74 Comments

Enjoying The Simple Pleasures

Guest post by Matt Windmill (@MattWindmill)

The sense of anticipation building as you catch the train, the odd glimpse of a red and white here and there, the knowing looks and acknowledgement from like minded strangers.

The breeze as you enter the fragrant air of North London, a sea of red, white, yellow and blue as the hustle and Bustle builds.

You can almost taste the nervous excitement as you walk along St. Thomas’ Road, weaving in and out of one way pedestrian traffic, the odd snippet of the same conversation heard, the smell of various international culinary delights filling your nostrils.

The glow of the floodlights of Highbury visible after dusk, like a homing beacon drawing hypnotised souls towards it centre.

The unmovable smile as you catch a first glimpse of 11 heroes in red & white jogging on to the immaculate pitch preparing to play the beautiful game just for you.

OK, OK, you caught me being a bit of an old romantic!

I still remember the first time I made that journey as a young boy, the smile and sense of awe not leaving me throughout, feeling lucky to be part of the greatest tribe in existence.

highbury

These days the walk is slightly longer, but no less atmospheric as the crowd assembles, flowing across the bridges to the greatest stadium in Club Football.

The current day is an interesting time, full of transfer tittle-tattle, stories on every medium imaginable of the next great player to pull on an Arsenal shirt, and of the one that got away.

Some of us are even ancient enough to remember when the first you knew of a new signing was the excitement of reading about it in the Evening Standard, I know, hard to believe for the younger generation permanently on the grid.

Loud voices from every angle, Football management experts, telling us who we should sign, mixed with so called ‘in the know’ character’s angling for more follower’s by tweeting the latest name of our next superstar.

Endless debate about what our great manager should be doing, the irony lost on those who think they can do better.

Amidst the madness it got me thinking, when did we forget to just support?

There is a clue in the title for those who are not sure what it means.

Unbridled support – through the good and the bad times, and before the doomer’s start, there have been plenty more good than bad.

Did a whole generation become bored of just supporting?

Are the negative souls amongst us just a reflection of today’s ‘want it all now’ society, or have they simply been spoilt over the last 15-odd years,  becoming so used to the high standards set and maintained by the greatest manager  in our history, that any slight drop is met with a teenage like strop?

You tell me, but in the meantime, if you see a guy walking along St. Thomas’ road with a big grin on his face ignoring all of the surrounding nonsensical conversations about the failings of Ramsey, or the limitations of Djourou, it might well be me, seeking to recreate the simple pleasure of going to see The Arsenal for the very first time.

I know I probably will never to be able to, but believe me I will get pretty damn close and I suggest those of a negative disposition give it a go sometime, you never know, you might even enjoy it.

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74 comments on “Enjoying The Simple Pleasures

  1. Excellent, Matt. I love that view of the stadium when you turn off Holloway Road onto Hornsey Road. The surprise. Especially when I am with people who have never been to a home game. Highbury had that too.

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  2. Reading this reminded me of my first (and last) visit to Highbury back in 2000 as a 10-year-old (as a birthday treat!). There’s nothing like your first time. I was so excited, I used up all the film on my disposable camera taking pictures of Lee Dixon warming up!

    Anyway, I think a lot of Arsenal fans just feel let down more than anything. Obviously you’d like to think ‘we’ can ‘just simply support’ the Arsenal, through good and bad times, but when you go from winning trophies to not even coming close to competing for them, that’s what’s hard to accept. Personally, I wouldn’t mind not winning trophies so much, as long as we were showing ambition and trying to compete for them, that’s the main thing. I’m perfectly happy to support Arsenal no matter what, but the least we can all ask for is ambition, isn’t it?

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  3. Great start to this blog. Thanks for the article Matt. I am relatively new to football so admittedly don’t much about the past, wasn’t even there during the pre-2005 trophy winning years. I for one have not enjoyed seeing my club lift any trophies, but that’s not the most important thing, support is, as you point out.

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  4. Hey everyone,

    I figured everyone is familiar with the system on ACLF where all the comments are on one page and in chronological order scrolling from oldest to newest (top to bottom)…so the format has been updated to that…hope this is better now without all the page confusion

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  5. @Adi
    Thanks for that, I think the nested format while having it’s upsides does make it difficult to sometimes follow a comment thread.

