18 Feb 2003: Arsenal v Ajax – One of the Best Days of My Life!

Torridon holiday 2011 129

What is your favourite Arsenal possession?

It is almost ten years ago to the day. It was a cold and wet, typical February night in London. Arsenal had just beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford in an FA-cup round the weekend before, and expectations where very high. We beat the Mancs by 2-0 and Bergkamp, Gilberto and Henry did not even start that game: those were the days, hey! πŸ™‚

Back then, I had very little opportunity to see Arsenal at Highbury, and I was totally over the moon when I my boss asked – with a cheeky smile on his face – whether I, perhaps, would be interested in going to see the Champions League game between Arsenal and Ajax.

We had just won a major bid for running a β€˜Train Operating Company’ in the North of the country, and one of the lawyers my company had used, thought it would be a good idea to thank us for all the business we had given him, by taking six of us along to the CL game at Highbury.

To be fair, the game itself was a bit of a disappointment. Wiltord scored our only goal as early as the fifth minute, and Ajax equalised only twelve minutes later through, believe it or not, a fine goal by Nigel de Jong. After that, we never got properly going; mainly as a result of a young and eager Steven Pienaar somehow being able to β€˜shadow and render ineffective’ – as Johan Cruijff described it later in his post match analysis – Vieira throughout most of the game. Here is a quick summary:


But the highlight for me was to come after the game.

The lawyer did not only arrange the tickets but also an Arsenal hospitality package, and after the game there were further drinks and a few speeches by ex-players and the like.

Before the game, all present in the VIP lounge  – about 300 β€˜guests’- were asked to predict the final score and the first goal scorer. I had predicted the right score but not the correct β€˜first goal scorer’. Luckily for me, only five other guests had predicted the correct score, but nobody got the first goal scorer right. My name was drawn from a hat, and I was asked to step forward.

My reward was a signed Arsenal football with signatures of many players of the 2002-03 team. I spontaneously held the ball in the air as if I had won the Champions League cup all on my own, and a big round of applause and cheering followed. I did not see that one coming; it was a great surprise, and a moment I will never forget and always cherish!

Of course, I still have the ball and you will have seen various pictures of it on the blog. Every time I watch Arsenal on TV, the ball is placed on a stool in front of it to bring luck to the team, and of course it always works! πŸ˜‰

The ball has become my favourite Arsenal possession, and I reckon it will always stay that way.

But what is your favourite memorabilia/possession of our beloved club?

Written by: Total Arsenal.

38 thoughts on “18 Feb 2003: Arsenal v Ajax – One of the Best Days of My Life!

  • Hi Redders πŸ™‚

    No doubt, there must be a lot of these signed balls about, and it that respect it is not unique at all.

    But, as an experience it was unique and I thought it was a worthy introduction to find out about other BK’ers most cherished possessions! πŸ™‚

  • Gerry, if you are reading; re your comment this morning: it looks you unsuccessfully signed up to the BK email service, as your name/email address are not showing up in my blog records. Best is to try again (and not try to do two things at once…. πŸ˜› ).

  • TA – I will do it again. I may have done it wrong last time.
    I was wondering if my AV has put this site on a blacklist or something. I posted a comment a couple of days ago but everything was running slow.I was have trouble with the ‘I-player’ too, cutting out from lack of bandwidth, although that only seems to happen on Google Chrome. When tried through IE then it has been fine. Anyway, after a few minutes I decided to copy the comment and come back later, so I closed the link down. I was amazed to find my comment had gone through, but also, my ‘copy’ was in the box ready to be sent when I re-opened the link? I scrapped that one, but since then I have not seen either of the last two blogs listed in Arsenal News Now …

    I’ll never get the hang of this computer lark!?!

    Redders, if I may call you that, Yes, Guilty as charged.

    TA – Whilst I am here. Funny you mentioning Pienaar in the above, as his name cropped up my ‘missing’ comment.

