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July 2021



Don McMahon

This is an advisory to those faint-of-heart or ultimately sceptical of everything football-related. I might end up being accused of penultimate paranoia spanning everything from the simplest to the most complex issues in modern society, but I’ll take that risk.

Growing old has many disadvantages but there is one great advantage, you tend to be better at seeing the forest and the trees and, from the perspective of your life experiences, at being able to see the roots of such issues without oversimplifying or exaggerating them.

I am among those who are closer to their shelf life /expiry date than most of UA’s readers and have seen our society’s values and priorities change over the years since I began followed professional sports, and specifically football.

Here is what I see happening to society worldwide and to football specifically, which in my humble opinion, is a mirror of the real world:

1) Since I was a kid things have sped up (gotten exponentially more complicated as a result) and been relativized by those whose moral and ethical values fluctuate, depending on the direction of the popular currents and populist sentiment.

This means that what, at one time, was taken as an immutable truth, has now become subject to cultural and popular ¨democratic¨ opinion and self-serving creative convenience. In footballing terms this is reflected in our impatience and sense of entitlement to winning, trophies and ¨glory¨ football. There are too many ¨losers¨ now, regardless of how hard they try and where they ultimately end up. Last season’s negativity about the Arsenal’s 3rd place finish, despite their valiant phoenix-like resurgence from 17th to 3rd is a case in point.

2) We once used to be relatively frugal and conservative in the things we bought and maintained. Now almost everything can be used and thrown away,  the disposable society so to speak.  In footballing terms it is human lives and careers we now eagerly line up for the rubbish bin.

The term ¨deadwood¨ is amply overused to describe players having a bad run of form (Vermaelen, Chamakh, Arshavin, Diaby, Szcesny etc.), as if these people wanted to do poorly, and were deserving of such narrow judgementalism and generic condemnation. Thank God Wenger does not share this attitude!

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3) There is an all-consuming and growing obsession with, and compulsion for the ominous side of life, which seems to be reflected in the passion for very dark, anti-hero, often satanic or zombie, psychopath horror entertainment, which were rare in my youth and which we were rarely allowed to see.

I appreciate that some so-called ¨supporters¨will describe AFC’s recent form as meeting all the former criteria! There is also a sense of voyeurism and even base enthusiasm for watching and obtaining cathartic release from other’s suffering and debasement.

It is amazing what you can see on You tube or private sites today. Even some media giants like Disney, which is one of the most family-oriented organizations in the world, have succumbed to this a little.

The sheer tribalism and joy one sees on AFC sites when the Spuds suffer and vice-versa is understandable to some extent but when Stoke fans booed Ramsey or when other fans ¨enjoyed¨ Eduardo’s terrible injury or Diaby’s first disaster, it crosses a line that should never need to have been drawn in a civilized society.

4) Money has always been the root of all evil, or at least the avaricious desire to accumulate wealth and privilege without also assuming the responsibility and accountability inherent in such lofty power. However, since the late 70’s, the gap between rich and poor in almost every society worldwide has been expanding at a break-neck pace.

This has led to the spread of corruption, the watering down of government and national accountability and intervention and the wholesale disenfranchisement of the middle and lower class (98% of humanity) in favour of a tiny minority of the rich.

In Football, this means that a level playing field no longer exists (if it ever really did), that here today-gone tomorrow Yankee traders can insinuate themselves into the game and even influence or downright control the governing bodies like FIFA,EUFA, the FA and the PGMOL on behalf of their ¨clients¨or benefactors who more and more seem to be criminals or profiteers.

5) When football first began, clubs worldwide were closely associated with their communities, often having been formed by locals and sponsored by a local benefactor. Once the Superclubs were formed and started to win big time, there was a paradigm shift from locally sponsored and ¨owned¨ clubs to Clubs full of strangers, journeymen and mercenaries available to the highest bidder and since the Bosman ruling, available to anyone willing to tap up the player with eager abandon.

