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Islington Tribune - by ROISIN GADELRAB
Published: 6 November 2009
John Lydon: “The Bear... a proper Gooner’
John Lydon: “The Bear... a proper Gooner’
Hands off Bear plaque, says Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten

Punk legend joins campaign to save Arsenal fan tribute... and urges club to cut ticket prices

FORMER Sex Pistol John Lydon has joined the fight to prevent a memorial plaque to one of Arsenal’s best known fans from being removed from outside the Emirates Stadium.
In an interview with the Tribune this week, Mr Lydon also pleads with his beloved Arsenal to lower ticket prices, talks about the death of Camden Passage and reveals how he was beaten by nuns at the age of five.
Mr Lydon, better known as his punk persona Johnny Rotten, said Arsenal fan Dainton “The Bear” Connell, who died in a car crash in Moscow two years ago, was a “very good friend”.
He spoke out after the council ordered the removal of the plaque from a roundabout near the stadium because residents had complained.
A furious Mr Lydon said: “What are they complaining about? Some wags a few years ago asked to put a flag up for me on the Six Acres estate, where I used to live. I didn’t take it seriously but the council did and were horrified at the prospect so I’m not surprised they’re horrified at the prospect of a solid Gooner like Dainton getting similar treatment.”
Mr Lydon added: “Never trust a politician. They will find a way of destroying everything that used to make a community. They will take it out, whether it be me, Dainton or anything to do with Arsenal proper. At the last Pistols gig I raised a flag – the Dainton flag – which all Arsenal know about. The Bear. That’s how we know him. Dare I say, a proper Gooner.”
Mr Connell, a father-of-two who worked as a bodyguard for the Pet Shop Boys, was credited with keeping far-right groups out of the Highbury terraces in the 1980s but also had a fearsome reputation for scrapes with rival fans.
Mr Lydon, who hails from Finsbury Park, had some choice words for his favourite football club. “Arsenal, love ya, lower the price of the tickets and let the locals back in because we’re not all employed round here,” he demanded.
He has not yet been to the Emirates Stadium, even though he has a season ticket, which he gives to his family.
“It seems to be more like a cricket crowd,” he said. “They seem to have stifled the community spirit that used to be Arsenal. So long as it’s 60,000 people yelling their hearts out I’m happy but it seems to be 60,000 people told to sit down, be polite and enjoy your comfortable seat.
“It’s hard for the local kids to get in. They can’t afford these absurd prices. There should be an enormous section for kids to spot what the game is all about.”
But he praised the Arsenal performance against Spurs on Saturday. “I just love the way they play,” he said. “They take all those risks to play the game so beautifully. I cannot but admire them, deeply, deeply so. It’s such a brave, wonderful almost Zen Buddhism approach to life. It’s purist.”
Although he now lives in America, Mr Lydon is back in this country after re-forming the band Public Image Ltd, who play Camden’s Electric Ballroom on December 22 and 23.
But he’s not too happy with some of the changes to his old neighbourhood – particularly the loss of the traders in Camden Passage. “They’ve murdered the community,” he said. “You’ll get kids running round the streets trying to knife each other. The genuine sense of being able to buy a set of plates for a tenner, the hot apple dumplings and the great jellied eels stall before some lads went posh on it.
“Everyone would go to Upper Street on a Sunday morning and it was terrific. They took that away. For what? Now it’s an empty, barren, desolate wasteland of a road that serves no purpose other than posh coffee at outrageous prices. I like good coffee at good cheap prices with a good sarnie you can afford.”
Recalling his childhood in Finsbury Park, he said primary school was “the worst”, adding: “I mostly disliked my teachers. Some were vicious and pointlessly cruel.
“Sacred Heart in Eden Grove was run by nuns and they were violent. One of my early childhood memories is being left-handed, which the nuns would see as the sign of the devil. I was constantly hit on my knuckles with the sharp end of a ruler. I was only five.”
Secondary school was not much better. He said: “The whole school system at that time was ‘you don’t stand a chance, why bother? Give up now, don’t bother to make an effort. Don’t stand up, you have no rights. You’re useless, face up to it.’ I never did.
“I’d have to walk home from William of York [school] in Caledonian Road. They denied my bus pass because the council decided I was just inside the two-and-a-half mile zone and didn’t qualify.
“My mum and dad are not the wealthiest of people and couldn’t afford to give me the bus fare so that was a nice long walk home every night. Bad things would go on – kids would be kids. The idea of having a drink was always there but the idea of drinking until you can’t walk and collapsing in your own vomit was not on the agenda and now that seems to be a fashionable statement.”

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