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July 2021
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 Optimism to succeed and the case of Pepe

A further reflection from AKH

I have mentioned in a previous article I have penned for Untold Arsenal, that I have been watching and following Arsenal for over 65 years! I have been following the team through thick and thin throughout this time under the stewardship of the following managers including the likes of  Swindin; Wright; Mee; Neil; Howe; Graham; Rioch; Wenger; Emery;  and currently Arteta ( plus one or two interim managers). Of these managers I would suggest that only the stewardship of Mr Graham and Mr Wenger ( and to a lesser extent Mr Mee)  have really inspired me to continue with my prolonged optimism as to the further success of the club.

Prior to Mr Mee becoming manager, I followed Arsenal continuously home and away, despite not having much money for train/coach/bus fares, although entrance fees to football grounds were then cheap enough for my family to support me financially). My optimism for Arsenal success during this time never wavered. The success of the Thirties and late forties/early fifties would return…So I believed

Bertie Mee appeared to be the change agent that would reignite Arsenal success. For five years under his stewardship, Arsenal became ‘great’ again, in a similar way to how Tottenham Hotspur became great under the stewardship of Bill Nicholson in the late fifties and early sixties or like Liverpool under the stewardship of Bill Shankly in the sixties and seventies.

However, five years of success under Mr Mee came to an abrupt end although thankfully without relegation. From then on I continued to follow and attend home matches but very few away matches because work, life, love became greater priorities for me.

My optimism never wavered as I have reported, but I have to admit that during my early support of Arsenal, pre Bertie Mee, I was somewhat vocal when watching the team. Ecstatic when Arsenal won, praising the team and individual players. Horrible to all and sundry on the terraces when Arsenal lost! I remember bad-mouthing certain players together with the management alike after a loss. I knew what Arsenal had to do to win! I knew what players Arsenal needed to sell because I knew they were useless! Some of my friends and fellow supporters agreed with me too, so I knew that my opinions had to be right; would lead to success if only they were taken on board by the Arsenal team and management. I am somewhat saddened by my behaviour at this time.

Newspapers, comics, books, schooling, radio and tv; a few close friends and family became the medium that helped me make sense of the world within which I was experiencing in these early days of supporting Arsenal. There was no intenet. Computers were virtually unheard of. Telephones, yes but mobile phones (smart), no? Wide world communication? No. Technology was somewhat of a limited design compared to now).

Then, both during and post Bertie Mee era, I became less critical of the team, individual players and managers alike, win or lose.

But why had I been so critical before this period when the team lost? I did not know how to manage or coach a football team at a professional level. I did not know about the ins and outs of a football club and its associated relationships both inside and outside the real world that I was experiencing. I certainly had never known or had never been introduced to the actual owners of Arsenal Football Club! I had no idea who they were and that they even existed. I did not know that Arsenal was owned and controlled by the merchant banking HIll-Wood family dynasty. (Indeed, in my younger Islington days I only knew the term ‘merchant banker’ as a so-called London rhyming slang term of abuse, to describe an unsavoury character).

I can only reflect that at that time much of my opinion on life, including support for Arsenal, was based on social and cultural prejudice and bias without any use or ability to analyse reasons and consequences of actions and possible solutions to problems.

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Post Mee, different priorities then continued to influence my belief systems and I have been very fortunate to have experienced much change in my life. This has included me becoming less intransigent in the way that I have followed the failures and successes of Arsenal.

So, what have these rantings of an old man here to do with penning an article for Untold Arsenal?

I keep repeating that my optimism for the success of Arsenal has never wavered. Yet I am so angry and saddened by the number of Arsenal followers who appear to continually berate the club and show negativity towards many of the players and associated workers within the club.  I have admitted that I bad-mouthed some players from the terraces in my younger days, for which I now regret such negative behaviour

Information Communication and Technology now allows for the immediate transfer of viewpoints and beliefs, whether truthful or fake, to a wider audience. Opinion and beliefs that are not supported by evidence can be very dangerous and very hurtful.

I cite the current reaction to Nicolas Pepe for instance. He is a young man, a young player experiencing a totally new language, country and culture. How would some young men react in the way that he reacted to something that had happened on the football pitch? How many people actually know what he was or had been undergoing when on the pitch in the Leeds match?  The process of his receiving the red card via VARS can be questioned; did the referee make the decision by review or was the decision already made by the VARS operator? I am not trying to diminish the extent of his actions, nor that he used his head in a menacing way, but is there any mitigating circumstances in evidence? To be berated on social media as well as in the national media may not help the young man to progress effectively in the future.

