On 22nd August, 2004, Arsenal took on Middlesbrough at Highbury. Avoid defeat and they would equal Nottingham Forest’s long-standing 42 match unbeaten record in the top-flight. Everyone, Boro fans included, expected the Gunners to make short work of the visitors. It was a gorgeous summer’s day and I remember that I wore sunglasses and a France shirt.
This game is so crystalized in my memory that I even remember what I wore [also because I can make myself out on the TV footage when Bergkamp lines up his shot for the second goal]. I was 20 and about to start my final year of university and life was good. Arsenal were the unbeaten champions, the sun was shining and I was on summer vacation from my degree, in that sweet spot where I had all of the trappings of adulthood and few of the responsibilities.
Prior to kickoff, injured captain Patrick Vieira was presented with a solid gold Premier League trophy which glistened in the August sunshine. I had barely even considered who we were playing, it didn’t seem to matter much. Boro fans politely applauded as a booted and suited Vieira showed the trophy to the crowd.
The visiting support were mere extras in my mind, background…