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Why Arsenal fans are quietly missing Highbury

OPINION: Behind an empty-ground gag gadabout, there may be a slither of truth about the Emirates atmosphere

22 May, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Highbury Stadium, sorely missed by many Arsenal fans

HERE’S one of those times where every topical comedian in the country – every irreverent, daring comic – came up with the same gag at the same time and believed it to be so perceptive and imaginative that it must be their own.

Every sketch-writer taking a sideways glance at the news, every stand-up with their arms folded on a DVD cover and a “just-said-it” grin… they all went for it.

In fact the joke has been so infectiously shared, there may be some degree of herd immunity now, but let me repeat it here and see if it can still tickle the ribs.

Roll up: have you heard that Premier League teams are against playing behind closed doors amid the coronavirus crisis? It’s in case the atmosphere gives Arsenal home advantage.

A perfectly formed zinger, right there.

The Emirates Stadium

You can put that up there with the nation’s other two sporting jokes.

  1. Have you noticed, yeah, that when Andy Murray loses he’s Scottish, but when he wins Wimbledon he’s Britishzzzzzz.
  2. And any jumble of words which allude to the idea that Manchester United fans live in Surrey. Always Surrey, never Hampshire.

Earlier this week, the former United player Luke Chadwick marked Mental Health Awareness Week by explaining how a running joke on the irreverent, zany, sideways glancing and so on sports quiz They Think It’s All Over had affected him adversely in the 1990s, so perhaps these stale. much repeated jokes should at least be championed ahead of…. look at him, he’s ugly.

Nick Hancock, the show’s presenter, came on BBC Breakfast to apologise and as the debate was about not commenting on people’s looks, we all kept schtum about how “different” he now looks under a snowcapped-hedge of a hair mop.

Arsene Wenger

Gary Lineker, a team captain on the show back then to assure people he liked a laugh too, also apologised, despite a career of being called jug ears and FA Cup head.

Anyhow, back to the Emirates/atmosphere joke gadabout. You’ve heard it a million times in a week: Arsenal will be at home playing in a silent stadium.

The tragedy is not in the fact that your mate was the 18th person in an hour to WhatsApp it to you last week, but, whisper it, that every joke is based on at least a slither of truth.

Earlier this month, Lee Dixon stopped during a lockdown cycle outside the Marble Halls and gasped on social media about how much he still loved Highbury.

And Arsene Wenger himself finally admitted it in a recent interview: “We wanted to create the same atmosphere, but we left our soul at Highbury.”

The lesson is enduring: you’ll never be able to recreate what you had if a glitzy new stadium prices out those who made the noise. The crowd was cut out some time ago.


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