The building of a miracle

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By Walter Broeckx

Some people who are not happy with the current way of things over the last seasons dismiss sometimes the impact of the new stadium on Arsenal. They use lines like: “we are Arsenal so we are entitled to win things” and that is the end of it.

Now there is no denying the fact that since we moved from Highbury and went to our new stadium we haven’t won any trophies yet. We came close on a couple of occasions and certainly last season we came very very close. And maybe this is what led to a lot of disappointment.

But what can we say about building a new stadium and moving to a new ground?   Does it has any effect on a team? The only way to find out was to have a look at teams from the EPL who have been building a new stadium in the last 15 years or so. And I could find 5 clubs. And I will leave Manchester City out of this as they didn’t build their new ground but it was erected for the Commonwealth games in Manchester and the football club didn’t actually funded the build. Neither did I, but I can imagine some of you living in the UK did pay for it.   (Yes, and I resent every single solitary penny of my tax money that went on it.  I want a refund now!  Editor. – sorry get a bit carried away on that one).

The first Premier League club to build a new stadium was Sunderland in 1997. Roker Park had a capacity of some 22,500 people and the new stadium with the name Stadium of Light has a capacity of 49,000 people.  In fact the last game in their old stadium Roker Park was the last game of them in the PL in 1997.

They went down from the Premiership while building the stadium. But in 1999 they came back to the PL only to go down again in 2003. And so it went further on up in 2005, down in 2006, up in 2007 and they still are in the PL from then on. In Dutch they call this an elevator club. A club that goes up and down all the time.

But all in one can only say that since moving there and this is now some 14 years ago they didn’t have much success because the number of trophies since 1997 = 0.

Around the same time Derby County left their old Baseball Ground with a capacity of 18.300. Their last game there was against Arsenal and we won 3-1 in 1997. They then moved to Pride Park with a capacity of 33,597.  But did it bring them any success on the field? Well not exactly as they finished in mid table most of the time until 2002 when they went down to the Premiership. But they came back in 2006 but only to go down again in 2007. And they still are out of the PL since then. So another team that has build a new home and since then has left us for lower leagues. Number of trophies won since 1997 = 0.

Let us go South and visit one of the most strange stadiums I have seen on TV. I never went to The Dell in Southampton but it was such a strange stadium. The capacity was only 15,200 and their last game was a 3-2 win against Arsenal on 19/05/2001. With Matt Le Tissier scoring the winner.

And then they went to St. Mary’s in the next season with a capacity of 32,689.  And they stayed in the PL until the end of the season 2003-2004 when they went down to the Premiership. Worse was yet to come because in 2009 they went in administration and got points deducted and even went down to League One, the third tear in English football. But they went back to the Championship in 2010 and still are there for the moment.

But again not a very successful story after moving to the new stadium and no trophies won since building the stadium.

Let us move on to Leicester City who played their games at Filbert Street until the last game in 2002 when they beat Tottenham 2-1. Filbert Street another relict of ancient football history with a small capacity of some 22,000 seats. And they went to their new ground (then called the Walker Stadium) the King Power stadium with a capacity of 32,500.

But while building the ground they went down to the Championship and later in October 2002 they also went in to administration. But in 2003 they came back to the PL but only to go back down in 2004. And things became even worse as in 2008 they went down to League One. But they managed to get back in the Championship in 2009.

And well the fifth club is Arsenal. And yes like I said we didn’t win anything since moving to the Emirates. But when looking at those other clubs who tried to do the same thing we did and seeing the fact that two of them went into administration and the other went up and down the leagues it tells me that what we have been achieving since going to the Emirates is not far from a miracle.

If we would have followed the other clubs who did what we did we would have gone up and down or even gone bankrupt. But we didn’t. We stayed competitive all those years. We played great football and came close on a few occasions. We played in the Chamions League all those years. Something those other clubs can only dream about.

So for those who want to get rid of our manager : just think what could have happened if we didn’t have him during those years? We could be (with all due respect) a Sunderland, a Leicester or a Southampton (thanks for producing Walcott and AOC by the way).

But our manager kept us at our current level with no money available, with their youthful players he brought in the first team. And with the current crop of young and talented players brought up at Arsenal banging on the door and ready to come in and fight for the cause we have every right to be grateful for the man who has kept us where we are now. A top club in England and well respected all over Europe and the world.

And remember those 4 other clubs, it could have happened to us…

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27 Replies to “The building of a miracle”

  1. Once again, Walter, a great article – one with which every Arsenal fan should agree (except Derby County’s destination in 2002) but which will provoke many replies of “AKBs, rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb, AKBs” from those who consider they know best.

