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It’s Happened Again! (And now, let’s remember we are all Arsenal fans).

Its Happened Again!

by Tim Charlesworth     

What a day.  The joy, the sunshine, the happiness, a fond farewell to loyal players, it was almost perfect.  Nobody will put this season down as a great success, but at least it has given us one very happy memory.  This season will always have a little place in our hearts now.  It is another legendarily improbable way of extending the run of St Totteringham’s Days.  The fact this one gets us to 21 is extra special.

Robbie Savage described our joy as ‘pathetic’.   This was an interesting comment, because it rather missed the point, and highlighted a difference between professional footballers and fans.  If you look at it objectively our joy was ‘pathetic’.  The rivalry with Tottenham is a bit silly, and in our hearts, we all know that.  However, football supporting is a leisure activity, the rivalry with Tottenham is a bit of fun, and is part of our identity as Arsenal fans.

Pochettino made the point before the Newcastle game that Tottenham’s ambitions should be higher than just beating Arsenal.  Apart from being very funny in hindsight, this is also true.  Similarly, St Totteringham’s day is not a suitable target for the professionals who are employed by Arsenal FC to win football matches, but that doesn’t mean that supporters can’t enjoy it.

Part of the joy of being an Arsenal fan is that wherever I go in the world, I can strike up a conversation with an Arsenal fan that I have never met before.  The reason we can do that is that we have shared experiences, whether its Micheal Thomas’ goal, the Invincibles or Lasagnegate.   We are part of a community.  It’s a worldwide community, and I love it.  If that’s pathetic, then I’m guilty.

We have been treated to a number of special ‘last day’ St Totteringhams in the last 21 years, and this was one of the very best.  What made Sunday truly wonderful, is that our differences were forgotten.  Its been a difficult season in many ways.  One of the most distressing things for me this season has been the discord amongst the Arsenal fan community.   Our collective happiness gives me an excuse to write a piece that I have wanted to write all season, but lacked the opportunity to do so.

This has felt like the most divided season I can remember amongst Arsenal supporters.  It has perhaps lacked some of the bitterness of recent years, the ‘spend some f**king money’ chant of August 2013, or the shock of the Wenger confrontation at Stoke station in December 2014.   What this season has had though, is a depth of division that I haven’t seen before.   In the second half of the season, particularly following the Man U defeat, we split into two apparently irreconcilable factions, the AKB and the WOB, and fans are really starting to identify strongly as one or another (I should declare myself an AKB in the interests of integrity).

I’d like to make an observation about the WOB, which I know can cause offence, so I will try to do it politely.  I think it is generally true that the WOB tends to be younger, and perhaps more recent fans, whilst the AKB tend to be the older fans, who remember the pre-Arsene period.  This is not universally true, some very long-standing fans are in the WOB and some younger fans are AKBs, but as a generalisation, I think it is valid.  This has led to some fairly unpleasant accusations that the WOB are ‘plastic fans’.  This is obviously highly offensive, as many in the WOB camp are devoted fans who believe that their position is in the best interests of our great club.

We would do well to remember that we were all new fans at some point.  If you became a fan because your father was a fan, of course he would have been a new fan at some point (or perhaps his father was).  I don’t think we can claim any special status if we support Arsenal because we were, or are, Islington residents.  The club was originally based in Woolwich, and the fans from Woolwich may have had negative feelings about the Jonny-come-lately Islington people who started following the club after the 1913 move.

Personally speaking, I am a first generation fan, converted when I watched Alan Sunderland score the winner in the 1979 cup final as six-year-old.   My father was not a supporter and I have never lived in North London.  Many will have joined us during other successes, such as the double team of ’71.  Probably the largest section of our support descends from people who started following Arsenal during the astonishingly successful 1930s era.

The truth is that success attracts supporters.   That is why we have more supporters than Barnet, or Tottenham.  We were all ‘glory hunters’ at some point, and it is not fair to criticise people for this.

