The leader of the Red Army


By Tim Charlesworth


Congratulations to the leader of a red army who has managed to stay in his job for a surprisingly long time.  I speak, of course, of loyal Gooner, Jeremy Corbyn, who has been re-elected as leader of the Labour Party.

Despite having been a Conservative candidate in the 2001 General Election, your correspondent must confess to having a little soft spot for Red Jez.  Quite apart from his impeccable taste in football teams, I can’t help admiring his abstinence from Britain’s National Anthem.  The tune itself is fine, but the words are a nasty combination of jingoism and imperialism that sit more comfortably in the Nineteenth Century than the Twenty-First.  

I am a republican atheist to whom the request that “god save the queen” is perplexing nonsense (save her from what? – the lavish lifestyle, the many stylish homes complete with servants and lackeys?, the risk of being buried under a pile of her own cash?).  Are we saving her from the abolition of the monarchy? – if yes, I would rather that the imaginary deity spared its efforts for something worthwhile – perhaps he/she/it could save some cancer sufferers, or orphans or something?

Lest you fear that this article is not strictly about Arsenal, I promise you that there is a point to my rantings.  Its about leadership and changes thereof.  Red Jez is the classic example of the ‘new broom’.  Labour Party members tolerated the ‘New Labour’ approach to politics as long as it won them elections, but they never really loved Blair, Brown and Mandelson and their New Labour project.  When success deserted them, they sort of gave it one more go with Miliband (albeit the wrong brother), but when that didn’t work they gave in to their instincts, went totally native and chose Red Jez, a man after their own hearts.

Only time will tell how much damage will be done by this flirtation with archaic socialism.  Perhaps the Labour Party will abandon its current path and return to success?  Perhaps it will simply annihilate itself?

However it all works out, Red Jez’s re-election is surely an act of attempted suicide.  Britain is simply not interested in re-adopting a form of rancid socialism that it rejected as outdated and failing in the 1980s.  If you doubt my word on this subject, try Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist and lifelong Labour supporter: “What hope for a party that threatens to be irrelevant for years to come? The best of Labour is in power, in the cities as leaders and mayors, competent and imaginative in struggling with monstrous cuts – from London’s Sadiq Khan to Nick Forbes in Newcastle. Otherwise it’s a matter of waiting until enough party members come to terms with grim electoral reality and decide to compromise with the voters. Does that really need a devastating election defeat?” (The Guardian, 27th September 2016)

In the interests of political balance, I should recognise that it is possible that the British people will have a sudden Damascene conversion to the true path of socialism, as many Corbynistas expect, in which case Britain’s new thought police are likely to line me up against the wall and shoot me for writing this.  If so, I will die with my (proverbial) pen in my hand.

As a Conservative, I struggle to be sympathetic when I see the Labour Party in difficulty.  But when the Labour Party fails, our democratic system fails with it, and a one-party state is no good for anyone, including the Conservative Party.  Just look at what the Labour Party did last time the Conservative Party became unelectable:  Tony Blair stood shoulder to shoulder with George Bush and took us to war in Iraq, riding roughshod over democratic opinion in Britain.  The Labour Party is still trying to recover from the aftershocks of this period – a lack of an effective opposition really isn’t good for anyone!

It is rarely commented on, but Arsene Wenger’s beliefs and style are no more consistent with Arsenal’s heritage than Tony Blair’s beliefs are to the Labour movement.  Many older Arsenal fans were brought up on deep-lying solid defensive teams who squeezed the life out of the opposition and hoped to nick a goal or two.  This was a tradition that George Graham understood very well, and indeed was Arsenal’s heritage for most of the post-war period until the arrival of Arsene Wenger.  Even the glorious teams of the 1930s were criticised for being excessively defensive.  Arsene changed all that, and the fanbase acquiesced, largely because Arsene brought success, and who complains in the face of a victorious team?  But the truth is that Arsene’s style of play is contrary to the Arsenal tradition.  Whisper it, but the man who has delivered football most consistent with Arsenal’s heritage in recent years is Jose Mourinho with his well marshalled, disciplined but unadventurous teams.

