There is a big problem in Britain with not seeing our history honestly

By Tony Attwood

It has long been noted that people with an agenda will re-write history to fit their message.  Thuat the aaa notoriously re-write Arsenal’s history to show that this is a bad time in Arsenal’s history.  Football journalists and their chums in the FA rewrite the England football teams history to make out that the current run of poor showings is somehow not living up to the norm – (whereas defeat to a team like Iceland was indeed the norm – the sort of place we’e been since the second world war).

Bertie Mee, in the aaa re-write of Arsenal history, knew when to leave the club and didn’t see us through any sort of decline.  His 16th and 17th position finishes in the league in 1975 and 1976 didn’t happen and were not the worst final positions of Arsenal since 1925.

George Graham gave us exciting attacking football and the 40 goals the club scored in 1993 was not the lowest since the relegation season of 1913.

Arsene Wenger has failed to win the league between 2004 and 2016 – 12 seasons.   This is the worst ever run of the club, forgetting of course the run between 1972 and 1988 (16 seasons) or the run from 1954 to 1970 (also 16) or indeed 1894 to 1930 – although of course that included the earliest days of Arsenal as a league club, and so including it would be rather dubious.

Arsenal were not hampered by the building of the new stadium, as other clubs have managed this ok without any disruption….

But one can’t really blame the aaa since this re-writing of history is exactly what British people do all the time.   As Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, recently said, the British have a “sunny side” view of its position in history which he calls,  “regrettable”.

In a recent lecturer Dr MacGregor said, “Maybe we mention a little bit of slave trade here and there, a few wars here and there, but the chapters we insist on are the sunny ones.”

Now what the Arsenal supporters who decry the work of Mr Wenger do is a variant of this.  They imagine that the past was totally a sunny period, and that we are currently in the dark ages of Arsenal, whereas in reality the past 20 years have been the second most successful era in the history of the club, exceeded only by the period between the two world wars.

Where the aaa’s interpretation of Arsenal’s history coincides with Dr MacGregor’s analysis of the way Britain’s history is presented, is in being “selective with the truth”.  So in Britain we imagine that “we alone beat Bonaparte in Waterloo and got rid of him.”

If we look at the history of English football as offered by the FA it is of ourselves as a major player – and influencer and a force for good.   Quite what the “force for good” has actually achieved is hard to say, given that it is hard to imagine how Fifa could be much worse.

A listing of achievements by the FA in this territory is worth considering.

Before 1950, the FA refused to enter the World Cup, and in 1950 the qualification itself was the result of games against Wales, N Ireland and Scotland – not the toughest of groups.

WC Finals England exited at.. England’s pos. P W D L F A
 1950 Group Stage 8th 3 1 0 2 2 2
 1954 Quarter-finals 7th 3 1 1 1 8 8
 1958 Group stage 11th 4 0 3 1 4 5
 1962 Quarter-finals 8th 4 1 1 2 5 6
 1966 Champions Top 6 5 1 0 11 3
 1970 Quarter-finals 8th 4 2 0 2 4 4
 1974 Did not qualify
 1982 Second group stage 6th 5 3 2 0 6 1
 1986 Quarter-finals 8th 5 2 1 2 7 3
 1990 Fourth place 4th 7 3 3 1 8 6
 1994 Did not qualify
 1998 Round of 16 9th 4 2 1 1 7 4
 2002 Quarter-finals 6th 5 2 2 1 6 3
 2006 Quarter-finals 7th 5 3 2 0 6 2
 2010 Round of 16 13th 4 1 2 1 3 5
 2014 Group stage 26th 3 0 1 2 2 4

If we look at this England has played 21 games in the finals since 1998.  They have won 8.  Prior to this we have played 41 games in the world cup finals and won 18.

Total: played 62 won 26.  Success rate 42%.

Of course the aaa are not on their own in delivering this message – they are ably aided by the national press and broadcasters.  Anyone listening to our various broadcasters or reading the newspapers could be excused for thinking that not only are England natural world beaters but that Liverpool and Tottenham are among the clubs that are traditionally to be found at the top of the league.

Between 1992 and 2016 (24 seasons) Liverpool’s record is

  • Champions – none
  • Runners up – three times
  • Third – four times

Now Liverpool have won some cups during this period, but as the aaa tell us, Cups are not a trophy.

As for Tottenham we could take the run between 1964 and the present day they have

  • Champions – none
  • Runners up – none
  • Third – five times

They also have won some cups, and (to be complete) have been relegated as well.

My point is that we are in the post-truth era, when making up history is as commonplace as making up a story about yesterday.  Tottenham and Liverpool have throughout been treated as clubs challenging to become the champions, but in truth are never really there.  Arsenal on the other hand are written down as perpetual failures.

England however are perpetual failures but are written up as serious challengers.

It will of course continue, and quite possibly there are some people (outside of the broadcasters) who actually believe that England, Liverpool and Tottenham are traditionally big sides always challenging for trophies.   Just as there are some “fans” who believe that we are currently in Arsenal’s worst ever period.

Or indeed who believe that Britain is a peace loving nation that invented agriculture, democracy, mathematics, philosophy, popular music, Christianity and the printing press.

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13 Replies to “There is a big problem in Britain with not seeing our history honestly”

  1. Great post. Reality is not nearly as much fun as making up stuff. It is a constant source of wonder that 20 years in the top four, 20 years of Champions League football, 3 titles, 6 FA Cups, and 6 Community shields can somehow be seen as failure.

    Especially when, as you point out, Arsenal are compared negatively to Tottenham who, despite having resourceso n par with Arsenal, are always depicted as “up and coming” and Liverpool, who have similar reources to Arsenal but consistently worse results.