    It has been the most disappointing of breaks, what with so many Pseudo-Arsenal-but-really-Queen fans (I want it all and I want it now) and I fear it hasn’t finished yet.

    And I don’t even think a successful year would even shut them up (“Yeh, I know we won the League, FA Cup and Champions’ League, but we should never ‘ave lost the Carlin’ Cup”). 😉

  2. Oh, by the way, I support The Arsenal, that is I support the club, which means I support the current manager (although I’ve seen some bad ones), the current players (even those I wish we could change) and the current staff. I don’t expect nor need us to win the aforementioned silverware – that is bonus.

  3. Oh my oh my…for some reason i really dont think you should put Arsenal equal to the clubs mentioned above.

    You forget to bring history, what have those clubs won before they moved, and what have Arsenal won?

    I really admire your positivity, but you really should start to work on your perspective of things.

    I used to enjoy your positive view of things, but for the last coupple of seasons, you have started to search for theese positives all around the place, and it is getting more and more far fetched…i wonder if this comment is going to get posted at all…

  4. @Gooneraside,
    Well said.
    If there was a manager out there who could do a better job than Arsene with the resources we have then I’d suggest we sack him in a heartbeat. I think most people the AAA consider to be in the ‘Arsene knows’ camp would probably agree.
    Until they can come up with proper suggestions for who to replace Mr Wenger and not make joke posts about rubbish players who would ‘improve’ our club most sensible Arsenal fans will continue to treat them as morons.
    If you check out you can see a list of the top 20 players in the premiership last season. The three best defenders played for, guess what, the three teams that finished above us in the league table. No other defenders made the top 20. Perhaps we should make offers for Terry or Vidic?
    I can’t say I saw enough games but West Ham’s James Tomkins on paper looks a far better bet than any of the defenders we’ve been linked with, ought to be available cheaply and is only 22…

  5. Ege I don’t think you have quite understood the article in the way it was written.

    It is not that these clubs have won nothing – although that is a point to note – but rather that these clubs have gone down dramatically after building a stadium. A couple of liquidations, and a couple of tumbles into lower divisions. Look at Southampton – a club that had years of solid mid-table activity in the top division, going down to the third division and into administratioin. Same as Leicester. Arsenal has suffered a decline since moving, in comparison with the years before, but have continued to maintain a record of competition in Europe that exceeds clubs like Milan, Liverpool, Bayern and the like.

  6. @Tony,
    Ege has a point, you’re talking about clubs who built stadiums with about half the potential gate revenue of the Emirates (49k oop norf is a lot less than 49k dann saaf) as if they have the same financial problems as us.
    That said, the presence of massive TV contracts and billionaire owners makes football a very short term game, whereas building a stadium and paying it off requires a long term plan. All the above teams must have assumed that they would retain their PL status (somehow) without considering other factors such as other teams in their strata acquiring additional investment driving those teams down a tier or two.

  7. Nice piece. In these days of tension in London, don’t forget the positive impact that the new stadium has had on N5 and the local economy. Additionally, you could add that Arsenal have designed and built one of the world’s premier training facilities during Arsene’s reign at the club. Too many don’t realise how lucky they are.

  8. We should also take a look at the other Premier League clubs that have considered building a new ground.

    Tottenham – have bought up loads of land around their exisiting ground and flattened it. Now they’ve realised they don’t have the finances to carry out their plans. They’re still throwing their toys out of their pram about the Olympic Stadium.

    Liverpool – plans were drawn up and shelved as it was not financially viable.

    It’s not an easy thing to do and the Arsenal management should be commended for setting the club up in a stadium that will last them the rest of the century and ensuring the financial stability of the club.

    I’m not sure what state the club would be in if we had stayed at Highbury.

  9. Excellent article as always!

    I have been a long-time admirer of this blog, for the amount of research that goes into reporting both the footballing and financial of our club and european football in general, not to mention the highly balanced views in the comments section. Keep up the good work!

    With due respect, Eve and Woolwich Peripatetic do have a point. And I feel the other clubs built a bigger stadium with a completely different perspective. They were all “small” clubs with a huge fanbase, and financial reasons apart they wanted to accommodate more supporters who were in the waiting list for years. Although the same was true even for Arsenal, our primary reason was to rise higher in the upper echelons of european and world football. And although our club was understandably bound to take a hit in the short-term, we have come to a stage where most expert in footballing circles are expecting us to drop out of that very exclusive group we once were a part of, each year. Oh well… only time will tell..

