By Tony Attwood
For a moment this past week I thought the Daily Telegraph had finally got it. Paul Hayward who is described as their “Chief Sports Writer” said,
“Arsenal fans, though, will have to decide. If there are to be recriminations let them start in May, not now, when Giroud is lining up to shoot or Özil is on one of his dribbles. The fretting and fury is almost certainly not helping the players.
“You could even go so far as to argue that tension inside the ground gives the players something to blame, or hide behind.
“Subconsciously they can tell themselves the real battle is between the supporters and the board, or the supporters and Wenger, not Arsenal’s first XI and those of Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Bayern Munich.
“Am I really just saying: get behind the team? Well, yes, because logically the opposite is damaging, self-defeating.”
Of course all this misses the point that Arsenal support is, as it has been at least since the 1930s, split between those who believe in supporting the team and those who believe in barracking the team because even perfection is never good enough.
And we are not the only club to do this. In fact we benefited from it in the past when Bergkamp came to play for us. See, “How the abuse of the moron fans nearly destroyed the greatest player”
Some ex-players said in print that the barracking of the Arsenal team by Arsenal fans started after the defeat of Chapman’s Arsenal to Walsall, but in fact we’ve traced it back much further than that. See, for example, How the Arsenal fans almost destroyed a wonderful player.
This negativity hasn’t always been there, but it goes back nearly 100 years.
Of course you can’t expect a “Chief Sports Writer” to know too much about sporting history – after all, the papers are themselves utterly focussed on the now, and historical perspective does not fit easily with their remit.
So we might excuse this Chief Sports Writer from know much about the Arsenal past.
But let’s be fair. He does start off to make a decent point with…
“why protest so forcibly now, when the team are one point off the top of the Premier League with 12 games left, are at home in the FA Cup fifth-round and are still in the Champions League?”
Well, yes, up to a point, except he also says,
“The fans are ambivalent. But surely they need to help, not hinder, and defer the reckoning until May.”
Now as I understand it, ambivalent means that something or someone is uncertain. Could be this, could be that. But the fantasy gang at Arsenal are not uncertain – they think Wenger is awful and should go. And when he finally does, and we get someone far worse then they will blame the board for not appointing themselves personally. Or maybe for not bringing in the Qatar Investment Authority.
Arsenal used to have passionate partisan fans. It may not be a matter of club pride but Arsenal were the first ever club to have their ground shut down because the crowd were so partisan. We lost them sometime around 1910, when having appeared in two cup semi-finals the club fell into bankruptcy. Henry Norris said, “if you want a team in Woolwich come and support”. He promised to give them one year, actually gave them three, and then moved the club to Highbury where support poured in.
Now over 100 years on the main pic the press like to run is that of a few kiddies in the crowd putting up “spend some money” cards.
And maybe this brings us to Arsenal’s greatest mistakes. At Highbury with its 38000 capacity the number of AAAs who could get into the crowd was quite small, so their presence was least felt. Of course if we had stayed we would have had none of the money that allowed us to buy Ozil – but then I forgot, the AAA think Ozil was a waste of money, so that would not have mattered.
It would have made Arsenal a middle ranking team, rather than one that has been 1st and 2nd through much of the season, but at least it would have been more peaceful.
As it is, the AAA are getting their way. The word about the way some Arsenal fans treat their players has spread – Gervinho’s tale has not gone unnoticed – and it will be ever harder to bring players of quality in – as indeed the AAA have noticed.
Which I for one think is rather sad.