You are only as good as the last ten seconds

By Tony Attwood

Sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s my dad took me to see Cardiff City vs Arsenal.  He had an old friend there – maybe even a pal from the war, I am not sure, and we went and the old friend’s house, before walking on to the match.   I don’t have much by the way of recollection of this game, but I do recall talk about how we had to leave early, because there would be a big crowd – because it was “The Arsenal”.

I thought of this for a multiplicity of reasons.   One is because I am in Cardiff this weekend.   Another is because next thursday I am going to the launch of Arsenal Til I Die – the new book published in co-operation with Arsenal in the Community.   And within that book is an article that I wrote last summer about my father.  It also includes some pictures of my dad although sadly none at the ground.

As far as I know it is the first time he has been commemorated in print, and I’m very proud to have achieved it in an official Arsenal book.   (I believe it is officially out from next thursday, so if you want to read some memories of fans, and indeed see half a dozen or so pages of my father’s connection with Arsenal, then you can buy a copy – and support the Arsenal in the Community effort.   All the authors have given their articles for free – I didn’t even get an author’s free copy!  But I will put a link up to the book’s web site shortly.)

But less you are ready to switch off, let me reassure you, there is a point to all this Cardiff, Arsenal, my dad stuff.

My dad’s pal saw Arsenal as being of repute, no matter what they had been up to in the past few years (which wasn’t much – I started supporting them in the late 50s just when they decided to stop winning things and give the others a go).

Over time the notion that there were big clubs that always got a big crowd dissipated and ultimately football clubs were only as good as the last year or two.   And when we moved into that period of the Liverpudlian penalty in the last few seconds at the Kop End (named as Ian reminded me recently, after the heavy mob end at Woolwich Arsenal) our reputation was not up to much.   We had had our moments, most notably with the Double, (“What a Year for London” screamed the Standard) but mostly it was picking up the bits and pieces in the Cups.  And yes that was worth a bit of reputation but not that much – especially when we lost to Swindon and Luton.

Repute time got shorter and memories got shorter.   When Arsenal came second three years running to Man U the anti-Arsenal gangs started calling for Wenger’s head, saying that he had lost it.  The double had gone from the memory (“we were lucky”) and every year the media punditery (I just made that word up – don’t adjust your spell checker) said, “I can’t see anyone beating Manchester United this season”.  Our reputation had gone.   (In fact have you noticed how the papers and TV stations pay all these people every year to give their opinion in the summer on next season’s champions, and they always say the same as the previous year – unless it was Arsenal.)

Time passes, and memories decline.  Now I know that my memory declines, and I have an excuse – age.  But collective memories are even worse.  How many journalists remember saying, after week five of the season, “Quite honestly this is going to be the most boring Premier League ever.  Chelsea are so far ahead of everyone else that we might as well give them the trophy now.”

Then Chelsea fell apart, and no one thinks of those early comments now, unless it is to say “Of course some commentators announced that the season was over after three weeks, but as we’ve seen this was not so.”   Rule one of journalism – blame your cock ups in print on everyone else.

It is the same in the stands.   Theo was brilliant, our top scorer, and then got mangled playing for the mob that hobnob with the crooks at Fifa.  Out for weeks the call was for him to be off-loaded (“he’s always injured”).   A couple of poor sub appearances have reinforced that, except that on Wednesday (at least from where I was sitting directly in line with the shot) he scored one hell of a goal.   Back to Hero.

Just like Nasri.  The new Zidane, don’t make me laugh!   The new Zidane, he’s so much better than that!

There are people who visit this site who proclaim that we must be rubbish because we lose to WBA at home.   Presumably just like Chapman was rubbish because he and Allison could never win the double, or couldn’t beat Walsall away.   Theo is rubbish because of two poor appearances as a sub.  Fabianski makes one mistake and he’s rubbish…

And it is that final thought that gives me what seems at this moment to be an insight.   Watch every second of every game Arsenal play and you see every mistake, every misplaced pass, every quick back flick that gives the ball away.  You see it all – and quite probably twice, once at the game, and once on TV.   Mistake, mistake, mistake.

But what you don’t see are what all the other teams do.  They are as prone to cock-ups as we are.  They can defend badly and miss open goals.  It is there for all to see, except most of us don’t go and watch their games and only see them sometimes on TV.