I have lost count of the number of current professionals who say that they want to play for Arsenal.  The main reason for this is that people who are professional footballers tend to be in their mid-20s and therefore grew up watching Arsenal teams with Viera, Bergkamp, Pires and Henry in them.   Children, in particular, are influenced by success.  Lots of the children of 15 years ago are, not surprisingly, now adult Arsenal supporters.

The arguments and insinuations about who is a ‘proper fan’ remind me of the immigration debate in Britain.  I always think that prejudice against immigrants is particularly daft, because we are all immigrants.  10,000 years ago, no humans lived in Britain, so we are all descended from immigrants.   Britain was populated and repopulated in successive waves.  Below is a list of those waves, highlighting only the most significant:

  • The original hunter gatherer immigrants who populated Britain 10,000 years ago (actually Britain was populated and then abandoned by a series of such immigrants over a period of 40,000 years
  • Around 4,500 BC, farmers came to Britain and the population increased substantially.  The resulting Neolithic population built Stonehenge amongst other things.
  • The Beaker people arrived around 2,500BC.  They bought metal working with them
  • The Celts.  This mysterious language group seems to have arrived in Britain about 800BC.  They brought iron working with them.
  • The Romans (43AD).  Very few actual Romans came to Britain.  But Britain became part of the Roman Empire and people became more mobile than ever before.  This ‘mobility’ was probably not replicated until the twentieth century.  People came to Britain from all over the Roman world in this period.  Some stayed.
  • The Anglo-Saxons.  The details of this immigration (c .410-550AD) are murky, but it was obviously significant, as our language, English – a corruption of ‘Angle-ish’ – is the descendant of the languages spoken by these people from northern Germany and Denmark
  • The Vikings – the legendary warriors from Scandinavia settled mostly in Northern England in the late Anglo-Saxon period.
  • The Normans – this warrior people were descended from Viking invaders of Normandy (Normandy means ‘land of the North Man’).  They only came in small numbers, but their descendants were the aristocracy that ruled Britain for most of the 800 years after 1066.
  • The Huguenots – These were French protestants, prosecuted in France and finally expelled by catholic Louis XIV in 1685.  Most of those that weren’t killed in France, came to England.
  • The Jews – Britain’s Jewish community came with the Normans, but was expelled in 1290.  It gradually came back from 1650 onwards.  Most modern British Jews are descended from the early twentieth century immigrants that came to Britain fleeing persecution and genocide in Eastern and Central Europe.
  • People of the Empire – In the nineteenth century, Britain became part of a global empire again.  People came in from all over the empire, particularly when the empire dissolved after World War Two.  The largest groups came from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Caribbean.  They mostly fled prosecution, came because of family ties, or were economic migrants.
  • The Eastern Europeans – the new Millennium has seen major immigration from Eastern Europe.  They mostly came seeking work, taking advantage of the freedom of movement offered by the European Union.  Poles are the largest single group.

People from all of these groups (and many who have mixed heritages from two or more of these groups) are Arsenal supporters.  I can guarantee you that, however ‘pure British’ you might feel, you are not exclusively descended from the very small group of hunter gatherers who originally populated Britain 10,000 years ago, and indeed were not even the first humans to populate Britain.

In the same way, I don’t believe that any Arsenal fan is descended from a pure line of people who attended the first Dial Square match in Woolwich in 1883, and haven’t missed a match since.  So whilst some of us have longer Arsenal heritages than others, let’s please not use this as a weapon to fight each other with. We are all immigrants, and we are all ‘newcomer’ Arsenal fans, we are just at different stages in our journey.

In particular we should note that the Invincibles era will have attracted a lot of new fans.   These fans are experiencing an Arsenal fallow period for the first time, and are finding it hard to take.  This is a particularly cruel fallow period because it has been characterised by a lot of false hope and misinformation.   2012-13 and 2007-8 were both characterised by long periods of leading the premiership.  The incredible achievement of staying in the top four has also misled fans about the ability of the club to compete.