Although Wenger’s adventurous style is not often directly criticised, attacks on his team and his management often focus on his failure to provide the right centre backs or defensive midfielders, or the high positions taken up by those players on the pitch (our ability to concede goals from attacking positions over the last decade has been enough to try the patience of a saint!).  As Wenger’s golden period recedes into the distant past, the critical voices from within the Arsenal fans are becoming ever louder.

The Labour Party may lack the discipline and intelligence to look after its own future, but I desperately hope that we, at Arsenal are not going to fall into the same trap.  Arsenal’s Board are naturally conservative and supportive of Arsene Wenger.  They will not get rid of him on a whim, and neither would you expect them to after 20 years.  However, no club can keep its manager in the face of outright hostility from the fans.  Some fans are already hostile, others favour a change.  The quiet majority still just about supports Wenger and his position remains tenable.

In recent years it feels that we have come close to a position where the Board would be forced to act.  The defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day three years ago was one such occasion; there has been widespread speculation that defeat in the 2014 Cup Final (in which we were 2-0 down) would have spelt the end for Arsene; Stoke Station in January 2015 was another; and the behaviour of the away fans at Leicester in the second game of this season almost felt like another.  Wenger’s contract comes to an end at the conclusion of this season, and it feels like there is more doubt than ever that he will continue.  If we win the league, I suspect all will be well, but what if we are second, third or worse?

Beware the example of the Labour Party.  Jeremy Corbyn is in the midst of proving just how disastrous an uncontrolled change of leadership can be.  I know that there are people out there who wish to see the back of Arsene Wenger with all their heart.  They may have gone a bit quiet in the face of our current winning run, but rest assured they will pipe up again at the first sign of a setback.  Please be careful what you wish for fellow Gooners.

If you liked this article, you might enjoy Tim’s book “It’s Happened Again”, which is now available on Amazon (print and Kindle versions).  Read a sample chapter at

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14 Replies to “The leader of the Red Army”

  1. I would pick up on one point in the article however – the suggestion that Chapman’s teams were defensive.

    I certainly don’t think there was any suggestion of that at the time. Rather I think this is a more contemporary misunderstanding of what Chapman did with the WM system in response to the change in the offside rule in 1925.

    There is something on this topic in the article
    “1933/34 League players, and how the goals declined but the crowds went up.”

    and as the point has been raised I’ll expand this into a review of goalscoring during the whole Chapman period.

  2. Another interesting piece, Tim.

    I have to admit I can’t agree with your hyperbole that equals socialism with its most radical deviations Nazism and Stalinism where lining up the political opponents against the wall was a natural thing to do. Maybe it’s just socialist inside me though but that’s how it is. Arsene Wenger himself has said once our wage structure is a socialist one and his argument about importance of all Arsenal employees being paid on time is on the same wave.

    I’ve read a really strong (no pun intended) message Arnold Schwarzenegger has sent via Twitter about the forthcoming American elections. Schwarzenegger is a Republican who sees too much socialism in Democratic Party. However, even Schwarzenegger has announced that he won’t vote for the Republican candidate for the first time since gaining citizenship in 1983. His most powerful message is that, it is not only acceptable to choose your country over your party – it’s your duty.

    There are people who want Arsenal to lose in order to get a new manager and to prove their point. That’s choosing particular interest ahead of the Arsenal one.

  3. Tim,
    I’m pretty certain that the board wouldn’t for one moment have considered letting the manager go after the villa game. A game in which the officials ignored the rules of the game and let the Villa players kick seven shades of crap from our players.
    I’m also pretty sure that non of the other ‘moments’ you suggest were actually moments as far as the board were concerned either.
    But I am sure that you don’t ‘read’ the mood of the majority of supporters very well, as shown in all your writings. You do seem to be easily swayed by the media though.

