The fans: We are the dead, blindfolded, walking backwards into the darkness, led by those who treat us with contempt

By Tony Attwood

As you will know if you have been paying attention 115 players were linked with Arsenal as transfers into the club between April and the end of the transfer market.   22 players were said to be leaving.  99% of the stories were untrue.

These stories were made up all over the place, and apologies for the misinformation was there none.  We were expected to treat it all seriously, and when the transfer failed to materialise we were told it was Arenal’s fault.  Never once did anyone say, “actually this was a false rumour” or better, “sorry, have to admit it, I made it all up.”

Instead there is a new game.  The Star is now running headlines such as  “Higuain, Vardy, Gotze… The XI Premier League summer transfers that were never completed”  suggesting that all these players who were listed as moving could have moved – if only these rampant journalists had been in there doing the business instead of the dozy buggers running the clubs.

It is all a bit like Liam Fox, the UK’s  Secretary of State for International Trade – a man central to taking the UK out of the EU and ensuring that actually we do have someone to sell our stuff to after we go.  He is, as far as I know, a man who has never worked in, let alone run, any business as the only job he held before becoming an MP was as a doctor in general practice.  Now GPs are important people, and indeed one saved by life when I was 17, ordering my parents (who were loving and good people but who thought their son was occasionally prone to bouts of exaggeration and that his complaints at two in the morning of intense stomach pain was typical teenage nonsense) if they didn’t get me to hospital in the next hour I was done for.

That GP was a good doctor.  Probably like Liam Fox who has recently announced that Britain;s business people are “too lazy and too fat” with businessmen preferring “golf on a Friday afternoon” to trying to boost the country’s prosperity.   He’s just a crap negotiator and politician.

What Fox is doing is turning politics and the frightening issue of what happens to UK trade after we leave the EU into the same sort of game that journalists and bloggettists (a word so silly that WordPress has chosen to believe it is not a spelling mistake) play with football fans.  Fox and the journalists treat us like utter idiots, feeding us their vision of reality without any recognition that some of us realise it is a load of cider apples.  (Fox has a constituency in Somerset).

Back with football take this from the Mail…

“Time may prove that Everton actually got away with making a huge financial mistake, as the Sissoko who represented Newcastle last season did not look someone for whom you would want to smash your club record fee, but pursuing that deal at that hour didn’t add up.

“Having started the day looking to sign a striker, the pursuit of Sissoko – who had been on the market since May, remember – resembled the last minute dash around the shops on Christmas Eve, hoping to find something expensive.

“Why go for a midfielder when the aim was to sign a striker? Some will counter that Enner Valencia provides the quality back up for Romelu Lukaku but a loan hastily completed at 7pm on deadline day hardly suggests the Ecuadorian was first choice, does it?”

Incompetence, incompetence, it is always incompetence.  And maybe, like the work of Fox, it is incompetence.  But it might be more believable if sometimes there wasn’t that air of self-satisfied smirking in the writing once again suggesting that if only the writers of the Mail had been in charge of Everton’s transfers, everything would have been done and dusted by July 2 and Everton would have been top of the league by now.  Sometimes, if we had a bit more of the background it might help too.

My point is that this “you are all idiots and I know best” attitude is now rampant throughout journalism and politics and we are being fed this garbage day after day.

I thought of this because I am (just of my own volition, not ‘cos anyone asked me to) about to start a campaign to encourage Arsenal FC to recognise 2019 as the 100th anniversary of the club’s accession to the First Division, for an unbeaten run.   Everton (who have actually had more seasons in the first division, having joined the league earlier than Arsenal but been relegated a few times) are in second place with 63 seasons.

The problem with my little campaign (which will also try and reactivate the notion of having a monument built to the four great managers who created the modern club: Chapman, Shaw, Allison, Whittaker) is that immediately it will ignite a load of abuse about how Arsenal “bought” their way into the top division.  So I will have to prelude my campaign by trying to undo the ludicrous invented tales about Henry Norris that Leslie Knighton (the manager before Herbert Chapman) spread about the man in his Sunday newspaper columns written 20 years after he (Knighton) left the club.

If you are interested in the truth about the promotion, you will find  10 March 1919, Arsenal elected. Find the bribery and get the reward – it is worth a read.   There is a lot about Henry Norris on the Arsenal History Society site, but it is spread out across many articles.  I’m going to try and pull it together.

