Lies more lies and lies again: the story of booing the Arsenal.

By Tony Attwood
If I told you that as the final whistle for Arsenal 0 Fulham 0 a small element of the crowd booed, you might look at the score and think, well, not surprising.
It was a frustrating game in which the visitors parked the bus and waited for the break, and the visitor’s keeper had one of those perfect days.   As the match wore on, players either shot when the crowd thought there was a better pass on, players who looked to receive such a pass which didn’t come could be seen waving arms in protest, and then others passed when the crowd thought there should have been a shot.
Time passed and there looked to be every chance that Fulham might just suddenly break and get an unlikely winner.  Nerves were tense.
But no, in the end it was 0-0 and the 0-0 draw meant rivals had the chance to creep closer, and it was a thoroughly frustrating afternoon.  So at the end of it all, some people in the upper tier of the north bank booed at the end as the players trooped off.
It’s not something that is remembered now, and wasn’t particularly noted in dispatches from the press at the time, but I just happen to remember it because I went with a friend who enjoyed every second of the game, being a newcomer to Premier League football, and he couldn’t understand the small number of boos.  He was amazed in fact.
Now let me tell you, in case your history isn’t up to scratch that the game in question was on 30 November 2003, and was thus part of the Unbeaten Season.   And just confirm, yes a small number of Arsenal supporters booed the team off in a match in that most glorious of all seasons.
Part of the frustration was undoubtedly because the result followed a wonderful 5-1 victory in Milan, part was because every point lost was felt to be vital in our battle to win the league.   Part because although we had injuries, we had Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp in the side.  Surely they could score in any game.
I mention this because just recently some of the members of the press who are wined and dined by the club, who sit in perfect seats and tap away on their keyboards during the game, have taken it upon themselves to pontificate on the issue of booing.

“High ticket prices and lavish wages for players are cited by supporters as the main cause for a rash of early booing in this new football season,” pronounced the Telegraph.

“At least four Premier League teams have been booed off the pitch already, two games into the new campaign. Arsenal were jeered for losing at home to West Ham on the opening day; Spurs were given the bird for surrendering a 2-0 lead over Stoke and West Brom and Sunderland have been derided for the crime of general mediocrity.”

Of course I don’t know about the other grounds because I was at the WHU game, and yes there was a little booing at the end, but from maybe a few hundred people at the very most.  About half of one percent of the Arsenal support I would guess.  No one near me certainly.

So would those few have booed less if the seats had been cheaper as the Telegraph suggest?

I doubt it very much.  People boo because of frustration, annoyance, and perceived lack of effort and a feeling that they are entitled to see an Arsenal win.

Some speak of the estrangement of fans from the teams, but fans have been estranged from the teams for about 40 or 50 years.  I doubt there was much mixing of players and fans at any time since the 1960s. And if you have read my recent publication on Tom Whittaker and his management period, you will know that the fans got on the Arsenal players backs then, even when they were in the process of winning the league.   Chapman suffered booing and tried to persuade the directors to eject and then ban fans who booed.   The directors would not oblige so he wrote about it in his weekly newspaper column and called them the boo boys.  The Telegraph however doesn’t do history, so they don’t know this little aspect of our past.

So is it as some say, “The conversion of fans into customers or consumers”?   No, I doubt it, because I don’t think many of us in the Emirates feel like anything other than fans.   We spend the money to be there because we are fans.   Besides, just this week Arsenal was advertising tickets for youngsters in the Arsenal v Stoke match at £10 each, which is a fairly good deal.  And when people had the chance to see a brilliant game of football in the under 21 league recently under 2000 showed up, although it was free.

So the Telegraph said, “Booing used to be a sanction of last resort at many grounds. Now it is an accepted part of the “match day experience”, as a marketing department might put it.”

I can’t see that – especially given that booing has been part of the deal forever and ever.  It is what happens and what some people choose to do.

What might be happening is that the way the media focus utterly on the latest match, all there is, is short term focus, instead of seeing things in perspective.  But I suspect that scenario has been growing for quite a few years.

