Like many gentlemen of a certain age whose fathers have now passed on, I find myself wishing I’d listened to my dad a bit – especially on the subject of Arsenal in the old days.
My dad went to the Arsenal through the 30s and again in the post-war era, and saw the great teams. What he did tell me one time was that even when the club was doing very well, the crowd would often jeer and boo the players for missing the ball, slipping over, miskicking and so on. A player could score a screamer one minute, and be laughed at for an error the next. That’s how it went.
It was, we agreed, a bit like the theatre must have been around 1600 (not that either of us was there then I hasten to add) – wherein the event was a chance for the crowd to shout and boo and jeer – and of course applaud the things they liked.
Today we seem to have slipped into a different way of doing things – supporting our club and our players, and heaping vitriol on the other side, and booing is absolutely not the done thing.
All of this came to my mind because these explanations as to why people boo Eboue never have any historical context. If the booing occured just because we have moved to a bigger stadium and brought in lots of new supporters who couldn’t get in before, then there would have been no booing during the Wenger years in Highbury – but I can certainly recall it after a disappointing 0-0 draw. Just as I can remember it in the Graham era.
No, its got nothing to do with the stadium or the size of the crowd, or the income of the players or the cost of a ticket. It has got everything to do with the fact that football is an evolving emotional game – just as everything is in our society.
The cause of the current problems undoubtedly focuses on the fact that a growing number of teams have evolved playing systems that do nothing for the good of the game – rotational fouling, and systematic time wasting, for example. It makes football negative, unless the more positive team can get a couple of goals early on, and then has the will to keep moving forward. And failure to get those early goals is not just an Arsenal failing of late – look at the recent record of Liverpool Insolvency, Manchester Bankrupts, KGB Fulham. They have all had the same problem. 0-0 draws, desparate defending from the first second to the last.
What is needed now is a new way of playing against this which radically transforms the game, and breaks down the anti-football tactics. Arsenal v Manchester B will be attractive because despite being bust Manchester play interesting football. Aston Villa, Fulham and clubs of that ilk, don’t.
Drawing all of that together, I guess I am saying that the booing comes from the frustration of not being able to deal with the recently evolved tactics of the little clubs more quickly. Tension builds, someone makes a mistake, and booing starts.
It’s just an evolutionary thing – eventually someone will work out how to kill of little clubs quickly all the time, and then we’ll move forward. For a while.
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