This evening I have the pleasure of going to watch 89 in Holloway, which is the release of a new documentary by some of the ex-Arsenal players who were part of that legendary team and in bringing back thoughts to a very different time, almost inevitably you start to see how you could fuse the past with the present.
- Which players now would get in that team?
- What psychological differences were there?
- What about the tactical differences?
Of course these questions are as superfluous as asking what would have happened if Eduardo didn’t break his leg, or if Lehman hadn’t have been sent off in the Champions League Final, or if we’d have pulled our fingers out of our own arses when Leicester won the league.
They’re all hindsight questions that will send you mad if you continue to ponder them. But as much as football is about hope and looking forward, it’s also about the past and inevitably that brings up frustration.
Not in the 89 case though. That, the 98 double, the 2002 and of course the Invincibles, all stand as a beacon of happiness amongst the angst of other seasons that surround it. They are the memories we cherish the most, pine for a replication the most, as well as also polish up in our minds a little more than anything else.
How many of us think back to 89, or 98, or 02, or 04, and think “why didn’t I just enjoy it more at the time?” I know I do. When we went the season unbeaten in 04 I still couldn’t relax after the League was confirmed, because then it was about making history, as we still had a few games with which to complete the season. I didn’t properly celebrate until that final game against Leicester was done.
I was only just getting in to The Arsenal in the late 80s so I didn’t get to feel that euphoria about the most dramatic finish to a football season ever. And let’s make no bones about it, it was, and City’s pales in comparison because:
- Arsenal had chased the league all season, City had led for large parts
- Arsenal had to go away and win, City were at home
- Arsenal were – by a twist of fate – playing against the other best team in the league, City played a QPR team that were just above relegation
There are many more points that I could pull out but I think those three outline the enormity of that task and therefore despite Sky trying so desperately to claim the most glorious finish to a season during their era, I’m afraid anyone looking at the hard facts will see the reality of Anfield 89.
I’m just sad I was just too young to fully celebrate it. Had I been born two years earlier then I suspect I’d have at least been able to watch the game and enjoy the celebrations in my own home.
That’s why having historical documentaries like 89 are so important. They give you the chance to at least try and capture some of the feeling at the time. For that I’m certainly grateful because I couldn’t be part of it. But I feel part of it even before I was even a fully fledged, hand-wringing, tv cursing, weekend grumbling (when we lose), Arsenal fan.
Catch you all tomorrow.