From that I get this notion: Arsenal have such a promising present, and such a glorious past, we ought to remember our historic context now and then – especially since virtually no other team can do this.  In fact the only team that could claim to rival us in terms of a great and glorious past, as well as a promising present is Man U.   Chelsea, a team invented to fill a stadium in 1905 with nothing happening until the Russian Mafia took them over.   Liverpool, a great period after a very modest past, and now back into mid-table nothingness.   Tottenham: neither past nor present.  Man City, occasional success, not much though but did manage to con a stadium out of the council for nothing.

Arsenal were the team of the 1930s, bounced back with post-war and early 50s success, had two mini-revivals in the 70s and under George Graham, and now have a third great period.   By giving into the notion that a player and a club is only as good as it is today, is to play into the hands of the likes of Tottenham and Chelsea, with their extraordinarily modest achievements (given the number of years they have been in existence).

As I sit here in Cardiff, wondering if I am going to face the crowds in the city centre to do,  a spot more Xmas shopping, I refuse to give into this Now Now Now culture.   I want us to win everything this season, and I will be deeply saddened if we don’t, but I refuse to base everything on the last five minutes, the last five weeks, the last five months, or the last five years.   We are Arsenal, we are better than that.

I’m really chuffed that I was asked to contribute to Arsenal Til I Die.  It expresses for me the continuity of Arsenal in my family – my grandfather at the club in 1913, my father there in the 30s, me there from the 50s, and twin grandsons who are members of Junior Gunners.

Like I said, we are Arsenal.  We don’t do five seconds of fame.

Revel in the past, enjoy the future.   Untold Arsenal, Arsenal History, and as the definitive present this Xmas, Making the Arsenal

Arsenal on Twitter @UntoldArsenal

Untold Arsenal on Facebook here

33 Replies to “You are only as good as the last ten seconds”

  1. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t holding back a tear after the last paragraph. Nailed it again Tony. Arsenal Till I Die.

  2. God bless u Tony, u are ever inspirational… Arsenal 4 d past, present & future… Arsenal till i die…

  3. Hear, hear, hear.
    What a great article Tony.
    I support Arsenal not for our last victory but I support them for the way they have walked from the start and I will support them on the way they will go for as long as I live.
    I will not turn away from Arsenal for a defeat, how painful at times it can be. As each defeat is for me the start of a new era of succes.
    Like you so rightly said Tony, Arsenal are far more than what we have or have not achieved in the last ten seconds.

  4. Can you imagine in a 22 club, 1st division, in 19th place ManU, 20th Liverpool and in very last place, The Champions, Arsenal?
    2 points from 8 games, (2 points only for a win) GF 6 GA 18, the last a 7-1 thumping at Sunderland…those were long long seconds, especially with our first home win coming in October, but we weren’t downhearted… broken hearted on occasion admittedly…but we never lost the faith.

    Footnote: Steadily, with great away wins at Chelsea as they were then, the spuds as they also were then and Wolves (Champions), we climbed finishing 12th.

  5. I have to say that the great thing about Tony’s blogging is the way he uses context and history to frame a lot of what he says… it means that what you read is always anchored in reality. Thanks Tony.

    I have to say that what pains me the most about some these websites that appear promote a kind of self-hate amongst some fans is the refusal to look at the club’s history in a realistic and rational way… and therefore put what is happening today in it’s proper context. This is not a horrible period of failure and betrayal… it is probably the period that may well underpin any glorious future we can hope to have. Some of these folks appear to me to be so selfish that they care not what kind of club their children inherit so long as they can have today’s bragging rights. In my humble opinion that is a pitiful attitude.

  6. As it says on the tin “by the sentient for the sentient”.
    As for the self hate websites – if you want a laugh, take a look at Myles Palmers latest offerings on Arsenal News Review. Completelycomical – lord must that guy hate Wenger!