On top of this, Arsenal was quite dishonest with us about the financial restrictions that it was working under between 2005 and 2013. It is only in the last three years or so, with the restrictions easing, that the club has started talking openly about its problems.   At the time, with large cash surpluses in the accounts, it was not at all clear that the club was struggling financially.  Now, just when the fallow period looked like it may be coming to an end, we have had another disappointing season.  People are naturally frustrated.

The fact that we have all these relatively new fans is a great thing.  It is a result of our success.  We have an unusually high number of these fans in the stadium as well.  The opening of the Emirates allowed an extra 20,000 people to become regular matchgoers.  Most of them will turn out to be lifelong fans.  Even the tiny number that really do tear up their season tickets in protest, will continue to be fans and may return to the stadium at some point in the future.  They will probably have children who will also be fans.  And it is the depth of the fan base, more than anything, that will determine our long-term success.

So let’s welcome all our fans, whoever they are and however they came to us.   We can have legitimate disagreements about whether or not Arsenal needs a new manager, but when we are tempted to lapse into insults about who is a ‘real’ fan, let’s try to remember the spirit of St Totteringham Day, 2016.

Recent Posts

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36 comments to It’s Happened Again! (And now, let’s remember we are all Arsenal fans).

  • Rand

    Brilliant Article.

  • colario

    I have BBC Radio 5 and their football ‘knoweverything’ experts have been telling how great is for Looserpool to be in the Thursday cup final.

    They have had such a great season Klop. He has turned them round.

    Listening to this wonderland of words I had to go to the league table here to remind myself that this season looserpool finished 8th!

    O wait there is more.

    Apparently Arsenal fans are saying ‘its all very well playing in the Champions League but they would rather be out of the Champions League and be here to night playing in this final.

    I am beginning to wonder if the BBC has self appointed itself as the representative of those fans who want Arsenal to o finish 8, 6, 7 5 as Looserpool regularly do.

    Yes it hurts not winning the League this season.

    Yes it hurts not winning the ‘tin pot’ FA Cup but so does the control the closed shop PGMOL have over the Premier League hurt. In fact for me that hurts more than anything else.

    This closed shop organisation also hurt the fans of other league clubs, it is not just Arsenal.

  • Peter Kemp

    Don’t forget the Greek Cypriot, Turkish and Irish communities that are very much part of our society 🙂

  • Fishpie

    Tim. A brilliant piece. Thank you. You capture the atmosphere of last Sunday in your piece very well. It is in fact in stark contrast to my own more “moany’ piece published on this site yesterday. I am a fan from the George Eastham days and grew up being lambasted by Spurs fans who had recently won the Double while we struggled. Despite being raised as an Arsenal fan in troubled times, and being older than what you suspect are primarily younger folk, I find myself leaning towards being a WOB, but with regret. What I appreciate about your piece is it recognises my WOB position is not plastic and Glory hunting but I feel I am seeking what is best for the club. Inspired by the spirit in which you write, I will try and be more generous to different views in my own posts. Enjoyed the history of Immigration too. Cheers.

  • Richard morgan

    Very interesting piece, if I were to describe myself I’d probably say akb I have been supporting Arsenal for 35 years now. I think that the wob’s forget no one from the club ever came up to them and said support us buy our merchandise and season tickets or match day tickets and we guarantee you success and titles and silverware. We support the club buy the merchandise and tickets because we want to the only guarantee we get from buying a ticket is that we will watch a football match and for 90+ minutes nothing else in the world matters and that happens numerous times throughout a season.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Tim Charlesworth, you’ve said rightly and goodly too in this your article.

    But I’ll want to believe that a football fan isn’t attracted to a particular football club because of the run of success the club is having or has had. If not? Being an ardent Premier League football fan, Why haven’t I got attracted to Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City who have had more success on the field than Arsenal have had in the last 12 years? I can’t leave Arsenal. I am Arsenal forever.