    Meanwhile, keep the positivity going. We need it this year. Perhaps more so than ever…

  10. @Tony, I know its way off topic but you know how to get in touch with Arsenal and i am not really too show how to. Was wondering if you could mention this to them:

    seems to me that Nasri is gonna be shipping out, now the number 8 shirt is up for grabs. I would love to see that shirt given to Miyachi. Reason being obviously number 8 is a lucky number for Asia and people will pay lots of money for things wth number 8. Now picture this, Miyachi with number 8 plus the Asian tours so they have a lucky number on their shirts and can cheer their country man……..they would go nuts for it i tell ya and i could see them making a fortune off this. I wonder if Wenger and the board will do this if they don’t i would love it mentioned, but i suppose maybe they already have thought of this!!!

  11. All very true. You only need to look at how much spurs are fretting over such issues to realise how difficult it is to build a new stadium and stay competitive

  12. Walter you have forgotten Bolton Wanderers FC. Look how Allardyce achieved some success but with financial ruin! Financed by a tax exile in the Isle of Man who does not have to produce public accounts.

  13. @ Mandy Dodd,

    It appears that Spurs can relax a little as they may have found a cheaper way of clearing land for their new stadium……

    Too soon?

    It could be the Carpetright Arena
    BTW, why is there a Chicken on their crest????

  14. Ege has a valid point which i fail to understand. Walter has a point which i understand and appreciate. But in all fairness it’s been published before.

    But now i have come to conclusion that if “arsenal will finish as a midtable team” opinion can be spouted by almost all pundits every year, then this sort of things MUST also be published every six months.

    What i get from walter is, other teams have suffered massively due to financial constraint regarding new stadium while we have maintained our consistency. We competed for titles regularly.
    2006 cl final
    2007 cc final
    2008 pl
    2009 cl semis, fa cup semis
    2010 pl
    2011 pl, cc final.

    That, we didn’t win it is another matter. I can immediately see the contrast b/w others and us. One of the reason, if not THE reason for all this is undoubtedly arsene.

    Errrr… so ege what was your point?

  15. But this season chances for competing for PL are very slim. Fabregase was the heartbeat of arsenal. Right now arsenal are going through heart transplant. I guess start of the season will cost us PL title.

    Cups can be unpredictable so we should not lose hope on that front. All in all this season is looking more and more like the one when we lost flamini and hleb.

  16. Middlesbrough moved from Ayresome Park to the Riverside in 1995 -96 season. They won the League Cup nine years later in 2004. Since then they have been relegated from the Premier League and currently reside in the Championship.

  17. I think we have to congratulate the club and everybody involved in the highly succesful move to the Emirates. The board, the manager, the players and the fans.

    some people have criticised the small sponsorship deals, the lack of transfers etc. but its great that the board has not bankrupted us and i think we should be glad that they have been so cautious. it is probably what has saved us from the scrap heap you see in the article.

    in addition, we had to do it during a recession, and when other clubs were splashing the cash left right and center. And at the end of it all, we are not far from Man Utd, Chelsea and Man City, and ahead of Liverpool and Tottenham.

  18. I think its quite wrong to generalise things like that. Then we can start lookin at transfers and say that teams have won trophy only after spending a fortune for a team……poor article i wud say.

  19. @Dark Prince
    Its not really a “generalisation” that clubs have gone downhill after spending a large budget on their stadium because all of them have gone down (including Middlesborough) or done worse. Even Arsenal have struggled and it is only down to Arsene Wenger that we have brought youngsters through to keep the team as competitive as it is.

    I think the point of the article is to point out what a great job the board and the manager and the players have done to keep the club where it is when no other team has done it.

  20. Ed, I think this is the perfect summary of the my article.
    If things would have gone like they did at the other clubs who did the same (building a stadium) we could have been facing relegation for the first time since we have been in the PL in 1919.
    So for all the reasons one can find to moan about our board, manager and players people should realize what we have done. And this is like the title said something close to a miracle. It could have gone so totally wrong….

  21. It’s indeed a half-full glass article, which is actually what we needs for the time being. But I would like to add, it would be interesting to know whether the spending for a new stadium was indeed the reason of those clubs’ instability. Perhaps we can see it if we have more information about their positions in the league several years before moving to the new stadium.

    @Walter: I know it’s quite late, but it’s a pity that we couldn’t manage to meet during the game with FC Cologne. And the weather was not so supportive either. 🙂

  22. Yeah AnT, the weather was bad at the end of the game. We were soaking wet when we left the stadium. So instead of hanging around a bit we just ran to the car and went home.

  23. I think Southampton had some rather good years before the building of their new stadium. And they played along time in the PL before that.

  24. @Walter,
    I think they’d been a solid top tier side for about twenty years before building St Mary’s, so their decline was quite dramatic.

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