  7. Mandy – just went over and looked at Myles Palmer’s latest. Yeah, that is par for the course for him. But what do you expect from a Spurs fan? You do realise he is a Spurs fan, right? He has never said he is an Asrenal fan, he simply writes a blog about Arsenal. And yes, he hates Wenger. Palmer started writing about Arsenal because he wrote a book about Wenger and for awhile had a relationship with David Dein that allowed him access to the club. When Dein left Myles Palmer expected AW to resign or something like that in protest and instead AW supported the board. And Palmer lost his “in” to Arsenal and nobody at the club paid him any attention anymore. That seems to have made him quite bitter. Since then Palmer has made it his job to slag off AW at every chance, and generally to push the idea that Arsenal are crap and AW is crap and everything is crap. But he is NOT an Arsenal fan.

  8. Excellent stuff Tony.

    Mandy, Paul C is right about Pyles (although I thought he was a Fulham KGB fan). I stopped reading his rantings about 4 years ago when he first started suffering from raving lunacy.

  9. Great read. when my son was first handed to me, My first words were “one more Arsenal fan” (terrible i know). But articles like this make me wish that i could still have a chat with my Grandad to find out what it was like when Arsenal moved to north London. I do feel lucky that Arsenal is a family tradition (not so lucky early 80s) But i honestly cannot beleive how lucky i am to have witnessed this current stage in Arsenal history (I think my Grandad would be jealous).

  10. Funny you should right this article just last week we went top of the league and every one was like yeah we on top yeah we can rub it in the toffees faces and the man IOU fans faces liverpool supporters were congratulating me and my response was “Who gives a shit if we top DID U SEE NASRI’s 2 Brilliant goals”.

    Thats why I am an arsenal supporter cause we do things the right way and we work hard for what we get and it makes these beautiful moments just that more special.

    Last season when man u went top their monday morning I didnt watch the game but read the papers for the result supporters were all elated yeah we top we the best and my response was lets see where you are at the end of the season better yet lets see where u are when the banks come collecting.

  11. Thank you for giving us the gift of perspective. I have been an (armchair, now expatriate) Arsenal fan for forty years; unlike yourself, I do not come from generations of Gooners, but my children are Arsenal supporters, so perhaps I have founded a line.

    I know that once you have given your heart to a football club you can no more change allegiance than you can change your family. For this reason, I feel fellowship with all genuine football supporters, regardless of whom they follow, united with them as I am by a love of the game. I also feel extremely fortunate that the team I have bestowed to my children – in addition to having such a rich history – currently expresses aesthetic and moral values I am happy for them to identify with.

  12. Another great article Sir Tony! I often make the distinction between lifelong Gooners vs johnny-come-lately guys (I would not bestow the sacred title Gooners on these twats)..these guys who write these awful things about our beloved Arsenal and our esteemed manager. Lately I have been thinking about this issue a lot – following as I do some of the comments this and other sites. I blame the internet: there was an article by Tim Berners-Lee who created the world wide web and he expressed his worry that the anonymity of internet was giving rise to a type of person – who divorced from reality – would write things in the private of their rooms that they would never say to a real person in public! So I think that we can make another distinction here between real people like you with an historic context of the game, the club and your family to draw on, and; these lonely twats with just the internet, their blogs and their Football Manager ™ understanding of the game…I have come to understand that it is they who don’t know what they are talking about..and I am dammed if I am going to let them wind me up…

  13. It is a good point you make Terry concerning the internet and the fools. A few seasons ago they wanted a march to get Wenger out but no one turned up. It just proves (like Tony has stated before) it is just a few cowards behind their keyboard doing all the shouting.

  14. I actually took the time to read Myles Palmer’s site recently-it made my stomach turn. It was the ultimate anti-Arsenal Arsenal site. I took the time to send him a response. I believe it is a refection of how much confidence he has in his writings when you cannot post comments/retorts/agreements or otherwise on his site.

  15. Byo,

    Because of the blog title people still think it is by an Arsenal fan. There are a few Arsenal blogs about that are run by non Arsenal fans. It makes you wonder how sad you have to be to ‘continually’ write about a team you dislike.

  16. Terry ans Dups,

    Can’t agree more with you guys! At EVERY game in the Emirate, I always see the “Arsene knows” banner. It is ever present and from the way it hangs, you know it is not fixed. On the other hand, I have been looking for the “Wenger out” banner or anything like that for years but have never seen one before. These Internet bloviators are nothing but sad little men who only seem to find some relevance and feeling of power on the net.