    The rallying cry in the FA and the pressrooms everywhere are that Liverpool won the Champions League. Would Arsenal fans really trade their side for a team that has finished 8th (3 times) as often as they finished 2nd (3 times) in the Premier League era?

    Both Tottenham and Liverpool are big clubs, they’ve just underachieved for the last two decades. They switch managers constantly (Liverpool have had seven managers in the Premier League era and tottenham have had a stunning 17 managerial changes).

    It may be that both Tottenham and Liverpool have finally gotten it right and both will finish above Arsenal in the league, but if past performance is in fact a predictor of future results, I wouldn’t bet on it.

  2. Well, reading some blogettas, I read this new twist (get ready…)

    – because of the fact that AW is going to leave end of the season, Arsenal are going to go though some serious turmoil and thus players like Bellerin have no chance to win silverware with AFC. So it is presented like it will only be natural for him to join Guardiola at City like so many arsenal players did before with such great success.

    So after the Barca DNA did not make it, they brew trouble any other way they can figure out. Wonder what the next twist is going to be.

    And not only do they want AFC to loose so AW gets fired, they even aknowledge it is going to send the club into instability and problems. I don’t know, they call themselves supporters, there is another word in the dictionnary that I know about starting with t.

  3. Tony
    I’ll accept your word on the “aaa” and the Bertie Mee & George Graham history re-writes if you could provide some evidence. After all this is what you insist on for we the commenters.
    Personally I have never seen any evidence of this for anyone “aaa” or otherwise. although perhaps some do tend to look rather more fondly than necessary when reviewing those times when we regularly won silver. Like you I came through those times and am as proud of our achievements then as I am of the ones under the current manager.

  4. 2004 -2016 correct. 1972 -1988? 1954-1970? Spuds 1964 – present day? It was both times 18 years between league title’s and why 1964 for the Spuds did you not want to include the cup winner’s cup final of 1963 . In 1993 yes we were poor in the league but history was made by winning both domestic cups followed by the Cup Winners Cup the following year. The only person attempting to manipulate history is the author of this article. Talk about putting your own spin on it.

  5. It’s not only in football that memories become selective and cloudy.
    No doubt parents throughout the world, still recall “the Good Old Days” choosing to conveniently forget the advances in science, health and the improved standard of living which we all experience today…..whether we realise it or not.
    It’s not a bad thing to have pleasant nostalgia about the past (even though memories can play tricks). Romance, schooldays, holidays, childhood, can all be happy remembrances. Particularly when we embellish our memory to suit.
    In certain sports, past standards can easily be defined by records and
    Professional football standards will be recalled mainly by those of us of a certain age. We few can still remember pre-WW2 days and the difference now in fitness, diet and training (introduced by progressives like Arsene Wenger).

  6. I always remember my school teachers telling us that it was the way we played the game that mattered more than winning or losing. It is this philosophy that Wengers teams have been successful. They have all played the game so beautifully with entertainment being at its best.

    History may show all kinds of detail but the stats of Wengers football teams will always ‘describe’ a flowing game. Those who do not realise the consistency of top 4 over 20 years being class do not understand why the game was called beautiful.

    The lack of trophies over the recent past is not critical to the success of Arsenal Football Club. This club has succeeded in financial growth without the huge debt of directors loans. The trophies have gradually begun to flow & will continue because of the consistent teamwork that Wenger builds at the club.

    Those that do not see Wengers prowess in the football that is played, miss the understanding of his greatness in the game. Wenger has orchestrated a squad of players that have entertained Arsenal supporters like no other coach or manager in England. There are some others that have also done a beautiful job in Spain & Germany, but both with financial clout that seems obscene when compared to that available to Wenger.

  7. I’m sure that the following tale will bring tears to most eyes .

    An older couple were lying in bed one night. The husband was falling asleep but the wife was in a romantic mood and wanted to talk.

    She said: “You used to hold my hand when we were courting.”
    Wearily he reached across, held her hand for a second and tried to get back to sleep.

    A few moments later she said: “Then you used to kiss me.”

    Mildly irritated, he reached across, gave her a peck on the cheek and settled down to sleep.

    Thirty seconds later she said: “Then you used to bite my Neck.”

    Angrily, he threw back the bed covers and got out of bed.

    “Where are you going?” she asked.

    “To get my teeth!”

  8. Coffee Conversation –

    4 men and a woman were having coffee.

    The first man tells his friends, “My son is a priest. When he walks into a room, everyone calls him ‘Father’.”

    The second man chirps, “My son is a Bishop. When he walks into a room people call him ‘Your Grace’.”

    The third gent says, “My son is a Cardinal. When he enters a room everyone says ‘Your Eminence’.”

    The fourth man then says, “My son happens to be the Pope. When he walks into a room people call him ‘Your Holiness’.”

    Since the lone woman was sipping her coffee in silence, the four men give her a subtle, “Well….?”

    She proudly replies, “I have a daughter; slim, tall, 38D breasts, 24″ waist, 34” hips. When she walks into a room people say…

    “My God!!….””

  9. Britain ended the slave trade. I only found that out recently and I’m astonished that it’s not mentioned more often, given the “sunny side” view mentioned in this article that is often espoused regarding the British Empire.

  10. I think Leon and Sukebe are just visiting Untold and don’t visit any other blog or are active on social media. But even so if only visiting Untold and no other social media they should have read in the past the multiple people writing comments about how great those era were compared to the “constant failure” we have now.
    Maybe because we don’t allow those nonsense to be published much more they miss out on this?

  11. Yes on not visiting any other blogs…

    And tend to skip on the negative parts of comments, as the fear of rising anxiety of mine 😀

  12. There can be a minimum of TWO sides to an argument, but the maximum number can be infinite.

    However, the truth is usually only a benchmark, set by the human race’s interpretation of proven or unproven arguments…

    … of which there may be two or infinite sides.

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