One has to ask how a club like Arsenal could lose three captains in a period of 5 years and half a dozen other ¨stars¨ in the same time without any recourse to mitigation. The simplistic and trite answer given by the weak-minded is that Wenger or the BOD or the dreaded ¨silent one¨ let them go because they were too eager to make a profit or frugal to counter-propose adequately.  This is, of course utter nonsense, and has been more than adequately disproved here on UA and many other good Arsenal sites. Regardless, there are too many ¨supporters¨advocating we behave like these Superclubs.

So what’s the point of all this rant? Well, here it is in 25 words or less: we are headed for a deluge of Biblical proportion in the financial and social worlds we currently assume are secure. The Cypriot crisis is but the tip of the iceberg. All of Europe is balanced on a knife edge-one false move and it all comes tumbling down.

By the way I lied about 25 words or less, so sue me….another popular US pastime that is rapidly catching on worldwide. What happened to talking things out?

The books…

The sites from the same team…


  • well said we live in peculiar times

  • Passenal

    At the risk of being called an old fogey, I have to agree with you Don. The erosion of spirituality and worship of the material is slowly destroying the world. Turns out that greed is not so good after all.

  • HaightStGooner

    If the threat is real than paranoia becomes wisdom. Heh!

  • nicky

    As someone who is also in the twilight of life, I know the feeling.
    As my hearing is steadily improving, I am beseiged by people around me whose speech is steadily becoming more and more garbled and distorted.

  • g clarke

    If things tighten and slow down and there is less does it matter in the long run we want more and more but that will leave less and less

  • bob

    “The simplistic and trite answer given by the weak-minded is that Wenger or the BOD or the dreaded ¨silent one¨ let them go because they were too eager to make a profit or frugal to counter-propose adequately. This is, of course utter nonsense, and has been more than adequately disproved here on UA and many other good Arsenal sites.”
    As an honest, if weak-minded fan, I must have missed it. So, with all due respect for an otherwise super critique, please do clarify what was the “more than adequate” proof that either profit-seeking and/or what you call zealous frugality are NOT ranked high among the reasons that “a club like Arsenal could lose three captains in a period of 5 years and half a dozen other ¨stars¨ in the same time without any recourse to mitigation.”? Please do provide (or have the patience to recount) that Proof, and you will have put a lot of useless and frustrating debate and controversy to rest. That would be a godsend for some folk here, so I’d ask you to offer up the proof.

  • GoonerEris

    Very well reasoned and instructive article. Not what the popular opinion will be but, nevertheless, very apt. We will wait to see where all of the obsession for trophies at all cost will get us all.

  • GoonerEris

    @Bob, I am not sure whatever proof Don offers will put that debate to rest, by any stretch. It will only start another round of cynicism and debate.

  • DR

    I don’t know about all of that.

    I’m admittedly not as experienced in the world (assuming you don’t think of late 20s as nearing expiration date..) but it seem to me that there are always people thinking that way, I remember CS Lewis commenting on the increasingly saturnine outlook of the world and that was a while ago.

    Can’t argue too hard with the notion of modern football fans being a little less patient, maybe it’s an actual social change or maybe it’s just more apparent due to the anonymity and sheer width of opinion allowed on the internet.

  • rusty

    Don, thanks for writing this — I think it’s helpful to step back a bit and see the connection between how we regard sports as compared with the rest of the world.

    At this point, I think Arsenal is a global club, rather than a local one (and I’m not suggesting you argued the opposite). The question for me is, looking forward, how can we instill a sense of community and shared values, without the natural ties of geography?

  • Adam

    Thankyou for the thought provoking article.

  • Dave C

    Good piece Don.

    I’m not sure if you are blaming the lack of spirituality and worship on the contemporary climate, but many of the bankers and politicians are spiritual and do worship. They are the primary benefactors while the rest of us pay for their mistakes. It’s can be considered unfair to those who do not believe in a higher power yet actively demonstrate a higher value system than those who profess to be highly ‘spiritual’.

