LONDON: Former Arsenal greats Frank McLintock, George Graham, Bob Wilson and David O’Leary returned to the Highbury turf on Thursday when the old ground was officially reopened as a residential development.
Highbury, Arsenal’s home for 93 years before the club moved to the nearby Emirates Stadium in 2006, has been converted into more than 650 apartments and penthouses and the renamed Highbury Square was opened by manager Arsene Wenger.
The development has been constructed around the four sides of the old pitch, which has been turned into a garden area, and Wenger said he felt happy and sad to be back.
“Sad because I remember how special Highbury was and you realise that never again can a team walk out here and beat someone and all those emotions can never come back,” he said.
“But happy as well because you feel this could have been completely destroyed but there is still enough here to realise it is a museum of Arsenal Football Club.
“Here was the pitch, here were the stands and when you walk into the marble halls and see the bust of (former manager) Herbert Chapman, you realise just how big the history of this club is,” added Wenger.
McLintock, who skippered Arsenal to the League and FA Cup double in 1971, told Reuters: “It brings back so many memories but the thing that strikes me now is how contained it was as a stadium.
“The Emirates is much bigger and although its a magnificent stadium it loses a bit of the atmosphere. But grounds like Highbury, White Hart Lane, Derby’s old Baseball Ground were right on top of you, the supporters seemed to be peering down at you and it made it so special.”
McLintock said the one Highbury match forever engrained on his memory was the European Fairs Cup final victory over Anderlecht in 1970 when Arsenal beat the Belgian side 3-0 in the second leg to secure their first trophy since 1953.
“The odds were against us after losing 3-1 over there but we gave one of the best performances of any team I ever played in,“ said the former centre-half.
“We were perfect in defence, perfect in attack and beat them 3-0 to win the cup. They thought we were on drugs, we were out of this world that night.” — Reuters