History has shown that Arsenal supporters have shown a preponderance of such negative behaviours throughout the existence of the club. Perhaps the need for immediate gratification amongst fans goes some way to explain such behaviour, but as I have acknowledged here, I behaved abominably without the use of social media platforms which were not in existence then.

And so it goes on and on…Yet, there is evidence in abundance of corruption within football worldwide,  be it in the UK through the makeup and behaviour of the Football Association and its officials; the Premier League and its officials; the PGMOL and its officials; football club owners and their officials; through  FIFA and its officials; through social and national media organisations and their officials and representatives.

Perhaps some Arsenal supporters could vent some of their anger towards these organisations rather than towards Arsenal employees, be it team players or other workers within the club.

Expecting Arsenal to succeed by using negative opinions and viewpoints may facilitate the notion of free speech but if as I believe Arsenal operates with and within corrupt systems, it is tantamount to failure which will only facilitate further prejudicial and biased anger. Hence my emphasis for positive optimism for success.

Untold Arsenal allows for serious debate concerning football matters and world issues underpinning football matters. This allows old codgers like me a forum to share a viewpoint, idea or a belief before having to meet the grim reaper once my footballing journey is over.

6 comments to  Optimism to succeed and the case of Pepe

  • Maxcat

    Guess we are only Human.
    History repeating.

  • abz

    very balanced article.. good read

  • Nitram,

    Very well said. By coincidence this is what I had just said in the previous thread regarding our current trials and tribulations:

    “Look, I’m not blind, I don’t think we’re playing great. Our defence looks better, at least the goals conceded, Villa accepted does, but we are still conceding too many shots on goal. Our offensive play is, to be brutally honest, lamentable. So no not great.

    But the attitude looks to of improved dramatically, again Villa accepted, and the spirit seems fine.

    So WHAT IS WRONG ?

    I don’t know. and that’s the truth. I don’t profess to be a manager, tactician or phycologist so I’ll defer thoughts, judgements, and more importantly solutions, to those that are, and keep supporting the team I love no matter what, because that’s what I believe true supporters should always do.”

    And I stand by that absolutely.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Thank you for a great write up.This is my 50th year as an Arsenal fan. Like you as I have aged and my priorities change , I too have become mellow in my support.

    I now tend to not get so worked up when the club is not doing well. A loss still hurts , as do dropped points. A win in turn gladdens the heart.

    With the so called normal of Covid 19 , I try to stay away from most people as well as the crap in the media.

    I look forward to the day Arsenal fans really dish it out at those you have mentioned above . And not display toxic displeasure at the players,manager or other fans.

    Will it happen ? Probably not , but then being an Arsenal fan is to hope for better luck , or whatever the next game.

    Up the Gunners !

  • gunner1578

    This is a wonderful and unique article, infact it is a sort of an education for the “angry” arsenal fans. I have been supporting arsenal for 20 years or there about coming from a country where football is not a major sport. Anyways, i saw some of the greatest football played by arsenal under wenger and it was truely like a dream for me. I was probably one of the very few people who were not “wenger out” since i still wanted arsenal to play some scintillating football anyways, all good things come to an end, and maybe it was Mr. Wenger’s time to go. But the way our fanbase had been abusing and disrespecting him over the last few years, it was very disheartening.
    Infact, in your days, you could just abuse/berate the players on the field and the players would then go away from it all and relax. These days with the social media and print/electronic media selling specific agendas / propagandas, just imagine how difficult it is to be a player for a club like arsenal.

    When pepe made that stupid mistake and the replays were shown i was 100% certain he will be shown a redcard and obviously he should know better. But afterwards , what i saw from some of our fans on social media and how the media is portraying a single red card linking him with a career ending scenario , it is totally ridiculous.

    Similar thing i predicted would happen when auba signs the new contract on a big pay packet. How the media would start to get on his back as soon as he stopped scoring goals. and thats now happening, just a couple of games more with no goals for auba and our fan base and media alike will label him a mistake and failure.

    Well to sum it up, i guess we can not control the intolerance that has been embedded in all societies of the world and these things should be dealt with by the club to educate specially young players coming in from the academy and young players coming in from foreign countries. Currently, im worried for our new boy Saliba since he was being portrayed as a savior and now arteta is putting him through an educational cycle which is important for his career but the media is already labeling him as a failure.

    Anyways , lovely article. Best wishes