    Apart from the positions of Untold and Le Moan (which are stark opposites), the writing style, demeanour and overall attitude of the writers and contributors here just ooze maturity and class. I’ve read on here, several times, Tony and Walter admitting to being wrong. At the other end, when proven wrong, they change the line of argument or just plain insult the other poster.

    I have to admit that I go there but mainly to see what hatred they are inciting next. The last one: the senior partner wanted all hell to break loose because the figure 59,000 was displayed while he was certain there were only 1,902 (ok that’s me now). Wondering why a higher than perceived attendance of a club will upset a fan who claims to love the club? Well, the all-knowing moron claimed last season that attendance at the Emirates will drop SIGNIFICANTLY because the ‘fans’ who talk to him in his head have all decided to not renew their season ticket because of and in protest against lack of silverware. He has since made it his mission to query every figure put out this season because they have continue to show him up as a lying and ineffectively manipulative c*nt. Even after he was repeatedly informed that, by the FA rule, they count tickets sold (as with all other teams’ grounds) he still wallowed in his stupidity rather than hold up his hands. This is one of the reasons I visit the site: no matter how stupid I feel before, I always leave feeling smart. I think it makes a perfectly logical sense that ticket sold = attendance; a sold out concert is a sold out concert even if there is a snowstorm on the day of the event. But to Dumbo? Nah!

  17. Hi Mandy, I got a reply once from Myles “Hate” isnt the word hes a sp*rs fan running an Arsenal website. Hes a Sp*rs fan writing books on Arsenal because lets face it who the fuck would buy a book on Sp*rs and how many pages would you fill.

    He is dispicable.

  18. PS tony great article indeed, Its nice to have somewhere to go that is knowledgeable and puts everything into prespective whether we are top of the league or bottom. Keep up the good work.

  19. I started reading this article slightly twatted after five local beers and a very hards days work – I started reading thinking: “I can’t be arsed with this… I got MOTD on Sky+ FFS”.

    As it turned out I’m very glad I stuck with it and I feel like some bit of logic has just slid into place with a very satisfyong ‘click’.

    Did I mention I was twatted?

    Beatifully written Tony!

  20. Great article. In my opinion it’s not a problem with Arsenal – it’s a problem with the world. Everyone is impatient, about everything. Everything needs to be happenning NOW, immediately.

    Think about it: you don’t need to practice for years in your garage, to perform in smoky little clubs and get your loyal followers to like your music to become a rock star; you just go to american idol. You don’t need to spend years in top resturants peeling potatoes to become a chef; you go to master chef. Everything is instant, so people expect instant success everywhere, and if they don’t get it, it’s a failure.

    Think Milan Kundera’s “La Lenteur”…

  21. Good one, Tony!
    The world has been going through a “I want it all & I want it now” (credit to Queen – God bless Freddy Mecury) phase for many years now. Even the financial crisis has not changed this attitude.
    Everyone wants everything without wanting to workd for it.
    The question is, are we Arsenal “fans” who come & go with the wind, or are we Arsenal “supporters” for the long run. The supporters will always understand that their job is to support the team, and to stand by them no matter what.
    The question we must all be asking ourselves is if we are ontributing to Arsenal, or just taking from Arsenal. Like every other relationship, there must be a give & take. Not just take, take take!
    Win, lose or Draw… Arsneal till I die!

  22. Yes, had realised Myles was not an Arsenal fan – must admit thought he supported Chelsea or Utd but the Spurs thing certainly fits in with the rantings I have read.
    Do not know why he bothers, he is a joke! But a joke with a lot of time on his hands!

  23. Tony, I just know it, you are definitely going to make me cry or at the very least, shed a tear or two one of these days. Ohhh!

  24. Congratulations on contributing to the book Tony.

    I heard Andy Gray complimenting Chelsea a lot today, I felt they were poor, I also wonder if Arsenal would be complimented after such a run, people write off and praise too quickly, Arsene is right, currently around 5 teams in the race.

  25. ‘You are only as good as your last 10 seconds’.

    Which means that Didier Drogba is either pretty appalling or a man of great honour, depending on whether he deliberately missed a penalty after an appalling refereeing decision yesterday, where apparently it is a penalty offence for a goalkeeper to make a save and his forward momentum carry him into an attacker who would nowhere near where the ball was going after the save was made.

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