And there is the fact that while groupings such as the aaa used to have limited outlet other than the fanzines, now they can flounce around anywhere and proclaim how useless the team is, and tell anyone who can’t see that, that they are deluded.  The lack of logical argument and discussion is overwhelming; booing is their equivalent of reasoned debate, sponsored by and promoted by the media.

Supporting the team is about supporting the team, and that’s what the real fans do.  We don’t get any coverage in the media because we’re boring – we do the same thing regularly – we support Arsenal.  We don’t whinge and moan, we turn up at each game no matter what.

That’s the deal, that’s how it goes.

30 Replies to “Lies more lies and lies again: the story of booing the Arsenal.”

  1. During the game, you should ALWAYS support the team. When the final whistle blows, do wtvr you want, laugh, cry, clap your hands, boo.

  2. The problem with booing is defining in which direction it is aimed. It always seems to be attributed to the team but could just as easily be aimed at the board or the referee , David Elleray and Graham Poll were frequently on the receiving end . It is an indiscriminate protest that really doesn’t get anyone anywhere. People have the right to let their feelings be known but in your stated case , were they booing the Arsenal for not breaking down a packed defence or were they booing Fulham for being so boring and adding nothing to the spectacle. We can make assumptions but unless there is an accompanied verbal outburst nobody knows for sure.

  3. Fans boo their team for a perceived lack of effort on the pitch.
    From a player’s perspective one of the most difficult aspects of being a proffesional footballer is to be up for each and every game with the same intensity and dedication.
    During the course of a season this is virtually impossible to achieve but fans don’t necessarily understand it. They look at what players make to play a game they would’ve played anyways at a fraction or no pay at all, and they demand total commitment.

    Players on the whole understand this dynamic and don’t hold it against the fans . It comes with the territory.

  4. Maybe the Arsenal fans were booing the Telegraph…

    If anyone sees this in time, Jon Toral is starting for Brum City and is on TV starting in a moment. He’s got 2 goals in 2 games so far. It seems the next crop coming through are doing very well in the Championship.

  5. Booing can be misconstrued. During the Invincibles’ season I well recall after big wins, the fans would boo the team amid shouts of “Boring, Boring, Arsenal”. 😉


    I’m 65 years following Arsenal, and there has always been booing.

    We should be more concerned about the thousands of fans who leave early both before half time and before full time, sometimes even if the team have played excellently. You do not see this at other clubs, and it makes me ashamed to be an Arsenal fan at times.

  7. Any fan is fully enttiled to boo the team if they want. Personally I wouldn’t during a game, only because it may be counter productive. I guess at the end of a game is OK.
    When you pay your money to be entertained and the show does not live up to expectations then booing is normal. Happens in theatres if the show is a mess too.
    I think the Telegraph is more or less correct. Footballers’ relationship with fans is different than it used to be and the money and greed in the game has had a big effect. Unfortunately football is business now more than sport and the product has to provide value, the same as a car, mobile phone, computer, whatever. If it doesn’t then it is only right to complain.

  8. @Tony; it’s naïve to think that the form in the second half of the season was enough to carry us through this. As I’ve said, I would admire Arsène for having the courage of his convictions in believing the squad was strong enough and consciously deciding that Petr Cech was all that was needed. In my view, it isn’t enough but I’m not paid to make that decision.

    Things might all change come the end of this transfer window, Arsène may have already sanctioned the additions and deals are being struck. It’s telling that no-one is entirely confident it will happen; quite the opposite, in fact. A factor in that is the lies spread earlier in the window; tantalising transfer tales turned out to be as fake as anything Hollywood had to offer. It fed a world-weary cynicism and it would be interesting to see if the tabloids and rumour mongers have suffered any reduction in the hits as the summer has progressed. There’s no let-up in the headlines but I’ve reached a point with aggregators where a day’s headlines fit on one page.

    In the end, rumours don’t matter; they are just the fodder to pass the time and feed egos. If you genuinely ‘get off’ on being seen to be connected, it’s as sad an indictment of yourself as it is those taken in.