    I think one becomes attracted to a particular football club 1stly, by the name of the club which has jelled with the fan and he or she has liked it. And continued to like like like the club as time goes on. It’s like to like a particular girl out a number of girls. I agree, if the club become successful in their exploits, the like like like by the fan can transcend to permanent passion and love for the club.

    I totally agree with your observation that the 21st St Totteringham’s Day celebrations was a unifying factor that has united the Arsenal 2 warring factions of the AKBs and AOBs at the moment after a major disagreement has erupted between the once 1 fan base. Which has unfortunately seen the once 1 fan base split into 2 main fan groups who have been at each other throats ever since.

    The Boss has said, he would like to make every Arsenal fan happy as much as he can. And he is opened to criticism. I think a title or titles winning season next season by Arsenal will further cement the unity that was forged last Sunday at the Ems amongst the 2 opposing Arsenal fan groups.

  • Sorry but when I sit in the Emirates and have listened to the vile abuse that Arsene Wenger has had to take repeatly and players who are being yelled at time and time again with shouts of useless b******s, w*****s and worse well I don’t class those people as supporters. Arsene Wenger and every man who pulls on that red and white shirt should never have had to suffer what they did and hears something else, those men represent Arsenal the team we are supposed to support not vilify. Yes people can get annoyed and antes but there is a time and a place for this and it’s not during a football match. People fail to remember that those players have friends and families at these matches and how on earth must they feel listening to awful verbal abuse. I hope that no player is put of coming to Arsenal because of this but if they are then who can blame them.

  • colario

    Mr or Ms Fishpie I don’t know where you reside but if you live in England then you live in a land where truth and objective reporting on football and many other subjects (for that matter) have been thrown away.

    It is possible you have no escape from the England diatribers who ‘KNOW’ beyond all manner of doubt that Arsenal fans are bored with Arsenal finishing in the top four.

    You appear to know the drudgery of not finishing in the top four season after season.

    Ok so we haven’t won the league for …. but it is a lot less years than the big, mighty looserpool and many others.

    Accept the boredom of being in the top four because it could so easily be the boredom of 8th in the top 10.

    It wasn’t all glory In GG’s day and the record books show a lot worse in the T Neill days, when according to our then chairman ‘we never looked like winning the league’.

    What about a piece for us telling what it was like to suffer the slings and arrows of the outrageous league position of 8th year after year.

    Help younger fans to understand why it is good being in the top 4 season after season.

  • Fishpie


    Its Mr Fishpie. Living in London.

    Good idea about doing a piece about the wilderness years of Arsenal’s past and what it was to live through them. I might try that article.


  • colario

    Saville 3 looserpool 1

    Evidently Seville oranges are better than looserpool ones! 🙂

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    After taken the lead and have a 2nd disallowed for off-side, Liverpool have amazingly fallen behind 1-3 to Servill in the game.

    I am tempted to ask if Juggen Klopp has turned to become a serial Cup final loser?

  • Chris

    Looking at the game here iôn swiss TV I’ve heard the swiss commentator say a few times : the referee is applying english style refereeing…
    Refering to a what he describes as 3 penalties refused for Liverpool!! in the first half and feeling so sorry for Liverpool!!

    I find it telling that a commentator who must see PL games regularly just states this fact. PL refereeing is not the same as in the rest of the world.

    Then maybe suffering what the Gunners suffer all year long may serve as a lecture now that Liverpool!! is out of european competitions next season.

    Wonder what the ripple effect is going to be : losing players, not getting top new players, financial loss.

    But then they are a great team, have a great coahc who has just lost his 5th final in a row and us Gunners just nick a livin’ and 2nd place is no trophy.

  • Al

    Hilarious,listening to bt plundits trying to explain some positives for klopp and Liverpool to take out of this loss.

  • Al

    On a side note, I do think the notion that the PL is better than la liga is quite misplaced. If you include Barcelona and Madrid in the PL they’ll be coming first and second no doubt. The Europa cup seems to be almost permanently residing in Spain, these last 10 years or so, and there is a reason for that. They’re also almost monopolising the CL in a similar manner.

