We all know Martin Kemp, the bassist in Spandau Ballet, Steve Owen from Eastenders and Reggie Kray in Peter Medak's 'The Krays'. However I got the chance to speak to Martin about the one thing that will never change in his life, his passion for Arsenal Football Club:
1968, I was eight years old, Christmas was nearly upon us and like every kid in the country I was busy writing, then rewriting my xmas list. I don’t remember at what age I actually stopped believing in Santa, I’m sure my older brother Gary had hinted at the truth once or twice over the last couple of years and finally my suspicions were starting to show. My list really wasn’t that long, one main present and several small ones, but that year, there was one present that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on...A red and white Arsenal bobble hat knitted by a family friend called Shiela, well auntie Shiela I called her, even though we weren’t really related. My dad had promised Gary and I that he would take us to Highbury to see a match in the new year and that red and white stripped bobble hat was more than just a hat, more than just another present wrapped up in a piece of wrapping paper in the shape of a cracker at the bottom of my pillowcase....it was a guarantee!
I had missed the world up in 1966, that bit too young to understand why no one had come over the swings that July afternoon and why the streets looked like a scene out of Danny Boyles ‘28 days Later’. My footballing life started when I went back to school after that long hot summer break when the whole of the nation was swept up in a patriotic football frenzy, my brightly coloured bobble hat had stayed on the shelf, I swore not to wear it until it made its debut at Highbury.
After a few weeks into the new year when I thought that promise was about to be broken, my dad came home from work on that Friday evening and announced he had tickets for tomorrows game, a cup game against Charlton Athletic, to be honest I couldn’t of cared less who it was against as long as I went to Highbury. That Saturday afternoon was electric, my dad parked the car at Canonbury and we walked to the stadium, I'd never experienced anything like it, I felt frightened and grown up all in the same moment, at times lost in a sea of bodies all moving together. The closer we got to the Stadium the more the crowd started to bustle, men with their arms in the air singing their allegiance to their team; I felt like I was caught up in an army marching to war. Just when the crowd had started to close in on me and I had a deep fear I was going to get separated from my dad and my brother, I felt a hand grab the fur collar of my jacket and I was hauled through the red metal turn-styles, "Nice hat kid” the man behind the ticket desk said as my dad handed our tickets across the counter. I was so proud.
I was in, all of a sudden I could breath. As we entered the perimeter of the ground my dad stopped to buy me a programme and a bag of peanuts for half time then made our way to the Clock End. We turned a corner and started to walk a flight of concrete steps, the chanting was getting louder and louder with every step, my heart was racing, we reached the top of the stairs and the sight of the bright green Highbury turf hit me for the very first time. I spent the match squashed up against the railings at the bottom of the Clock End. On the way home as we walked back through the crowds to our car, someone grabbed my bobble hat and it was gone. The present that had been in the bottom of my pillow case had gone, but the memory of my first trip to see the Gunners will stay with me forever.
So Martin, how do you pass on that same passion to your family?
Life with the Kemps these days is literally a game of two halves, one half of the house is where the main lounge sits and my wife and daughter will watch re-runs of The Kardashians and Desperate Housewives with a sprinkling of old films. While the other side is the TV room, which is primarily where my son Roman and I hang, the giant screen showing football, football and more football, broken up by the odd game of FIFA.
Thank God he chose Arsenal as his team, how do people live in a household where members of the same family support rival teams? Mind you I gave him little choice. When he had just turned five, he gave me a few scary moments mentioning the word Chelsea too many times for my liking, but luckily enough that 97/98 season was our famous double winning year and as Arsenal paraded the silverware through the streets of Highbury on the open top bus, I stood Roman in exactly the same place my dad had stood me on Highbury corner when we did the previous double back in 71, and while he was decked out in red and white, a giant Arsenal hat and waving a flag, I whispered in his ear "Now, that’s your team!”
What do you think about the current Arsenal team and Arsene Wenger, anything we lack or need?
Today, I like every other Arsenal fan in the world has nothing but praise for Arsene and what he has done for the club, for the success in the early part of his reign, and for just for keeping us in touch with the top in the latter years as the prices of players and the business end of the game has sky rocketed out of control. My frustration with Wenger these days seems to lie in profit margins; to hear Arsene talk about a successful season being that the club has made this much money kills me. For me, Arsenal football club belongs to you, me and every other Arsenal fan, and success to us are cup final days, trophies and moments like when Mickey Thomas placed the ball into the goal at the Kop End, winning that league decider in 1989.
There was a point in last summers transfer window when I thought Arsene had lost the plot and his time had run its course, but in the end, after an awful start he came through. This year I have a distinct feeling things are going to be different. It could well be his last season in charge and something tells me he will want to go out on a high and if spending his savings is the way forward i’m sure that is what he will do.
Who’s been your favourite manager/over the years you’ve supported Arsenal?
I was brought up on Bertie Mee’s Arsenal. A tough solid defence with flair down the flanks and a big center forward. Winning the double in the 71/72 season, they were my glory days. If you ask me what moment sticks out over the years above everything else, I would have to say the Charlie George goal against Liverpool at wembley bringing home the FA cup and league double, only the second time it had been accomplished in the 20th century, and our man Charlie laying flat on his back in the afternoon sunshine after scoring that belter from outside the box.
What do you think about the RVP situation?
Say what you like, that he's 29, that he has served Arsenal well, that we should sell before he goes on a free next year etc, no team wants to lose a 35 goal a season player, especially when your midfield aren’t the most prolific in scoring goals. We've all seen it before, a player being made to stay that extra season against his will, not getting 100% and playing less and less games as their enthusiasm effects not only his performance but in the end the whole teams. At least this year Arsene has moved in the transfer market early just in case RVP does move on unlike last years debacle in the transfer market, we've done really well in securing Podolski, whom I rate very highly. I'm interested to see how Giroud can handle the pace of the Premier League, I saw a couple Ligue1 games last season and he did impress me but so did Chamakh when he was at Bordeaux! So let's see what happens.
Whats your view on the ownership issues?
Football is all about cash. If you ask me what would I prefer self-stability or an oligarch, I would say ‘trophies’ and those golden moments when your team lifts the cup. I'm alway's the first to admit how seeing Chelsea lift the Champions League trophy turned me green with envy or Man City lifting the league title with Nasri and Vieira smiling on was like a dagger to the heart. Football is gladatorial, you win, you lose, thumbs up, thumbs down; how you get there, as long as its fair, I dont care!
How do you see our chances for the new season given we’ve got to play Man City/Chelsea/Liverpool in January, our weakest month?
It has the potential to be the most defining month of our season, especially if we are bedding in a few new players, including what might be a new front line. However I have a feeling this season is going to be special, I think Arsene desperately want's to take that open top bus ride through the streets of Highbury one last time showing off the spoils of a great campaign and where the next generation of Arsenal fans will wait on Highbury corner trying to get a glimpse and their dads convincing them that they are now Arsenal fans for life.
Martin is currently filming a documentary series with his brother Gary about the history of gangs in Britain, so we look forward to seeing that. However you can follow Martin on Twitter and talk all things Arsenal with him - @realmartinkemp