    I was thinking about how some players can play really well for on club but not another. So naturally his Everton-Spurs-Everton was a good example. This led into how some players also play well at international level but struggle for their clubs, and – in relation to that blog – I cited Bendtner, Arshavin, Santos, Park, from those listed as ‘deadwood’. So may be it is positional, style of play, whatever, that other factors in players being successful or not? I also added Ramsey to that list during last season, when I thought he might need to go out on loan in order to find ‘his game’. But he looks like he might have done that now

    Cheers on another cheery story

  • Cheers Gerry, hope you can sort your IT issues out.

    Yes, some players respond badly to change, as is playing somewhere else; different system, manager, expectations, etc. I am sure there is a post in all of this: why, for example, do so many ex-Arsenal players not live up to expectations after they left the mightly one?! πŸ˜•

  • Hi Gerry, back again! πŸ™‚

    I am happy with you calling me Redders, I already think of you as a friend with your excellent comments, (and its better than what VCC and the Glic Monster call me!!!) πŸ˜€

  • Gerry,

    As regards the reason why some players do not adjust well to change, either within their club with a new manager, or when they get transferred elsewhere, is probably a Post in its own right, as you say [get writing] πŸ™‚ but human beings are strange and very complex creatures.

  • What was the query about UA then?

    Talking of complex things, I’ve just had a fun afternoon updating drivers on my computer.

  • Gerry,

    I sometimes visit UA as I like many of the Posts on there, and I have been known to make the odd comment, or two, usually when Shard is around, and I recall ‘Gerry Lennon’ (?) also being an occasional visitor — perhaps not so occasional? πŸ™‚

    I meant to say earlier that the symptoms you described with missing comments are relatively common on WordPress blogsites such as this inestimable creation of Total’s.

    It is a common complaint (experienced by me too) for a comment to disappear, and rather infuriatingly eventually turn up some time later. I think it happens when two bloggers post comments at the exact time. One gets thru’ the other gets bounced.

    In the past I have blamed my computer too, but experience has led me to firmly pin the blame on our friends at WordPress!! πŸ˜€

  • Evening Clamato Rimmers πŸ˜†

    Great story Total. I have a few and may have to put it to a viewers vote !.

    The first…well, I was around RVP`s gaff when he was signing on the dotted line for Manclungester, his beautiful wife was heartbroken to be moving away from Arsenal, so I put my arm around to comfort her, before I knew it we were in bed !. In fore play I made a tattoo of RVP`s face on her arse with her anal opening being his mouth !. It was great to kill two birds with one stone by taking her from behind and at the same time coming in RVP`s mouth !. The little Isco inside her was saying …f**k you RVP !. I have kept the red & white johnny and you can all bid for it. Bidding closes at midnight !.

    The other choices are not for sale and are :

    Programme from my 1st ever game , Vs Sheff Utd, 6th November 1965, 6-2 win.

    Shirt, programme and limited edition framed The Final Salute from our last game at Highbury.

    Taking my eldest Daughter for this her first game :

    Taking my son for his 1st game Vs West Brom, thanks FFBW.

    Being at Shite Hart Lane for the 5-0 win.

    Beating ManU in FA Cup final 3-2.

    Some great memories, but taking my son for the 1st time and our 1st visit to the new stadium is a precious moment, if he hadn`t been hooked before ,well that pushed him over the edge into a no escape gooner obsession !.

    Right, who wants to start the bidding off !. hahaha

  • TA,

    Wow that certainly is a memorable experience! Better hope Henry doesn’t see that ball as a chew toy hahaha! I don’t have anything that comes close to yours, though I’ll share my favourite Arsenal possession story.

    It was April 1st 2006 and Arsenal’s last season at Highbury. I flew into London with a friend for the week as we had gotten tickets for the game vs. Aston Villa in the East Stand. We absolutely thrashed Villa 5-0 and Henry’s goal early on in the game lit up the entire stadium. However, the most memorable moment came from a young man late in the game, formerly known as Robin Van Persie. His goal was truly something to behold and still one of the best individual efforts I’ve seen to this day (with limited space around the goal).