  • Pat

    Nice article, Tim. I love the history of immigration to Britain. It’s a pity the mass media doesn’t point that out a bit more often instead of trying to turn everybody into immigrant haters.

    However, I know what Linda means about the people who shouted insults at our players and our manager in game after game and I’ve heard it too. A lot of them were old enough to know better as well.

    I don’t mind people grumbling a bit. But what went on sometimes went far beyond grumbling. I find it hard to look forgivingly on some of the people who started shouting ‘useless’ plus a few swear words at some young footballer within five minutes of the match starting.

    However, I think people have been led in this direction by the constantly negative media and the numerous abusive and unpleasant blogs. It is them I really blame for mis-shaping opinion.

  • Gunnerjoe

    When liverpool were leading the game the commutator said liverpool are in reach of the CL not that they could win the europa cup.
    These same commutators ridiculed Wenger for saying finishing 4th is more important than a cup win.
    But what else is new Wenger makes a sage pronouncement and is made fun of by all in sundry.
    But as usual it turns out to be true ask man u td and liverpool fans.

  • Gunnerjoe

    Don’t get me I enjoy a good cup win as well

  • thierryhenry22

    Aaaand we’re back! Great article! Thanks.

    Re: Fishpies comment
    ‘Good idea about doing a piece about the wilderness years of Arsenal’s past and what it was to live through them. I might try that article.’

    Please. No more articles (on this website). I only hope UA agrees but if not, I will be avoiding for sure! With respect.

  • Liam

    A truly moving article. A very well crafted piece on shared identity and experience. (Might also ease my strong urge to talk down to some supporters I come into contact with) really good.

  • thierryhenry22

    Hey Linda, I totally with your comment (enjoy your other comments also), but these people truly believe that once you earn over a certain amount of money, you are not human anymore.

    Maybe they value money above everything else i’m not sure, one thing is for sure though, thinking like that will have you crashing down to earth much sooner than later.

  • Thanks thierryhenry22
    I agree with you and they are going to come back down to earth with a massive fall someday and they will have no one to blame but themselves.

  • Jim

    Thank you..amongst the best articles I’ve read relating to Arsenal..and you’re right..we become supporters via various means..I grew up in Pontypool, S. Wales, and form me, as a boy, there was only rugby. Then in 1966 I left wales and moved to Newmarket to commence work as an apprentice jockey..I, like most of the single lads at that time, lived in accommodation above the stables..rooms which were normally “two to a room”.. In 1969, the lad I shared with left and was replaced by a new starter..This lad (named Alan) was a Highbury boy, and a mad keen Arsenal supporter..I jumped on the bandwagon and have been an Arsenal supporter ever since..
    By the way..I was born in England to Welsh parents..however on my mothers side..6 generations back were all from yup we’re all mongrels whichever way you look at it.

  • Polo

    Tim, great article and totally agree with your points, hopefully the division ends and all Arsenal supporters unite for the new season. Let stop giving the media and pundits the ammunition to mock our great club and supporters. ‘We love you Arsenal (we do)!!!!

  • gouresh

    This is an article I really really enjoyed reading. I have said in my other comments that u understand the rivalry only if u have grown up in North London, rest is just a bit of fun. Also I had said that success attracts supporters. Manu, hellsea city, barca, real, Munich etc. Generally people associate themselves with success, and that’s a fact. Ur point that we may have had an increase of supporters in the 30’s due to the success is spot on. Everyone should be able to express their views peacefully without being ridiculed. Thanks for this lovely article. I think people who are pro AW and anti AW will agree with this write up.

  • esxste

    Thanks Tim, that was a well balanced article that brings a little perspective to the raging debate.

    Whether you’re an AKB or a WOB… or a Wenger agnostic; we’re all Arsenal fans and its worth remembering that we all want the best for the club.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Thanks Tim, excellent read as ever.
    Yes, that was a fine St Totts day.
    I think most can live with others who hold different opinions, including opinions on the future of our manager, but it is the haters amongst the WOB I cannot deal with……but guess you get extremists in all walks of life.