    The reality is whether this squad is strong enough to challenge and perceptions on that change. Some have unwavering belief. We know that it is a good squad, the general consensus of needing just another defensive midfielder to cover the inevitable suspensions and provide Francis Coquelin with genuine competition, and a central striker, a Plan A, B or C depending on your view of Giroud and Walcott I’ve seen mention of a winger but to be honest, the right side has Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain whilst the left has Alexis and as much as he may not like it, Santi Cazorla.

    But confidence is chipped away when other teams invest. Not because you want the players although Pedro would have been, in my view, a welcome addition, Otamendi too, but more because of the perceived addressing of weaknesses by others, even if there are smacks of panic buying in Chelsea’s case; some panic buy.

    We’ll see; a fortnight or so to go and two winnable games will change the landscape and whilst not wiping out the memory of the opening day defeat to West Ham, it will certainly lessen the impact. Defeat in either? Someone get the klaxon sounding, the trolley dash will begin any moment after the final whistle.

  9. jayramfootball

    “I guess at the end of a game is OK.
    When you pay your money to be entertained and the show does not live up to expectations then booing is normal.”

    Expectations of what?

    A good game?

    Being entertained?

    The result you want?

    Arsenal have played well, but lost and been booed.

    They have played poorly and won but not been booed.

    So I suggest it is NOTHING to do with being entertained, or even how well we played, but ENTIRELY about the result not going to your expectations.

    It’s as simple as that.

    Some people just cant take losing, or worse simply think that by paying there money that entitles them to see Arsenal win. Life isn’t like that.

    Personally I didn’t think being a ‘fan’ was like that, but hey, I might just be old fashioned.

    So lets not pretend it’s about ‘the game being a mess’, a la the comparison to the theatre. It’s all about having the arse over not getting the result you wanted, very much like children throwing a tantrum when they don’t get the ice cream they want.

  10. Lol Mandy Dodd.. Its amazing how incredible some people are. I read it somewhere, i must write it as my own…

  11. @Jambug

    I used to thnk differently about football but these days its about being entertained and seeing a team well prepared and 100% focused on getting a win.

    I don’t really care (or even like) most of the players and have no affinity with them. They are just employees of the club as far as I am concerned. So when they dont perform well, like a bad actor, I will criticise them. It’s a million miles from a decade ago (at least to me) and it has little to do with winning trophies or games (that is just the measurement of success not the measurement of whether I feel entertained by the product).

    I find the football Arsenal play to be either brilliantly entertaining or mind numbingly boring and the players performing with varying and inconsistent levels of effort (effort might not be the right word – maybe it’s focus or maybe it’s the infamous handbrake being on or off).

    If Arsenal win and play poorly – not really happy and don’t feel like they did their jobs.
    Lose and play poorly – pissed off at the wasters
    Win and play well – happy
    Lose and play well – happy enough

    A bit simplistic I guess, but a bit like going to the restaurant – good meal / good service. I got what i paid for, bad meal/ good service… fair enough… etc..

    I guess I am not really a football fan anymore, I still want Arsenal to do well but it’s a product to consume these days as opposed to a passion. For me that is partialy Arsenal’s fault and largely the fault of teh disgusting greedy people that populate the game.

    My one hope is that in my lifetime the entire sport will go bankrupt and all clubs can just start again and go back to proper football.

  12. Omsin, that’ was taken from what is usually a pretty good blog…..they don’t deserve to have their words stolen at any rate!
    Get a lot of copying and pasting on here and I am sure other sites do as well unfortunately, if they rate the article, all they have to do is credit the source, anything less is just plain old fashioned bad manners!

  13. Differing points of view. Mandy, Omsim and others think someone is cutting and pasting the words of someone else. I suspect this is there initial thought. For me, my initial thought is that some person is writing a chunk of text, and then submitting it to many blogs. I suppose in the end, it is some mix of the two.

    I think needs to start matching up avatars and user names on blogs to season ticket numbers. And at “random” start moving season tickets to people who will support Arsenal, and not just endlessly complain about anything and everything.

