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AEC Archives: The day AEC went to Highbury

We are so proud to be celebrating our 25th season. Having set up in September 1996, none of those there at the beginning could’ve anticipated just how much AEC would do and achieve over the years to come. To commemorate this, we’re going to be sharing some of our proudest moments and biggest achievements over the past two and a half decades, starting with… the day AEC went to Highbury!

It’s Sunday 7th May 2006; after weeks of different practices and routine adjustments, AEC are finally ready to perform at Highbury where Arsenal will take on Wigan in what will be the last ever game of competitive football to be played there.

Nerves are high and the younger athletes, doing a performance like this for the first time, are excited. The Arsenal fans in the group are in a daze, the prospect of actually walking on the famous Highbury grass in front of thousands sure to be a fantastic experience.

We walk to the stadium, the noise inside deafening, and go through the underground car park to take our places at the corner of the pitch to perform the flag routine- it’s one of those huge circular flags that require 20 people to hold it. The routine goes off without a hitch and we start to get ready for what will be the biggest moment of the day…

The Arsenal team have already completed their Highbury bow winning 4-2 against Wigan Athletic- Thierry Henry scored a hat-trick. The crowd were hungry for the special events and we were ready to walk around with significant players, coaches and managers from Arsenal’s past. There were Iconic heroes like Malcom ‘Super-Mac’ Macdonald, historic managers like ‘Gorgeous’ George Graham, and legends like (Who else?) Ian Wright.

The crowd went crazy; so many faces that they hadn’t seen for years, all in the same place at the same time. They were all celebrated and cheered as they took to the pitch with the songs and chants they used to hear from the watching fans. The biggest reserved for Arsenal’s goal scoring legend Ian WRIGHT WRIGHT WRIGHT! The athlete walking around the pitch with him abandoned as he performed for the ecstatic crowd. The whole environment was electric, even the Wigan fans stayed, knowing they were witnessing an historic moment.

There was some sadness too.

As the day drew to a close, and the realisation dawned that it would be the last time that fans passed through the turnstiles, the lump-in-the-back-of-the-throat feeling overcame many- exemplified by Roger Daltry’s Highbury Highs: ‘We will always remember those Highbury days.’

A day remembered by all and, particularly, some young people from Newham and the AEC.


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