Oh, to be a Gooner!
Everything written in this piece is based entirely on personal experience and observation, and is NOT a frivolous blanket statement. Most of all, there is no malice intended towards anyone. If, at any point, you do feel outraged, you probably belong to the group you will have just read about.
Of the years that I have followed football like a religion and come across all kinds of fans, one lot stands out from the rest. And not for the right reasons. Don’t get me wrong though – some of my closest and dearest friends are of the ilk, but they know where to draw the line (you know who you are).
Arsenal. A club with a great history, the second greatest manager still serving in English football, and a crop of young talent with a truly bright future. Even as a rabid United supporter, I have a great deal of respect for the club, their players and their manager. It’s nothing new for supporters of opposing teams to have a go at their friends following a win or a loss. Or a trophy or final that’s been won or lost. But a large number, with even 99% being a conservative estimate, of Arsenal supporters I have come in contact with either in person or on the internet, simply baffle me.
I love my club and stand up for it and defend it any opportunity I get. But not this lot. One can’t blame fans of a club for being upset about the fact that their club hasn’t won a piece of silverware for the past 6 years. But what gets my goat is that the anger and frustration of having to watch their closest rivals United (and Chelsea, in recent years) lifting trophies every year, is often hidden behind a shield of misdirected, aggressive, and often completely unfounded verbiage.
I have been hit with arguments such as “our stadium is newer”, or “our supporters are better than yours”. The best one that I am repeatedly hit with, and find simply hilarious is “we don’t have a massive debt to pay, but you do”. Pffft. Really? That’s all they could think of? Granted, United are up shit creek when it comes to their debt, and I wonder how we will ever repay it with the Glazers so bullishly at the helm. But then at the end of the season, I’m pretty sure the trophy goes to the team that’s top of the table, and not to the one with the sexiest balance sheet. Maybe they should have a trophy for that – “To the team with the most profit-making, debt-free financial setup”. It’s disappointing on the one hand, that people have to resort to talking about a club’s finance to try and support their claims that their club is better than another’s, but rather hilarious on the other, since most people who flog the topic have absolutely NO clue about the actual workings of a club and its financial systems. There are professionals for that. They’re called Financial Analysts.
It really is sad to see fans making these statements, because it does nothing to change another fan’s opinion of him or his club, and it reflects poorly on the image of the club and more so, its supporters. If an Arsenal supporter were to say “we have a brand new 60,000-seater stadium”, I could easily respond with “well, we have a 100-year-old 75000-seater stadium with the highest club attendance”. It’s a senseless argument in the larger scheme of things. I won’t claim to be a saint here – I have had that very senseless argument in the past on repeated occasions, and I have a good feeling it will continue until the day I die, but it just makes everyone look silly. Very, very silly.
Football really IS like a religion – it appeals to the masses, but is still a very personal thing. I for one take my football very seriously (a little too seriously, at times) and, admittedly, often find myself embroiled in a furious yet directionless argument with opposition fans about “whose stadium is bigger”. For fuck’s sake – this isn’t porn. “Mine’s bigger”. Indeed.
When it comes to success, the only real measure is trophies. There are those who will disagree and suggest a bunch of other criteria, but I’m sorry – no trophies, no glory. Fans have every right to support their club passionately, be outraged at priceless points stolen by ludicrous refereeing decisions, celebrate wins, and be bitterly disappointed about defeats. But to descend to an almost unintelligent level and try to stamp their team’s perceived superiority on others is something I cannot, and will not, stand for.
But despite all the laughable things that they repeatedly say, the one thing that annoys me is the “glory hunter” label which is thrown about so freely. Granted, there are United “fans” who will go running after the next team that wins a trophy. But I’m as uninterested in them as I am with the lot who supported United and now support Real Madrid “because Ronaldo is soooo fucking hot!”. I’m sorry, but they’re the ones giving us a bad name. EVERY team has its fair share of glory hunters, including Arsenal, which makes it all the more annoying when they keep using the term as though they’ve been supporting the club since Adam and Eve were put in the Garden of Eden in their Arsenal shirts. Nobody really cares.
To sum it up, I reiterate my points – I have a great deal of respect for Arsenal as a club. To have the enviable services of supremely talented youngsters such as Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott is something many managers would certainly give an arm and a leg for, and the future holds tremendous prospects for them. Despite being incomparable to Sir Alex Ferguson in terms of career accolades (which, in all fairness, is an unfair comparison given SAF has been around that much longer), I hold Arsene Wenger in the highest regard for his managerial skills. He is a man with great foresight and will, hopefully for him, win big things with Arsenal.
My only grouse is the petulant, belligerent bunch that takes the sheen off an otherwise great club.