Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby (Riverhead Books 1992)

Social History

Arsenal v Derby


The replay finished nil-nil, a game with no merit whatsoever. But it remains the only first-team game that has taken place at Highbury on a midweek afternoon during my Arsenal time: February 1972 was the time of the power workers' strike. For all of us it meant sporadic electricity, candlelight, occasional cold suppers, but for third-year football fans it meant visits to the Electricity Board showroom, where cut-off rota was posted, in order to discover which of us were able to offer The Big Match on Sunday afternoons. For Arsenal, the power crisis meant no floodlights, hence the Tuesday afternoon replay.

I went to the game, despite school, and though I had imagined that the crowd might consist of me, a few other teenage truants, and a scattering of pensioners, in fact there were more than sixty-three thousand people there, the biggest crowd of the season. I was disgusted. No wonder the country was going to the dogs! My truancy prevented me from sharing my disquiet with my mother (an irony that escaped me at the time), but what was going on?

For this thirtysomething, the midweek Cup-tie (West Ham played giant-killers Hereford on a Tuesday afternoon as well, and got a forty-two-thousand-plus crowd) now has that wonderful early seventies sheen, like an episode of The Fenn Street Gang or a packet of Number Six cigarettes; maybe it was just that everyone at Upton Park and Highbury, all one hundred and six thousand of us, wanted to walk down one of the millions of tiny alleys of social history.

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