By Walter Broeckx
As I am the president of an official Arsenal supporters club I have to deal with lots of different fans.
Now I must say that I feel blessed to be the chairman of the Arsenal Belgium supporters club. Why? Well because in general we do have a big number of supporters who take the notion of supporting rather seriously. Yes we have members who want the manager to be changed. But that is something for which the board has worked for, so they do this in a civilized way.
Our policy as an official supporters club is that we don’t allow any abuse of manager or players. Of course in the heat of the match when a player misses an open goal we have people moaning about that. But if anyone dares to call names over and over and over again we first ask him/her politely to stop doing this and if (s)he keeps on doing this we will throw him/her out of our Facebook group. But this has only been done just twice in the past when people really didn’t stop the constant stream of insults. We are well behaved in Belgium one could say. 😉
A few weeks ago I couldn’t attend the regular supporters club meeting before the Watford match in which Arsenal would explain how the next season would be arrange for the supporters clubs and the way of working. Don’t worry I will not bore you with this.
But what I found very interesting was that inside the brochure, in fact it was more or less the opening line was a remarkable quote from Herbert Chapman.
Herbert Chapman. The Herbert Chapman. The man whom we have to thank and feel eternal gratitude and are in debt for all he has done to turn Arsenal from some middle class club in to a team on the brink of conquering the world. Alas for him he died too soon to really harvest what he has sown.
A start that wasn’t a fairy tale at first. I think Tony has mentioned it on a few occasions that it was a bit of up and down in his first 5 seasons or so. But then when he got it right it was the start of something amazing. A first period in which Arsenal was a top club. So I admire and am thankful for all he did to Arsenal.
Now as said in the brochure we had this sentence: “A club should be like a great big family with all the members of it sticking and pulling together in the same direction”.
So what we are seeing now is to me like spitting on the grave of the manager that has taken Arsenal to the next level. In Dutch and in English there is an expression that is almost identical for this situation: the English version is, ‘Herbert Chapman would be turning in his grave’.
What have we become? Are we sticking together? Hell no. Are we pulling in the same direction? Hell no.
The Arsenal protestors are doing all they can to not stick together. The are pulling in all kinds of directions but not in the direction the players and board want to go.
If Herbert Chapman had been a religious leader I would shout: blasphemy!
Now I just say that those who are not sticking and pulling in the same direction are also destroying his legacy.
I know lots of people find it not done to say one bad word about George Graham and even when we say that Wenger has been a better manager than Graham (based on facts) we get angry people writing in saying all kind of ugly stuff about us.
But in the history of Arsenal the most important figure is probably Herbert Chapman. The man that turned the tide for Arsenal.
And instead of listening to his wise words they spit on his grave. In Dutch we have even stronger expressions about this but I don’t even dare to write them down. But that is how it feels to me.
I am not English. I am not from London. But I love the whole history of my club from London, The Arsenal. I love how we were unsuccessful for so long. Yes in a strange way I love those first 50 years or so. Because it is par of our history. And if you forget your history, you can easily forget where you came from and what you have gone through in the past and that made this club special.
Herbert Chapman is such a figure. Even he had to live with the boo boys (eternal shame on them) in his days in the office. And I think that the quote that Arsenal used in their brochure for the supporters club is today more than ever actual.
Yes we all want the same thing : a successful Arsenal. As president of an official supporters club I want to add my little bit by supporting the club, manager and team every day. And certainly when they take the playing field in order to win a match for us.
In a way I can only subscribe the wise words of Herbert Chapman. And for those who want to pull in all kinds of directions and don’t want to stick together I can only say that you are not only harming our players of today. You are not only harming our manager (not that you mind of course). But in fact you are ignoring and throwing away our own history. And that is something I feel sad about.
Time to think about it. Do you throw away our past and the wise words of our first successful manager and leader? I have thought about it. And I will stick together. I will pull in the same direction. Because Arsenal is more than todays success. Arsenal is more than today winning the league or not. In a way this season is a small detail in our history.
I embrace our history and our former leaders and managers. And will live and follow their wise words: Stick together, pull together in the same direction. Not for todays success. But for tomorrows success!
- Arsenal v Norwich Saturday 30 April 2016 – The Match Officials
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Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle. The books are
- The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
- Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace. By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football. By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
- Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.
You can find details of all five on our new Arsenal Books page
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- The real live facts that the media won’t ever touch (part 2)
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- Why, with football, it is important to ask what is not being reported
- 2022/23 Women’s FA Cup – Arsenal Women v Leeds United. Match Preview