  4. Tim

    first I hope you enjoyed occupying my seat for the Chelsea and Basle games and thank you for this most interesting article.
    I too am an atheist republican and an Arsenal fan but apart from those 3 connections (and of course occasional Untold writing experiences) I am so far removed from your position as to almost make us occupy different universes! That I suppose is the beauty of football.

    I can’t begin to understand how you can hold the positions you do and stand for election for the Tories. An article of faith for the Tories from the late 17th century has been their support of king and country, church and faith. I think instead you are a libertarian, on the right of course, but one not subsumed by the irrational hatred of others that makes you a nationalist or a fascist (hurrah for that!).

    As Tony pointed out to me in a fascinating email link earlier the political world is up for grab. Teresa May (the unelected head of a government without a mandate to rule) is trying to claim both the left and right territory belonging traditionally to Labour and (recently) UKIP and has attempted to redefine it as the ‘centre’. She, like Farage, like Trump, like so many of the current crop of frankly, inept and moribund politicians, is a populist; changing her tack at every small fluctuation in the wind of popular opinion.

    Jeremy Corbyn (by contrast) is a man who believes in a fairer more equal society. May says she does but its so much bulls*it (like Cameron, Clegg, Blair and countless others before her). The reality is the rich have got richer over the last 50 years, the poor have gotten poorer and we have food banks in English cities. The right have triumphed and the ordinary working-class voter has been persuaded that all the problem they face can be blamed on immigrants.

    This is the politics of the popular demagogue (be that a Farage, Griffin, Mosely, Hitler or Trump) and Jezza (as you rather disparagingly call him) stands for something altogether more decent. Yes this involves a schism in Labour and yes this is bad for democracy at the moment. But what is worse is the fact that (nearly) all the newspapers support May or a more extreme form of conservatism, they also have the support of most of banking and business, and the electoral system (which they are about to jerrymander yet again).

    Democracy would be better served by allowing the votes to count, by proportional representation, by more power being developed to the regions and to local government, by making the process of registration to vote automatic on receipt of an NI number and by allowing 16 and 17 year old to vote.

    This has little to do with Arsenal but then I don’t think your article did either however you try to shoehorn the topic in.
    in peace
    Drew (Blacksheep)

  5. Does it really matter who you vote for these days, whether left or right? The group that controls government are the neo-conservatives and the powerful lobby groups like the banks.

    Not long to go until Arsenal play again. Interesting to see many of the Arsenal first teamers played for their respective country in the qualifiers. Let’s hope it does not have any affect on performance in the next match against Swansea.

  6. Hi Blacksheep

    I think we have done quite well to find so many things to agree on, given our different ends of the political spectrum (atheism, republicanism and Arsenal). You are also quite right that my politics are best described as ‘libertarian’. I have much sympathy with what you say about Corbyn (my days as an active politician are long in the past). Indeed I don’t pass judgement on Corbyn’s policies, ideas, integrity or anything else that he is widely praised for.

    However, the fact is that he going to do (has done?) a lot of damage to the Labour Party, and by proxy, damage to our nation.

    I basically left the Conservative Party when it elected Ian Duncan Smith as its leader, which seemed to me to be an act of gross stupidity and electoral suicide. In the end it didn’t turn out as badly as I had feared because Duncan Smith didn’t even last until the next general election. I kind of assumed that the same thing would happen with Corbyn and he would be safely removed before he could destroy the Labour Party in a General Election. Hence, I was genuinely flabbergasted by his re-election, as it now seems that he will lead the Labour innocents to slaughter at the next election.