  • Domhuail

    Bob….I have read a number of great posts by Tony and other UA contributors about the Arsenal’s rational for letting their ¨stars¨go. I have never had the privilege to be a party to, or even been anyway involved in, such transfer negotiations but there is definitely a number of common elements in almost every transfer:

    1)Tapping up or concerted clandestine efforts have occurred in at least 4 of the transfer dramas involving the following; Ashley Cole, Cesc Fabregas,Nasri and RVP. Coincidentially they all had the same players’ agent – a Mr.Dein?

    2)In every case the players initially refused to negotiate in good faith with the Club but kept the process going until their real goal was achieved….a transfer out to their true target Club.

    3)In the case of Cole and Flamini,the supposed difference between Arsenal’s offer and their new Club’s package was not very large, yet they chose to leave….for their own reasons.

    4)Wenger himself said that he initially refused to countenance selling his ¨stars¨ but faced with the intransigence of their demands, eventually respected their wishes. In a sense he made lemonade when served up lemons but he seems NOT to have actively sought to lose anyone who he valued. When it became inevitable, being a great negotiator, he got the best deal he could.

    You ask me to ¨prove¨ that the BOD and Wenger/Gazidis motives were not principally founded in a profit motive or fear of spending. One cannot prove a negative as you must be aware, but that said, Arsenal have spent roughly around 230M sterling on new signings since 2005 and made a profit of roughly 301M sterling on player sales which is not exactly prolific results but at least they did better than most.
    What this does show is that they are ready to spend (in the last 2 seasons around 105M sterling – not exactly frugal)) and able to avoid serious losses. What is more important is that their overall performances since 2005 have remained steady, as has their seasonal points tally, goals scored and top 4 finishes. There is no proof that Arsenal ever were or are now a selling Club or that their ability to remain financially viable depends on them selling players each season and refusing to spend on new ones…quite the contrary.

  • bob

    Dave C,
    Beautiful distinction you made there. Cheers.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A very big LIKE from me ,Dom .The erosion of moral values is clear for all to see – but they do not see at all !
    Instead they follow the herd and what is good (enough ) for the herd ‘must’ be good for all .Woe betide any who don’t follow this mantra .
    Many have been seduced by the dark side of the farce !Just
    found the quote below when looking for one more suitable.

    Then I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also; why then have I been so very wise?” And I said to myself that this also is vanity. For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools?

    I was looking for the proper quotion of the following –
    “Concience – that which pricks , when all else seems to be right “.I ‘ve tried to follow this in all dealings and in life in general .

  • bob

    I fully agree on the Dein the Lesser factor as foul (perhaps vengeful), and I’d add Song to the pile, his other client – and perhaps Vermaelen soon too – the last of AFC’s Darren Dein boyz.

    That said, nothing (except the filthy lucre you rightly decry) justifies the RVP sale to Lord Football; and lo, the gift of this runaway championship, the Fungus XX. So if that 24M is a victory, well, to me it’s unprincipled at best. (Perhaps craven?) Now we’ll never agree on this one, Don, I’m fully aware; but the untried option is to have said NO: to have forced RVP to stay (like Mancini did re Teves to win a cup), and – because we could have afforded to – to have called their bluff and dared RVP not to do well for us, even as we well knew that he’d have to do well to show his would-be suitors that (with his advancing age and prior injury record) he could still do the business. Again, we’ll never agree, but THAT is the path not taken by the club. And that transaction was not “inevitable” as you’d term it. Another path was. Indeed, the fiscal reward for not taking that path is 24M; which looks a whole lot like profit-taking by your great negotiator. And that moved has (as you well know) managed to enrage or depress a not-insubstantial part of the fanbase (some of which gets condemned at UA as nay-saying or AAA, doom and gloom, etc.

    The (“weak-minded”?) fans for whom an Accounting team’s victory (and christmas bonuses) does not compensate in the hearts and minds for 24M, nor for our real team’s mostly average performance thus far. My point: is this not AFC’s materialism? Or are AFC exempted from your critique of big money’s erosion of all standards, even standards of judgment? Or is it all redeemed by the great negotiating skills that garnered the 24M?

