winning the league at Shite Hart Lane – except the bit where we were held in for an hour after the game only to eventually be released into a hail of bottles and stones.
    Enjoy the game tomorrow.
    JW

    1. Thanks JW, glad you enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t at Shite Hart lane, but again that was another great day, but for me Anfield supersedes it!

  13. There’s something to be said for a blog that can give you chills. I know your passion when it comes to Arsenal, but it’s very rare that the passion rubs off on the reader. It almost felt like I was there with you.
    Thank you for transporting me back to that magical day in May 1989.

    I am VERY proud of you!

  14. Exquisite. Just exquisite stuff here written by Amanda. I can feel the emotion pouring through my entire body after reading this. This post makes me realise that I have missed one of the best and greatest seasons of Arsenal coz I wasn’t born at that time.

    The season and the last match also make the fans realise that if you have a minor chance of grabbing a cup or a league title, just don’t let the negative thoughts enter in you till the final whistle is blown. Anything can change in a minute.

    Once again, its just exceptionally written here by Amanda. A gigantic entry to the blogging world. Am sure the comments here will help you to increase your morale to write more about Arsenal- your first love. :) COYG

  15. Oh and by the way, only after commenting I realised that this blog was written 2 years ago. How foolish of me, but who cares about the date when it comes to passion of supporting Arsenal. :D

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