For some people, the fact that the name “Highbury” rhymes with the word “Library” is more than just pure coincidence. And to be fair, sometimes they’re right. But on Sunday 7th May 2006, Highbury and Library couldn’t have been more different things.
As it turns out, the last ever football match at Highbury will never be forgotten.
We went into this historic day needing to better the Spurs result at Upton Park in order finish 4th and grab the last Champions League spot – we did it, but the drama that was played out before the finish will live long in the memory.
The day started with the hilarious news that Spurs had several players struck down with food poisoning and were requesting that their game be postponed! Not your every day news item, admittedly!
So when I emerged from Finsbury Park station an hour later, I had no idea whether our final match was even going to be played.
However, another hour later, and it was underway – the sun came out, the crowd had been issued with T-shirts that gave the stadium a fantastic multi-coloured look and everything seemed joyful when we took the lead through Pires. A minute later, the first of many magical moments came when, in a matter of seconds, the whole ground was leaping around like idiots despite the fact that nothing was going on on the pitch in front of them. The million or so radios in the ground told us that West Ham had taken the lead against the Spuds and there was much rejoicing.
Another minute passed and Wigan equalised, then scored a ridiculous free kick from miles out to put a real dampener on things for a while. But “a while” on a day like this was no more than about 2 minutes, and then Thierry broke the Wigan offside trap to send us crazy again. Less than a minute of wild celebrations followed before we received the news that Defoe had equalised for Tottenham. Exhausted by it all, I think everyone was glad when the half-time whistles went without any further changes to the two scorelines.
By this point my brain was so scrambled that I honestly thought that we were in 4th spot if the scores stayed the same, but Defoe’s equaliser meant that they still had the edge. Luckily, we have the best player in the world on our side, and he popped up and scored from a poor back pass and a penalty which ensured that we had done our bit. But if the Spuds got another goal at Upton Park, it was curtains.
Then came the most unbelievable minute or so of the entire day. At almost the exact moment that Dennis Bergkamp came on to a rapturous standing ovation on his final ever appearance, Benayoun scored for the Hammers. Cue pandemonium at Highbury, Dennis must have thought his reception to be a little over the top until he realised what it meant! One of those moments you’ll never forget. And all this for 4th place in the table!
The last 10 minutes trickled by and the season was over. What a fitting and superb end to the 93-year history of this great stadium. No-one who was there will ever forget this game or this stadium.
It feels very strange to know that we won’t be going to sit in that place ever again, but I am now looking forward to the new stadium.
That is, once I have visited the Stade De France on Wednesday for another meaningless game. Our tickets for the Champions League final have just come through and, having seen the Seville fans shaking with disbelief and excitement whilst the Boro fans sat slumped in their seats, I am now extremely nervous. Which ones will we be this time next week?