    You say “there is no proof that Arsenal ever were or are now a selling Club or that their ability to remain financially viable depends on them selling players each season”. But neither have you disproven the claim, Don — even as you end with a triumphal “…quite the contrary” flourish. Really?

    As for your further assertion that it’s not been proven that we have been “refusing to spend on new ones.” Well, you’re right: of course we do spend on “new ones”. The problem, imo, is (as too many have commented) that the new ones are not like-for-like; but a step-down to lesser talents. Competitive, yes. Decent, yes. Cheaper, oh yes. But not clinical enough (yet?). Is cheaper than what’s affordable not also about money?

  • Dave C

    Thanks Bob. Perhaps it was a misinterpretation on my part. I prefer to give Passenal the benefit of the doubt. I think most atheists and agnostics go through a short period of vocal opposition and then realize actions speak louder than words. You simply have to be a good person regardless of your faith. It’s contagious!

    Lol, that was a bunch of b.s. I’m a your typical cynical writer, but I do have a good value system.

  • @blacksheep63

    very interesting stuff Don, and again another example of why Untold is such a different sort of football blog site. But, as a historian I am not sure I can completely agree with all of your analysis. I’ll leave aside the football related stuff because I’m not as qualified as some on here to comment but in terms of popular attitudes towards morality and economics, we have been here before. Almost every age since the collapse of the Roman Empire has had its Millenarian moments; those periods of time when people believe the world is going to end and rush around shouting we’re all going to Hell in a handcart. Concerns about youth are a good example. Look at the panic about Mods & Rockers, about Teddy boys after the war (and the Americanization of our culture, at the football rots in the 1920s, or at the hooligan fear in the 1890s or garrotting panic of the 1850s & 1860s. I could go on (and as Tony know, I probably will!). Conspicuous consumption was a feature of the 1700s as we became obsessed with new imports such as tea, chocolate and coffee; fashion dominated society, people worried about the state of borrowing and dodgy investment (the South Seas bubble crisis), the state of the poor and their dependence on gin, and they tried to close down the corrupting national lottery. The Victorians bemoaned the idle habits of the urban working classes who (they complained) were more interested in aping the consumerism of their social betters and drinking too much at the music hall than doing a hard day’s work. The press moaned about the dangerous ‘murder news’ that provided poor households with sensational and titillating stories of crime when they should have been reading the newspapers. 1886-9 saw us struggle through an economic depression (of sorts) with industrial disputes (culminating in the great Dock strike of 1889), poverty, imperial soul searching and political demonstrations. I could say more but that’s quite enough history for Saturday morning; my point (laboured as it is) is that what we are facing is an extremely bad and global economic situation which causes us to look internally at what is wrong with our society. We hit out at the usual suspects (that is what Cameron’s first strike against Bulgaria and Romania is all about – cheap as usual). The problem is the system of global capitalism and we will have to ride these waves of uncertainty until something is fundamentally changed there. Vive la revolution!
    in the meantime, keep calm and follow Arsenal!

  • insideright

    Well said Dom. Everything sadly true.
    A few reminders re the RVP transfer.
    Relatively recently Roberto Mancini (when trying to cover for Man City failings) stated that they thought that they had bought RVP at the beginning of the summer and when it fell through (and he went to United) they realised that ‘it was nothing to do with money’.
    Some weeks after the deal went through the Man Utd. Chief Exec David Gill resigned from all of his UEFA committee posts all of which were taken up by Ivan Gazidis.
    Some time later still Gill announced that he was stepping down at Old Trafford and would be standing for election to the main UEFA governing body. I think we can take that as a done deal!
    More recently still we have the appointment of an ex Man Utd. director to be head of the FA. He refused to be interviewed at the time but made a statement that he was a very firm believer in Financial Fair Play – the policy so obviously supported by Man Utd and Arsenal.
    The value that Arsenal got for any of their sales in recent years can only be judged with hindsight – but all of them must also be judged on things other than just cash. Team morale and delivery of long term policy objectives are just two of those factors.
    Tactics don’t just happen on the pitch.They are happening off the pitch in order to change the economics of football just as they must in order to change the broader economic environment.