  • Mandy Dodd

    The home game at Leicester was an excellent example of what a unified fanbase can do, the fans rose in unison, against an opponent applying the most cynical tactics and a ref ,who spent the first half actively encouraging them.

  • Jambug


    Because of all the negativity around I decided to take a sabbatical from UA.

    I missed certain aspects of course. The wonderful pieces from Rick, Btj, Al and others too numerous.

    But I have to say when I read many of your posts it lifts my spirits. Your positivity, love and compassion for Arsenal as a club, is obvious. But more importantly it is those traits aligned with a great empathy towards the players, manager and others, that I find so heart warming.

    I love your posts. Thank you.

  • Thank you jam bug that means a lot.
    I love her heart and soul because she is part of who I am and will be till the day I die.

  • Gooner S


    I agree and get the intention of the article as being we are all fans of the same club, no fan is better than another wherever they’re from and so on. Quite right but there is some odd things squirreled away in here.

    The club was “dishonest” about it’s financial plight! Actually no, they chose what to say, when and how. They could not come out and say in 2006 “Right ho, we’re going to be skint for the best part of the next 10 years and don’t expect us to win anything”. This is the root cause of the current frustration, I understand that but there is no way any business could be so transparent about that. The vultures would have circled even more than they did picking off our best players and we would not have been able to function in either the transfer market or commercial market.

    “We are all Glory Hunters at some point”. Again, I get the point but you can speak for yourself if you wish but not for me. I’ll leave it at that! I do believe that there is a degree of self entitlement built up amongst our fan base. Primarily due to the success, consistency and longevity of Arsene Wenger as some of our fan base have know very little else. We had 18 years between titles in 53 and 71, 18 years between 71 and 1989 and 7 years between 91 and 98! And in the intervening years between those wins nothing like the consistency of the last 19 years under AW!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A very fine article and some very nice comments . Love the Arsenal . Support the team wholeheartedly , and with all the pride that they have give you . And they will keep on giving !
    Up the Gunners !

  • norman14

    I’m still waiting for a mainstream journalist (hm) to report that Chec won the Golden Glove.
    I’ve heard that it was a tie, and also, some dick on Sky reported that de Gea won it outright.

    Why publish the truth when you can lie and get away with it?

    Happy 21st Birthday St Totteringham

  • Jammy J

    The backlash from the pundits after these last games has genuinely shocked me. There has been more negativity and vitriol directed at Arsenal in recent days, than i can ever remember.

    A lot of people wonder as to why Arsenal seem to get such a pounding from the media and i believe it is based a lot on Wenger and consequently, the way Arsenal play. A lot of English fans would rather see a crunching tackle than a exquisite bit of skill. On top of tackling, if the player can “put in a shift in” then they are seen as stars in the eyes of the PL. The way players like Milner and Drinkwater are heralded as if they are the embodiment of the English game, says it all. Unfortunately – as a country – we still haven’t evolved from the days of players like Vinnie Jones and the likes.

    It’s going to be very bitter-sweet supporting England in the Euros. Really dislike almost every aspect of the English game, but i can’t help but feel a slight affinity towards them (considering i was born here).

    In other news, it would appear the transfer of Granit Xhaka is very close to completion (and not just according to the blogs)! Have never seen him play, so definitely gonna keep an eye on him for the Euros.

  • Pat

    Yet Roy Hodgson still sees Jack Wilshere as the star of the show. He at least appreciates skill.

  • omgarsenal

    Great article Tim,once again! I cannot agree with some elements of it but that is fine, this is what an open forum like UA is all about….respectful and intelligent debate supported by insightful and fact-based evidence for one’s opinions. You do that very well!

  • Jammy J

    But you’ve gotta ask yourself Pat; why is Wilshere one of the very few English players with that particular style of play? This problem goes to the very grassroots of English football. Look at other countries and they are full of skillful, technical players.