    Even if we ignore the subject of Red Jez’s politics, he has blatantly (to coin a football term) ‘lost the dressing room’. We should remember that 81% of Labour MPs (172-40) voted ‘no confidence’ in him. Margaret Thatcher resigned because ‘only’ 55% of MPs had confidence in her. Corbyn is a man who had to give some MPs three Shadow Cabinet portfolios because he couldn’t find enough MPs to serve in his shadow cabinet. This has never happened before in British politics

    When it finally dawned on the Chelsea players last season, that Mourinho was a w**ker, his job became untenable. The effect on Chelsea’s performance was plain for all to see, and the performance of the Labour Party is similarly transparent. There can be no doubt that the Labour MPs who work with Corbyn on a daily basis have come to the same conclusion about Corbyn as the Chelsea players did in relation to Mourinho. I have never come across a political leader (in a democracy) who couldn’t even command the loyalty of 20% of his own team!

    I quote above from Polly Tonybee (who is most definitely not of my politics), and I offer you another quote from the same article (Why can’t I get behind Corbyn, when we want the same things? Here’s why):

    ” here’s the Fabian Society’s analysis: Labour needs 104 seats in England and Wales and 40% of the vote to win. In the marginals, four out every five of the extra votes must come from those who were Tory last time. Even if the young are energised and turnout soars to Scottish referendum heights, it gets nowhere close. Even if every single Liberal Democrat and Green vote went Labour, that only gives 29 seats. Even if Ukip were crushed, its vote divides equally Labour and Tory. As Labour wins radical votes, it risks losing moderate votes to the Tories: 2% went that way last time. Read the research yourself and groan. It hurts.”

    The full article is here:

    Now, I fully confess that its possible that Polly and I are completely wrong about Corbyn and that he is somehow a ‘new animal’ that defies our understanding of the normal rules of British politics, and that he will prove us wrong. I am all in favour of people believing in the impossible. After all, I have believed that Arsenal had a good chance to win the Premiership for every one of the past 12 seasons. But my belief in Arsenal is harmless, the belief in Red Jez is not. I have observed and studied the history and practice of British politics from inside and out for a long time and I am really quite confident that my analysis is a good one.

    Out of interest, Arsene Wenger always lists politics as one of his personal interests, although he rarely comments on political issues of the day. I wonder what he thinks of Jeremy Corbyn?

    I’m sure everyone will forgive us a bit of divergence in the interlull!

    PS I also agree with you about proportional representation which would allow proper representation of minority views in this country

  7. I think a far more important (and consistent) aspect of the Arsenal ethos has been the strategy of home production of players. Right from my early, mid-sixties days of support the team has been largely home grown, plus some ‘journeymen@ plus a sprinkling of high priced stars. Wenger broke the mould early on by importing many very cheap players from overseas but, once he’d got the academy organised as he wanted it, home production became the norm again. Long may it continue.

  8. Just imagine people of Aw’s ilk running governments eh?

    Sadly they would still have to deal with the banks though.

    Strange how much alike both jobs are: Manager of England and PM of England.

    Man, this should really tell us how much AW should steer clear of them, but being who he is, he could well end up getting both.

    Not at once of course but in succession!

  9. Tim
    I loved your article on Online Gooner: “Ten things…………
    You’d never get away with it on Untold though. The acolytes would murder you.

  10. One single point of correction to the author.;-

    Polly Toynbee is most definitely not a lifelong Labour supporter. She and her late husband were founder members of the SDP, who were actually the cause of Labour’s loss to Thatcher in 1983. No surprise that Toynbee is one of the writers who tries to perpetuate the myth that it was the manifesto under Michael Foot’s leadership which was responsible. Jeremy Corbyn has not “lost the dressing room”. He has reinvigorated the Party membership which has increased dramatically since he was elected leader.

    The Guardian’s analysis of politics is about on the same level as its presentation of football. ie crap.

  11. Leon
    You could have congratulated Tim for his article on Online Gooner itself which would have been much more appropriate.
    Instead you choose to do it here on Untold so I can only assume that your intention is to be provocative and shows you in your true light.

  12. Revelation after revelation! Well, Tim, from your previous articles I would never have taken you for a Conservative candidate. And this is the most amazingly non football and blatantly political article I have ever seen on Untold. Let us hope that with Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader the British working class will awake from its slumber and start to regain the ground lost in the last thirty odd barren years.

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