By Tony Attwood
As I occasionally have reason to mention, my day job is running an advertising agency, working on the creative side of things.
And sometimes when we are looking at the work of our competitors, or pitching for a new account, I look in admiration at what others have done, knowing that we probably would not have come up with something quite as original.
Fortunately however we do occasionally manage to come up with neat ideas (which is what pays the bill).
Now, we don’t have any football clients, but I was able to come up with the idea in July 2010 of putting statues in the area around Arsenal’s new stadium, as part of the Arsenalisation project. I pitched the idea to Arsenal’s CEO Ivan Gazidis at a meeting three members of Arsenal Independent Supporters Assn (AISA) had with him – and then presented a paper on the subject to the club.
And as we know, the project was accepted.
I was rather pleased with that, and perhaps as a result I’ve been rather hesitant about coming up with another such plan. After all at the moment I’ve got a 100% record on Arsenalisation plans.
But one new project has come to mind and the Arsenal History Society (the part of AISA that I oversee) is about to try and start the ball rolling again. I don’t want to pre-empt the news, because we are going to put it to Mr Gazidis and the directors, but I’m hopeful they might like the plan. Not at once of course, but in due course…
Anyway, all of this made me think of the way the Emirates Stadium has developed, and about our recent discussions about Tottenham sharing the Emirates while their new stadium is built, and indeed about the way that Tottenham and Chelsea are promoting their new grounds.
What links all these various rambling thoughts together is that sometimes when I see advertising slogans and the like I cringe and think, “thank goodness my agency is not going to be associated with that one”.
This thought came to me when I read about Chelsea’s new ground being a “Cathedral of Football” alongside reading about Tottenham’s ground being a monument to the “Tottenham Experience”.
To me, the Cathedral of Football comment is perhaps not the wisest thing to call the ground – although it did get a huge amount of coverage in the press. We’ll see in due course as more details are revealed, but for the moment, to return to Tottenham….
It was Blacksheep who brought the Tottenham Experience to my attention in a comment on a previous post which quoted,
“an architecturally stunning new terrace on the High Road to host ‘The Tottenham Experience’ – a permanent Visitors Centre and Arrivals Hub including an interactive Museum to celebrate Club history and local heritage.”
As Blacksheep point out, it got him thinking, what exactly IS the ‘The Tottenham Experience’? I’ll let Blacksheep take up the story…
“If you are a person of a certain age then you may not be able to remember a time when ‘the famous Tottenham Hotspur’ were top dogs in London but that time did exist. The Spurs last lifted the top table trophy (then the Division One championship) in 1961. This was their second title win a mere 10 years after their first (NB Spurs seem to like years that end in 1).
“They did more than win the league in ’61 they completed the ‘double’, adding the FA Cup to their trophy cabinet. However, despite having one of the most exciting line-ups in history that side could only add another FA cup the following year, no more league championships for the Lillywhites army of proud supporters to celebrate since.
“They have won the FA cups lots of times (8) and even once as a non-league club. They’ve added 3 European trophies too and the league cup (as recently as 2008)
“So the first thing to note is that THFC are a CUP side, they don’t win the league much. If you are a Spurs fan your experience is probably one of general disappointment interspersed with occasional moments of joy.
“In North London Tottenham have had to compete with their much more successful neighbours – The Arsenal. In fact you could say the shadow of the Gunners has draped itself over White Hart Lane for many many years.
“Tottenham haven’t finished above Arsenal in the league for 20 years, so for most of Spurs’ younger fans their experience is of being the second side in North London. I wonder how the ‘The Tottenham Experience’ will demonstrate this?”
Of course Tottenham have a unique atmosphere and history, just as Arsenal do, just as most clubs do. But I rather think the phrase the Tottenham Experience is, like the Cathedral of Football, going to be a hostage to fortune.
I reported a while back on the Telegraph running a story about how Tottenham will shortly overtake Arsenal. Interestingly a few days after the criticism of the story poured down (not least in Untold), two things happened. One was that the Telegraph told me that I couldn’t access any more of their stories on line (although that might have been a coincidence of course – they do charge if you read them a lot), and the other was that they published a reverse article, on how “Spurs will never catch Arsenal, regardless of how big their stadium is.”
It pointed out that Arsenal have the advantage of having their stadium up and running, while “Spurs haven’t even built theirs yet,” and that “Arsenal actually have much more silverware in the trophy cabinet. Back-to-back FA Cups in the last two years have added weight to that supremacy – it would take years for Spurs to make up the difference.”
Some of the article actually got a bit catty saying things like, “While Arsenal spend all their time worrying about trifling tournaments like the Champions League, Tottenham have their eyes on the real prize – the League Cup,” which as they point out, is “a trophy Arsenal haven’t won since 1993.”
Indeed some of the eulogising about Arsenal seemed quite disconnected from the normal Telegraph writing that we know and hate. As in, “Arsenal have a squad chock-full of incredible talent. The likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey would worry any opposition. While their neighbours are focussing on youth, and do have an array of exciting youngsters, they’re not on the same level.”
It all got a bit silly after that, but at the end there was this point… “This may be a controversial point to some – particularly those firmly rooted in the #WengerOut camp – but no rational, sane-minded football fan can deny the quality of the man at the helm at Arsenal FC.
“He may not have been able to beat Spurs under Poch last season, he may never have beaten Chelsea under Jose Mourinho, but he’s consistently delivered the goods for his club under a variety of trying circumstances.
“In times of plenty he won the double, in times of hardship he brought regular Champions League football, and now he has money to spend again he’s set about building a team that’s genuinely capable of challenging for top honours.”
Arsenal will of course eventually slip back, although hopefully not as far as Chelsea, Man C, Man U etc did with sojourns into the second division, but I’m hoping for a bit more success to come before that happens.
But imagine having a difficult season while journalists and visiting fans are pitching jokes about the Cathedral or the Experience. Having a bad season is hard enough to take, but to endure it while the opposition taunt you with indelicate commentaries about cracked Cathedrals, getting down to pray and Experiences in toilets, would be too much – especially if it was a really rough season and you got to hear the same commentary at each and every match.
Fortunately the new concept that I’ve proposed to AISA and which is, as I say, to be put to the club shortly, when we publish our annual review of Arsenal’s history, has no room in it for taunting and comments from visiting supporters.
If you are a member of AISA you’ll get your annual history report in a few weeks time – I signed off the final proof over the weekend – and if you are not a member, you can always join. www.aisa.org does the trick. I will of course be talking about the new proposal in detail once it is made public.
Last point, whenever I mention Tottenham there is one Tottenham fan who writes in and says, “you’re obsessed with Tottenham”. I think I just see Tottenham as the part of London where I used to live and as our local rivals, but anyway, can we take it, just for once, that we’ve had that comment, and saying it each time is a bit, sort of, repetitive.
Anniversary of the day
21 July 1987: Alan Smith’s first appearance for Arsenal, in the Barrie Vassallo Testimonial. He had transferred from Leicester City where he had played alongside Gary Lineker, but was immediately loaned back to the club until the summer of 1987.