by Tony Attwood
It is a great tragedy within football, in my opinion, that there are so many ideas and opinions that seem to be beyond acceptable conversation in the media, and indeed for most fans.
While it seems perfectly ok to say that (for example) Arsene Wenger was the cause of all Arsenal’s perceived problems, it is not acceptable to suggest that the FA is the cause of many of our woes.
Likewise, while the occasional comment that a referee might have got a decision wrong, talking about the secretive organisation that controls refereeing (the PGMO) is not allowed. Come to that, neither is the fact that the PL is the only major league in western Europe without VAR.
Yet we have a situation in which Parliament has passed a vote of no confidence in the FA, and Sport England have withdrawn funding from the FA because of its misuse of funds. And there are so many examples of the FA’s inability to run things properly (from bidding for the world cup to giving us enough qualified coaches and having suitable facilities for junior football), which do not become a topic of discussion, even when the FA, or youth football, or coaching or England in international tournaments are mentioned.
Part of the problem I think is that for some football supporters football is only about today – what happened in the past is irrelevant. Thus examples of the past cannot be considered – and anyone who considers the past is an idiot. The past is boring. History is unnecessary. Only today counts.
The Arsenal History Society gets regular emails to its website from Tottenham supporters saying that our interest in the past reveals everything that is wrong with Arsenal. Mind you up until about two years ago they also used to point out that Arsenal was fundamentally unsound for moving grounds, although this seems to have stopped of late.
Now we get criticism from people who describe themselves as Arsenal fans for the fact that Untold celebrates the recent heritage of the club by keeping the Wenger quote and a picture of Mr Wenger on the homepage of this site. If we supported the club, they argue, we should now have a picture of the current manager.
Yet to me having a picture of the most successful long term manager we’ve had is a celebration of the club in itself – and indeed I am pleased do see that the managers of Arsenal Stadium have shown no sign of removing our banner (paid for by generous supporters of this blog) at the ground.
I thought of all this when reading an article in the Guardian today which notes that “Under current UK law criticism of Scholes is still punishable by anything from a lifetime ban to being stabbed through the ear with a skewer by the Queen while weeping, reproachful children stick pins into the back of your hands….
And as the article continues, “ Paul Scholes has been very critical of José Mourinho but has failed to pour scorn on the owners and directors of Manchester United.”
Which makes the point. It is very hard to find commentaries and articles which try to acknowledge that a broader perspective (be it an international, historical, political or any other perspective) exists.
Yet what is strange about the Scholes approach to José Mourinho is that it is so unbalanced. He has said that Lionel Messi would be unable to play well under the man, oh yes and that Lukaku is also to blame. It is a very limited perspective.
So we have a double issue. One is ignoring the past, and the other is ignoring the multiple sides of most problems and thinking that there is a single solution that the commentator can see but the rest of the world can’t.
Combine that vision with the “last game” vision of history (the one that says nothing is important other than what happened in the last game) – oh and the desire to ignore properly used statistics, and we really do have the problem in discussing football.
We don’t talk about certain things because they are not the things we discuss. We ignore most evidence. Everyone’s opinion is of equal merit no matter how lacking in evidence it is. There is no relevance in history.
So on that point let me end by showing why history is relevant.
108 years ago Arsenal were bust and teetering on the edge. A couple of guys from Fulham came in and rescued the club and made it profitable. They had no dreams of owning the whole show – what they wanted was for everyone who could afford it to have a £1 share in the club. In fact they never owned more than around 15% of the club each. Rather unlike our current owner.
These two guys ran the club for 17 years, and turned it from bankruptcy to being the most supported club in the country and on the edge of being the most successful club in the country as well, known throughout the world
Now the name of one of them is forgotten and the other is treated with derision, if remembered at all. Which is a shame.
Understanding the real history is important. It is part of what makes our club.
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