By Tony Attwood
I write this having had my final swim in the Pacific (at least for this holiday) while preparing for my final meal out with my daughter this time around. I’ve had the most stunning, amazing time (thank you for asking) and I really would love to stay longer, but the tickets are booked, and my daughter has her own life in Australia to get on with.
But I have swum in the ocean, lazed on the beaches, been a little way north along the Pacific Highway, revisited the sites, found a really good breakfast cafe whose clientele and staff I shall miss each morning, written quite a bit more of my history of Arsenal in the 1930s and best of all spent time relaxing with my daughter without (hopefully) imposing too much on her life.
I even managed to watch one of the Arsenal games on my laptop (the Sutton game) – I did wander around the local pubs asking if any of them fancied opening at 7am, but all that happened was one guy tried to pick me up and the rest looked at me as if I were mad. To even things up I looked at the guy who tried to pick me up as if he were mad.
Which was quite possibly true. Maybe all of us who give a central place in our lives to a football club that knows nothing of us, with players who can’t imagine what it is like to be us (no more than we can really imagine what it is like to be them) are indeed completely bonkers. I’ve often thought so.
So I take the trip by foot, ferry, train, plane, a large and meandering airport lounge, another plane and car, back home – it takes about 29 hours.
And what comes to me at this moment is a quote from Richard Hoggart which I was reminded of while being here and having much more time to read all I want to, than I normally have: “It is essential to keep looking and listening rather than to settle for comfortable half-generalisations, to remain open to the changes going on around us, and to the need sometimes for changes in our own attitudes.”
That’s still right – in fact probably more important than ever before – which is why I keep on prodding away at the newspapers that now live on generalisation and falsehood alone. And how ironic that I was reminded of that quote by an article in the Guardian about Hoggart’s work, which I read while here in Australia; the Guardian which a couple of days later was having one of its journalists write about Per Mertesacker saying “You’re tempted to wonder when, if not in this game, is Per Mertesacker going to start. He was back in full training nearly a month ago, so unless he’s had a setback (not out of the question with an Arsenal player) then it’s surprising he’s not there to provide a little experience and whatnot.”
You’ll notice the snide little suggestion that because he is an Arsenal player he is particularly likely to have had an injury. Talk about settling for “comfortable half-generalisations.” No recourse to fact, just the crude continuity of assumptions and false belief. And yes I know this is football, and in the end football doesn’t really matter, not in the way that terrorism matters, or equality matters, or democracy matters, or justice matters, but honestly, we deserve better than this.
Watching football from the other side of the world and having loads of time to think makes me quite certain of this; it is because of the slovenly way in which football is written about, that false news came to the fore, and then became accepted as the norm, the every day the modus operandi of governments. For that is what happened with transfer rumours. A 3% accuracy level; isn’t that the same as using the warnings about what is happening in Sweden as a basis for liberalising gun control to people with mental health issues while shutting the borders?
For the record, as I write this, Physioroom shows Arsenal having four injuries at the moment, placing them in the lower half of the injury league with fewer than such luminaries as Liverpool (7) and Man City (5).
We deserve better commentaries of football on radio and TV, and better analyses of football by professional journalists in all media. Indeed the only people who seem to take football seriously are the economists who have realised just how much revenue football now turns over. And the only problem with that is the economic forecasting these days seems only to exist to give horoscopes a good name.
Of course nothing much has changed while I’ve been away. Arsenal are rubbish, the fans deserve better than this, Tottenham are going to do really, really well in Europe this year, Man U are steaming ahead and Arsenal are rubbish (did I mention that?), although rather oddly rubbish who are equal top scorers in the Premier League.
Let me come back to the Hoggart quote:
“It is essential to keep looking and listening rather than to settle for comfortable half-generalisations, to remain open to the changes going on around us, and to the need sometimes for changes in our own attitudes.”
I had the misfortune to tune into a radio phone-in on football before I came away and the person running the show (what should I call him – a “fixer” seems about right) misunderstood a caller (because he, the fixer, was talking all the time) to say that he supported two teams.
“You can’t support two teams” screamed the fixer. No logic, no debate, no nothing. Just statement. But I know he is wrong because I do. I have often been told I can’t, but I do. In fact I support three. Arsenal, the team I was introduced to by my dad, when I was a child and we lived in North London. Poole Town, because my parents moved to Dorset during my secondary school years, and they were the local team. And Torquay United, where my parents moved to for their retirement, and when I went to see my parents my dad and I would go there. My last games attended with my dad were at Torquay United.
We went because it was what we had always done – gone to football together. It was our bond, and I want Poole and Torquay to do well, because of my affection to the past, and my memory of times spent with my dad.
Indeed in a curious way through this I honour my father.
I don’t expect Savage and the rest of them on radio phone ins to grasp this; it is after all a subtle point about heritage, but just because they don’t understand doesn’t make something untrue. No more than shouting at people who phone in makes their points untrue.
Football is our culture and is of importance. Demeaning it, as the media does on a daily basis, does not enhance them, rather the reverse. It gives us more power, because we know what it is really like to support a club. They, self-evidently, have no idea.
Arsenal History Books on Kindle
The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available for the first time on Kindle. Full details are here.
Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without. For full details please see here.