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Why we should never forget George Leavey

There are three big reasons why most football commentary is negative.

First, it is easier to write negative than positive commentaries.  I remember the classic moment 20 years back when we beat Liverpool Not-yet-insolvents in the last game of the year.  The fanzine “1-0 down 2-1 Up” celebrated that with a series of articles at the start of the following season.   Naively I expected the mag to be full of positives.  Instead it contained a whole string of make-believe articles considering what might have happened… if we had lost.

Second, journalists write negative all the time simply because most people don’t support Arsenal, Liverpool Insolvents, Manchester Bankrupts or the KGB in Fulham or any other team you can imagine.   (Incidentally that is why sponsorship of any particular team is always pointless from a commercial point of view.   Would you ever buy Crown Paints or Holstein?  Sponsors lose far more trade than they gain through their sponsorships.  It is all vanity for the top dogs.)   So if a JIP (journo in pub) writes a scathing attack on Arsenal, they are pleasing most of their readers, because most readers are anti-Arsenal, and that is good for sales.

Third, no matter how good you are, you could always be better.  (Even Arsenal Ladies have this – true they win every league match, but they have just lost Julie Fleeting, and they have been knocked out of Europe…) – which make criticism so easy.

So negativity is what we get.   You may have noticed how jolly the JIPs were over Cesc’s injury, and how they poke fun at the Lord Wenger when he gets annoyed on the touch line… it pleases most of their Anti-Arsenal readership.

The only consolation is that JIPs do it to every club.   Just today (24 Dec 2008) there are stories about Liverpool’s failure to get the money for a new stadium, about how Scholari is demanding money and  the club ain’t got none… so it goes.

Hence my thought as I get ready to go to my partner’s house for Christmas… a true supporter supports.  That’s the deal.  To peoople who say they are “Arsenal” but moan a lot about Arsenal my answer is that they should have a bash at being a supporter of a team that doesn’t win stuff, ever.  Like Torquay United.   Small ground, in need of repair, small crowds, relegated to the Conference, no reason local concern or feeling for the club, got to one Wembley final only to lose…   Go there and try supporting them every week. Then come back after three years and realise just how blessd we all are to have had Arsenal chosen for us by our families, our heritage, and our background.

Just under 99 years ago, Arsenal went bust, and were on the very edge of being taken over by and ultimately merged with Fulham.  Because of the dedication and determination of George Leavey, the chairman, who despite not being a wealthy man, selflessly put his own money into paying the players during the summer of 1910, Woolwich Arsenal survived as an independent club, and when the move away from the declining Plumstead area did come it was a move that brought growth and maintained independence rather than bringing closure and oblivion.

In 1910, first division Woolwich Arsenal were struggling on crowds of around 10,000, and criticism was everywhere.  We no longer remember how everyone at the time was a critic of Arsenal, but those who really know their Arsenal history do remember people like George Leavey.  He never got his money back, and no one ever really thanked him for saving our club, he is not honoured with any plaques or busts, as far as I know.  But I believe we would all do better to remember him, than spend our time sniping at Wenger, the board, the team, or the club.

Thank you for reading my ramblings.   Have a great Christmas.

Tony Attwood

3 comments to Why we should never forget George Leavey

  • jbh

    Excellent post, thanks. One other thing that is often forgotten (or not properly acknowledged) is the youth strategy. Sure, they are not all going to make it, but many that don’t will still be sold on at a reasonable profit. Also the strategy of promoting early (young) and the great draw of working with AW means that any “smart” young player would be crazy not to be strongly attracted to the club. This was key in attracting the likes of Fabregas, Merida, Wilshire, Coquelin, Denilson, Vela, Ozyakup, and Nordveit. And I expect them all to be top players in due course. Any Nth American sports franchise would bite your hand off if they could adopt such a strategy (as there all young talent is drafted with the top players going to the bottom ranked teams!)

  • don't believe the hype

    Have a great Christmas Tony and thank you for being an oasis of positivity in difficult times. The JIP’s are in overdrive – the injury to Cesc is like manna from heaven to them and the full doomsday scenario is out. Apparently, he may never be seen again in the red & white of Arsenal as he will leave for Spain in the summer following our season of failure!

    Re your article, thanks for sharing that snippet with us. As a student of history in a former life, I have taken time to learn about the history of our great club, but I must say the George Leavey story had sort of passed me by. So I just want to say a belated thank you George, because without you we would not have had all the great (and not so great) times associated with following The Arsenal!

  • molosser

    Thanks for this nice piece. I am a comparatively new Arsenal fans. I started to support Arsenal (the first football I’ve ever supported) about the time when we crashed out in CL final against Barcelona, and my love to the club begin to grow match by match ever since.
    I am baffled by lots of “Arsenal fan” who has never stopped complaining at the club, at our players, at Wenger, at the board for not spending enough to get players, and relentlessly critizing Wenger for his youth policy. I am totally disgusted by the call of some fans to replace Wenger for failing to bring any trophy in the last few years.
    Thank God your blogs are the exceptions and your site is my daily destination.