By Tony Attwood
A little while back Arsenal Supporters Trust allied itself with the equivalent groups at Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool to write to the FA about the importance of maintaining the rule that says 15% of tickets for FA Cup matches be reserved for away supporters.
In Arsenal’s case this means 9,000 tickets, and undoubtedly Arsenal offered Hull 9,000 tickets for the game. I say “undoubtedly” because there were no safety concerns for this game, as there were last season with matches against Liverpool and Everton (because of the flares and mass refusal to co-operate with stewards), and Tottenham (where we witnessed the throwing of objects at ambulance workers by Tottenham fans), so 9,000 it would have been.
And Hull I suspect could have brought that number had the match been played on saturday at 3pm. I mean, even Coventry managed it last year.
As it was they brought the lowest number of fans for a cup game ever seen at the Emirates. Indeed the lowest number of away supporters ever save, I think, for Wigan in a league game. Even Man C with their infamous “Where will it all end?” protest (now long since abandoned) brought more supporters for their league game.
The beneficiaries were the Arsenal fans who were able to take up most of the unwanted seats and occupied the whole of the Clock End, but still a huge section of seating in one corner was left empty as the little group in yellow and black spread out found themselves with three or four spare seats per person.
It was a ludicrous situation – and all caused by playing the game on a Sunday night. Indeed even in my days of regular trips to away games I think I would have baulked at that sort of journey in January at that time on a Sunday. It was ludicrous.
As a result of the decision of the FA to rent out a match for a Sunday evening, the atmosphere of the match was reduced, and the validity of the FA Cup once more brought into disrepute. Even though we are the cup holders, it really didn’t seem to matter much.
Even the press found it hard to think of anything new to say. Criticising the FA seems out of bounds (remember how the press just repeated the FA line when Sport England cut its funding to the FA in despair at the Associations chronic inability to organise anything at all to do with grass roots football), so they dug up the old stuff and hoped for the best.
David Hytner in the Guardian was so lost for anything new to say he said of Alexis, “Where would Arsenal be without him?” Err, David, I think we’ve heard that before. And before. And before. And before.
But there are a few new things that can be said. Theo is back – ring rusty to be sure, but back. Give him a few games, and he’ll be fine. Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck all very close to a return, for Arsenal. Olivier Giroud’s holiday is now over and he’ll be in the squad for next weekend. Koscielny had a further chance to rest his Achilles and so his fitness should be improved. Rosicky is looking great.
But here’s a few more positives to counter the rampant negativity that is engendered by the press and their puppies in the aaa.
Ooooooooooospina is a very competent back up goalkeeper, just as Fabianski was. And we are starting to few a few very interesting youngsters coming through.
Bellerin we have talked about so much he already seems like a regular part of the squad. Zelalem was on the bench, and although not used, nothing is going to stop his emergence.
Coquelin has come back from a difficult year abroad and after being pulled back from loan is looking an ok squad player. Akpom is clearly rated by Mr Wenger and he is certainly developing fast from when Blacksheep and I saw him play for Coventry last season. Maitland-Miles is also clearly in favour and being nurtured. These are all positive signs.
As for Campbell, there was a difference of views in the car on the way back to the Midlands, Blacksheep being more impressed than I, but I’ll bow to his judgement.
But what of those who couldn’t make it and watched it on the BBC?
Obviously we were at the match so didn’t see the game on TV, but on the way back Ian (another of our happy band that make the trip from the east mids, but who is unable to make so many matches because of family commitments) texted to say (and I quote his text in full – with his permission of course)
“BBC coverage was awful. Lost count of the time they were showing the crowd, managers, subs training, the clock, or just about anything other than the game. Had a minute of Arsene when he put his coat on just to see if he would struggle with is zip. Another minute looking at Hull fans talking about how long it would take them to get home. All the time the ball was in play.”
Their aim, I guess, was to try to reconstruct the old BBC coverage of cup finals in the days when there was no football on TV other than the final and England matches. They did this thing which cast football folk as being funny little people who do funny things like travel across the country and (in the old days) wave rattles, wear scarves and have toothless grins. Fat ladies from the north were also one of their favourites to have in shot.
It was all a part of the rich pattern of happy communities that made up our jolly country. The trouble is of course that all that was destroyed long ago, mostly through the coming of Margaret Thatcher.
Her infamous statement, “….too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it: ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society.”
It launched our era in which everyone is supposed to look after themselves, not be part of the community or the country. The view is that when an individual is out of work and cannot feed his/her family, that is because he has chosen to be unemployed and feckless.
I think that is appalling (as you’ll obviously be aware if you’ve read much Untold) but I’m not trying to convince you of the validity of my beliefs – rather just point out that the old image of happy communities is just irrelevant these days. We don’t have them any more.
As I say I didn’t see the BBC coverage, being at the game, but I’ve witnessed it so many times, I know exactly what Ian is saying. But Ian’s comment made me think of the sadness of the Arsenal’s own situation. We have, on occasions, been a community of our own. Arsenal against the FA with their kowtowing to Fifa, Arsenal aganst the broadcasters and the press with their years and years of pro-Merseyside commentary, Arsenal against the League (when they lunatically arbitrarily removed two points from the club, but Graham’s team still went on and won the league by a mile)…
We were the Arsenal in those days and we took on Thatcher (uniting with other clubs to stop her insane “membership only” scheme for entrance to grounds), the media (by starting up the fanzines), and the FA, and the League, with our songs.
Now it is all fractured, and sometimes it seems like it is up to Untold and a handful of other blogs to keep the old banner of real support no matter what, flying.
So, as bickering and in-fighting has become the norm, a couple of days back Podolski was supposed to have “stormed out” of training at Arsenal. He issued a statement denying it. Now Blacksheep texts me to say that the rumour is that Sczcz and Wenger have had a flaming round. Even when there is no fractiousness, there are rumours of fractiousness. So it goes.
But still, maybe they’ll let us play our fourth round tie on a saturday at 3pm.
- The huge danger that lies ahead following the Liverpool VAR cock-up
- After seven games how are Arsenal doing? It’s our best defence in over 10 years
- The Women’s Super League – Opening day Sunday 01 October
- Arsenal Women – the Season Preview – part 2 Our team for the Season
- Bournemouth v Arsenal: the team news, Jesus’ problem, and winning records