  • Segun

    as if these people wanted to do poorly?! This statement shows everything wrong Arsenal. so you rather we keep players that are obviously not good enough thus contribute nothing to the team??? also you talk about money, but left out the fact that Wenger pockets 7.5m p.a.!!

  • Mike

    @ Bob

    The idea of forcing RVP to stay is commendable but flawed. I know from personal experience that having one disgruntled and influential employee in the camp can be highly destructive however skilled or experienced they may be as an individual. Without being privy to the dressing room and personalities therein, neither you nor I can say that this wasn’t the case with RVP, hence speculation is futile. To base a whole argument on it, as so many dissenters, even more so.

    Further, you state, “You say “there is no proof that Arsenal ever were or are now a selling Club or that their ability to remain financially viable depends on them selling players each season”. But neither have you disproven the claim, Don — even as you end with a triumphal “…quite the contrary” flourish. Really?” As was already pointed out, one cannot prove a negative so persisting on seeing proof does not actually lend itself to logical debate.

    @Blacksheep63 – an interesting insight, and as you well know, there are many lessons to be learned from history. My only question on this would be that there is no previous history from which we can learn where ‘instantaneous’ society existed. Instant news, instant opinion, instant gratification. IMHO the ‘eworld’ in which we now live is a new dimension which is making history, not repeating history.

    Anyway, enough of this intellectual rubbish. COYG

  • bob

    So you’re now saying that trading RVP to Manure was THE quid pro quo for Gazidis spot at FA? After all this time and angst over RVP, now you bring that forward? How do you know? What’s you’re proof? inside proof, right? or a link? or your say-so because you’re in fact inside and readers here should take that on faith? (Btw, Gazidis did not get Gill’s chairman or vice-chairman position, right? (or correct me if I’m wrong factually). And, even if that was the trade-off, this has not been shown yet to be the consolation that is your way of accepting that foul deed of a transaction. I find it regrettable, callous and damaging on the pitch which you might recall does matter. Your (ininsuated) account of the background maneuvering (which you’re project as part of what it took to get Manure onside with us????) may satisfy you; but this season (and we shall see, or wait until some insider’s memoirs), it feels cold-blooded and callous. Oh, real world is it? Well, real world is also a self-inflicted wound. Will you be so sanguine when our “strategic partner” Manure is awash with champagne when Lord Football ascends the throne and humbly accepts the trophy amidst ring-kissing genuflections by his PGMOL enablers?

  • bob

    On the evidence front, it’s a stand-off, Mike. Because we’re kept in the dark: some here dutifully, others crying foul. Likewise to insinuate (as not a few have done here) that Song was a disruption, with the effect of justifying that piece of zero-transfer balancing, is also unproven. And protects the badge from scrutiny. Indeed, we lurch from unproven guess to unproven guess as we seek answers in futility, as you say. So, in this common trough, please spare me the lecture about logical debate. Every fans’ debate on these matters is evidence-free to a relative extent. And where you see potential for massive disruption on the part of RVP (just as others attribute it to Song), I see Mancini having been able to win a cup despite the actual evidence of shennanigans of Teves and Balotelli. And do you think that being a disruption would have commended (the aging and crocked) RVP to his next employer? Bollocks. We had the whip handle on his future and refused to enlist him in our present – for 24M. Some will call that victory; others would call it selling out.

  • bob

    p.s. whether you can “prove” a negative depends on what you define as proof. There is no absolute proof, no certainty – especially in machinations like this. But we can argue the probability or relative possibilities of one explanation or another. And it’s “decided” (very imperfectly) in the court of public opinion.

  • Grumpy man

    Fabrigas, Van Persie, Cole, Adebayour, Clieshy and Nasri all left Arsenal for trophies and more money, both of which they got.
    Back in the day and even the recent past the same happened with Herd, Strong, Kennedy, Brady, Vierra and Henry. As much as things change some things remain the same.
    By the same token, many have left never to be heard of again, that’s football.
    We don’t cry, we just give their shirt to another player. We support Arsenal. They are the ones wearing the shirts.

