I have always been an Arsenal fan & when I was a kid I did go to Highbury with my dad to see a lot of matches.
How I met David O'Leary.
I remember one game in the North bank telling my dad I couldn't see. The man in front of me turned to my dad & asked him if I wanted to go to the front, my dad said yes & I was passed over the heads of the crowd down to the front to watch the game.
I could always see the game better & felt safer when we had seats in the East stand, however. My dad used to take me up to a lot of the Arsenal home games when we were visiting family in Chingford or Walthamstow, I would sit with my cup of Bovril & a cheeseburger, studying every word in the matchday program & giggling & grinning when the language of the songs being sang became a bit raucous.
Back then I always wanted to be a defender or a midfielder & my favourite players were Liam Brady, David O'Leary, Pat Jennings, Sammy Nelson & Graham Rix. We were very lucky as the son of dad's friends played for the Arsenal youth team & we used to get two free tickets to a lot of home games & another of dad's friends worked the concession selling food at halftime so we always got our burgers & Bovril for nothing as well.
In 1978 Arsenal played Ipswich Town in that year's FA Cup Final. In the days before the FA Cup Final, my dad had to pick some friends up from one of the London airports & he took me & my sister up with him to have a look around the airport. Dad took us to a rooftop at the airport that you used to be able to go on, to watch the planes landing & taking off. After we had watched a few games we went back to the arrivals terminal to wait for dad's friends.
Whilst waiting I noticed that the man opposite us sitting in a chair, obviously waiting to collect someone, looked like David O'Leary. Believing that the man could not hear a word I said because I was not actually talking to him, I told my dad very loudly to look at the man opposite that I thought was David O'Leary. Dad told me that yes it did look like David O'Leary & that I may be right. At that time, just like I am now, I was very shy & couldn't do any more than look at him & keep telling my dad that it was David O'Leary & I kept asking my dad to get his autograph.
The man opposite kept smiling at us but didn't say anything. I kept bothering my dad to get his autograph until he gave me a pen & a piece of paper & told me to go & ask the man if he was David O'Leary & ask him if I could have his autograph. As I said I was very timid but overcame my fears to push my younger sister toward the man telling her to ask him if he was David O'Leary.
She walked straight across to him & asked him if he was David O'Leary, to which he replied he was. After my sister had confirmed that he was one of my Arsenal heroes I stood up & told him that I was an Arsenal fan & asked him for his autograph. I told him that we were at the airport picking up friends & that we would be cheering Arsenal on in the Cup Final. He told us that he was waiting for his parents who were flying over from Ireland to go to the Cup Final & then he signed my piece of paper for me.
I think that our friend's plane must have arrived very shortly after, but I can not remember anything else about the day apart from meeting my hero & the fact that I kept showing anyone that would look that I had David O'Learys autograph. I would like to thank my very brave sister Karen, who asked the big man if he was David O'Leary for doing so, but remind her that years later I did take her to see Arsenal in their final season at Highbury & I even lent her one of my Arsenal shirts to wear during the game.