    Who the heck needs a “supporter” who does not care what players are on the team, but demands they produce results every game?

    Football has a larger element of chance (luck) than nearly all other sports. It is more likely in football that the better team loses, than almost any other sport.

    If your “demand” for supporting a team is that they win when they should win, football is not the sport for you to support. The game allows too much input from chance, and it unfortunately allows for too much manipulation by officials.

  14. Gord, see where you are coming from, a lot of the copying and pasting on here comes from comments from other forums, but this most recent example comes from the lead article on A cultured left foot. That is a serious blog, after untold , then the likes of Arseblog and Positively Arsenal, I would be checking them out on a daily basis, just get annoyed when their words are taken and credit not given to the source. Unless of course Jamie is an author on ACLF , but he has also been caught out copy pasting from le grove, so maybe you are right , he may be a man for all blogs! Expect a copy and past job from Arsenal News Review next. I am sure Jamie is well capable of putting his own words forward, look forward to reading them.

  15. My favourite booing story happened during the super series between the USSR and Canada in 1972’s classic ice hockey confrontation. Team Canada, with most of the best stars available, were getting their posteriors spanked by a superb Red machine and had just lost their last game in Canada (Vancouver)while facing 4 more games in Moscow. The team captain Phil Esposito, who had been chosen as one of the stars of that game, went on television and lambasted the fans for booing the team and whining about how bad these pros were against so-called ‘amateurs’.
    Once they got to Russia, there were 3500 Canadians who followed them and they outshouted,out-cheered, and out-supported the rather laconic Russians and the players said that made the difference. Canada went on to win the series 6-5 games and stunned both their Russian hosts (who tried every trick in the book to win)and the hockey world at large. When the team returned to Canada they were greeted by over 200,000 wild fans and the booing was a distant memory but every player did remember how they were treated in Canada.
    Contrary to what many believe, booing your team is NOT an entitlement nor an inherent right because you paid to do it….supporting your team is far more than expecting success, unlike a movie where you pay a ticket to watch and be entertained. Some of the best supporters are with teams who fail to ever achieve great heights but still are beloved of their fans. It is a real shame that a few people on UA are passion-less and regard the Arsenal as nothing more than a weekly pantomime, unworthy of anything other than a passing commercial interest… certainly explains a lot.

  16. jayramfootball:
    “If Arsenal win and play poorly – not really happy and don’t feel like they did their jobs.
    Lose and play poorly – pissed off at the wasters
    Win and play well – happy
    Lose and play well – happy enough”

    I agree with this.
    I want to see the focus and effort that tells me the team WANT to win and has put in the effort and focus, that’s it.
    A packed defense or parking the bus as it is widely known is a part of the game, and any team that does not use it is actually quite silly. Remember when we used to complain that Arsenal just knew attack, attack? Arsenal left itself open many times by relentlessly going forward every time. We all clamoured to get the defense sorted. Now Arsenal sometimes uses the “packed defense” too, i have no problem with that in any way.
    One thing i learned when i was a youth, was that no one thinks like me, no one has the same opinions as me. I used to see the world purely from my own perspective and get upset when “others” just could not see what i saw. Today of course, i realise that every one sees things differently. This is due to the experiences of that person, which affects any opinion, so do not be too hard on others who have an opinion that does not equate ours, this is what makes us all individual beings on our own journey.

    Remember, most of us have already changed our opinion on a subject many times because we learned something new that affects our previous one. This is normal and is called learning.

    Those who boo have their own reasons for booing, and any team should know this and take the booing as a part of being told that their performance or tactics were just not up to winning the game. No one wants to be booed and i hope they just take it as an incentive to get better focused and game ready.

    I really cannot take the excuse that teams have off days, this is really not acceptable. By off days, i mean when the effort they put in was clearly lacking. For me it’s clearly about the effort players put into the game, and it’s up to the Manager/Coach to determine which players are “game ready” in training.

    Trust me, the players know when they performed bad, and they will know that any cheering of the team then is only the comfort that one gives to a small child.