    @Matt
    Very fine article and good point. When did football stop being about supporting the club and instead concerning ourselves with seconardy aspects all the time?

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  6. Hi Adi,
    All the comments on one page format is long gone by at ACLF. The multiple pages format is followed there too, which I think is much better. It works rather good on smartphones. You don’t have to keep scrolling down on your phone.
    The arrows that were pointing to the new pages yesterday were a bit confusing. If you could replace those with a simple ‘new page’ option to click on, I think the previous format is better.
    Many thanks for the blog.
    Cheers!!!

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  7. I totally get your point about smartphones…i could split this up into pages with 50-100 comments per page (with the latest comments on the front page)…i’m just trying to see how i could change the button to access the next page to make it more accessible or easy to read…sorry about the slow start for this

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  8. We are ‘showing ambition’, and we are ‘competing’. In fact looking at the squad that has been built i think that AW has been quite audacious. This squad will be very successful.

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  9. I wrote this on my other blog once but I think it needs to be shared here for those who question ambition

    when people question Arsenal’s ambition i laugh. They need a slight refresh of what it really means

    am·bi·tion /amˈbiSHən/

    Noun: A strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.

    Spending a lot of money doesn’t require determination or hard work. It just requires deep pockets. The Arsenal way (the classy way) is more ambitious than the sugar daddy way as you’re trying to beat the odds despite all adversity through sheer sweat and determination.

    We give it our all and fall just short, that doesn’t mean we aren’t ambitious, that just means we try again without giving up. It also doesn’t mean we go looking for shortcuts, for then, success would not have been earned, it would be hollow

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  10. Matt that was lovely. The opening paragraph is one every fan – whatever the club can relate to. Living out in the sticks of the West Country I’ve not been able to get up to the smoke anywhere near as often as I’d wish but I can well remember the last time I was at Highbury and it’s sends a shiver down my spine.

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  11. Oh boy…I just noticed that when people share the article on twitter, it shares it as (via @positivegunner) because i’ve linked my twitter account to the blog (so that it updates automatically when i put up a post)…i don’t want it to appear like i’m taking credit for someone else’s work, but i hope people don’t mind

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  12. A splendid job you are doing Adi, can’t imagine the commitment it takes to run a blog.

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  13. Thanks…i’m just trying to iron out all the initial hiccups that are bound to be there…right now the page system needs figuring out…and now this (via positivegunner) thing…anything else that people have suggestions for?

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  14. Even better than the first time I read it!,you missed out the horseshit and ticket touts and one of our former goalkeepers & welsh international working in the club shop,brilliant though,just brilliant.

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  15. All my favorite posters are here. I am like a pig in shit.
    Good times.

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  16. You watched the ODI series, Mel? 🙂

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  17. Thanks Matt, great read. I remember my first Arsenal game, too young and it too long in the US to remember what road I walked on but it was sweet. The first time I got to see my favorite player live, Liam Brady that is.

    I do believe that people have forgotten to simply support and now everyone is not just a critic but an expert one at at that. Everyone has an opinion and many times they differ. One says we need defensive help, the other says we need a phyiscal player in the middle and some say we need help up front. No, who is right?

    My thing is what about allow AW to build the team and to get the team playing like one man. That does not happen overnight, especially with the amount of changes.

    Rob, I want to correct you. Arsenal have come close to winning things. We have faltered down the end in the PL (for various reasons) but were in the picture a couple of times. We were in the CL semi’s just the other day and got robbed. Not that we would have won but the ref (I think corrupt) Changed the game. I dont care about the CC, but we were in the final the other day also.

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  18. Adi at 2:30 pm

    Excellent comment right there!

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  19. Don’t worry you are doing a great job, Adi. As for posts etc people know who is who…and anyway the point is to get behind the manager and squad, and above all enjoy the football.

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  20. I’m done with people underestimating the club and Wenger.

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  21. And there was me pleased to see you on here sahil!

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  22. Nice one Matt, really well written and evocative.

    I think it’s true, those of us fortunate enough to have been to Highbury or the Emirates, always do remember the first time, don’t we? Especially if you are doubly fortunate enough to be taken as a kid by your Dad or some other (supposedly) responsible adult.

