The year was 2003. 'Stop Living the Lie' by David Sneddon topped the charts and 'Kangaroo Jack' had just been released in the cinema. Really meteoric stuff. Meanwhile, 21 years ago to the day, Arsenal took to the field in an FA Cup fourth round tie. A usual occurrence, but in a unique set of circumstances.
Having overcome Oxford United in the third round with a routine 2-0 victory, the Gunners were drawn away to then Conference side, Farnborough. With 100 places separating the two sides, it was clear that a big pay day was coming the way of hosts, although many will be surprised to hear what happened next.
After the draw had been made, it soon became clear that there was a real possibility that the tie would not take place at Cherrywood Road. Farnborough chairman, Graham Westley said: "It's a tough decision but at this stage it is not a financial one. The big issues are with the safety authorities." With a capacity of 4100, the club could not guarantee the safety of supporters, with specific issues highlighted surrounding segregation and ticketing. That meant that the choice were simple; reverse the fixture or find an alternative neutral venue.
With these choices in mind, the preference of the Boro was clear. Westley added: "The players are desperate to play on the big stage. I don't think there is a particular advantage playing home or away. At Cherrywood Road the Arsenal players will have a messy dressing room, messy dugout and an OK pitch to play on but these are top pros."
Inevitably, when a club the stature of Farnborough draw one of the Premier League elite, the immediate thought is of a substantial payday that could help set the club up for years. The game had been selected by Sky to be televised, a decision that would have ultimately earned the hosts a handsome £265,000, but only if the game was played at Cherrywood Road. If the game was moved to Highbury, then they would not be selected, arguing that any sniff of an upset was almost certainly gone with this shift.
However, with a potential windfall of 50% of the gate receipts from a tie in Arsenal's 38,000 seater stadium, the money afforded to the minnows could exceed £500,000. The game was subsequently moved to a 3pm kick off, with only highlights available for fans not in attendance.
Although the FA approved this decision, they did make their feelings clear as to how this move damaged the romance of the cup. They argued that future ties should be challenged when decisions over safety were cited, making reference that if 4,500 people attended a Conference game at Cherrywood Road, there would likely be no objections.
Once the decision was made though, the Farnborough players and supporters were subjected to an experience that none of them will ever forget. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger selected a strong side, with the likes of Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord all involved. The Gunners stepped onto the Highbury turf like they had on so many other occasions, but this time in their away kit.
The Premier League Champions were predictably too strong for the visitors, running out 5-1 winners, but accompanied by their 6,000 travelling fans, Farnborough were able to win the hearts and admiration of the watching world. At the summation of the game, all four sides of the ground applauded the non-league outfit, a gesture richly deserved.
So there you have it. You might, like me, have no idea who David Sneddon is, but now you know the history of when Arsenal played away, but at home.