My point is that the makebelieve notion of reality is now so deeply ingrained that actually trying to tell the truth, even with (as in the case for the article about 10 March 1919) a load of evidence, is hard going.

What the journalists and bloggetterati (another invention, and one I quite like) enjoy doing is publishing so much make believe, the make believe becomes more believable than the reality.

In fact I suspect that we are not far away from a front page Daily Mail story that says that the insiders have revealed that our government has been drilling for zeonite at several highly secret locations.  It is great stuff in that it gives people super powers and can only be found in the UK so we are going to be mega rich from exporting it and world leaders once again.   But locals in Somerset where the reserves are found are protesting against the despoiling of environment, and some have reported seeing enormous hounds running from the zeonite mines and heading for Dartmoor and on into Cornwall.   (The Daily Express did run a story about a discovery of a child’s doll on Mars last year, and the Beast of Bodmin has an entry in Wikipedia).

Now imagine that the papers not only run the story but everyone starts to believe in zeonite.  That is where we are with journalism these days.

The press and the bloggetterati do it because imagination and invention are free (and indeed to be applauded when presented as fiction).  It says to advertisers “our readers will believe anything” meaning, you can advertise any old rubbish here and people will buy it.

Thus we are in the world of wholly untrue stories with completely false consequences as promises.  As a result denials look like admissions, and serious attempts to write up history in a most truthful manner are swept aside with the assertion that “Arsenal bought their way into the first division”.

Matters get worse as the falsehoods are mixed with misleading statements – the “Only two Arsenal players scored in double figures last season” was one such.  “Arsenal’s insane level of injuries under Wenger” is another.

But because multiple outlets run the story, people believe it.

As a result football clubs know that if they chase players openly other clubs can see what they are doing.  They start to create their own stories as cover and the journalists lap it up (even to the extent as we have seen, of the Times printing a story about Arsenal signing an eastern European 16 year old wonderkid who was a complete invention.)

So we have phantom transfer stories created just to mislead journalists and vapour transfers designed to send rival clubs on wild goose chases (in the way that IT companies make pre-announcements to send the research departments of rivals off on the wrong path).

But in such a world, image and presentation becomes everything.   Arsenal are presented as incompetent in the transfer market, too slow, unwilling to spend.  But because most Arsenal fans don’t read the transfer gossip surrounding other clubs, supporters elsewhere don’t realise that other teams are often also moaning about their clubs’ transfer policies.   If you look at today you will see stories such as

  • This shocking stat reveals why Mourinho is in great danger at Old Trafford
  • Bad news for Anthony Martial as Jose Mourinho’s Man United lacks a Chelsea star
  • Man United have had deadline day approach rejected for free-kick master

The good news is that awareness of the manipulation of football and football fans by the media which follows its own interest, rather than the interest of the fans, is growing.  Indeed some papers are reporting today that “Mark Hughes believes he was sent to the stands during Stoke City’s 4-0 thumping by Tottenham because the Premier League is trying to protect its image abroad.”

Of course such stories are mostly presented as a way of laughing at paranoid managers, but the fact that they are getting mentioned at all is a step in the right direction.

‘It was basically because I came out of the technical area and waved my hands about. The Premier League doesn’t like that because of their image abroad,” Hughes added.

It is not that I often say this of Hughes, but on this occasion, he could be right.

Recent Posts

Two anniversaries of the same day

12 September 1998: Arsène Wenger announced that he was looking for a new striker to replace Ian Wright, and would like to sign Emile Heskey.  He didn’t but instead used Anelka and Kanu, along with Bergkamp, as the main source of goals until Thierry Henry arrived.

12 September 1998: Freddie Ljungberg signed for £3m from Halmstads BK for whom he had played 79 games and scored 10 goals.  He went on to play 216 games for Arsenal and scored 72 goals.

You can find 5000 Arsenal anniversaries arranged day by day on the Arsenal History Society site.


21 Replies to “The fans: We are the dead, blindfolded, walking backwards into the darkness, led by those who treat us with contempt”

  1. It’s your blog, you can say what you like, but this probably the worst article I’ve read on Untold Arsenal.
    Nobody with anything resembling a brain takes the rumours & gossip seriously do they, although you seem to make a standing issue out of them.
    And here you go with your Brexit hate again.
    I’m not a Liam Fox fan but can assure you as someone who lives in Somerset that the Mail will not reveal the source of Zeonite as it’s far to busy exposing: A) Fugitive foreign criminals living in complete freedom and at taxpayers expense in the UK. B) Wanted British criminals living in Spain and C) scumbag benefit scroungers and general injustice’s through the courts. All achieved with good investigative journalism.
    Of course they also publish conflicting diet & nutritional advice, so how could you possibly support a newspaper telling those sort of lies!

