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Camden News - by TOM FOOT
Published: 31 December 2008
Michael, father Isaac, and brothers Hugh and John Foot at Home Park, Plymouth, in 1959
Michael, father Isaac, and brothers Hugh and John Foot at Home Park, Plymouth, in 1959
The generation game: how Plymouth’s FA Cup match with Arsenal has split the Foot household

Nearly 90 years after his first visit to Home Park, Plymouth fan and former Labour leader Michael Foot is this Saturday set to watch his side in the FA Cup – in the company of his great nephew, and Gunners fan, Tom Foot

EVER wondered how Pilgrim’s Lane in Hampstead got its name?
According to the street’s oldest resident, my great uncle Michael Foot, it was in deference to his football team, Plymouth Argyle – aka The Pilgrims.
“We named it after the famous Pilgrims,” says Michael, with a smile wrinkling up his lip.
“It is the best name for a football team and it seemed like the best name for a street too.
“We had to get the consent from everyone in the street to change it – but there was no objection in the end.”
Never mind the confusion at the post office at the time about Worsley Road, which became Pilgrim’s Lane in 1969.
On Saturday, we’ll be going to our first match together: Arsenal at home to Plymouth in the third round of the FA Cup.
Now 95, his sight isn’t what it once was but his planned visit to Arsenal will be aided by special commentary offered at the Emirates Stadium.
With the better half of the family now Arsenal fans, the fixture has been our main talking point since the draw a few weeks ago.
While I saw my first Arsenal match in 1992 – a 2-1 Cup win against Crystal Palace – Michael’s first Plymouth match was in 1920, when he was eight. He was taken to Home Park by his older brother, Dingle, a “100 per cent Argyle fan”.
It became a weekly addiction and 87 fanatical seasons have passed, during which he became a club director and even a “player”.
In 2003, for his 90th birthday, the club officially registered him with the FA as a squad member.
A number 90 shirt, signed by the team, hangs above the toilet and on his dinner table are piles of match day programmes and newsletters sent by friends in the West Country.
Each year, he marks the season’s fixtures in his TUC diary.
Taking pride of place and sandwiched between this year’s Christmas cards from the Blairs and the Browns is a huge poster board festive greeting signed by the club staff and “especially the players” – urging Michael to “Keep it Green”.
I don’t think anyone who has visited Pilgrim’s Lane would be too worried about a change in team colours this late in life – even if he clearly holds a secret affection for The Arsenal.
He said: “If we [Plymouth] have any alliance at all it’s with Arsenal. They, like us, like to play the best football.
“I had a chance to see them a few times when I came to London in the 1930s to work on the Evening Standard.
“I was particularly attracted to Arsenal for two reasons. One was David Jack, an inside forward, who was the son of our Rob Jack, who was the manager in Plymouth.
“The other was the Scottish international Alex James. One was very small and the other was a giant.
“One of the great moments in my life was when I went in to the Two Brewers pub in Fleet Street and I met those two sitting there with friends. I thought: Now I’ve really come up in the world.”
Memorable match days include “smashing Portsmouth to pieces” on an Easter Day and being berated by a “bunch of snobs” in the West Bromwich Albion directors’ box during the famous giant-killing FA Cup run of 1984, when the Pilgrims reached the semi-finals.
But the stand-out clash was Argyle against Tottenham on Christmas Day 1935.
Michael said: “It was there on Christmas morning I went out on my own to White Hart Lane.
“It was a wonderful sight to see so many people coming and there, lo and behold, Plymouth beat Spurs 2-1.
“Sammy Black scored both goals – one with his left, one with his right.”
Plymouth came seventh in the old second division that season, one of their highest-ever finishes.
But in all the 87 years Michael has been supporting the West Country club, they have never played in the top flight of English football.
He said: “I often said I wasn’t going to conk out until Argyle was up there in the top division, playing against these decent teams like Arsenal – and of course that could happen.
“They are running it a bit close now though. I still think it’s going to happen before I conk out.
“It’s such a great game you see. The standard of football [being played now], and they are playing it across the world.
“It is the best game in the world still and we want our Plymouth to be joining in.”
Arsenal have been hit with injuries and are not in the best of form.
I won’t hear the end of it if they lose to the Pilgrims.

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