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'My love letter to where I was born' - How 'The Angel' became Arsenal's new anthem

17:00 GMT 10/05/2022
Arsenal Leeds Premier League 2021-22
In an exclusive interview with GOAL, Louis Dunford, a singer-songwriter and proud Islington boy, reveals how the smash hit has changed his life

It was just a normal night in the pub for Louis Dunford when his finger hovered over the ‘tweet’ button.

Little did he know that when he pressed send just a few moments later he would be setting in motion a series of events that would turn his world upside down.

And as he ponders what has gone on since, the 30-year-old still can’t quite believe what has happened.

“It’s been mental,” he tells GOAL. “It hasn’t really stopped. I keep thinking that I’m going to wake up and it will have died down, but it just seems to keep snowballing."

Dunford is a singer-songwriter, an Arsenal supporter and a proud Islington boy who grew up idolising the likes of Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry.

And, on Sunday, May 8, 2022, he stood in one of the hospitality boxes at Emirates Stadium as a guest of the club and watched as thousands of Arsenal fans sang his song ‘The Angel’ ahead of kick-off against Leeds.

“North London forever

"Whatever the weather

"These streets are our own

"And my heart will leave you never

"My blood will forever

"Run through the stone...”

It was the moment a new club anthem was born.

And for Dunford and his Arsenal-mad family, it was the stuff of fairytales, the culmination of a social media movement that all started with that one single tweet less than a fortnight before.

The tweet was a video of him performing ‘The Angel’ during a recent sold-out gig at the Union Chapel, an Islington venue just down the road from where he grew up.

“We were sat in the pub and my mate was going to me, ‘They’ve got to play it at The Emirates’,” Dunford explains.

“So, as a genuine joke, I tagged the Arsenal on Twitter and said ‘Play The Angel. The people want it.'

“I was just thinking that my small following of Twitter fans would think it was funny.

“And then, the next day, I woke up and it had exploded overnight. I had over 1,000 retweets. I couldn’t understand what had happened.

“Over the next couple of days I went from having 2,000 followers, to 10,000, then 15,000 and now I’ve got over 30,000. It just hasn’t stopped.

“I was like 'F*cking hell, all this over a drunk joke!'"

So, why has Dunford’s track captured the imagination of so many Arsenal fans? There have been previous attempts to find a new club anthem, after all.

Elvis Presley’s ‘The Wonder Of You’ stuck around for a while after the move to the Emirates, but eventually disappeared off the pre-match playlist.

The big issue was that it all felt a bit forced, a feeling that football fans rarely like.

But this time things have been a bit different. The Angel is a song written by a fan, which is about the local area.

It’s a homage to the neighbourhood and that is why it seems to have struck a chord with such large swathes of the Arsenal fanbase.

“It’s my love letter to where I was born,” Dunford said. “To be honest, I didn’t write it thinking of the Arsenal at all. 

“There’s a mention of Highbury and there’s a ‘stadium’ in the first verse because it’s part of my landscape. The Arsenal is such a big part of our culture growing up around here.

“But people have been thanking me for writing this for the Arsenal, but it’s genuinely an accident. 

“If I’d sat down to write a song that I think Arsenal fans would have liked, I don’t think I would have been able to come up with anything.”

Since sending that tweet to Arsenal, Dunford’s life has been one long blur.

The song went viral in an instant, with Arsenal fans around the world quickly making their own video edits that spread across social media.

Within days the track had reached No.2 in the iTunes chart, with Lady Gaga the only person keeping it off top spot.

And then Dunford’s Popham EP, which ‘The Angel’ is on, went one better by topping the album chart.

“It was f*cking mad,” Dunford said. “I was looking at the chart and I was above Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles.

“I’ve got that screenshot forever, that the EP was top of the charts. I’ll get buried with that in a frame!”

But things didn’t stop there.

Arsenal were now being inundated with requests from fans to get involved.

Mikel Arteta admitted he had received "thousands and thousands of messages" about the song and publicly backed the supporters’ calls to get it played at the Emirates.

Dunford was then invited to the training ground to meet the manager and the players ahead of the Leeds game.

For an Arsenal fan who grew up in the shadow of Highbury, it was a dream come true.

But even that couldn’t have prepared him and his family for what was to come on a warm Sunday afternoon at the Emirates.

While there had been such a huge reaction to the track on social media, nobody quite knew how the song would be received inside the stadium.

Would the fans join in? Would they know the words? Would they even care?

Those were all questions that were answered emphatically just as the players got together in the centre circle for their pre-match huddle.

Arteta called it an "emotional moment" as thousands of supporters belted out the chorus with their arms aloft and with their scarves in the air.

And, for Dunford, who stood there taking it all in, it was the moment he officially handed over ownership of his song to the Arsenal fanbase.

“I’ll never forget what you lot have done for me and this song over the last couple of weeks,” he tweeted after the game. “You made this possible. 

“Whatever happens – the song belongs to you now. Thank you. 

“North London Forever.”