  17. It’s not only at football matches, Tony.
    I remember the mad rush 5 minutes before the main feature ended in the cinema….to avoid the National Anthem! 😉

  18. I think it’s hard to tell how much effort players are putting in so booing on that basis may be unfair. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try nothing seems to work.

  19. @Tony.
    Nice post. I have expressed a range of emotions verbally watching Arsenal but never booed them. When you pay your money for a game of football it entitles you, in terms of a result, to watch the game and just that. There is no guarantee of wins, let alone trophies. That is literally what you are paying for. I understand that at times, and especially as ardent supporters it is hard to keep that in mind.

    The cost of attending football does play a part in this. On the odd occasion I have exchanged views with a fellow a Arsenal supporter who wants Wenger out it isn’t long before the cost of attending, watching on TV and the high salaries comes into the argument. There is a lot of resentment. In the next breadth they are bemoaning that we didn’t sign .

    Also a pet dislike of mine. There is a guy who sits in block 18. From day one at The Emirates he turns up late for the kick-off, flicking v signs at the away support, mouthing obscenities and insults as he makes his way to his seat near the front. He leaves 10 minutes early before half time to get a pint or three with a repeat act of the v signs and obscenities. He very often stays in the bar area until way into the second half and sometimes doesn’t even return to his seat. He’s the extreme but there are many others that arrive late and go early. I don’t understand it. It doesn’t just happen at Arsenal

  20. I remember a few years ago when Arshavin was brought on as a sub in a game against Man United to a load of boos. Afterwards a blog looked to find out what the boos were actually about. Someone said it was aimed at Arshavin because he was a lazy player in terrible form. Someone else said they booed because they thought the player he replaced was one of the only players playing well. Another said the booing was obviously aimed at Arsene while someone else said the booing was because of lack of effort from the team. I don’t agree with people who chant Wengerout or Spend some Money but at least they put their feelings into a sentence. Might have been this site actually.

  21. I re-watched the first half of the West Ham game yesterday and found it pretty shocking how few mistakes we actually made.

    We made more than we normally would- 7 or 8, instead of half that- but in my mind watching the game first time around it had been quite bit worse than it was in reality.

    Then there was the nature of the mistakes- generally they were much closer than I believed first time around and, more surprisingly, the mistake was often not even with the final pass but with the touch beforehand to set the ball for the pass.

    3 or 4 times, twice very noticeably with Coquelin, the placing of the ball and the body position as the player committed to the passing action meant that the pass could only go wrong. Same thing applied to Ramsey’s infamous decision not to play the ball wide- he couldn’t have passed it once he set himself up for the shot. It was still the wrong decision, but not quite as awful as it looked by the time the wide player had moved into yet more space.

    Unexpected technical errors ,then, for the most part, and ones that would quickly have been forgotten had we gone on to win the game.

    We were far from our best, but there was virtually zero evidence that the team wasn’t up for it, or working hard, or focused.

    They were simply not at their best, made a few more errors than normal, didn’t get a nice lucky break, met an organised determined team who functioned well and didn’t suffer any bad luck. Then a dodgy free kick from a dodgy ref, poor organisation for the set piece, a great delivery and, damn, we were in trouble.

    Note sure I’d ever boo, unless things had been atrocious for a long time, or if there were crooks running the club or something immoral going on.

    Crazy thing is, I guess there are some people who do believe something like that

  22. According to The Independents’ report on the game v WHU there was barely anyone left in the ground when the final whistle blew and yet the players were booed off the pitch by thousands of Arsenal fans still making their way to the exits. Both cannot be true and yet both assertions were made in the same report.
    I was there and I know that that the vast majority left on the final whistle and silence was the overwhelming response.
    Trying to create controversy (and clicks) from virtually nothing is now the order of the day and it does no service to the truth.

  23. jayramfootball

    “I don’t really care (or even like) most of the players and have no affinity with them. They are just employees of the club as far as I am concerned. So when they dont perform well, like a bad actor, I will criticise them. It’s a million miles from a decade ago (at least to me)”

    Reading that I honestly don’t know why you bother. If I felt like that I know I wouldn’t.

