By Tony Attwood
It has long been noted that people with an agenda will re-write history to fit their message. Thuat the aaa notoriously re-write Arsenal’s history to show that this is a bad time in Arsenal’s history. Football journalists and their chums in the FA rewrite the England football teams history to make out that the current run of poor showings is somehow not living up to the norm – (whereas defeat to a team like Iceland was indeed the norm – the sort of place we’e been since the second world war).
Bertie Mee, in the aaa re-write of Arsenal history, knew when to leave the club and didn’t see us through any sort of decline. His 16th and 17th position finishes in the league in 1975 and 1976 didn’t happen and were not the worst final positions of Arsenal since 1925.
George Graham gave us exciting attacking football and the 40 goals the club scored in 1993 was not the lowest since the relegation season of 1913.
Arsene Wenger has failed to win the league between 2004 and 2016 – 12 seasons. This is the worst ever run of the club, forgetting of course the run between 1972 and 1988 (16 seasons) or the run from 1954 to 1970 (also 16) or indeed 1894 to 1930 – although of course that included the earliest days of Arsenal as a league club, and so including it would be rather dubious.
Arsenal were not hampered by the building of the new stadium, as other clubs have managed this ok without any disruption….
But one can’t really blame the aaa since this re-writing of history is exactly what British people do all the time. As Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, recently said, the British have a “sunny side” view of its position in history which he calls, “regrettable”.
In a recent lecturer Dr MacGregor said, “Maybe we mention a little bit of slave trade here and there, a few wars here and there, but the chapters we insist on are the sunny ones.”
Now what the Arsenal supporters who decry the work of Mr Wenger do is a variant of this. They imagine that the past was totally a sunny period, and that we are currently in the dark ages of Arsenal, whereas in reality the past 20 years have been the second most successful era in the history of the club, exceeded only by the period between the two world wars.
Where the aaa’s interpretation of Arsenal’s history coincides with Dr MacGregor’s analysis of the way Britain’s history is presented, is in being “selective with the truth”. So in Britain we imagine that “we alone beat Bonaparte in Waterloo and got rid of him.”
If we look at the history of English football as offered by the FA it is of ourselves as a major player – and influencer and a force for good. Quite what the “force for good” has actually achieved is hard to say, given that it is hard to imagine how Fifa could be much worse.
A listing of achievements by the FA in this territory is worth considering.
Before 1950, the FA refused to enter the World Cup, and in 1950 the qualification itself was the result of games against Wales, N Ireland and Scotland – not the toughest of groups.
|WC Finals||England exited at..||England’s pos.||P||W||D||L||F||A|
|1974||Did not qualify|
|1982||Second group stage||6th||5||3||2||0||6||1|
|1994||Did not qualify|
|1998||Round of 16||9th||4||2||1||1||7||4|
|2010||Round of 16||13th||4||1||2||1||3||5|
If we look at this England has played 21 games in the finals since 1998. They have won 8. Prior to this we have played 41 games in the world cup finals and won 18.
Total: played 62 won 26. Success rate 42%.
Of course the aaa are not on their own in delivering this message – they are ably aided by the national press and broadcasters. Anyone listening to our various broadcasters or reading the newspapers could be excused for thinking that not only are England natural world beaters but that Liverpool and Tottenham are among the clubs that are traditionally to be found at the top of the league.
Between 1992 and 2016 (24 seasons) Liverpool’s record is
- Champions – none
- Runners up – three times
- Third – four times
Now Liverpool have won some cups during this period, but as the aaa tell us, Cups are not a trophy.
As for Tottenham we could take the run between 1964 and the present day they have
- Champions – none
- Runners up – none
- Third – five times
They also have won some cups, and (to be complete) have been relegated as well.
My point is that we are in the post-truth era, when making up history is as commonplace as making up a story about yesterday. Tottenham and Liverpool have throughout been treated as clubs challenging to become the champions, but in truth are never really there. Arsenal on the other hand are written down as perpetual failures.
England however are perpetual failures but are written up as serious challengers.
It will of course continue, and quite possibly there are some people (outside of the broadcasters) who actually believe that England, Liverpool and Tottenham are traditionally big sides always challenging for trophies. Just as there are some “fans” who believe that we are currently in Arsenal’s worst ever period.
Or indeed who believe that Britain is a peace loving nation that invented agriculture, democracy, mathematics, philosophy, popular music, Christianity and the printing press.