    Prior to kickoff, I bought one of the burgundy home shirts with Henry on the back and this is my favourite Arsenal possession to this day. Not because of any monetary value attached to it or that it was given to me by a player or signed etc. – mainly because every time I look at the shirt, I can remember the day and relive the memory of being at the fantastic Highbury Stadium.

  • Great story TA

    I have two bits of memorabilia that I cherish.

    The first is a shirt signed by Ian Wright a couple of years before he left Arsenal. I was working on a documentary about a hospital that had a very sick kid who was a passionate Arsenal fan. His dream was to meet some of the players. The club agreed and we took him up to Colney where he watched them train and met all the big stars.

    Of course we (the film team) also got in on the act. I bought a new shirt and I got Wrighty to sign it after chatting to him for a bit. My mate also bought a shirt and he got another player to sign his – a new signing who was preparing for his first season with the club: a certain Mr D Bergkamp. Dennis went on to become my favourite Arse player of all time and I kind-of wish I had got him to sign my shirt too. But such is life. I still have a brilliant, framed shirt signed by one of the great Arsenal legends.

    The other one comes from the game at Old Trafford in 2002 when we secured the league title in Fergie’s own back yard. I was part of the jubilant away support and at the end of the game the players came over to our corner of the stadium to celebrate. They had been given sponsors’ baseball caps and Paddy V took his off and threw it into the crowd, where yours truly managed to catch it.

    I suppose he’d only worn it for a minute or two, but the occasion makes it a very special thing to own.

  • Entries for the UMF League:

    Arse v Blackburn H
    Oldham v Everton D
    Chavs v Brentford D
    Citeh v Leeds A
    ManU v Reading D

  • Rocky, using a sick kid to help you meet the pros and get signed memorabilia?! How could you ;)!!!. That sounds like a great story as well, I wish I had the opportunity to meet some players. Being live at the Old Toilet when we won the title there is a fantastic experience in itself, and you managed to come out with Vieira’s sweaty hat! Now you’re just showing off mate :).

  • Redders – I think you are probably right about comments posted at the same time. It is the disappearance off NewsNow; Arsenal, re this site, that bugs me. But pottering around my computer I found my graphics card was not working fully up to speed, and then that the driver was well out of date. Now I cannot get rid of the scanners popping up every start up.. Grrr!

    I see from the headlines that things are catching up with my earlier thoughts?

    Per is calling for ‘concentration’ on the match against Blackburn, not Bayern.

    Wilshere is having a fitness test tomorrow, and is doubtful for Saturday ..not the ‘5 days off and he’ll be fine’ eh? Both Kos and TV5 look like missing too?

    And finally, the tranny talk has caught up with my thinking, regards the ‘Toulouse German’ (sic), to use an old Private Eye term.
    .. if only I could put such talents towards the Lottery, a lot of my problems would be solved?

    Yes, UA is one of a few sites I visit. I scroll down NewsNow looking at headlines, and ignoring sites I avoid. UA, ACLF, and Arseblog News particular favourites. In fact the middle one has suffered my absence somewhat since I came to this site. Although that is in part because I am distracted by my horse racing updates now. One of the reasons I am not around when ‘live’ chat is going on. That, and the dogs of course.

    If I were entering the UMF League I would go for a gamble or two:

    Arse v Blackb H
    Oldham v Everton D
    Chelski v Brentford H
    M,Sh*t v Leeds D
    ManU A

    Not worth risking any money on it mind?
    Cheers,have a good night. I’ll be back around 5.30am .. briefly.

  • HH
    I’ll go any lengths… πŸ™‚

    Actually it was really sweet to see that kid with the players. He was very immobile and quite ill, but he went up 100% that day and the players and coaching staff were great with him.

  • Rocky,

    It’s always heartwarming to hear/read stories like the one you just shared about that kid. I’m glad your crew and the club were able to give him an experience that he’d never forget!

  • HH
    It was interesting to see how the older players with kids of their own (like Adams, Bould and Seaman) were the most comfortable chatting with the lad.
    A few of the younger players seemed a bit nervous.

  • Evening gents of the good life πŸ™‚

    HH and Rocky, many thanks for sharing your Arsenal possessions stories: really enjoyed reading them!