    But that’s the point. I don’t feel anything like that at all.

    No affinity with the players?

    What is that supposed to mean?

    Did you used to meet the players?

    Did you used to go down the pub with them?

    Did you earn as much as them?

    I know I didn’t.

    They where as much on a pedestal to me in the 70’s as they are now. In fact, what with the amount of TV, including Club (Arsenal) TV, I feel closer to them than ever.

    I recently went to the Members day. It was a great day.

    Plus of course there’s ‘twitter’ etc for those that want to get even more personal. Not for me though.

    So I’m sorry but there’s more chance to ‘affinity’ than ever there was.

    I may be wrong, and I’m sorry if I am, but I just think people (And I include yourself in this) have allowed all the money sloshing about in the game, particularly what the players earn, to adversely affect them. It causes fans to put totally unrealistic expectations on players as individuals.

    Costing £40 Million doesn’t stop you being human, with all the imperfections and foibles that that entails.

    Suddenly people expect perfection. A bad day at the office is simply not acceptable, ever !

    To be fair, as tony points out this is not an entirely new phenomenon so is not completely down to money, but it has added considerably to the discontentment.

    But I didn’t get it back in the day, and I don’t get it now. To me, booing is just so counter intuitive.

    This is my take on it.

    Just because Ozil cost XXX Millions or Sanchez cost XXXXXX Millions doesn’t make me like them any more or any less than a player that comes to us for X Million.

    I concede there’s always a slightly warmer glow or feeling of pride when a lad comes through the ranks, but really, that doesn’t make THAT much difference either.

    I don’t like Jack any more or less than Sanchez on the basis of fees or coming through the ranks.

    For me this is no different to 10,20,30 or even 40 years ago.

    I didn’t like Charlie Nick, Woodcock, Ball, McDonald any less than the Bradys and Stapletons because they cost a lot of money.

    I didn’t like Willie Young or Pat Jennings any less because they came from Spurs.

    Once they join Arsenal, and pull on that shirt, they all equal in my eyes, until they are not.

    Ok, as time passes you grow to love players more or less depending on many factors. How they play. How hard they work. How they react with the fans. As often as not it’s the little things and it can be very different for all of us.

    But what I will say is, categorically, for me, it has absolutely nothing to do with money. Nothing.

    I judge them on what I see. I judge with both my head and my heart, but NEVER with my wallet.

    If that is what the money has done to you personally, or to anyone, I would say it is time to give up.

  24. PS

    And nobody should ever underestimate how ‘booing’ adversely affects players.

    I hope Tony doesn’t mind me mentioning it again, but for anyone who doubts take a look at the harrowing story of Paul Vaessen.

    I’m not trying to suggest that his problems where in anyway a result of the ‘boo boys’ but there’s one particular night, when he was trying yet another come back, when he was booed mercilessly and taken off in tears.

    One of just a few shameful moments, from both fans and Club alike, in a terribly sad tail, and reminder of what can happen when your dreams are crushed.

    I doubt there is ONE moment in time when booing EVER helped anybody.

  25. Even if the players look like they did not give. 100%, it is best not to boo them, as booing has lingering effects on future performances among the younger players. But there are many reasons to leave early. The top ten:
    1-Mad dash to the toilettes or the loo or the water-closets
    2-Beer sale at the concessions stand after the 80th minute
    3-Trying to get home on time before spouse who supports another team
    4-Trying to get home on time before spouse who does not like football
    5-Date with Eva Carneiro
    6-Could not eat food at the stadium and rushing to get a decent meal
    7-Did not see a bus, then realizing taxi dropped you at the Ems, not SB
    8-Blogger who forgot iPad at home and wants to be the first to report
    9-Date with Olivire Giroud
    10-This one is legit: Attending game with child who has had enough of it

  26. If booing is so right when all is going wrong at the office, what happened to chants and the glorious Arsenal songs meant to uplift the players morale? It can be messy when you expect much from them and they give you another show…but must we be so fickle (that’s for those that think anything good comes from bouncing the boys) or are trying to hard to defend this madness.

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