    I can still remember being almost shocked by how GREEN the pitch at Highbury was and Dad telling me, with genuine pride, we were the only (or one of the only) clubs with under soil heating. Most games shown on Match of the Day or Sunday’s The Big Match (with Brian Moore, was it?) appeared to be conducted in quagmires even Farmer Giles would have blanched at. So the pitch at Highbury REALLY stood out and the club, without having kicked a football, was already set aside from the rest, in this young mind.

    The very first time I went to the old Wembley, about three years later as a fourteen year old it was for an evening game (England Schoolboys, no less!) and again, the brightness and the greeness of the pitch and how colourful the players’ kits were are still vivid in the memory nearly four decades later.

    It’s for this reason I always aim to try to take along with me to at least a few games each season people who have either never been to the Emirates or, for whatever circumstances, don’t often go. Their excitement is palpable and regardless of the result it is always a great day out with such people. Latterly I’ve been taking my better half’s 70 year father along and he simply reverts to being 7 again and regardless of any negativity around, the whole thing becomes magic once more.

    Thanks again, Matt, great stuff.

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  23. Adi – don’t apologise; you’re doing a great job.

    I for one don’t have any problem with the tweet linking to your tweet address – you’ve got exactly the right name for it, so it works on that level at least!

    Wonderful seeing so many of the ‘old’ posters back in town, just terrific – feels like we’ve won a cup or something!!

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  24. Cheers for all the kind comment’s guys, much appreciated.

    It seems a (rather sad) reflection on modern society when so many fan’s can’t enjoy football for what it is, and get so hung up on what you win, who sign’s who and who has the richest sugar daddy.

    It is actually quite liberating to enjoy it for what it is, especially when you have one of the best stadium’s and best team’s in Europe to watch week in week out.

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  25. Lovely stuff here, once again. Thanks for that Matt. Simple pleasures and lasting moments often forgotten amongst all the bullshit.

    As someone who is increasingly bored to death with all the pointless speculation about who we’re not going to sign (someone slam that window shut now), and all the endless financial talk, posts like this are a breath of fresh air. It’s often the blind leading the blind elsewhere, and it’s now beyond tedious. If we sign someone, great. If not (and I’m increasingly of the opinion that perhaps we don’t need to after all), then we should just enjoy what is the beginning of an exciting ‘new’ AW team , it will be a pleasure to watch ’em grow.

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  26. …and blossom, Harry?

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  27. Indeed Frank. And blossom.

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  28. Great post, Matt. The bar has already been set so high on this blog! There is no feeling in the world like the one you brilliantly describe. The first time I laid eyes on the new stadium is a moment I’ll never forget.

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  29. Its a shame the last of the holdouts over on ACLF ,like Zim Paul dont know we are here.I would go and tell them ,But as you know,I cant.
    Nice writing from Matt.
    This is exactly how I pictured the comments section/
    Dont forget to listen to Stew Blacks radio show @ Somer Valley FM at 8 o’clock

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  30. We’re playing Liverpool in 27 hours time. What a fantastic prospect. Proper football.

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  31. …and we are playing in the FA Youth Cup tonight

    Arsenal v Fulham
    FA Youth Cup, Barnet FC
    Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 19:00

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  32. He’ll find it eventually George. Moth to a flame and all that. Same way I “found” ACLF a few years back. Would post a link myself, not sure that would be looked on too kindly though, even coming from me.

    Yeah really looking forward to the game tomorrow. Should be a cracker. Excited! (grow up Harry ffs. Alas it’s probably too late now).

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  33. Cheers Matt for the post. Brings back memories of being taken by my Uncle and cousins as a boy.

    And forgot to say – great first post yesterday Andrew.

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  34. My first visit to Highbury was for a game against Liverpool. Took my cousin who supports Liverpool to his first game, and figured that I might as well and go and watch the local team as well. After that I was hooked.

    Robbie Fowler scored a hat-trick.

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  35. Thanks Muppet – really great to see you here!

    Looking forward to Stew Black’s show later tonight – no doubt everyone on here knows about it by now but on the off-chance you haven’t managed to catch it (I listen online as I’m miles from Mordor or wherever he broadcasts from) – if you have ANY interest in decent music this really is THE show for you.