    HH, just a shame that one of your best memories is linked to the traitor, but it must have been great to fly into London and then watch the mightly Arse win by five goals! πŸ™‚

    Rocky, having a signed shirt framed at home must be fantastic. I stayed in a B&B in Holland recently and the owner had a signed Bayern shirt of Mark van Bommel: it just looked fantastic. Key is though that it was signed for you personally, rather than buying one through ebay. πŸ™‚

  • TA,

    Despite van Judas’ goal being a standout at that game, I’ll remember the entire experience as a whole more than his individual effort in that goal. The rush of excitement that poured over the Arsenal faithful when Henry scored, along with the unbelievable feeling when I walked through the gates that I was at Highbury in Arsenal’s last season, will stay with me in my memories for much longer!

    As I’ve said before, I’ve never seen a game live at the Emirates and while the stadium itself was something to behold, I couldn’t relate to the building as much when I went on the stadium tour. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t there to watch a game, but I didn’t feel that warm, cozy feeling that overcame me in the two times I watched Arsenal at Highbury. It’s not even the history that the club had at that stadium – I think I’m a sucker for a stadium with character and the Emirates felt too modern and almost cold (that alone feeling when all you have is money hahaha!).

  • Glic you are are an utter nutbum πŸ˜›

    Really liked your personal stories though.

    HH, for a modern stadium, I think the new stadium is as good as it gets. Totally agreed, it is not the same atmosphere as Highbury, but it is beautifully designed and over time it will become more and more ‘cosy’.

  • Okay, morning peeps. As you know, I cannot compete with ancient memories of Arsenal matches.
    However, I was there when Coventry won their one and only Cup final .. thanks to a deflected goal off Spurs’s Gary Mabbut. However, much as the joy of winning, the build to the day, even the (and ever repeat showings) Keith Howchen’s goal, etc. But for pure emotional atmosphere, I think the semi-final takes some beating. This is partly because the view at Wembley was obscured by a concrete pillar, the sheer distance from the pitch, (the semi was at Hillsborough), and about half the tickets went to ‘corporate day’ bods who had little interest in either side!
    So having gone through the early rounds that began with a 1-0 win at home on a freezing cold January day, which was their only home tie incidentally. I only missed the away win against Man u, partly due to work commitments, but also , if I am honest, the expectation of and end to our involvement in FA Cup for yet another year. That 0-1 win at Old Trafford was the springboard, and what made the semi final so special. It is sad that Hillsborough’s memory for most is so badly tarnished now?

    I never got hats, signed footballs or programs. The nearest I got to a player was George Curtis … ‘hard, but fair’ centre-half. At least that is was we would say, others may have had different opinions? The memory of meeting, jostling in a crowd of other fans was, I was actually taller than him? It was a shock at the time.

    Anyway enough of that. I did have better luck meeting the ‘alternative’ comedians back in the mid ’80’s, doing the comedy club rounds. The funniest act of all, and the one I never got to meet, was without doubt Rowan Atkinson. On the other hand, Lenny Henry actually came off stage down to where I was sitting – he had been taking the pee out of the jacket I was wearing, saying earlier … ‘the guy wearing the ‘hush puppy'(type of footwear popular at the time) – and he took off my glasses and put them on. He said ‘Blimey Gerry, you must have good eyesight to see through these!’

    Talking of funny things. That Jens Lehman has mellowed over the years hasn’t he? Glancing at the headlines in NewsNow, I spotted the following: ‘Jens Lehman predicts a tough game for Arsenal’ … reported in the Himalayan Times … Yes, I can just picture him sitting in the ‘lotus position’ giving that interview …?

    Right, I await the new blog with interest ..

  • Haha Gerry πŸ™‚

    Beautiful morning comment! Lehman is a character, and yes, I can picture him in lotus position with beard and long hair!

    Next post about 11am today.

  • Morning Gerry, πŸ™‚

    I read your comment earlier about your’new’ problem, the popups.