  2. Wow – a Post that rivals ‘War and Peace’ for length, and contains its own share of artistic licence as well as being a very good read. 😀

    I may be mistaken, but I read the case against the journalistic media, and you rightly condemned them for some inventive and occasionally malignantly spurious stories designed to agitate the fans and conveniently putting up Monsieur Wenger as the culprit, but there seemed to be no particular mention of the fact that the reason for the media doing so was to try and satiate those fans who love to read all about transfers, even the most ridiculous rumours, and the reason they did not go thru, and then fulminate at length about the miserly manager and club.

    This may have been because I do not know the definition of bloggeristas, bloggerettas etc and if those nouns represent the collective fan base – all is well. 🙂

    I actually came to believe, some time ago, that AW was the rascal responsible for sugar being erroneously put in my coffee in a restaurant, and had to check in the Mail, later, to convince myself that the jury was still out on that, as they had made no direct allegation of coffee sugar doping.

    Enjoyable article.

  3. Actually think this is the best article written here for a long time. Disagree with 99.9% Arsenal related stuff, but Tony is spot on with his wider socio political stuff.

    Incompetence is everywhere and protected by further incompetence. Otherwise the gravy train grinds to a halt.

  4. I hear that zeonite stocks were involved in the negotiations for our entry to the old first division. I am sure there will be multiple spuddist reports surrounding their version of what happened as the media numbties all seem to be in love with the spuds since their magnificent collapse, sorry title winning season, just gone. The ultimate reality is that no matter how some may think it was achieved 1919 will still be 100 years. How long will it take the spuds, the chavs, the scum or the new rich to catch up? The bottom line is it is another Arsenal first and that will do nicely as far as I am concerned. Look forwards to the campaign and wish you every success.

  5. Leon

    “Nobody with anything resembling a brain takes the rumours & gossip seriously do they”

    Alas Leon there seems to be many many fans, and a lot of them Arsenal fans, that DO believe them, hence the abuse Wenger constantly gets from them when one of the players the press told us was on the way, doesn’t arrive.

    Never underestimate the stupidity of some people.

    Plus I have been in to this in great detail about how this is not about the rumours themselves, but about how they stir up a toxic environment in which to knock Arsenal and Wenger in particular.

    you know the thing:

    Arsenal are tight.

    Wenger dithers etc etc.

  6. Well some of the stories are created by the actors themselves and some of them are real interesting…
    Just read what the non specialist in failure but getting there with each game has said about MU players.
    Just sounds so much like last year. I bet if they lose 2 or 3 more games, the locker will be lost.

    Say what you want, but I cannot remember AW criticising his players once via the press.

  7. Rumours & Gossip, that says it all.

    Still, it is what people do regularly about any issue.

    If we imagine that some of the rumours may have been true, but the negotiations fell flat, then we can be sure that many are made up as well.

    Yet Untold must be aware not to fall too far into the negative side of things, but just enough to keep it’s positivity balanced.

  8. The term used when we fail to clinch a player is ARSENAL TARGET.
    So we failed 115 times during the window. He just has to go!!

  9. Jambug

    Yeah. I guess so, but I never get that fussed about it.
    I take your point about AW getting flack over it though.

  10. Leon

    Like you, I don’t take the rumours seriously, so using your vernacular, I never get ‘fussed’ about them either, hence I’m never disappointed when x y or z doesn’t turn up.

    But what I do get fussed about is the way it is used to try and create this permanently toxic mood around our club.

    And I think that is where we differ.

    I think the toxic atmosphere all this negatively creates has a direct impact on why so many of our fans turn on the manager and sometimes the team, at the slightest opportunity.

    Take for example the first day of the season. The first sign of a bad result and the atmosphere in the ground turned nasty.

    And what was it we heard ringing around the stadium? ‘Spend the f***ing money’.

    It’s a joke. We have been spending money over recent years, lots of it, and had already spent over £35 Million this Summer. Yet the fans are bombarded with this notion that all these players want to come to us and yet simply due to Wengers dithering none of them do, and they believe it.