    Always excellent tracks and great banter, very funny from start to finish (some of it intentional) and just excellent all round entertainment. The most impressive aspect of the show is when Stew’s being heckled by about a hundred tweeters & emails and still manages to play the records (some of them at the correct speed).

    Strongly recommend.

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  36. Football under lights is in fact magic. The pitch under the glare of floodlights to my mind acts like a modern CGI Greenscreen (or Bluescreen). It’s an amazing experience, and I don’t think I have the talent to put it into words.

    Cricket under lights can be fun too!

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  37. Another fabulous post Matt, keeping up the standard set by Andrew yesterday.

    Doesn’t matter what age you first attend a live match, that magical child-like feeling you describe really captures the essence of the experience

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  38. Simple pleasures, Matt. Thanks for reminding me. Nothing like watching your favorite sports team competing at the highest level. Closest I’ve been is supporting my ReggaeBoyz during their world cup heyday. Never been to the Emirates but I will one day. Trust me.

    Recently the pleasure I always had supporting Arsenal FC, even when we struggled, has been has steadily been undermined by the constant negativity of a bunch of pompous, prissy, arrogant know-it-alls. Why should I covertly bridle my enthusiasm for my team because I don’t share the belief of some that the team has been deliberately short changed and the manager is counting down his days? Am I to believe that progress is only measured in a straight line, that here are no ups and downs, that 8 years without a trophy is the be all and the end all of my love for Arsenal FC? Hell no.

    That is why I am supporting this new community of old sistren and bredren. It will take time and effort to rebuild the old bonds. Time to fall back in love with my football team. .

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  39. It’s funny that nowadays even our club photographer is being abused for taking pictures of our players. But he had the perfect retort on twitter: “Go and support someone else you idiot”. I’d definitely recommend everyone who isn’t following him yet to start doing it. @Stuart_PhotoAFC

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  40. I saw that too Evil – I cannot believe the depths to which some people plunge! The idiot got the response he deserved.

    Good to ‘see’ you Shotta and hi Paul from yesterday – yes it’s me. I see someone on Twitter has tried to usurp my name but I am the original one!

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  41. passenal and gains? well i don’t know if reading u guys is more fantastic than this writeup by matt… very long time no “see”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    by the way… well done matt!!!!!

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  42. There is only one roriginal Passenal, that is for sure. You were missed!

    So even the photographer is on the end of the foolishness. I really hope something is done to this Jan transfer thing. I, like was stated earlier, get more excited by players coming through the ranks. It gives me joy to see a youngster make the grade. Sure, there will be ups and downs but if these players buy in to what Arsene says, they will conquer world football. I fully believe that.

    I also really like how the squad is coming along. As Shotta states, progress does not mean you will never stumble. The team is being put together quite nicely and it is only a matter of time before we gain that consistency. It is happening now actually but the 2 losses to City and Chelsea have blinded the masses.

    Arsenal!!.

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  43. Team spirit, how are you?

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  44. fine thanks… how are ur oretty girls doing?

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  45. The twatter guy’s actual words:

    “stop posting silly photos and concentrate on the football. We need signings and trophies”

    Well yes a photographer can certainly provide both. He’s a photographer. The clues in the job description. He takes pictures. With a camera. A photographer, no less.

    And this pearl:

    “When club photographers tries to censor supporters opinions on the club, you know that something is clearly wrong”

    Now that’s some seriously unintentionally funny shit….but also kind of worrying at the same time.The nature of the beast that is social media of course, every ignoramus can make themselves heard. Maybe he’s just young and not the sharpest tool, but seems to be so many of them now, those whose opinions have been shaped solely via the worst blogs and media outlets. And like empty vessels are wont, they make the most noise. Hopefully the silent majority of Arsenal supporters will start singing even louder, make their voices heard.

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  46. Just been on Twitter. Depressing. Scores of people calling for transfers. But we know Wenger will only sign somebody of quality. The irony of course, is that these same people will be highlighting the deadwood later on.

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  47. @Muppet
    And those same people will deny that the likes of Podolski or Cazorla are quality.

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  48. sorry…. oretty = pretty. lol

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