25 years have now gone by, a quarter of a century since the most famous and certainly the most dramatic moment in the history of Arsenal Football Club.
May 26, 1989 saw the Gunners go to fortress Anfield needing to win 2-0 to win the league on goals scored from Liverpool.
It looked impossible, in those days opposition goals at Anfield were about as common as snow in July in Florida, it almost never happened.
But that night, a seven year old boy fell in love forever, my life-long passion for Arsenal Football Club was born….
A promising season
Arsenal had hardly won a thing since 1971, to call the years leading up to 1989 barren would be an understatement. But that year something clicked, a young hungry team assembled by George Graham were at one point 19 points ahead of Liverpool. Alan Smith’s goals and the artistry weaved by the likes of Merson, Thomas and the late, great David Rocastle had set up a thrilling title challenge. But five points ahead with three games left, Arsenal suddenly got the jitters and lost to Derby and drew with Wimbledon meaning it would have to be decided at Anfield.
An emotional evening
The match was of course played just over a month after the Hillsborough tragedy and Arsenal came on to the field with flowers to present to the Liverpool players.
Before the game it was apparently suggested the Arsenal players should give the flowers to fans in the crowd, the gesture added even more poignancy to an emotional evening. It was a gesture of respect more than repaid by the Liverpool fans at the end of the evening when, although devastated, many stayed to applaud the Arsenal players.
After a nervy first half the match came to life in the 52nd minute with a free kick from the right which may or may not have been flicked in by Alan Smith.
25 years on I still can’t see whether he did touch it or not, he insists he didn’t and 25 years on I still cannot work out why Liverpool protested about the goal.
The Gunners were halfway there but time ticked on with no further goal and when Michael Thomas squandered a gilt-edged chance to win, it looked like the title was staying on Merseyside.
‘A good ball by Dixon finding Smith…’
Injury time, Steve McMahon had already bawled at his players there was a minute left when John Lukic bowled the ball to Lee Dixon.
The right back chipped it forward to the tireless Smith, whose flick, like so many others in his career found a team-mate.
That team-mate was Michael Thomas, who took it on the run and charged forward, a warrior mounting one last Gunners assault on the fortress.
It would have all come to nothing and history would have been different had the ball been cleared by Liverpool’s defenders.
Instead it bounced back into Thomas’s path, time stopped and history beckoned Arsenal’s midfielder forward.
Seconds later, the ball was in the net, Arsenal had won the title and Thomas was doing the weirdest dance I have ever seen.
There was still time for Liverpool to try and hit back, one goal would have been enough but at around 10.12pm it was over, Arsenal had done the impossible and won their first league title for 18 years.
Not on points, not even on goal difference but on more goals scored, yes a George Graham team won the league having scored more goals!
A young Tony Adams picked up the first of many pieces of silverware and the 13 on duty that night wrote their names into Arsenal folklore.
I will always remember that night, you often do remember where and when you fell in love and if you don’t know why, watch Fever Pitch the movie….
A lot has happened since May 26,1989 for Arsenal but nothing we have experienced since will ever match the drama in those last few seconds in my opinion.
That’s not to say winning the league at Old Trafford, White Hart Lane and going unbeaten throughout the season should be forgotten though.
But while City will have Aguerrrrrrrrrrrrroooooooooooooooooo, we will always have THOMASSSSSSSSSSS, RIGHT AT THE END!!!!!!!!