HERE is a scrap you wonder why Islington Council has got itself into. Arsenal fans are beating a path to its environment department over the council’s insistence that a small tribute plaque to a fan who died in a car crash two years ago is removed.
Dainton Connell, or The Bear as he was better know, of course wasn’t any old fan. A man with a legendary reputation, I first heard his name when I was in my early teens, hearing stories of his fierce loyalty to Arsenal and his scrapes on the terraces at Highbury. The tales about his past aren’t all pretty but legions of football fans respected and loved him. And as a bouncer for the Pet Shop Boys, he had a circle of celebrity friends who said he had mellowed with marriage and fatherhood. Ian Wright, Frank Bruno and Matt Lucas were all at his funeral.
I got a bit of stick from some quarters for writing about his life in the Islington Tribune when he died suddenly in a car crash in Moscow, these were people who accused me of celebrating the life of a hooligan. What I was actually doing was writing about a man that literally thousands of people knew and cared about.
Two years later, his name is back in the paper again this month. The plaque in his name, laid on a roundabout next to the Emirates Stadium after he died, must be removed says the council. The Bear’s relatives say this demand is a changearound from what the council said when they put it there. A petition has been launched in attempt to get the council to change it’s mind back again and hundreds have signed.
What’s curious about it all – and it’s a point that has been made by several of The Bear’s friends – is that the plaque is no eyesore, it’s not intrusive. It’s flat against the ground like a small flagstone. If you are not standing right by it, you can’t even see it. So, you wonder what kind of conservationist is so bloody minded about roundabouts to insist that it must be removed. This is hardly green belt land – there’s a hulking new glass and steel coliseum of a new stadium a few steps away.
It’s Arsenal and Spurs tomorrow, the north London derby. As usual, The Bear’s friends and relatives will gather at this special spot for them: The Bear’s Roundabout. They won’t give that little island up easily.