  • Domhuail

    Bob….great discussion and dialogue. The end product of this discourse is that, as always, we agree to disagree…neither position being tenable without absolute proof…and that is absolutely impossible to obtain:)
    Blacksheep…thanks for the resume of 19-20th century British history. I agree that societal criticism and pessimism about the next generation is ubiquitous throughout recorded history. Apparently the Romans even wrote criticisms of their teenagers on the walls at Pompeii!
    That said, the whole point of my post was not just to criticize society but to demonstrate that the gradual decline in moral and personal values, being spurred on by the media and internet, is universal. It is affecting the Game and its stakeholders (officials, fans, players, administrators, etc.) and the ancillary consequences of this decline in self-control and altruism will have serious financial and social impact, not only for Football but for mankind.
    I also believe that society has, overall, progressed significantly in many respects since the 19th century. There does seem to be a popular counter-movement against avarice, the uncontrolled accumulation of power (without responsibility) and the abuse of society by those in privileged positions. This is a good thing and bodes well for the future, imho. It will be reflected in the Football fan-base beginning to revolt against ever increasing ticket prices, ever spiraling wages and transfer/agent fees, etc. It seems to me that society has a certain homeostasis, like nature and human anatomy. We will, through suffering and crises, eventually reestablish that balance in Football as in life.

  • bob

    Cheers, Don, well done and important. 🙂

  • Shard

    While in broad agreement with the article, the thing to remember is that every generation (and increasingly the generation gap is lessening) feels that the next one is losing out on something. It’s not a new phenomenon. It’s actually ancient.

    My point is that we must not give into pessimism as regards the human outlook. My personal preference is to believe that the media (all forms) tend to exaggerate the negatives, and also, the internet, and increased connectivity and all the tools that go with it, being new, is still being adjusted to. In time, I think we’ll all figure out how to use it better.

    That said, I’ve been away because I was getting increasingly bothered by the negative opinions on the net. Big kudos to all at Untold who soldier on.

    On to the match now. Up the Arsenal!

  • Gf60

    Losing 3 captains in 3 years is one thing, but since TA retired we’ve lost 5 (4 sold, 1 given away)and the current one benched. Maybe captaincy is a poisoned chalice?

  • FunGunner

    @ Don McMahon
    I find myself very much in sympathy with your article.

    @ bob
    Perhaps you’ve forgotten, so I will remind you – RvP was in the last year of his contract, therefore he could choose whether to go or stay. That is the law. He chose to go, so we had to sell.

  • bob

    Ok, we’re back to that argument again. So, what exact law would that be? Please give the citation that makes it the law. I will then run it by Adam (who was researching or at least raising this point this winter) and see what he says. And to my agent pal and see what he says about what your agent pal says. And if it’s the law, then why is it not well known or argued that way hereabouts on UA? Why don’t clubs tell this to their roiled fanbases? Or, is it so well understood across all football that people don’t have the need to bring it up? Is it arguable in court? Is there precedence for a club being able to prevail? Or is it a slam-dunk, iron-clad, exception free practice? If I’m wrong, I will have learned and spare myself the future agita of these ceaseless arguments. But you are the only one to flat out declare this in legal terms and I’ll ask you to give chapter and verse to demonstrate it.

  • bob

    p.s. and is there any law that dictates that the contract-holding team must sell the wantaway player to the exact team that the wantaway player chooses? Or is it that a sale must be made, no matter what the damage or material consequence to the team that is forced to sell?

  • bob

    p.s. and you’re also saying that collusion between a wantaway player and the team that he wants is completely legal, and stands above all and any legal challenge? And that the door to such collusive activity is with no recourse by the purported forced-to-sell club? Or is it that Arsenal chose not to avail itself of such a legal challenge? Please clarify your understanding of this and, if possible, any facts in the matter that you are willing to put forward based on your/any anonymous or open source.