    Only this weekend the SKY commentator said something along the lines of:

    “The mood of the Arsenal fans seems much more optimistic now they’ve bought some players after years of not spending”

    Years of not spending?

    In the 4 years prior to this we had a net spend of £120 Million. That’s a net £30 Million per season.

    And this is what they do. They just peddle lie after lie. They just keep on with the same criticisms when they are patently untrue.

    It is all part of the same agenda of painting Arsenal and Wenger in a bad light, with the ultimate goal of keeping the fans riled up and ready to explode at any moment, and this transfer rumour mill plays a massive part in building and maintaining this volatile atmosphere.

    So as much as I’m not fussed about the rumours per say, but I am fussed about the agenda behind them.

  11. Jambug

    I think UA is inadvertently fuelling the fans by regularly publushing Sir Hardlyanyone articles.Imho UA should stop publishing such articles on a daily basis during the transfer window.

    If UA wants to expose the media gossip in a prudent way it should publish the Hardly Anyone article once every fortnight at the maximum. This will avoid repititions,will be more effective and worthy for everyone to read.

  12. Tony,

    I hope you are successful in the campaign of yours for our 100th year in english top flight.

    I do not comment at your other blog the Arsenal History Society out of the manner of obersvant readership. But thanks to the very well maintained Arsenal History Blog, I have been a regular reader and have learnt a great deal of our history.

    Especially the piece on the truth on Arsenal and Sir Henry Norris in 1919 during the restructuring of the league which you mentioned above, it deserves a read from all fans.

    So, thanks again Tony for well for providing us with two ‘top top quality’ blogs with complete dedication to Arsenal FC

  13. Rosicky

    The issue of the Hardly Anyone pieces is tricky I agree. We published the Hardly Anyone articles around once a week most of the time from May to the end of the window, with the index summarising all the names in between. I have always been surprised that some people actually took it seriously rather than seeing it as an attempt at satire, but I think the exercise was worthwhile – I certainly didn’t know we would get to 100.

  14. 1. Arsenal’s matchless record of never having left the top division of English football deserves recognition.
    2. The rumours and gossip which permeate every Transfer Window merely emphasise Arsene Wenger’s view that transfers should be a permanent free-for-all. It would probably reduce some of the ridiculous fees being demanded on the final days of each Window……and about time too. 😉

  15. nicky.

    Arsenal were elected to division two of the Football League in 1893; they won promotion in 1904. They were relegated back to division two in 1913 and elected into division one in 1919 when the first division was extended by two clubs after match-fixing allegations were made against Manchester United and Liverpool

  16. @John Harris,
    Yes, but having entered the top division in 1919, Arsenal are the longest serving member of that elite. All other clubs have been relegated at one time or another since that date. 😉

  17. I loved the article , Tony because where I live , Crapozide oozes from every conceivable orifice ! From the politicians , the civil services (which by the , is anything but !), each and every media outlet .

    The populace have been suitable dumbed down by frequent ‘improvements ‘ in education , and many of the locals are alternating between the idiotic and moronic levels . From being fluent in at least two languages , most of us seniors can hardly understand our youth.

    Fanciful imagination and outright lies has replaced history . When pointed out it will be claimed that either it was a regrettable error ,or some clown would try to convince others that it was the truth as imagined by the glorious leaders !

    As for our football , we are sliding down from being third in the Asia (at the Asian games ) in 1974 to managing to force a ‘creditable ‘ draw with Timur Leste !

    But I also note that almost every other country are having their fair share of idiots, some of whom may get to have their fingers on the red button !

  18. Here is an example – in a lighter vein of course !

    I recently met a Chinese man , and his name was Kannasamy , and I asked him , ” How did you ever get a name like that , being a Chinese ?
    ” Many , many years ago when I came to this country , I was standing in line at the Identity Card department . The man in front of me was an Indian .
    The lady at the counter looked at him and asked ,” What is your name ?” and he answers , ” Kannasamy .”
    Then she looks at me and asks ,” What is your name ?” , and I said , ” Sem Ting .”

  19. Apparently it occurs in other countries –

    A lady immigration officer asked a Korean tourist , ” Name ?”

    ” Park Yu .”

    She becomes angry and shouted back , ” FUCK YOU ! Now what’s your full name ?”

    The man replied , ” Park Yu Tu !”

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