    If you are on Chrome, you can go to their apps, and there is a very good one in there which turns off all the adds. It’s a relief to have a ‘clean’ screen!!

    If you go to the top of the page and press the blue tag (as if you were opening a new page) then click on the > arrow and then click on Chrome Web Store icon and you will need to wander thru their offerings, until you find the appropriate app.

  • Morning nut bumpers ( That`s the nearest I could find to nutbum Total, you can put it in UD if you like, if you`re wondering what nut bumpers means , well you`ll have to look it up ! hahaha ) πŸ™‚

    I cant believe no one put in a bid for my used johnny !. I thought maybe Total and Rocky might have wanted to do a swapsie with their memorabilia !. hahaha

    Beautiful day, I shall go out and take some photo`s of the Love Shack`s steel frame.

    The wife is away with her mum, our daughter and grandchildren today, they`re off to Butlins for 4 days. I have booked in a 4 day lezzer convention whilst she`s gone, anyone want to come and help me ?. hahaha


  • No trip to Orcland then, Glicster?!

    Enjoy your freedom: what are you going to do with yourself? Ooh, maybe I should not have asked that! πŸ˜€

  • Thanks RA, I will look into that. Funnily enough I was looking the Google Apps page yesterday.
    As I often find with these things, one thing can lead to another. I downloaded the Video Performer from the link that glic gave me during the Under 21’s game. Always suspicious of these things, I only saved it. However, when I saw my graphic card ‘score’, I gave it a try.

    Typical of these ‘free’ downloads, it is full of link advert stuff that is not free. I thought I had navigated past everything okay, but somehow or another, I not only have that annoying ‘Delta’ search engine everywhere, I also have the registry clean up thingy popping.
    I have got rid of that, sort of, by not launching at start up. However, as all these items are connected with Uniblue, I knew I had a paid for copy of it on my Vista section of the hard drive. That was for driver updates, and for the first time since ATI wanted to charge for a update tool for their cards has it worked. Graphic card back up to its previous score.

    However, if you have any major computer meltdowns, can I recommend Tweaking.com. Fantastic program run by by geeks who know what they are doing. Above all it is donation only, except, like the above, heavily laden with adverts. But they seem a genuine bunch trying to work at problems that the likes of Microsoft create, but want to charge for fixing it. They are really my sort of anarchists who beaver away at little things that are important to a lot of people that simply cannot afford spend big money on repairs.

    The repair program is menu driven, which puts you in control of what is being done. Things are recommended to you, like; running diskcheck to make sure the hard drive is not faulty; running an excellent ‘trojan virus’ destroyer called tdsskiller, which is again ‘free’ from one of the top AV programs(no advert links to the parent company I might add). I did as they recommended without having to by a single product. By stage 4 you can start to run their program. You can see what it is doing on screen, and see what error and where it picks them up. Brilliant.
    If ever I suspect any virus activity, this is my first port of call.

  • Gerry,

    You are wise to be careful on the web.

    I used to have Norton 360 as my internet virus checker, but it really was so stringent it stopped perfectly harmless software that I wanted to use. So I changed to McAfee Total Security, and that is more controllable — but, fortunately I have never yet had a virus problem, altho McAfee can be really strict too, πŸ™‚ but at least it gives you the option to easily override it, if necessary.

    McAfee costs about Β£25 for a year’s subscription, on ‘promotions’, and at 50p a week, is well worth it.

    I used to have AVG a free virus security software system, which was very good, but it did not have all the bells and whistles of the other two.

  • No Orcland today Totes, I pulled a muscle in my back lifting the steels into place, so I`m Tomas Rosicky for a few days, I shall go for a walk and keep myself moving about as that is the best cure, sitting driving for 12 hours would have been a nightmare and probably made it worse !.
    Totes, aint you off to the game tomorrow ?. I thought I read that you got yourself a ticket, have a great day buddy if you have. πŸ™‚

  • Hi Glic

    Yes, I am! Really looking fwd to the game. πŸ™‚

    Take it easy buddy. You need to organise a fine massage for yourself: just offer them overnight accomodation and they might come for free! πŸ˜›

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